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49ers Reach Regional Final

Long Beach State gets an offensive spark to defeat Washington, 7-2. Pepperdine eliminated.

June 01, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Often considered the missing link to a potential championship team, the batters in the Long Beach State lineup have been maligned at times this season.

The 49ers offered further proof that their once-struggling offense is a thing of the past. Brad Davis drove in a career-high four runs and Mike Hofius added a two-run single to break open a tight game in a 7-2 victory over Washington that kept Long Beach undefeated in the NCAA baseball regional at Blair Field.

Long Beach (40-18) will meet Washington (42-17) today in the regional final. The Huskies rebounded and scored a 4-1 victory over Minnesota (40-22) in Saturday night's elimination game.

With terrific defense and Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver at the front of one of the nation's best pitching staffs, the 49ers often haven't needed a potent offense. But they are 23-2 when they've scored seven or more runs and have hit that total in 13 of their last 24 games.

"Over the last six weeks, we've turned the offense up," Coach Mike Weathers said. "We started scoring more runs and lightened the load for our pitchers. The older guys stayed with it and were experienced enough to know to stay with it."

Hofius is one of the veterans who have sparked the 49ers. The junior was batting .211 as late as April 18 but has batted .392 in his last 21 games.

The junior first baseman kept a two-out rally alive with a single in the fourth and led off the seventh with a walk and scored the eventual winning run on Josh Buhaigar's bad-hop single off the second-base bag.

"I started off slow but I made a commitment to turning it up in the second half of the season and making a good run to the regionals," Hofius said.

Davis stranded six runners in Friday night's 6-1 victory over Pepperdine. On Saturday, he brought them home.

In the fourth, the sophomore right fielder fought back from an 0-2 count against Husky starter Jeff Petersen and ripped a hanging slider down the third-base line to drive home Adam Heether and Hofius and tie the score, 2-2.

Petersen kept the score close but the 49ers loaded the bases in the eighth. Hofius greeted reliever Brian Carter with a two-run single and Davis followed with another two-run double past third baseman John Otness.

Weaver (14-3) rode the support to his second complete game in three starts. Needing 109 pitches, he limited the big-hitting Huskies to five hits and struck out six. The only mistake he made was to leadoff batter Brent Lillibridge, who hit a two-run homer in the third.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore won his seventh consecutive start.

"He's always around the zone," Washington shortstop Tila Reynolds said. "He's very deceptive with his delivery and hard to pick up."

Minnesota 7, Pepperdine 5 -- Once the Golden Gophers got Pepperdine ace Greg Ramirez out of the game, their bats awoke in a stunning five-run ninth inning that eliminated the Waves (36-25).

Ramirez held Minnesota to one earned run with seven strikeouts and left in the eighth with a 5-2 lead.

But Matt Fornasiere led off the ninth with a double off setup man Kea Kometani. Sam Steidl followed with a single to drive in Fornasiere and came around on a double by Ben Pattee to cut the lead to 5-4.

"It was a difficult decision," Pepperdine Coach Frank Sanchez said of taking out Ramirez. "The pitch count was up and he was getting tired and got into some trouble. I'm sure if you asked Greg, he would've wanted to stay in the game but I made the decision."

Paul Coleman replaced Kometani and got Luke Appert to hit a fly ball. Left fielder Brandon Daguio got a late jump and Jason Durbin raced over from center but the ball landed between the two and Pattee scored.

"I was running for the ball but I thought he might get to it," Daguio said. "I looked at him and he was pretty far away and the ball was three feet off the ground, so I took the initiative, called for the ball and missed."

Scott Welch followed with a single to score Appert. David Hrncirik added a run-scoring single to finish the rally.

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