Baseball BeatMay 22, 2005
How the West Was Won
By Rich Lederer

Oregon State (41-8, 19-4) took the first two games of the series vs. USC (33-18, 12-8) to secure a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time since 1952. The Beavers beat the Trojans, 5-4, on Friday night and 10-7 on Saturday.

The opener featured a pitching duel between USC's Ian Kennedy (10-2) and OSU's Dallas Buck (11-1). Kennedy and Buck--both sophomores and among 10 semifinalists for the 2005 Roger Clemens Award and the leading candidates for Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year--threw seven scoreless innings. The Beavers scored five in the eighth to take a seemingly insurmountable lead before the Trojans bounced back with four in the top of the ninth and had the tying run on second when closer Kevin Gunderson struck out Cyle Hankerd to end the game.

The Beavers scored seven runs in the fifth inning on Saturday to overcome a 4-0 deficit. Anton Maxwell improved his record to 10-1, while Gunderson secured his 13th save of the season with 1 1/3 no-hit innings in leading OSU's to its tenth-straight victory. Yesterday's game was played in front of a record crowd of 2,322, the most since Goss Stadium at Coleman Field was renovated in 1999.

Sunday late afternoon update: Too little, too late. . .USC trounced OSU, 12-2, to win the final game of the three-game series in Corvallis.

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Down south, Cal State Fullerton's Ricky Romero (11-4) outpitched Long Beach State's Cesar Ramos (10-6) to win the opener on Friday night, 7-2. Romero pitched a no-hitter for 4 2/3 innings and had a two-hit shutout through seven, while Ramos gave up five runs in the first two frames. The sellout crowd of 3,554 was the third largest in Goodwin Field history.

The number ten-ranked 49ers (36-18, 14-6) then bounced back to upend the top-ranked Titans (39-13, 14-3), 5-1, in Saturday's nationally televised game on CSTV (Direct TV 610). Long Beach's Evan Longoria drove in three runs, including the go-ahead run in the sixth and two more in the eighth to seal the victory. Marco Estrada (8-2) picked up the win by hurling six innings and the team's bullpen, led by senior closer Neil Jamison (4-0, 11 saves, 0.00 ERA), once again shut down the opposition. The Beach is now 27-1 when leading after six innings.

After winning two out of three games in a non-conference series at Blair Field in Long Beach earlier this season, the Dirtbags have now taken three out of five from the defending College World Series champions. No other team has won a series from CSUF this year.

Update: Third verse, same as the first. . .CSUF clinched its second consecutive Big West Conference title by whitewashing LBSU, 10-0, on Sunday afternoon in Fullerton. The Titans are headed to the NCAA Regionals for the 14th consecutive year. A Goodwin Field record 10,355 witnessed the three-game series.

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In the other important Pac-10 series, Arizona (34-17, 15-5) and Stanford (31-20, 11-9) split the first two games with the Wildcats winning the opener, 9-4, and the Cardinal taking the second, 5-4, at Sunken Diamond in Palo Alto.

Trevor Crowe, who leads the conference in virtually every hitting stat, went 3-for-7 with two doubles and teammate Nick Hundley also had three hits including his 14th HR of the year. Crowe and Hundley both figure to be taken in the first round of the amateur draft next month.

Update: Stayin' alive. . .Arizona beat Stanford, 11-8, on Sunday to remain in the race for the Pac-10 crown. The Wildcats now need to sweep their remaining three-game series against California to tie the idle Beavers for the conference championship. If U of A and OSU end the regular season with the same records, the Wildcats would capture the automatic NCAA postseason berth due to winning the head-to-head season series, two games to one in April.

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The host sites for the 16 NCAA Regionals will be announced next Sunday, and the full 64-team bracket will be announced on Memorial Day at 8:30 a.m. Cal State Fullerton, the number one-ranked team in the country, is a lock to host a Regional. Oregon State is almost a sure thing and Arizona should have an excellent shot at staying home if the Wildcats win their next three and take the conference crown via the tie-breaker.

Although Long Beach State will most likely wind up in the top 16 in the final regular season rankings, the guess here is that the Dirtbags will be sent packing to Corvallis or Tucson for the Regionals. USC or Stanford will probably get an invite to Fullerton with the other perhaps heading eastward for one of the remaining 13 locations.