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Baron Takes Pepperdine to School

College baseball: Study habits lead to game-tying double in ninth and UCLA rallies to win, 6-5.

February 21, 2001|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MALIBU — The groundwork was laid, the preparation complete. All that was left was for the fastball Brian Baron knew was coming to be thrown, and for Baron to hit it where no Pepperdine player stood.

As UCLA's designated hitter, Baron has plenty of idle time, but he doesn't spend it idly. He studies the opposing pitcher and memorizes the sequence of pitches to other Bruin batters. He keeps his head in the game.

So when Baron came to the plate with one out in the ninth inning, a runner on second and UCLA trailing Pepperdine by one, he had his at-bat scripted. It was his first time facing left-hander Kevin Beavers, but Baron felt comfortable.

"I knew he'd throw me sliders, then eventually he'd throw a fastball," Baron said. "Pepperdine pitchers throw a lot of two-strike fastballs."

Baron fouled off several sliders, then banged a fastball into left-center field for a game-tying double, his fourth hit of the game.

Adam Berry followed with a single that scored pinch-runner Christian Lewis and UCLA defeated the Waves, 6-5, Tuesday.

Baron, a senior from Hart High who bats third in the lineup, raised his average to .500. He's rebounded nicely from knee surgery that shelved him last season.

"I was adamant that I would come back and enjoy my senior year," he said. "I felt I had something to prove at the college level."

No. 10-ranked Pepperdine (8-2) lost for the first time in seven home games.

No. 24-ranked UCLA (9-4) overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit, tying the score, 4-4, with a three-run seventh keyed by Ben Francisco's two-run homer.

Pepperdine answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, but could not score against relievers Kevin Jerkens or Doug Silva.

Jerkens (2-1), a Notre Dame High product, came on with one out and two on in the eighth and retired Chris Kelly and Eddie Montague.

Pepperdine loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Silva got Danny Garcia to line out to shortstop and struck out Jared Pitney.

UCLA's six pitchers--who included Chris Cordeiro of Thousand Oaks High and Paul Diaz of St. Francis--walked 10 and gave up 12 hits, but Pepperdine left 16 runners on base.

"You can't walk 10 against a ranked team and get away with it," Baron said. "But this team is tenacious. We are stubborn."

Baron went to Northwestern out of Hart, heartbroken USC did not recruit him despite his .571 average.

He continued to hit, posting averages of .375 and .349 at Northwestern before undergoing shoulder surgery and transferring to UCLA in 1999.

Baron batted .293 for the Bruins, then was sidelined with the knee injury.

"He's one of the toughest outs I've coached," Coach Gary Adams said. "He's going to battle you."

Pepperdine discovered as much.

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