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COLLEGE BASEBALL / GARY KLEIN

Angel's Dream Comes True: Loyola Sweeps Pepperdine

April 22, 1999|GARY KLEIN

Anthony Angel was not about to tell his teammates as much, but he had a feeling Loyola Marymount was going to sweep then sixth-ranked Pepperdine last weekend.

Angel, a junior infielder, saw it when he went to bed after Loyola Marymount defeated UCLA in a nonconference game last Tuesday.

"I had a dream that night that we swept Pepperdine," Angel said. "I didn't dream about the details of any of the games or anything like that. In the dream, it was Sunday evening and the games were over and we had won all three."

The Lions' performance during their very real victories--the first time they have swept the rival Waves--has Angel and his teammates dreaming about a possible trip to the College World Series, the school's first since 1986.

The sweep improved the defending West Coast Conference champion Lions' record to 12-5 in the WCC. Loyola (24-17 overall) is in first place in the West Division and is now the favorite to host the conference championship series. Loyola's opponent will probably be Pepperdine, the Coast Division leader at 32-7 overall record and 11-6 in the conference.

Loyola has defeated seven ranked opponents this season. The Lions begin a three-game WCC series at Gonzaga on Saturday.

Angel, the nephew of Loyola Coach Frank Cruz, was eight for 15 and drove in seven runs in the Pepperdine series. He is batting .347 with three homers and 22 runs batted in.

The Lions are also getting production from senior first baseman Curt Fiore, who is batting .378, and sophomore catcher Scott Walter, the conference player of the year in 1998, who is hitting .362 with a team-high 34 RBIs.

But Loyola's greatest improvement from a year ago, when it finished 34-23-1, has been on the mound. Last year, the team earned-run average was 6.79. This season, it's 4.89.

Sophomore left-hander Billy Traber and sophomore right-hander Michael Schultz are the top strikeout pitchers in the WCC. Traber is 6-3 with a 4.10 ERA and has 90 strikeouts in 79 innings. Schultz, who beat Stanford in the West Regional last season, is 5-3 with a 4.69 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings.

Loyola completed its sweep of Pepperdine with a 6-5 victory Sunday. The score was tied, 5-5, in the bottom of the ninth and Pepperdine's Jay Gehrke, who leads the nation with 16 saves, was on the mound. Gehrke walked the bases loaded with one out and Loyola outfielder Matt Riordan made him pay by singling in the winning run.

"Up until last weekend, we had really underachieved, including the head coach," Cruz said. "When we got onto the practice field at the start of last week, I said, 'We have an opportunity to put it together this week, so if you're looking to feel good in a hurry we need to step it up.'

"Now, we need to try and develop some consistency."

*

Cal State Fullerton outfielder Spencer Oborn fell one game shy of tying Brent Mayne's school and Big West Conference record of 38 consecutive games with a hit when he went hitless last Friday in a 9-1 Big West victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Oborn, a junior transfer from Brigham Young who played at Diamond Bar High, had a sacrifice fly, grounded out twice, lined out and flied out. It was the first time he had gone hitless since the season opener against Stanford.

Oborn, however, quickly picked up where he left off, going four for five with a homer, triple and three RBIs in Saturday's 12-5 victory over San Luis Obispo to raise his average to .402.

Fifth-ranked Fullerton (34-8) remains atop the Big West standings at 16-2. The Titans have conference series remaining against UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Sacramento, New Mexico State and Long Beach State.

Long Beach State is 21-17, 10-7, with conference series remaining against San Luis Obispo, New Mexico State, Cal State Sacramento and Fullerton.

*

USC, ranked No. 17, continues to excel despite the absence of All-American catcher Eric Munson, who remains sidelined because of a broken finger.

The defending national-champion Trojans won two of three games against then No. 2-ranked Stanford last weekend at Palo Alto to improve to 26-19 overall and 12-3 in the Pacific 10. USC and No. 4 Stanford are tied for first place with nine conference games remaining.

USC lost a nonconference game to UC Santa Barbara, 9-8, on Tuesday. The Trojans play a series this weekend at Arizona State (32-15, 8-7), which was swept last weekend by UCLA (21-24, 5-7).

The Trojans play UCLA April 30-May 2 and conclude conference play May 14-16 at home against Washington.

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