Friday, February 24, 2006


TGIF and back to fun and games on Federation Drive. High school football aside, in the spring time Friday nights signify the start of a college baseball series, win two or three every weekend and make plans for the post-season party circuit. This weekend the opposing dugouts will be populated by the visitors from the Horizon conference, the Illinois-Chicago Flames and the finally back at home Dirtbags of Long Beach.

Befitting the importance of these Friday night fights, both sides will send stars to the circle. For Long Beach it will once again be Jared “The Headhunter” Hughes who leads the team in wins (2-0) but also in walks, (9), hit batters (4) and radar gun readings. His pre-season pub was great but out-of-nowhere Andrew Carpenter has been the most effective Niner but more of that tomorrow. For UI_C the standout is without question the Minnetonka Monster, Zach Peterson. For his work last weekend in snuffing perennial toughie Creighton, the third-year starter was rewarded with a spot on the College Baseball Foundation National Honor Roll. Peterson pitched seven shutout innings against the Bluejays, allowing only four hits and giving up a mere walk before the Flames won the game in the 10th inning, 3-2, on Jake Carr’s RBI single.

Carr is just part of the punch that the Flames bring to town, the other slugger of note is IC senior outfielder Bart Babineaux, an escapee from LSU country (New Iberia, La) who was named the Horizon League Baseball Player of the Week after batting .400 (6-for-15) with seven RBI in four games in Mesa, AZ, (spring training home of the Chicago Cubs). He also posted a .667 slugging percentage with a double and a home run. Babineaux earned All-Horizon League Second Team last year batting .317 with six homers and 42 RBI in the Flames' league championship and NCAA Regional campaign. For the homeboys they return after Friday and Saturday freeze-outs at Rice University’s Coca Cola Classic Hughes got the W over Lamar before Carpenter frosted then #2 Rice. The hitting hero predictably was Big West Player of the Week Evan Longoria, now at .438 the year with enough free passes (11) to take the family to movies for a month, are part of an outstanding .609 on-base percentage.

ROAD DUST- At the risk of having to pay royalties to Johnny Carson’s estate, I have to answer the sporting question from last weekend’s baseball journey deep in the heart of Texas, “How Cold was it?”…Wayne Graham, the distinguished long time coach of Rice came up into the press box (72 degrees, wind chill of 72) following Long Beach’s 4-1 win over his formerly second-ranked Owls and said, “Well there is good news and bad news--the bad news is that we got beat, the good news is that I got to come up here.” Jim Gilligan, for 29 years the skipper at Lamar, who the Dirtbags whipped 11-6 on Friday, told the umps, “if I say anything out of line just toss me quick, it’s damn cold.”...correcting what you may have read, the on-campus Rice weather station had the temps at 35, and Weather’s said it was really tough on outfielders exposed to the wind and mist…the box scores said that these games were played before 2,547, make that 200 fans and 2,347 unused tickets…Carpenter (1-0, 1.89) goes Saturday before improving Vance Worley works the Sunday dance...UI-C has a pair of lefties for the rest of their mound duty…the Beach boys got up to # 17 in Collegiate Baseball …Peterson leftovers….last year the Minnetonka, MN native went 10-1 with a team-best 3.31 ERA and has not lost since March 21, 2005…at USC a pretty good Hawaii team will have a chance…they are 9-2, coming off a three-game sweep of Loyola Marymount and have a five-game winning streak…. Fullerton plays a split three-game series versus UCLA this weekend, tonight at Jackie Robinson Stadium with the next two on Nutwood…then UCLA comes here on Tuesday night…if the Beach can get to the Flame’s Peterson he will join a list of excellent fallen pitching foes, USC closer Paul Koss, Cal’s Brandon Morrow, USC’s Ian Kennedy and Rice’s Joe Savery…the hitting remains a issue, but the LB web site notes that the pitching keeps ‘em close…nine of the 10 Dirtbag decisions have been within three runs. Three of the team’s four losses have been by a single run….the line-up shuffle will continue although Longoria’s turn at leadoff will stop for the moment…the battle for first is on… the senior Scooter Bradley is batting .444 over seven games and three starts with five RBIs and his partner Brandon Godfrey is batting .333 in his seven starts….nice problem to have…film at 11-DR. DAN


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