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COLLEGE ROUNDUP

Long Beach Sweeps Riverside

May 12, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki looks like a typical freshman at times. On an otherwise terrific defensive team, the shortstop has committed a team-high nine errors, including two in the first inning of Sunday's key Big West Conference baseball game against UC Riverside.

It is his tremendous promise that keeps him in the lineup. That was on display in powering the third-ranked 49ers to a three-game sweep of the 18th-ranked Highlanders at Blair Field.

Tulowitzki hit a two-run home run and drove in three runs Sunday in an 8-3 victory. With the win, Long Beach (36-14, 15-3) has a two-game lead over Cal State Fullerton heading into a three-game series at Fullerton next weekend for the Big West title.

"Coach has always talked about putting stuff in the past," Tulowitzki said of his errors.

His third-inning homer -- his fifth -- gave Long Beach a 6-2 lead. He also sparked Friday's 9-4 victory with a grand slam and five runs batted in.

Riverside (37-15, 11-7) hit into an NCAA record-tying seven double plays, including in each of the first five innings. Long Beach starter Cesar Ramos was the beneficiary; the freshman lasted six innings to get the win.

"You think you get a couple of hits and maybe get something going and then two or three seconds later, that inning is pretty much toast," Riverside Coach Jack Smitheran said. "It was that all day."

Riverside, which had won three games against then-top-ranked Cal State Fullerton the week before, fell out of the conference race with the losses to Long Beach.

"We knew they were a good team," Tulowitzki said. "They had just swept Fullerton and we knew they were for real."

All of the 49er bats seem to be hot. Catcher Todd Jennings has a 20-game hitting streak. First baseman Mike Hofius had two hits (and scored twice), extending his hitting streak to 13 games. Outfielder John Bowker had a 15-game hitting streak end Sunday.

The hitting surge has taken some pressure off starters Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver. Alvarez improved to 10-0, giving up four runs in 7 2/3 innings Friday. Weaver tied a career high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings of Saturday's 6-2 victory.

"We've made it tough for our pitchers all year," Long Beach Coach Mike Weathers said. "The last two or three weeks, we've been scoring some runs which is going to help our pitching that much more."

Meanwhile, the fourth-ranked Titans (41-12, 13-5) kept pace in the conference race by winning the final two games of their home series against UC Irvine. Ryan Schreppel got his first win since coming back from a knee injury with four scoreless innings Sunday in a 9-1 win.

Closer Chad Cordero got the 32nd save of his career Saturday in a 6-4 win to tie the school record. Irvine (20-32, 8-10) did deal Fullerton its first home loss of the season Friday night. Jon Horwitz made a brilliant diving catch to foil a ninth-inning Titan threat in a 5-3 victory.

Fullerton had won its first 22 games at Goodwin Field.

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There will be a new NCAA men's tennis champion as UCLA defeated defending champion USC, 4-0, in a second-round playoff match at the L.A. Tennis Center. The Bruins (22-3) advanced to the 16-team NCAA championships at Athens, Ga.

UCLA won the doubles point and received singles victories from Tobias Clemens, Erfan Djahangiri and Chris Lam.

USC (21-5) advanced to the women's championships with a 4-0 second-round victory over Georgia Tech, while UCLA (15-10) defeated Pepperdine, 4-1, Saturday.

*

Cal State Fullerton and UCLA earned top regional seedings as the NCAA softball pairings were announced. The Titans (39-13) play host to one of eight eight-team regionals that begin Thursday. UCLA (45-6) will play in a regional at Fresno State.

Long Beach State (29-17) and Cal State Northridge (26-21) also made the field. The 49ers were sent to Fresno as the No. 5-seeded team, and the Matadors are seeded fifth in a regional at Tucson. Regional winners will advance to the Women's College World Series.

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