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Bullpen Can't Save the Waves Again, 9-3

College baseball: Surprise starter Valenzuela gives Pepperdine 5 1/3 strong innings, but USC wins by scoring eight runs in its last three innings.

March 22, 2001|JOHN KLIMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Now, if Pepperdine could only finish what it starts.

All-American shortstop Seth Davidson of USC tied the score with a two-out run-scoring single in the sixth inning and the Trojans erased an early Pepperdine lead in a 9-3 nonconference victory Wednesday night at Dedeaux Field.

USC battered the bullpen for eight runs.

Pepperdine (16-8) has dropped four of five games entering a weekend series for first place in the West Coast Conference at San Diego.

The Waves juggled their rotation in anticipation of the series, saving Greg Ramirez for relief against San Diego.

Coach Frank Sanchez gave the ball to right-hander Eric Valenzuela, who made only his second start of the season.

Valenzuela was nearly untouchable through four innings. He allowed a lead-off single in the first inning, then retired 10 of the next 12 Trojans.

The Waves gave him a two-run lead in the fourth on Duke Sardinha's run-scoring single and Ed Montague's sacrifice fly.

But Valenzuela tired in the sixth inning in what was his longest stint of the season.

He walked two and allowed a single to load the bases with one out and the Waves, ranked 13th in the nation, protecting a 3-1 lead.

Brandon Boesh (0-1), making his second appearance, relieved him and allowed a fielder's choice grounder to cut the lead to 3-2. Davidson followed with a line drive to right-center, tying the score.

"That was a giant hit," USC Coach Mike Gillespie said. "I thought it was a good pitch, maybe knee high, and Seth had a very good situational at-bat."

Davidson, a senior batting .276, brought a .327 career average into this season.

His single got the No. 9-ranked Trojans (16-10) into a thin Pepperdine bullpen that surrendered eight runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

"It's been an Achilles' heel, which has been pitching depth," Sanchez said.

The Waves have three starters with earned-run averages below 3.43, but a bullpen with three pitchers with marks above 5.87.

Noah Lowry (6-1) leads the WCC with a 2.54 ERA and Dan Haren (4-1, 2.76) and Jay Adams (3-1, 3.43) give Pepperdine a formidable starting trio.

"With those three guys, they can play with anybody in the nation," Gillespie said. "But that's what [weekday college baseball] is for--to see what your other guys can do."

Valenzuela allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, but walked three in his last two innings.

"It doesn't matter if we're playing [USC] or if we're playing on the moon," Sanchez said. "We cannot give up walks."

The Waves walked eight and Trojan pitching fanned 13. Jordan Olson (1-0) pitched threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief for USC.

Pepperdine had 10 hits but didn't advance a runner past first base after the sixth inning.

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