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LONG BEACH STATE BASEBALL REGIONAL

Brooks keeps Bruins in the winner's bracket

June 03, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

UCLA Coach John Savage is well aware of the three things needed to win an NCAA baseball regional: quality starting pitching, more quality starting pitching and even more quality starting pitching.

So far so good for the Bruins, who got a second consecutive dominant performance by a starter -- this time by freshman Gavin Brooks -- as the Bruins advanced in the Long Beach Regional with a 3-1 victory over Illinois Chicago on Saturday night at Blair Field.

Brooks, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-hander, threw a two-hitter, giving up only an unearned run in the first inning.

Illinois Chicago and Long Beach State will play an elimination game at 2 p.m., and UCLA will face the winner at 6. Should UCLA win that, it would advance out of the regionals for the first time since 2000 and only the fourth time in school history. A loss tonight would set up a Monday elimination game rematch.

Brooks' performance followed that of teammate Tyson Brummett, who pitched eight shutout innings Friday night in a 7-3 victory over Pepperdine.

"We feel good about our pitching," Savage said. "Gavin showed maturity beyond his years. It's good to win that second game. Obviously it's a big win, but there is a lot of tournament left."

The Bruins (32-26) got all of their offense in the fourth inning on a run-scoring double by Will Penniall, a scoring ground ball fielder's choice by Justin Uribe and a run-scoring single by Ryan Babineau. Uribe and Babineau, the eighth and ninth batters, combined to go six for seven.

Brooks (6-6) walked the first two batters of the game, but allowed only one runner past first base after that. He walked three, hit two batters and struck out six. He did not give up a hit in the final 6 2/3 innings.

"There were a little jitters," Brooks said of the rocky start. "I just needed to fight through them."

Long Beach State 6, Pepperdine 3 -- Andrew Liebel pitched a complete game and the 49ers (38-19) rallied for three runs in the eighth inning and ended Pepperdine's season.

Liebel (9-3) gave up 11 hits, but he walked only one and tied a career high with six strikeouts. The complete game was a welcome effort for the 49ers, who might have to play two games today and then another Monday.

"It really helps us for the rest of the weekend," Long Beach State Coach Mike Weathers said. "He gave us the best scenario possible and one of the guttiest performances in my 15 years here."

Danny Espinosa had two hits and drove in two runs for Long Beach State, including a one-out single to left that broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth. Pinch hitter T.J. Mittelstaedt followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Robert Perry from third on a close play at the plate. The ball got away from Pepperdine catcher Travis Tartamella, allowing Travis Howell to also score on the play.

Liebel struggled early, giving up two runs, five hits and a walk in the first three innings, but he said he adjusted his mental approach, trying to forget that it was an elimination game.

"Sometimes when you get yourself in a tight spot, doing more isn't always the best thing," he said. "You try to do less and you're more successful and that's what happened today."

Pepperdine (35-22) had its once-promising season come to a disappointing end. The Waves were 26-9 and ranked No. 7 in the nation by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers on April 9, but lost 13 of their last 22.

"It's just very frustrating when you have a very talented team such as this," Pepperdine Coach Steve Rodriguez said. "As we go through this, we need to evaluate some of our players, some of our talent and some of our coaching staff and find out exactly what's going on and possibly make some changes."

peter.yoon@latimes.com

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