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V for Vendetta

March 30, 2006

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LMU and 19th-ranked Pepperdine will write another chapter in their on-going saga this weekend. It's the weekend that Lion fans have had circled on their 2006 schedules since last summer: LMU will host the Waves in a three-game series to open West Coast Conference play. The series is a re-match of the 2004 and 2005 WCC Championship Series, both of which were played at LMU's Page Stadium.

Last year, the back-to-back WCC Coast Division Champion Lions made their fourth WCC Championship Series appearance in seven seasons. LMU faced Pepperdine in each of those four title series. This year, the WCC did away with the divisional format, and all teams will face each other in one three-game series during conference play. The top two teams will play in the WCC Championship Series, with the winner of the regular season series earning the right to host.

Though Pepperdine has been the team to advance out of the WCC the last two seasons, it was the Lions who earned the right to host the WCC Championship Series both years. LMU topped Pepperdine in the regular season series both seasons to make Page Stadium the site of the 2004 and 2005 title series.

The 2006 season start looks remarkably similar to that of 2005, and Lion fans are hoping that the similarity sticks. The Lions were 5-12 when they opened WCC play with a sweep of San Diego in March of 2005. LMU also had a record-setting finish to 2005, winning a program-best 14 of its final 16 regular season games to earn their second straight WCC Coast Division title.

Senior transfer Erik Johnson extended his team-best hitting streak to 14 straight games after a .526 performance over five games last week. Johnson went 10-for-19 for the Lions with seven RBI, four runs scored, and two doubles. He added two walks and was perfect in the field as the Lions' starting right fielder.

Getting the start at shortstop in the Lions' last six games, Gordon responded hitting .474 (9-for-19) on the week. He also performed defensively, recording 15 putouts and 27 assists without an error. In the Lions' 11-5 win over Northwestern on Thursday, the Simi Valley, Calif. native added two RBI and a run scored. He recorded his fifth extra base hit of the season Saturday at UC Riverside. Gordon also posted a season-high three hits against the second-ranked Titans Wednesday.

19th-ranked Pepperdine enters WCC play on a season-best seven-game winning streak. The Waves last topped USC 2-1 Wednesday at Dedeaux Field. Just like the Lions, the Waves and Trojans were rescheduled from Tuesday's rainout and will begin Friday's game on one less day's rest. Pepperdine is led by reigning WCC Player of the Week Chad Tracy. Tracy continued his hot-hitting against Cal State Fullerton and Northwestern, hitting .563 (9-for-16) with five runs scored, a double, two triples, a pair of home runs and six RBI. Pepperdine begins this weekend's action with a 19-11 record and has won a season-high seven in a row and 11 of its last 13. The Waves are in the midst of their longest winning streak since stringing together eight straight victories during the 2005 season.

Winning by a 10-run margin for the third time in four games, LMU topped Cal State Northridge St. Patrick's Day in a 10-0 shutout. With the game one win, the Lions record their second shutout of the season and have now won eight of their last 12 games. LMU starter Brad Meyers was impressive, throwing seven scoreless innings with just one hit and one walk. He retired the game's first 10 batters, and after he allowed his only hit in the fourth, he went on to retire the next eight. He faced 22 batters, just one over the minimum 21 through seven innings and threw just 76 pitches. The only hit he allowed was a bunt single. Meyers earned the combined shutout win to improve to 3-2 on the season. Also joining in on the combined shutout were relievers Greg Nagy and Ezequiel Ruvalcaba, who each threw an inning. Nagy struck out two and did not allow a hit in the eighth. Offensively, the Lions put up double-digit hits for the fifth time in six games, out-hitting the Matadors 14-2. Senior Chris Pettit led the way with a perfect 2-for-2, two RBI outing.

LMU's Chris Pettit has been named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday, March 13. Pettit paced the Lions' weekend attack on New Mexico State that saw LMU outscore the Aggies 46-14 on the road. The Lions' outfielder went 9-for-17 on the week for a .529 batting average over four games. He added 10 RBI, eight runs scored, and two home runs. Both home runs came in Saturday's 17-3 win. While the selection is the first of the 2006 season for Pettit, it is the fourth career WCC Player of the Week honor for the senior. It is the second 2006 selection for the Lions, as Brad Meyers earned the Pitcher of the Week honor earlier this season.

Brian Wilson hit .400 (4-for-10) - including a game-winning double - and earned a win on the mound as the Lions won the home series with UCSB in early March. The freshman added three RBI, a run scored, and two doubles at the plate. In the Lions' 2-0 win on Saturday, Wilson threw the final 2.1 scoreless innings to earn the win, while driving in the winning run with a double in the eighth. On the mound, he allowed just one hit while striking out three. It was the first career decision for Wilson, who combined with starter Andy Beal for LMU's first shutout of the season. In Saturday's eighth inning, Wilson's double to right center drove in the first run of the game. The Lions then made it 2-0 when Wilson crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly.

Brad Meyers was the WCC's Pitcher of the Week after throwing a complete game without a walk to lead the Lions to a 3-2 victory on the road Friday at San Jose State. It was the first career complete game for Meyers, who was selected as the WCC's Top Draft Prospect by Baseball America in January. The selection also marks his first WCC Pitcher of the Week selection. Meyers worked the nine innings Friday without issuing a walk. He struck out a career-high six batters and allowed just one extra base hit to pick up his first win of 2006. The complete game effort marked the first of 2006 for the Lion pitching staff and the first since May 7, 2005, when Stephen Kahn (Seattle Mariners) threw nine at Saint Mary's.

Facing the nation's ninth-toughest non-conference schedule, LMU has already picked up two victories over ranked programs. The Lions topped then-31st-ranked Arizona 12-5 on the road in the season-opening series. LMU then earned a win in its home opener, defeating then-25th-ranked Cal Poly 10-8.

Playing tough teams again this season, Boyd's World has rated LMU's schedule among the most challenging 20 schedules in the nation. LMU ranks 17th on the Boyd's World Strength of Schedule poll for its overall schedule, and ninth in the nation for its non-conference schedule. The Lions will face 25 games against teams listed among the nation's best in the Collegiate Baseball poll. Five opponents off the 2006 schedule participated in the 2005 NCAA Baseball Championships. The LMU schedule will, as always, feature home and away match-ups with perennial powerhouses USC, Long Beach State, and 2004 national champion Cal State Fullerton.The WCC has done away with its divisions, and beginning the season, the teams will play just one three-game series against each WCC team. With this shortened league season, fans will notice additional non-conference match-ups on the schedule.

If Baseball America's preseason predictions prove to be true, LMU will have four All-WCC first-team selections and 2007's top WCC draft pick. When the national publication released its annual preseason picks, Lions were listed all over the WCC preview. Eric Farris (2B), Kyle Mura (3B), Chris Pettit (OF), and Brad Meyers (RHP) were all predicted to be first-team all-conference selections. Meyers was also projected to be the highest drafted player out of the WCC in the 2007 MLB Draft. Last season, Baseball America had tabbed Kahn as the WCC's top prospect, and the then-LMU junior was the top WCC player drafted in June when he went to Seattle in the fifth round. LMU also had four players listed among the WCC's Best Tools, including awarding Best Baserunner to Pettit. The publication then tabbed the LMU infield as the best defensive infield in the conference when it named A.J. LaMonda the WCC's best first baseman, Farris the best second baseman, and Mura the best third baseman.

Chris Pettit is listed among the nation's top baseball players on the 2006 Wallace Watch released by the College Baseball Foundation (CBF). The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually to the national college baseball player of the year, and Pettit is among this season's early candidates. The Lions' outfielder was a 2005 All-WCC first-team selection after leading LMU to its second straight WCC Coast Division title. In conference action, Pettit hit .380 and started each of the Lions' 58 games on the season. Pettit ranked in the top 10 in the WCC in more offensive categories than any other conference player, including leading the league in runs scored (38) and doubles (14). A three-year starter in the outfield for the Lions, Pettit also finished WCC play ranked in the top three in hits (41), stolen bases (10), RBI (26), total bases (67), on base percentage (.473), and slugging percentage (.620).

Brad Meyers was named one of the Cape Cod Baseball League's top-10 prospects by Baseball America. The sophomore was the only player in the top-10 with just one year of college experience under his belt. Meyers allowed just one earned run in two Cape League playoff starts, earning postseason MVP honors as his Orleans Cardinals won the title. He was the Cardinals' starter in the rubber match of the championship, and allowed just one run on nine hits through six and a third innings. Meyers issued no walks while striking out three during his 87 pitches. He left the game in the seventh to a standing ovation from his Orleans crowd. Meyers was named to the league all-star team earlier in the season.

This season, LMU celebrates the 20th anniversary of the 1986 team that advanced to the College World Series. Lions past and present gathered on Alumni Weekend January 28-29 to honor the 1986 Lions. One of the teams that CWS team faced in 1986 was the Arizona Wildcats, who defeated LMU 7-5 in Omaha and then went on to win the title. Now, 20 years later, LMU opened its 2006 season at then-31st ranked Arizona.

The Lions are remembering some very special people this season with memorial tributes. Page Stadium now has a #1 on its left center field wall in memory of legendary coach and ambassador of baseball Rod Dedeaux, who passed in January. The Lions also wear a black bar across the LMU on their caps in memory of LMU student-athletes Jessica Hanson and Adam Bacon, who were killed in a car accident in August, just before the two were to begin their senior seasons with soccer and cross country.

Now leading the Lions for a decade, Cruz will look to take a team that's picked to finish fourth in West Coast Conference play to LMU's fifth WCC Championship Series appearance in eight seasons. The Lions are picked to finish fourth in the WCC by both the league coaches and by Baseball America's preseason predictions. The last time the Lions were tabbed to finish fourth, Cruz led the 2004 team to a conference-best 20-7 record and the Coast Division title. His efforts earned him his third WCC Coach of the Year selection and the top place in the 2005 WCC preseason poll.

As Lion fans scan the 2006 roster, some notable names are missing. And the majority of those names are now found on minor league rosters around professional baseball. LMU had a total of seven players sign professional contracts in 2005, including top-10 round picks Stephen Kahn (fifth round, Seattle Mariners), Jeff Stevens (sixth round, Cincinnati Reds), and James Cooper (ninth round, New York Yankees). Kahn was the 2004 WCC Pitcher of the Year, while Stevens and Cooper brought home all-conference honors last season as juniors. Joe Frazee, selected in the 25th round by the Philadelphia Phillies, became the first player in LMU history to receive All-WCC recognition for four seasons. The returning squad is highlighted by All-WCC first-team selection Chris Pettit, second-team selection Eric Farris, and honorable mention recipient Sean Dovel. 2004 All-WCC honoree Kyle Mura, a 49th round selection of the Chicago Cubs who opted to return for his senior season, also has Lion fans hoping for big things in 2006.