The same pitching staff that made Pepperdine Baseball Coach Dave Gorrie wince at the beginning of the season because of injuries and eligibility problems now leaves him beaming.
Pepperdine (32-20-1 overall, 17-2-1 in conference), passed Loyola Marymount and moved 1 1/2 games into first place in the West Coast Athletic Conference with last weekend's four-game series sweep at the University of San Francisco.
Loyola (43-15, 16-4), which was ranked fifth in the nation last week in the Collegiate Baseball Poll, dropped three out of four games to Santa Clara (36-15-1, 14-4-1).
"They (Santa Clara) got some clutch hits," said Loyola Coach Dave Snow. "But I'm not going to sit here and bad-mouth my team."
Gorrie said outstanding pitching was the key to his team's success at USF. But five weeks ago, when Pepperdine lost starters Craig Stiveson and Wayne Helm to injuries and Scott Singelyn because of eligibility problems, the situation seemed bleak.
"Losing some of our best pitchers may have been a blessing in disguise," Gorrie said. "It gave the other guys the opportunity to improve."
Senior left-hander Doug Simons (8-2) started off the USF series with an 8-1 win and 11 strikeouts. On Saturday, Dennis Burbank, who is also a forward on the Pepperdine basketball team, pitched a four-hit 4-0 shutout, improving his record to 9-1. In Saturday's second game Britt Craven (5-2) was a 13-2 winner, and on Sunday Pat Dubar (1-5) picked up his first win by pitching a 5-0 shutout into the ninth until reliever Randy Hacker stepped in to finish.
The Waves will need a repeat performance from their pitching staff in their series at Loyola this weekend if they hope to win the WCAC championship and an NCAA berth. Simons will start the first game at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Loyola's George C. Page Stadium. Pepperdine will follow with Burbank and Craven in Saturday's double-header which begins at noon. Dubar will start Sunday's 1 p.m. game.
The Lions need to win three out of four games for a possible tie and must sweep the Waves to move into first place outright. The WCAC winner is given an automatic berth in the NCAA regional playoffs May 25. Even without winning the conference, Loyola could still win one of 21 NCAA at-large bids to the regionals.
History favors Pepperdine, which has a 16-3 record against Loyola since 1985.
"We always get up for Loyola," Simons said. "It will get more and more intense this week."
But Snow is not looking to make any changes in his team's game plan in this weekend's home stand. He said his team is going to focus on the things they have been doing all season.
"We're not going to go out and have late-night bonfires to get ready for this thing," said Snow, whose team was undefeated in the WCAC until a loss to Nevada-Reno two weeks ago.
Pepperdine will try to defuse the Loyola attack of Don Sparks (.392, 60 RBI), Travis Tarchione (.383, 59 RBI) and Brian Turang (.368, 11 HR).
"We can be offensively explosive," Snow said.
But Santa Clara Coach John Oldham isn't giving up on his teams' chances at the title, even though they will face No. 1-ranked Fresno State in a non-conference match-up this week. Santa Clara will finish the regular season with a series against USF, ranked last in the conference.
"By record, (USF) is the best team to play," Oldham said. "But because of the traditional rivalry, they'll be tough."