Friday, February 23, 2007


There is snow on the mountains, Bears on the field, and hope in both dugouts. And it isn’t even March! Welcome to college baseball fun in February and enjoy the moment because next year at this time you will be stuck with sorting your sock drawer instead of the first of two contests between The University of California and The California State University. We boldly say THE because clearly UC Berkeley is the flagship of the UC system and by every account I hear Long Beach State is the flagship of the CSU system and we love hyperbole and hype.

Braggadocio aside, the 5-5 Bears and the 6-4 Beach boys are programs with high hopes early on and a several things in common. The most frequently spoke of is the presence of two Cal transfers on the Dirtbag roster, power supply Jason Corder and accurate throwing catcher Travis Howell. Corder leads the team in home runs with three and ties Steve Tinoco with a .588 slugging percentage while Howell has six starts behind the plate and has picked six of ten base stealers. The lesser known fact, the two transfers came to Long Beach as part of the deal that sent former Niner Assoc. AD whiz and honorable left field loony, Steve Holton and popular and talented LB sports info ace Chris DeConna, to Berkeley. Both sides warmed up on Tuesday with intra-conference battles, the Beach torturing Pac 10 power UCLA 14-1 and Cal heart-breaking again to former Big West foe San Jose State in a 9-8 loss. The Golden Bears lost their third consecutive one-run game. LB on the other hand got Christmas early from UCLA who staggers into Fullerton tonight. For the most part the game was a clinic in how to rebuild the confidence of a team that lost a weekend series for the first time this season and had some battered egos to rehab. The first fix was that of Andre Lamontange who hurled a career-best 3.1 innings, fanned a career-best six and got career win #1 after coming in with an ERA at 10.12. The second repair was the hitting swoon of featured 49er Danny Espinosa who had three hits and fix number three was for LBSU set-up guy Dustin Rasco who was raked at Rice but retired all seven batters he faced Tuesday, striking out three.

TRADING PLACES DUST--…the other news note is that the Bear brain trust over-scheduled their team with dates here and at UCSB…and rather than play a split squad—the honorable thing to do—the Bears will amble up to Goleta for Sunday and Monday work…of course that circumstance, and the off week coming up, actually helps the thin Beach starting corps giving Manny McElroy some more guilt free recovery time...meanwhile back in the head shed, the LBSU athletic offices, baseball is now listed as a cash cow alongside, and sometimes ahead, of men’s basketball…so far the home baseball attendance has averaged 2029 and hoops, just 1820…The Beach versus the Bears of late has not been a fond memory for the 49ers. In 2005 Cal came in to Blair and swept the series and last year in Berkeley it wasn’t much better with LB losing two of three, “somehow they really get in to us,“ skipper Mike Weathers lamented Tuesday night…tomorrow a double header for the Beach compulsives, bases at 2 p.m. and Homecoming hoops at 4 p.m… you would be well advised to check out the lads because after this weekend the Beach boys pack their bags for a seven game road trip including a three games series at sunny Arizona State followed by three at chilly Wichita State…the Sun Devil series, (March 9-11), runs simultaneous with the Big West basketball tournament presenting a challenge for 49ers with connections to both the desert and the sea, as in the ACC or Anaheim Convention Center…basket cases tomorrow’s test is another doesn’t count contest for your first place 49ers. Saturday’s visitor is UC Davis the 4 p.m. dessert course for the Beach’s Pyramid Parking Lot Homecoming celebration…the three conference games next week do win and the BWC title is locked up…no mercy rule on the field Tuesday and none in the stands…nice guy freshman right-hander J.D. Haver, who last tossed the baseball across the street at Wilson High, had to face right-handed hitter Steve Tinoco with a gaggle of his former coaches, pals and parents looking on...Haver walked Tinoco on five pitches to load the bases and then threw two wild pitches that scored two more runs, putting the Dirtbags up 3-0 and UCLA never could get off the mat…all the walking and dosing aside, one of the better plays of Tuesday was when a bloop bunt floated past the first base side of the pitcher’s mound but the ever alert Matt Cline dived for the rock and gunned the Bruin base runner out at the plate…a key momentum killing moment while the affair was still close…Friday games of note are Cal Poly at Santa Clara, Oklahoma State at CSUN, Utah at Irvine, Riverside at San Diego State, Pacific at Clemson and of course UCLA at Fullerton…last add hurler highlights, the homeboys will feature Vance Worley who has worked hard but still has a 0-0 record (3.86 ERA) going up against Cal’s crafty lefty (aren’t they all) Craig Bennigan (1-1, 0.71 and free appetizers)—DR. DAN


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