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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

It's Not Buddy-Buddy in Waves' 9-6 Victory

Baseball: Sanchez guides Pepperdine past Loyola Marymount, coached by his pal Cruz.

April 10, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MALIBU — Their friendship has survived the escalating competition.

USC assistants Frank Sanchez and Frank Cruz became college head coaches for the first time last season, taking over Southland teams in the same conference.

Sanchez was hired by Pepperdine, an established but underachieving program.

Cruz faced a rebuilding project at Loyola Marymount and brought in a big freshman class.

Neither could be pleased with last season's results, but now the Waves and Lions are contenders for the West Coast Conference championship.

"Frank and I are good buddies, but last year we didn't talk on the phone," Sanchez said. "This is our business, we are in the same conference and we had to deal with that. This year we've talked several times."

About all Cruz had to say shaking hands with Sanchez on Thursday was a terse, "Good job."

Cruz was seething over a series of Lion mistakes that allowed Pepperdine to win, 9-6, by rallying from a three-run seventh-inning deficit.

Misplays and mental lapses must be tolerated when seven pitchers and the catcher are freshmen, even if the coach has to bite his tongue hard enough to draw blood.

But so much youth leaves little room for miscues by coaches. And Cruz has no patience for his own errors.

"Some of the mistakes made, quite honestly, were coaching mistakes," he said, admitting to not replacing pitchers soon enough and not setting his bunt defense properly.

The more experienced Waves took advantage, scoring two runs in the seventh and four in the eighth after trailing, 6-3.

Most moves made by Cruz this season--and in the recruiting leading up to opening day--have worked.

Loyola is 19-15-1, 9-4 in conference play, a dramatic improvement on last year's 21-39 record.

Cruz has had success recruiting in the Valley area, bringing in outfielder Matt Riordan of Westlake High last year and outfielder Robert Hirsh of Crespi and pitchers Mike Schultz of Cleveland, Brian Felten of Crespi, Chris Gray of Chaminade and Mark Madsen of Quartz Hill this year.

Schultz, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, pitched well for six innings against the Waves despite professing to have less than his best stuff. His fastball consistently hit 88 mph, and after giving up two runs in the first inning allowed no more until one in the sixth.

"I didn't feel comfortable at all, but I tried to compete," said Schultz, who has emerged as a top starter.

He was allowed to begin the seventh, however, and was lifted only after Chris Cosbey singled off Schultz's foot and Josh Oder walked. Both runners eventually scored to pull Pepperdine to within 6-5.

In the eighth, an error on a bunt by Damon Katz put two runners on and a passed ball set up a sacrifice fly by Chris Cosbey. With two out, Cruz left in left-hander Ben Bonilla (4-4) to face right-handed hitting G.J. Raymundo and Dane Sardinha. Raymundo singled to score Katz with the go-ahead run and Sardinha followed with a two-run homer, his 12th.

Steve Schenewerk (4-3) pitched well in relief of Paul Avery, shutting out the Lions over the final three innings.

Pepperdine (23-15, 13-3), despite the loss of leading hitter Steve Zorn, whose broken finger will sideline him for a month, is exhibiting the competitive fire Sanchez sought since becoming coach.

"We are competing," he said. "The comeback is good to see. This series is very important to both clubs."

The Waves and Lions play a doubleheader Saturday at Pepperdine, beginning at noon.

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