Loyola Marymount's baseball players were looking for gremlins Wednesday. They thought maybe someone had crept into their dugout and painted bull's-eyes onto their uniforms.
Long Beach State's pitchers were probably pondering the same issue after a hellish fifth inning in which a pair of 49ers hurlers hit four Loyola batters in a row with runaway pitches. The battered Lions, ahead 5-4 at the start of the inning, dusted themselves off, said thank you and piled up three runs without a hit. They won, 9-7, at home.
"I guess we won the silver sombrero, if three's a hat trick," said Loyola Coach Dave Snow, whose Lions, 11th-ranked nationally, improved to 9-2. "I've had three guys hit in one inning before, but never four."
Snow's sombrero was earned at the expense of Brian Turang's elbow, Miah Bradbury's shoulder and the shins of Greg Wall and Darrel Deak. And, of course, the sanity of Long Beach State reliever Jess Feathers, who was naturally baffled after he victimized the first three of the above hitters.
"The pitches just got away from me," said Feathers, a 21-year-old right-hander. "For some reason, I'm losing control of my fastball."
Feathers can take solace in the fact that Bradbury, at 6-4, 205 pounds, and Wall, a 6-2, 200-pounder, pose looming targets. And the 5-10 Turang is a plate crowder who had been hit five times in 11 games.
But consider the case of 49er southpaw Steve Corey, who followed Feathers' trio of beanings by greeting the switch-hitting Deak with a 1-0 fastball to the shin to force in another run.
Long Beach State Coach John Gonsalves thought two of Loyola's hit batsmen were questionable.
"If you're crowding the plate you can't turn your leg into the pitch across the plate," Gonsalves said. "But regardless, we've gotta throw the ball better on the mound."
The beanings were only a few of the strange happenings on a freak afternoon in which Santa Ana winds seemed to play many tricks on the baseball.
There was a brace of bizarre ground-rule doubles--one by Long Beach State's Manny Benavidez, which took a kangaroo hop over the right-center fence, and the other by Loyola outfielder Robert Cannon, who lined what appeared to be a sure home run over the left-field fence, but it got stuck beneath the fence after hitting--or not hitting--one of the wooden poles that support the screen extension atop the wall.
Snow contended that Cannon's shot did hit the post--which would make it a home run--but the ruling stood. Snow was happy, however, to emerge with a victory in a 3-hour, 20-minute marathon against a scrappy 2-7 Long Beach team.
"Our overall level of play wasn't real good," Snow said, after the game was called due to darkness before the ninth inning. "We had too many moments of lackadaisical play. The game was up for grabs."
Snow was pleased, however, with reliever Darryl Scott, who got John Eldred to bounce out to second baseman Bobby DeJardin and notched his fourth save. Left-hander Terry Seward (2-0) earned the win in relief.
Left fielder Travis Tarchione led Loyola, going four for five with a triple and an RBI double. Designated hitter Kirk Mears was three for four for the Lions with two RBIs.