April 25, 2007
By Eric Sorenson - Pepperdine at San Diego.
What? You think it's too early to preview a series that doesn't start for another five days?
Sorry stitch-heads. You know there are no rules here. Hell, send in your own preview. I'll post it. (Well... if it's good... okay, and if CSTV lets me.).
It's just that today, I was able to talk to USD head coach Rich Hill (met with him before the Toreros game at LMU) and then made the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to talk to P'dine's Steve Rodriguez (after catching the last five innings of the win over Santa Clara). They both touched on the upcoming showdown between the WCC favorites that starts on Friday afternoon at Cunningham Stadium on the San Diego campus.
Well, actually, Rich Hill wouldn't talk TOO much about it because he still hadn't completed the series with LMU yet. But I did manage an entire Q&A with the lightning rod of college baseball that I'll type up and post sometime on Tuesday. It was pretty freakin' cool too.
In general, Coach Hill was quick to point out that his team is playing its best baseball of the season right now. Yes, that means better than they were playing when they won a series at Texas too, which is scary to think about.
"Well lately, we've seen guys like (Jordan) Abruzzo, (Justin) Snyder, (Shane) Buschini, (Daniel) Magness - you know, the seniors - the guys that were supposed to get it done are getting it done for us." He crowed. "Now we've really got the whole thing going, our pitching and our hitting. The last three weekends, starting with Portland up until here yesterday - even in our two mid-week losses - we really played well. It's starting to come together for us at the right time."
Then I reminded him of their 5-1 start where they swept Cal Poly and beat Texas two-out-of-three on the road.
"Yeah. That's true. But we like where we're at right now."
And although I tried to talk to him about this big showdown with Pepperdine next week, Coach Hill barely bit on it, knowing he had game three vs. LMU about an hour away.
"Well, I'm trying to stay in the moment here, but you know, next weekend - not that I really wanna talk about it much - we've got Matusz vs. Enright on Friday... that's a bitchin' day."
(Love the phrasing coach. And it's so true.)
Coach Rodriguez had an interesting tilt on the upcoming matchup that I wasn't aware of. He alluded to the multiple distractions that would befall his team this week as they prepare for the biggest weekend of the season.
"Well, what a lot of people don't realize about Pepperdine is that we've got finals starting this week. We've got graduation on Saturday and there's a lot of things to work out. Like some of these guys have got to get out of the leases of their apartments, move their stuff out and the funny thing is, you can say it's not that big of a deal, but it really is. It's a big distraction."
With starters like future pros Barry Enright and Brett Hunter on the mound, I'm not sure USD is sparing too many tears for the Waves busy schedule off the field this week. Even Coach Rodriguez admits, after the games kick in and the weekend is over, the road will get better for his Waves.
"This weekend will be rough, not only because we're playing a great team, but because of everything else going on. However, once we get through that, this team really flourishes, because all we do is show up on campus and play baseball. No more exams. No more classes."
And it's true this won't be a conventional weekend between the two teams. With Pepperdine's graduation ceremonies on Saturday, the weekend itinerary will look like this for the Waves:
Bus down to San Diego Friday morning. Game One, Friday, 3pm at San Diego. Bus back home to Malibu Friday night. Graduation Saturday at Noon in Malibu. Bus down to San Diego early, early Sunday morning. Game Two, Sunday, 1pm at San Diego. Stay Sunday night in San Diego. Game Three, Monday, 3pm at San Diego (CSTV). Bus back up to Malibu Monday night.
"It's going to be a weird week, but the truth is we still have to play well. But we've put ourselves in a pretty good position no matter what happens after this coming weekend." Coach Rodriguez continued. "I mean, it's a very important series in regards to the conference and everything, but I really do believe in the future of this team. We're going to be fine no matter what happens down there."
As for facing off with the potent USD offense, Rodriguez was frank in his response, "As long as our pitchers are throwing strikes - which has been an issue lately - we're gonna be okay."
Rodriguez has shifted his starting rotation around lately, moving former bullpen ace-turned-Saturday starter Brett Hunter to the Sunday starter slot and making Robert Dickman the Game Two hurler.
"To tell you the truth, moving Dickman to the second starter spot has been a little easier on us because he's been able to go a little longer in games. For the most part, I don't know if there's any right way or wrong way to go about it."
And I loved his closing line in reference to his pitching staff and their strikes location, "Honestly, whoever throws LOW strikes is my favorite player on the team right now."
Here's how the mound matchups look--- Friday: Pepperdine - Barry Enright (10-1, 1.58, 9BBs) vs. San Diego - Brian Matusz (8-2, 2.57, 127Ks)
Sunday: Pepperdine - Robert Dickman (5-2, 3.72) vs. San Diego - Josh Romanski (7-1, 2.33)
Monday: Pepperdine - Brett Hunter (6-3, 3.67, opp/BA .222) vs. San Diego - Matt Couch (6-2, 3.81)
Pepperdine team pitching - 3.23ERA, 265Ks, 158BBs San Diego team pitching - 3.43ERA, 385Ks, 128BBs
. Here are the top hitters for each team--- - Pepperdine (team BA of .315): Adrian Ortiz - .395, 13-14SBs Danny Worth - .373, 18 2Bs Donald Brown - .355, 31BBs Eric Thames - .310 Luke Salas - .301, 12 sac hits