Sunday, April 03, 2005


Under Mike Weather’s Christmas tree was this package labeled “2005 Dirtbag baseball, battery required” and, if you use “battery” as the baseball parlance for pitcher and catcher, how very important is that battery.

Last weekend the Beach secret became very public as Mike Weathers and Troy Buckley played their three mound aces, Cesar Ramos, Marco Estrada and Jared Hughes for 23 of the 27 innings, plugged in king closers Brian Anderson and Neil Jamison to slam the door and swept the upstart Highlanders of UC Riverside.

Oh yes, the catcher part of the battery, out-of-nowhere Chris Jones, was pretty darn good himself. Before this season Jones wasn’t exactly a hot prospect to be quarterbacking the first place Dirtbags who are rising again in the polls thanks in large part to Jones. In 2001 he was best known as a football kicker and played in some all star games. 2002 was a red shirt year at Fresno City College. In 2003 a modest .288 batting average and more quality time in football cleats. In 2004 he made the LBSU media guide but only got off the bench 10 times, none of them carrying a bat. Even at the start of this season a man he calls a good friend, Tito Cruz, seemed to own the job, with eight starts in the first month of play. Finally Jones got the call to catch when Cruz was needed at third and the rest is very pleasant history. While Troy Tulowitzki is the team leader in spirit and average (375) Jones is a tie for MVP running the show behind the dish with his .372 average, great defense, and handling a pitching staff that is close to the national leader in ERA allowing a miserly .2.15 runs per game.

This weekend, while the city streets are full of folks making mostly left turns, Jones and company will travel to Irvine for their next Big West appointment, Friday and Saturday at 6 and Sunday at 1 p.m. Relax, at least one 49er will stay in town to fly the flag, volleyball gold medalist Misty May is driving in that pro-celebrity race.

VAROOM DUST--The other diamond entry for the Beach also sparkled over the weekend as Pete Manarino and his Sweethearts of Swat clobbered Utah State 19-0, 4-0 and 6-0 where LB crowned a new LB homer queen Lauren Johnson and welcomed the long anticipated BYU transfer Oli Keohohou. Oli hit two home runs on Saturday, a grand slam in the first game and a two-run shot in the second and then settled down for a homer-less 3-for-4 with two runs scored Sunday. That computes to a battering average of .636, 7-11 hitting, and a slugging percentage of 1.182.
More keeping up with the Jones’. The Niner catcher is one of the older lads on the Beach team, a junior in eligibility he turned 22 in February and after the successful pro starts of catching predecessors Brad Davis, Todd Jennings and Bryan Kennedy is getting a long look from Major League Baseball. Ironically Jones’s “internship” last summer was as the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies’ bullpen catcher.

From Will Kimmey at Baseball America, when college baseball expert and passionate Oregon State booster Harold Reynolds found out the NCAA's minimum bid was $35,000 to host a regional, and that a fairly competitive bid could come in between $50,000 and $75,000, he said he would lay out all or part of the money for the Beavers if they still are in contention come this May. Local angels apply within.

Last add inside stuff. Perhaps the strongest man in Ninerville is a 6-9 pup of a sophomore out of Tucson, volleyball middle blocker Teddy Liles. Behind the hitting talents of Yassir Sliti, Duncan Budinger and Robert Tarr the Beach last weekend beat the number one team Pepperdine, old foe USC, and welcomes Hawaii to the Pyramid Thursday and Friday. Thursday is a nationally televised contest on CSTV. Now that’s a good way to avoid exhaust fumes and wave to the family.--DR. DAN


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