The rain that washed out most of the schedule the last few weeks is supposed to be gone--at least temporarily--and Southland college baseball teams are eager to begin anew with a bang.
Or, in the case of Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, a bash.
The Kia Baseball Bash, a four-team round-robin tournament that includes Fullerton, Long Beach, Wichita State and Tennessee, will be played today through Sunday at Fullerton.
Fullerton Coach George Horton said the weather has prevented the Titans from improving on their uneven start. Fullerton (6-7) is ranked No. 24 this week in the Baseball America poll.
"Usually, with rain in Southern California, it seems like it's an every-other-day cycle where you're able to sneak a game or two in between the storms," Horton said. "This last one was tough, and it's worse for us because our emotions are already running rampant because we feel like we're not playing how we're capable."
Fullerton is trying to overcome the loss of junior catcher Brett Kay, who will be out four to five weeks after having surgery on his right thumb earlier this week. Kay was batting .304 and handling a pitching staff that has a 2.65 earned-run average.
"It's a major blow," Horton said.
Mike Rouse, batting .325, and pitcher Kirk Saarloos, 2-2 with a 1.41 earned-run average, have been Fullerton's top performers.
Long Beach (5-4) is also searching for answers. The 49ers handed No. 5 USC (9-4) its first loss a few weeks ago, but the game postponements have hindered their development.
Jeff Jones is batting .355 and Chris Wright is hitting .342 with a team-leading 12 RBIs.
"I've been pleased with our overall defense," Long Beach Coach Dave Snow said. "But our pitching and offensive play has been spotty and inconsistent.
"We didn't have a lot of proven pitchers returning, and that's probably the biggest thing for us is to have some guys grow up real quick on the mound."
Long Beach's game against Wichita State today is the first of four games between the teams in the next 10 days. The 49ers travel to Wichita, Kan., next weekend for a three-game series.
Wichita State (4-2) is led by outfielder Randy Walter, batting .476, and infielder Brian Burgamy (.409). The Shockers have a 2.08 ERA.
Tennessee (9-1) features infielders Chris Burke (.405) and Steve Daniel (.405), both of whom have 15 RBIs.
The top series in the nation this weekend will be played at Tempe, Ariz., where third-ranked Arizona State (13-2) is playing host to second-ranked Louisiana State (9-2), the defending national champion.
But the showdown has been overshadowed somewhat by a controversy over the renaming of Arizona State's Packard Stadium.
On Saturday, the facility will be renamed in honor of Arizona State's first baseball coach, Bobby Winkles, who guided the Sun Devils to three national titles and a 542-173 record in 13 seasons. Winkles has said he expects to attend.
Supporters of Winkles' successor, the late Jim Brock, say Brock deserves the same honor.
Brock, who died of cancer in 1994, had a 1,100-440 record in 23 seasons and won two national titles.
Brock's widow, Patsey, said this week she'd like to see the field named for both coaches, as the University of Texas did with Disch-Falk Field, honoring early Texas coaches Billy Disch and Bibb Falk.
A hall of fame, walk of fame and arboretum were to be named in Brock's honor, according to Jeff Evans, a spokesman for the university. Evans said the plan for Winkles Field was consistent with naming the football field for Frank Kush and the basketball court for Ned Wulk, early Sun Devil coaches that brought their programs to national prominence. He also said, "It's very much in the plan to honor Jim Brock in due time."
Meanwhile, Arizona State fans are waiting to see if Coach Pat Murphy remains in Tempe. Murphy, in his seventh season with the Sun Devils, has reportedly been offered the job at Hawaii and has not said whether he will decline or accept.
Tenth-ranked Pepperdine (10-2) opens West Coast Conference play today at Portland (3-4). Noah Lowry is 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA in 26 2/3 innings for the Waves.
Tommy Perez is batting .432 with four homers and 12 RBIs for defending WCC champion Loyola Marymount (9-6), which opens WCC play March 9 at home against Gonzaga.
No. 22 UCLA (10-4) is in Chapel Hill, N.C., for a three-game series against North Carolina. Designated hitter Brian Baron is batting .510 for the Bruins and has a hit in every game.