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Long Beach State's Fall Is Surprising

May 19, 1997|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — Two bad games do not a season make, even two as completely woeful as Long Beach State played Sunday.

Although Long Beach isn't feeling quite as good about itself after its latest Cal State Fullerton experience, everyone at Blair Field understood why.

Fullerton used Long Beach's pitchers for extended batting practice in winning the Big West Conference tournament championship. This clearly wasn't one of the program's finer moments.

The Titans needed to win twice on the final day of the double-elimination tournament and did so convincingly, 7-2 and 15-6. The Titans overwhelmed the 49ers with superior pitching, hitting and execution, and in any other area that comes to mind.

And on the 49ers' home field.

For those few Long Beach fans not upset by the team's play, the ticket situation at Blair Field took care of that. The Big West, following the NCAA tournament format, cleared the stadium after the first game and charged admission to the second game as well.

Spectators booed when Blair Field public-address announcer Dan Smith explained the format during the eighth inning of the first game. They protested with their wallets: 1,241 attended the first session, 645 the next.

It was a rough day to be a 49er.

"We never had an emotional victory in the tournament and [Fullerton] did," 49er Coach Dave Snow said. "We didn't come [into Sunday] on the same emotional level they did, or riding an emotional victory, and I think that helped them today."

To their credit, Snow and his players didn't offer any excuses. Both teams were healthy and ready to play. Neither team had its top pitchers available and everyone was tired after playing four times in four days before Sunday night's tournament-clinching game.

This was simply not the same team that was undefeated (3-0) through the tournament's first three nights. Same guys, but not the same spark.

As poor as the 49ers' performance was, it was even more unexpected for Snow. The 49ers had recently rebounded from some serious problems.

They closed the regular season by losing four of their final five home games to conference opponents. But they talked things out in meetings before the tournament and got refocused for postseason play. If only all those good vibes could have lasted a few more hours.

"I really don't know where we're at right now," Snow said. "I feel like we're in the same place we were a week ago after we were [swept] by Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo]. But we've bounced back after tough losses and I think we can bounce back after this."

The 49ers' mood probably will brighten up today.

On Thursday, the 48-team NCAA tournament begins and Long Beach should be in the field. Long Beach, which won the Big West's South Division title, will find out today at noon where it's headed next when the pairings are announced on ESPN.

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