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49ers Feel Pretty Super

Freshman Ramos pitches seven shutout innings and Long Beach State beats Washington, 7-2, to win regional tournament at home.

June 02, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Cesar Ramos turned down a nice payday as a sixth-round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to go to Long Beach State and fight his way onto a deep and talented pitching staff.

The freshman worked his way through the usual first-year inconsistency to become a regular weekend starter. Now he is developing into another ace for the 49ers.

Ramos pitched seven shutout innings Sunday to further frustrate a potent Washington squad and lift Long Beach into an NCAA super regional with a 7-2 victory over the Huskies in front of 2,375 in the regional at Long Beach. The 49ers (41-18) play at Stanford (44-15) in a best-of-three super regional starting Friday.

Another stellar performance capped a dominant weekend by Long Beach pitchers. In three wins, the 49ers used five pitchers who allowed only six runs.

"We rely on our pitching and I'm not sure if there was any better pitching in the nation this weekend," Long Beach Coach Mike Weathers said. "We live and die with our pitching and defense. Out of nowhere has come our offense. We keep doing this, we can be scary."

The triumvirate of Ramos, Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver made an impression on Washington Coach Ken Knutson. "The thing that jumps out at you is their starting pitchers," Knutson said. "I really don't know about the rest of their staff because they were so dominant. They pitched as well as anyone we've seen."

The Huskies (42-18) needed to win twice Sunday to advance but their efforts were futile against the 49er staff and spacious Blair Field. Washington hit 93 home runs and averaged nearly eight runs in the regular season, but its fly balls simply died in the large outfield.

Ramos (6-4) was rarely hit hard as he mixed pitches and changed speeds against the fastball-hitting Washington lineup. He had one strikeout but gave up only six hits and didn't walk a batter before coming out after Greg Isaacson singled leading off the eighth.

"My goal was to give my team a shot to win," Ramos said. "I accomplished that goal. I went out there and just tried to get them to put the ball in play. I'm confident in my team and my defense behind me."

He should be. The nation's best defensive team committed no errors in the regional. Center fielder Steve Velazco and left fielder Josh Buhagiar added to the reputation with dazzling diving catches.

"We work on our defense more than anything else," Velazco said. "I've been doing those all year long. If a ball is hit to me, I'm going to catch it."

Long Beach broke through in the third inning. Brad Davis led off with a walk and Buhagiar followed with a bunt that pitcher Clay Johnson threw past first base for an error.

One out later, Todd Jennings singled up the middle to give the 49ers a 2-0 lead.

The 49ers then used little ball in the fifth to score four runs.

Jennings blooped a single with the bases loaded for his third run batted in, Tim Hutting and John Bowker followed with run-scoring hits, and an error by center fielder Brent Lillibridge allowed Jennings to score.

Jennings and Weaver were selected co-most outstanding players of the regional.

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