Friday First Takes - USD makes quick work of Pepperdine

Matusz looked good. Pepperdine looked distracted. That's the nuts and bolts of it.

I suppose that's why today's 10-3 washout that USD sunk the Waves with came as little surprise. I was warned by both coaches earlier this week that the Toreros were playing their best baseball of the season and that Pepperdine was busy all week with finals, lack of practice time and upcoming graduation.

Check and check. It all came to pass today at Cunningham Stadium.

The vaunted matchup between staff aces Brian Matusz and Barry Enright never materialized as Matusz was locked in from the first pitch on and Enright had his weakest outing of the season.

Here are the highlights/lowlights for each:

Brian Matusz
8.1inns, 10hits, 3earned runs, 11Ks, 1BB, improving to 9-2
- Struck out the first five batters he faced.
- Pepperdine's first eight outs of the game were by strikeout.
- Made two great defensive plays after the first two Waves got on in the 4th inning, fielding a bunt and getting a force at 3rd base and then catching a PU runner leaning off of second, starting a base-running double play.
- Retired 10 straight during one stretch between the 4th and 7th innings.
- Of the 10 hits allowed, three were by bunt, one was by a broken bat and the first RBI of the game for Pepperdine came when the 2nd baseman was slightly out of position.

Barry Enright.
4.0inns, 8hits, 4earned runs, 1K, 1BB, drops to 10-2.
- This was his shortest performance of the season.
- Allowed the first batter of each inning to reach base.
- You just sensed something was wrong from the get-go as coach Steve Rodriguez made a mound visit in the 1st inning of the game.
- Came into the game allowing just a .237 opponents average. Tonight USD hit .467 off of him.

Key play:
If there's one player Matusz can send a personal thank you card to, it would have to be Saturday mound starter Josh Romanski. The erstwhile center fielder made a pair of athletic diving stabs out in the meadow.The first one came with the bases loaded and two out in the 3rd inning, while the Toreros were clinging to a 2-0 lead. If that one drops in, it's a tie game or even a Pepperdine lead early on.

Key stat:
The Toreros got the first man on base in each and every inning today. Four of those came by walks as every Pepperdine pitcher that coach Steve Rodriguez trotted out there seemed to struggle. Of those eight first at-bat runners, four of those eventually scored.

Obviously, getting 15 hits and seven walks off the six Pepperdine pitchers showed that USD was the team that had its head wrapped around this game more. San Diego coach Rich Hill was pleased with his teams effort. "Getting those first batters on base was the big key. We kept the pressure on them and had good focus."

When asked about his teams approach against a pitcher the quality of Enright, Coach Hill sounded matter of fact, "Well our guys have seen him three or four times now, and I thought (assistant coach) Jay Johnson did a great job with our hitters and our hitting plan was very good. So I wasn't too surprised. If anything I was a little surprised at how early they took him out."

The final blow to Enright's night was a crusher. Shane Buschini, the hulking right fielder, sent a screamer to the rooftop of the four-story dorm complex beyond right field to lead off the 5th inning. That put San Diego up by a 4-0 count and they would never be threatened again.

As for Coach Hill's thoughts on Matusz? "You know, he is a high strikeout guy, but as you saw, they got 10 hits of him. And give Pepperdine credit for putting the bat on the ball and doing some things early on. Then Matusz made some big pitches and we made some big plays behind him."

Game two will see that Romanski guy I wrote about above (7-1, 2.33) go up against Robert Dickman (5-2, 3.72). As mentioned in previous columns, Saturday will be graduation day at Pepperdine so game two in this series will be Sunday afternoon.

Perhaps that 48-hour period will help Pepperdine get it's heads back into baseball. Because they are a better team than they showed today. Even if Matusz helped make them look bad today.


Matusz.jpg
San Diego's Brian Matusz ended the day with 11 strikeouts and three earned runs.


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Additional notes about today's game---
- As you may have seen from the picture on my first "Touching the Bases" entry today, Cunningham Stadium sits in a natural bowl on a hillside and has just one long, tall grandstand (for those of you in Texas, it's like the grandstand at Texas State, except even taller). According to USD coach Rich Hill, a $13 million renovation and expansion is going to get kick-started after this season.

- Pepperdine's graduation ceremonies on Saturday afternoon will mean a day off tomorrow for these two teams. Game two will be Sunday and Monday's game will be a 3pm affair and will be televised by CSTV. (Cool, some baseball to watch while I'm at work).

- I don't know why I think it's cool, but I really love the white cleats look that USD was sporting today.

- Special thank you to San Diego Union-Tribune sports writer Kirk Kenney for his work in the name of our beloved college baseball for the LoCal area. He's in his 22nd year of working at the U-T, but this is a dude that looks barely over 22 himself. And also Kirk, thanks for noticing that some of my columns are filed at 4:30 in the morning. Actually, that's Eastern time, but it is true that there are many late nights in the name of college baseball. But that's why it's called "Extra Innings."

- Biggest thank you of the day goes to Mr. Mike Matusz. He stopped me after the game to let me know that he knows what happened to that giant grandstand edifice that sits on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona (Something I brought up in my Saturday Statements on February 17th). Turns out that it was indeed a former horse racing track that eventually lost favor with the Phoenicians because of its remote location outside of town and the emergence of another horse track in North Phoenix. And the reason it looks like something out of "Damnation Alley?" Mr. Matusz told me it has been out of use for 30+ years and is full of crumbling asbestos. Isn't someone responsible enough to finally have that nasty joint torn down? Who's in charge of city infrastructure? Homer Simpson?

Oh, and Mr. Matusz is indeed the father of the USD pitcher. In other words, the father that's going to be sickly richer after the June 2008 draft.


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Quick notes from around the country---
Game I wish I had a ticket for:
Florida State - 7
Miami - 6
This rivalry never disappoints. Tonight the Seminoles came back from a 6-3 deficit with four runs in the top of the 9th. Tony Thomas hit a two-run bomb to keep hope alive.

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Second game I wish I had a ticket for:
Cal State Fullerton - 2
UC Riverside - 3
The Highlanders score two runs in the 9th without suffering an out to pull out a win over another tough-luck loss for Wes Roemer. James Simmons improves to 9-2 with the complete-game win. Damn! I picked tomorrow to go to a game in that series.

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Just goes to show you these offenses can be shut down---
South Carolina - 5
Alabama - 10

Arizona State - 2
California - 4

Texas - 3
Oklahoma State - 2
Tommy Hunter and Will Stroup give up just seven combined hits for Bama (an 8-run 6th inning helps out too). Tyson Ross (seven hits) and Matt Gorgen (one hit) do the unthinkable - hold Brett Wallace hitless. (Two bad errors doom the Devils). And the Horns get lockdown performances from Joseph Krebs and Randy Boone to help hold OSU to two hits for the last 6.0 innings. UT comes from 2-0 deficit to win.

Prediction? Both Carolina and ASU will win out in their respective series. With the expulsion of Bernard Robert, Bama could be hurting. Cal's staff is just not robust enough to stop the Devils for long. Texas has all the arms it needs.

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Hope he stayed warm between innings---
Maryland - 0
Virginia - 14
Jacob Thompson tosses a complete-game four-hitter. But the most impressive part was keeping his mind in the game while waiting out those long offensive innings by the Cavs bats.

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Score that jumped off the page---
North Carolina - 1
North Carolina State - 11
The Wolf Pack jumped all over staff ace Robert Woodard early and often. Woodard only lasted 4.1 innings, getting bombed for 12 hits and eight runs. Pat Ferguson and Dallas Poulk both went 4-for-4 at the plate and Marcus Jones hit a dinger to go with five RBI. Gah!

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The numbers don't lie---
Mississippi State - 7
Mississippi - 17
I had my suspicions about MSU's pitching staff and its 5.58 team ERA. Here's your result. Ironically, only one starter ended up not getting multiple hits for Ole Miss, SS Zach Cozart, who had recently raised his average up to .339.

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Mills... freakin' sweet---
Charlotte - 10
George Washington - 0
Adam Mills faced just two over the minimum in a complete-game one-htter with nine Ks. Sure he had an easy assignment here, but his record improves to 10-1 now.

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Cold seas ahead?---
Southern Mississippi - 6
East Carolina - 3
This Pirate team is a lot different than the one I saw sweep Fullerton last month. Taking away the three game sweep of Savannah State and ECU is now 5-8 since late March. Tonight, T.J. Hose's struggles continued as he went just 4.2 innings. He has yet to pitch into the 7th inning of fifth straight C-USA start.

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Shortest battle of conference leaders---
Texas State - 0
Lamar - 3
Both pitchers go a complete game. Justin Fisk of TSU gives up seven hits and just three earned runs. The Cards get a four-hit effort from Allen Harrington. The game lasted just 2:10.

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Football season---
Louisiana-Monroe - 11
Troy - 27
The Trojans 5-6-7 hitters go a combined 13-for-15 and 14 RBI. There were 10 combined home runs in the game.

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Okay Kirk, it's now 1:15am.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert