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These Players Target Success

April 28, 1993|ARA NAJARIAN

Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona have taken their lumps this baseball season.

Pomona was swept in a doubleheader and fell out of first place in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. on Sunday. Dominguez Hills was in first place at midseason but lost seven consecutive conference games before winning the second game of a doubleheader against Cal State San Bernardino on Sunday.

But nobody has more lumps than Dominguez Hills first baseman Greg Bergeron and Pomona catcher Brian Dennis.

Bergeron set a NCAA Division II record by being hit by a pitch 18 times this season.

Delvin Mull of Fort Hays State in Hays, Kan., was hit 17 times last season. The NCAA record for all divisions is 32, set by Steve Dembowski of Fairleigh Dickinson in 1979.

"(Monday) I got hit on purpose," Bergeron said. "I heard the catcher mumble something, it was after a couple of guys scored so I kind of knew. So I took it on purpose.

"(Tuesday) the guy threw it inside and I just leaned in a bit. It was legitimate though--I wasn't trying to get the record."

Dennis has been hit by 16 pitches this season and makes no claim to getting hit on purpose. "I'm not going to go into any pitches just to break a record," Dennis said. "It's not something I think about. I don't see an inside pitch and think, 'I'm going to get hit by this one.'

"Unlike a lot of guys, I turn in (toward the catcher) rather than bailing out. I don't know why. I guess I'm not as fast as other guys to get out of the way."

Both can hit back.

Bergeron has a .423 batting average to lead the CCAA, and Dennis has a .314 average with 26 runs batted in.

And Both Bergeron and Dennis say they have been hit about five times when umpires called them back to the box because they did not try to get out of the way.

Said Bergeron: "All the umpires know who I am, and the opposing coaches will say things to them, too. Some of the umpires talk to me about it before I come up and others after the game. They tell me I need to try get out of the way."

Dennis has a similar problem with the men in blue.

"If I get hit, I pretty much have to put on an act to get to first base--even on legitimate ones," Dennis said. "I guess about half of the times I could have got out of the way."

Bergeron has no shame about taking one for the team: "I'm just trying to get on base--that's the bottom line."

He also acknowledged that he crowds the plate.

"Especially with two strikes," Bergeron said. "I want the pitcher to know that if he is going to come inside that I'm not going to back off and I can still get on.

"I think that (getting hit) makes me a better hitter--I don't bail out on inside pitches, and it makes it easier to go the other way with the pitch.

"I've been hit on the cheek before, but you can't be scared of the ball. Once you are, you're done as a hitter or a fielder."

Bergeron was hit 11 times last season to break a school record. Last season, Dominguez Hills set the team record for all NCAA divisions with 69 in 48 games.

At Cerritos College as a freshman, Bergeron set a school record by being hit 18 times, thrice in one game. Steve Abbs, now at Wyoming, broke that record last year with 22. Abbs has been hit only nine times this season.

The big race, of course, is for the CCAA title.

Cal Poly Pomona's baseball team has not been to the playoffs since 1988, but this season the Broncos have a shot at it.

In a season during which the CCAA has no clear favorite, the Broncos have been hovering around first place all season and are only one game behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with eight to play.

It won't be easy to overcome San Luis Obispo, which is 26-12 overall and 12-8 in conference play.

San Luis Obispo has one of the conference's better pitchers in Dan Chergey (8-1) and the lineup is formidable: Phil James, Ben Boulware and Brent Simonich all have hit for a .350 average or better and Rob Neal has five home runs and 39 runs batted in.

Pomona keeps up with Brian Mena, who has a .404 average, 14 doubles, 12 stolen bases and 39 RBIs. Alex Villalpando has a .340 average and Tom Eide (.352) had a 30-game hitting streak this season.

The streak is the second longest in CCAA history to Larry Beardman's 31-game streak in 1983 and is tied for fourth longest in NCAA Division II history. Bobby Green had a 33-game streak for Florida Southern in 1985.

But much of Pomona's success comes from the pitching mound. Shannon Albright has a 6-3 record with a 3.00 earned-run average and Jeff Wengel and Dave Anderlik have ERAs under 3.60.

Pomona is not the only school in striking distance of San Luis Obispo.

UC Riverside (19-23, 11-9) moved into a tie for second with its sweep of Pomona and has won six of its last seven games. Dominguez Hills (25-20) is 11-11 in conference play, so it is still in contention with series against both Pomona and San Luis Obispo still left.

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