The Pepperdine baseball team travels to Hawaii for a four-game series this weekend, bolstered by its recent series victory over Tulane University that included an almost unbelievable 30-21 victory on Saturday.
The Waves knew what they needed to do to beat Tulane last weekend. Namely, they needed to start hitting, and the younger players had to step up and compete alongside their more experienced teammates.
Pepperdine came through big-time, winning two of three games against the third-ranked team in the nation.
Identifying his team’s weaknesses prior to the Tulane series, junior second baseman Duke Sardinha said, “Basically, we’re not hitting well as a team” and added that the Waves so far were “not capitalizing on their runners in scoring position.”
It was hard to argue with that observation — the Waves scored a total of six runs in their first four games this season.
But in their three-game series against Tulane, they scored 47 times and hammered home the notion that their initial season slump at the plate was only temporary.
Case in point: Saturday afternoon, following Pepperdine’s 9-7 victory the day before. Early in the game, Pepperdine senior catcher Rock Mills approached the plate, looking ready to pounce on Tulane pitcher Ray Liotta.
And pounce he did, driving the ball beyond the outfield wall of Eddy D. Field Stadium for the game’s first home run, a hit that set the standard for the rest of the day’s batting frenzy.
Mills went on to hit another home run later in the game, but he was not the only Wave to double up. Junior designated hitter Ed Montague hit two balls out of the park in only three at-bats. In the end, the Waves beat Tulane by a whopping 30-21, falling just three short of the Pepperdine record for most runs scored in a game set in 1955.
One reason for all the hitting from both teams were the 30 mph Santa Ana winds that befuddled pitchers on both sides and even seemed to carry line drives right out of the ballpark.
“I had to keep the ball low in the strike zone to avoid the winds,” said senior pitcher Kevin Beavers, who started Saturday.
Although Beavers pitched for only five innings, it him three hours to finish. The game went on to last a marathon five hours.
Pepperdine sophomore Jacob Barrack relieved Beavers in the sixth and struck out three of 12 batters he faced. Freshman Peter Phillips came in during the eighth to close the game.
Pepperdine’s energized hitting squad saturated the three-game series with impressive statistics. Junior first baseman Ty Harper batted .636 for the series and now heads into the weekend with a six-game hitting streak.
On Saturday, freshman centerfielder Jason Durbin scored three runs and batted in five. Freshmen Steve Kleen and Patrick Rooney also donated to the effort that afternoon, scoring seven runs between them.
The following day brought dimmer results for Pepperdine. After Kelly’s grand slam in the first inning and an early 6-0 lead for the Waves, Tulane bounced back. With the game tied at eight runs, Tulane sophomore Michael Aubrey hit a two-run triple as part of a four-run comeback in the ninth inning that left Tulane the victors by a score of 12-8 on Sunday.
Despite that loss, the Waves proved to the fans and to themselves that they can go head to head with the No. 3 team in the nation. As Pepperdine heads to Hawaii this weekend, they take comfort in their newfound resilience as an offensive power.
“It was a very confidence-building weekend for us,” Beavers said.
Pepperdine hopes that this confidence will be enough to send the Waves rolling over Hawaii-Hilo this weekend. They will play four games at Francis K. Wong Stadium between Friday and Sunday, including a double-header on Saturday.
February 14, 2002