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Pepperdine Wins a Wild One Over Cal State Fullerton, 7-6

Brightwell's two-run homer with two out in 10th puts Waves within a victory of their first super-regional.

June 06, 2004|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Cory Brightwell remembers the last time Pepperdine was in a position to control its fate in an NCAA baseball regional. The image of USC's Michael Moon circling the bases for a walkoff home run in the 2001 tournament is something the Waves have yet to recover from.

Brightwell may never expunge that from his mind, but he found some redemption for a team that is becoming the story of the regional at Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Field.

The senior outfielder hit a two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning to give fourth-seeded Pepperdine a shocking 7-6 victory over the Titans in a wild winners' bracket game.

With victories over top-seeded Arizona State and second-seeded Fullerton, the Waves (30-30) need just one win today to advance to their first super-regional since the format was adopted five years ago.

"They want to win and they want to win badly," Pepperdine Coach Steve Rodriguez said. "It's a great victory for us. That never-say-die attitude remains."

Fullerton (37-21) won an elimination game Saturday night against the Sun Devils, 5-0, and will play Pepperdine again at 1 p.m. today.

The Titans had led the Waves most of game and were one strike away from victory in the ninth and 10th innings only to see its season-long bullpen problems resurface.

Reliever Ryan Schreppel was the victim this time. With two out and two strikes on No. 9 hitter Nick Kliebert in the bottom of the ninth, the sophomore third baseman grounded a single into right field to bring in Brightwell and tie the score, 4-4.

Fullerton scored twice in the top of 10th, but late-inning deficits haven't fazed the Waves. With one out, Steve Kleen cut the lead to one with a solo home run down the left-field line.

Schreppel struck out Brent Lewis and got two strikes on Chad Tracy. Tracy, the son of Dodger Manager Jim Tracy, reached base on a ground ball to bring up Brightwell.

Brightwell had homered off Titan starter Ricky Romero in the eighth but it was his blast off the Fullerton reliever that conjured up the images of Moon as he rounded the bases.

"There's four guys on this team that experienced that," he said. "It wasn't a good feeling then and we made a pact that we weren't going to feel like that again."

Pepperdine starter Jacob Barrack kept his team close by limiting the Titans to four runs in nine inning, but Fullerton took the lead in the 10th on a controversial play at home plate.

Kleen, who relieved Barrack, bobbled a ground ball by Kurt Suzuki before throwing home to Tracy. The freshman catcher appeared to have blocked Justin Turner from the plate but umpire Tony Walsh ruled Turner safe.

Felipe Garcia, who had four RBIs for the Titans, hit a sacrifice fly for a 6-4 lead. The Titans soon learned no lead was safe.

Pepperdine has been a resilient club since its erased a 10-3 deficit to beat Loyola Marymount and earn the West Coast Conference's automatic bid.

"We don't want to end our college careers here," Brightwell said. "We want to keep this going as long as possible."

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