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Hit Parade by Baron Helps Bruins Win, 11-3

College baseball: Pac-10's leading hitter gets four more in victory over Pepperdine.

April 04, 2001|JOHN KLIMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The hours were spent drenched in sweat far away from the baseball diamond.

But Brian Baron found a way to make it back from the knee surgery that limited the Hart High product to one at-bat last year.

The fifth-year senior designated hitter has emerged as UCLA's most dangerous hitter.

Baron continued his torrid pace, going four for five with four runs batted in to lead the Bruins to an 11-3 nonconference victory over Pepperdine on Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

Baron raised his batting average 12 points to .521, best in the Pacific 10 Conference. He has hit in 28 of UCLA's 29 games and had his 21-game hitting streak snapped last month against Cal State Northridge.

It has been a sweet return earned with hard sweat.

"I came out here on a mission," Baron said. "While [his teammates] were playing fall ball, I was still rehabbing.

"At times it was really hard to watch baseball."

A left-handed spray hitter with gap power, Baron has struck out only six times in 119 at-bats.

"There were spots you could get him out before," UCLA Coach Gary Adams said.

"I don't know where you can pitch him now."

Baron had two doubles and two singles against Pepperdine (20-12). His two-run double in the third inning gave UCLA (20-9) the lead.

Baron, who has a shot at school season batting records, added a run-scoring double in the fifth inning and an RBI single in the seventh.

"He spent hours and hours in the training room," Adams said. "He's a very intense person.

"He takes the game very seriously."

Baron, who had his sixth four-hit game of the season, led a lineup that collected 15 hits against four pitchers.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words," Baron said. "I knew I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I never knew it was going to be like this."

With 62 hits and 28 regular-season games to play, he could break the single-season record of 112 set by Bill Scott, from Alemany High, last year.

He also has a chance at catching Don Slaught, whose .428 average in 1979 is the program's best. Scott batted .421 last year and is second all-time.

"I've been really fortunate," Baron said. "Getting hurt is difficult and I felt like I sort of got buried with guys like Scott around."

Instead, Baron, who brought a .337 career average into this season, has become the most challenging out in the lineup.

Not bad for a guy who legged out a bunt on a bad knee in his only plate appearance last season.

"In some ways, the injury was a blessing in disguise," Adams said. "He's become a complete hitter."

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