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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | COLLEGE ROUNDUP

Pierce Gets One Bad Luck Bounce in Playoff Opener

May 09, 1998|VINCE KOWALICK

The ball bounced Harbor College's way and so did the first game of a short playoff series against Pierce.

Reprieved from a potentially disastrous wild pitch, thanks to a friendly carom to the catcher, Harbor held on to defeat the Brahmas, 3-2, in the opening round of the junior college Southern California regionals Friday at Harbor.

Pierce (23-16), Western State Conference South Division champion, is faced with elimination. The Brahmas must win two games at Harbor (28-14), when the best-of-three series resumes at 11 a.m. today, with a third game to follow, if necessary.

The game's pivotal play came in the eighth inning with Pierce trailing, 3-2, with two out and runners at second and third.

Left-hander Bud Smith's fastball to Brian Menkin went to the wooden backstop and David Lusk instinctively ran from third.

The ball rebounded sharply, however, and catcher Andre Gomez made a quick grab and relayed to Smith, who tagged Lusk out on a close play.

"A wild pitch all the way," Pierce Coach Bob Lofrano said. "Who'd have thought that ball would have bounced like that?"

Smith finished off a pitcher's battle with three scoreless innings for his fourth save.

Chad Qualls (8-3) pitched four scoreless innings, and left-hander Barry Zito (9-2) of Pierce held the Seahawks hitless and scoreless before allowing an unearned run in the fourth.

Zito, who led the WSC with 108 strikeouts, struck out 10 in going the distance. However, Zito allowed a two-run home run in the fifth to Gomez, Harbor's No. 9 hitter.

"I knew he was the No. 9 hitter, but no matter who you are facing, you can't put a fastball right down the middle of the plate," Zito said. "Anyone is going to jump on it."

Left-hander Barry Matthews is scheduled to start today for Pierce. Derek Morse will start the third game if necessary.

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