March 22, 2008

Around the Bases

Around the Bases
Long Beach State batters UCLA

By Abbey Mastracco


LOS ANGELES — On paper, Friday’s pitching match-up looked to be one of the most highly-anticipated matches on the West Coast. Two Friday night aces, a righty and a lefty, neither of which had given up more than eight earned runs in four starts; both were efficient on the mound, will go complete games, and both, at times, are nearly un-hittable.


But a pitchers duel is not what the crowd at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood saw. Andrew Liebel was shaky for seven innings of work for the No. 6-ranked Long Beach State Dirtbags (14-3), and Tim Murphy was just not himself for the No. 16-ranked UCLA Bruins (10-6) as they fell to Long Beach State 13-3.


The last time these two teams met, it was back in June on the Dirtbags’ home turf, Blair Field, in the Long Beach Regional. Murphy took down the Dirtbags, eliminating them from further postseason play, leaving them primed for revenge Friday night. However this time, according to the Dirtbags’ they were ready for Murphy.


LBSU hammered Murphy for seven earned runs, just one shy of the eight total he had allowed all season, on seven hits, walking two and hitting two, as the Dirtbags delivered the southpaw his first loss of the season.


“I thought we did a little better of a job adjusting than back in June in the regional,” said LBSU head coach Mike Weathers. “I thought we did a little better job of laying off some stuff and we got some key hits.”


Murphy’s outing began hot — the first three Dirtbag hitters went down looking, and the fourth swinging — as he easily retired the first six hitters faced. But Murphy’s command gave way from there. The Dirtbags hit up Murphy for five runs in the third inning and two more in the sixth.


“[Murphy] was good early, he was dominating us early,” Weathers said. “But then he couldn’t get anything over other than his fastball.”


And fastballs were exactly what the Dirtbags were looking for.


“Last year in the regional he blew me away with his fastball,” Dirtbag catcher Travis Howell said. “So this week in practice I took some extra time to work on hitting some velocity. A couple of us did, and I think that came back to help us.”


The Bruins led 1-0 until Howell sparked a five-run rally in the third with a line drive to right-center. Howell was advanced on a sacrifice bunt and Jonathan Jones singled, putting runners on the corners with Danny Espinosa up to bat. Espinosa crushed one to right, driving in Howell to tie the game. Murphy then beaned Rylan Sandoval putting him aboard.


With one out, Murphy then gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Corder and Shane Peterson, driving in three, and hit Taylor Krick to force in a run.


However, it wasn’t just Murphy who suffered from control issues. Liebel gave up a leadoff walk to open his outing, and issued three free passed throughout his seven innings, doubling his season total.


“I didn’t like his fastball command,” Weathers said of Liebel’s night on the hill. “He walked a guy 0-2 and he doesn’t do that. I didn’t think he was very sharp with his fastball, I think that was the key for him tonight.”


The Bruins managed to cut the Dirtbags’ lead in the bottom of the third with a solo homer by Gabe Cohen, and again in the fifth with an unearned run, taking advantage of Robert Burk’s second error at second base of the night. But the runs kept pouring in, as the Dirtbags chipped in eight runs over the last four innings.


Four Bruins hit safely in Friday’s contest, with Alden Carrithers, Gabe Cohen and Ryan Babineau each driving a run in.


Howell led the Dirtbags, going 3 for 4 with a double, scoring twice and driving in two. Corder, Peterson and Jones each recorded multi-hit contests, with Corder leading the pack finishing 2 for 5 with two runs, two RBI and a walk.