The way Loyola Marymount starters Mike Jones and Mike McNary pitched in Saturday's double-header at Loyola's George Page Stadium, a sweep of the visiting Portland Pilots seemed in order.
Regulation length for both contests was seven innings and both Lion hurlers reached the seventh.
But while Jones (2-1), a senior, struck out nine, yielded just five hits and earned the 5-3 victory for the Lions in a noon start, the freshman McNary (2-1) succumbed in the nightcap to a rocky second inning in which he gave up two runs--including the game-winner--on three singles and two walks, despite throwing six-hit ball for seven innings.
"I felt like I was struggling against myself in the beginning," McNary said. "I was confused, but then I talked to my pitching coach (Jim Benedict) and he got my mind back together."
The Pilots (6-9) rattled McNary for one run in the first when leadoff hitter Tim Frith walked, stole second, advanced to third on McNary's wild pitch and scored on Rick Falkner's sacrifice fly.
Nine Pilots then came to the plate in the second inning. McNary went to 3-0 on the eighth and looked more than ready for an early shower.
"(Catcher) Kirk Mears told me I better start bearing down or I was gonna be gone," said McNary.
The 5-foot-8 right-hander quickly fanned Falkner, and Loyola Coach Dave Snow opted to stay with McNary, who retired 14 of the next 18 hitters.
Loyola's offense, meanwhile, seemed to retire after helping Jones collect the win in the first game. The seventh-ranked Lions (19-6) could manage just four hits in seven innings, including a pinch-hit solo home run from Rick Allen in the seventh that made it 3-2 Portland, where it ended.
"We've got some guys pressing at the plate right now," Snow said.
The Lions also were without injured starting catcher Miah Bradbury (broken finger) and backup catcher Mark Grafitti (sprained wrist). And Mears was forced into catching with a sore foot.
But even without Bradbury, a .293 hitter with a cannon for a right arm, and Grafitti, Snow was pleased with a split after trouncing Portland, 14-4, on Friday.,
The Lions will play at Cal State Fullerton today at 1 p.m., meaning they will have started four games in less than 48 hours--which they'll do over several weekends once conference play starts Friday against visiting San Francisco.
"The main thing about this weekend was to prepare ourselves for the conference," Snow said. "After three games now, we've found out (the weekend format) is difficult."
Saturday's first game was tough for all the Pilots, especially starter Gary Malychewski. Malychewski lasted just two innings and left reliever Jeff Neely with the bases loaded in the third.
Portland senior John Thomas broke Jones' no-hitter on a single to center field with one out in the fifth, but Jones wasn't fazed.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander had fanned four Pilots through 4 innings, and, buoyed by a 5-0 Loyola lead, he struck out two more to end the Pilots' fifth after designated hitter Eric Sporre had ripped a double high off the center-field wall.
The Lions gave Jones a comfortable cushion with two runs in the first on two hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly from third baseman Don Sparks and three in the third, largely due to Malychewski's wildness. The senior hit a batter, then walked three Lions.
Portland, however, wasn't about to settle for a shutout. Second baseman Paul Watkins singled to open the sixth and scored on Falkner's moon shot that touched down just over the left-center field fence.
Jones fanned third baseman Craig Norris to end the sixth and opened the seventh by sending catcher Mike Morland to the bench on three straight called strikes.
Bobby DeJardin's overthrow then allowed Sporre to reach first. Sporre moved up on pinch hitter Craig Henry's ground out and scored on pinch hitter Mickey Irwin's looping single to right.
Snow pulled Jones in favor of Darryl Scott (3-2) at that point, and the Lions short-relief man quickly fanned pinch hitter Ted Sheedy for his sixth save of the season.