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Four Games, One Title Hunt

May 8, 2006

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After a taking a week off for final exams and graduation, LMU (21-27, 8-7 WCC) returns to action this week for four crucial games on the road. The Lions will first battle Long Beach State 25-20-1, 9-2-1 BWC) Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Blair Field before the three-game West Coast Conference series this weekend at San Francisco's (32-19, 12-6 WCC) Benedetti Stadium.

Winners of four straight and six of their last eight, the Lions will look to continue the roll as the hunt for the WCC title gets tight. LMU and Portland had last weekend off and will meet May 19-21, making them the only two programs with six WCC games left to play. The other six conference teams have just three games to go and five programs, including LMU, are still in the run for a 2006 WCC Championship Series berth.

The 49ers host the Lions Tuesday after a 2-2 outing last week. Long Beach State saw its season-best seven-game winning streak snapped last Tuesday by a WCC school as Pepperdine topped the 49ers 5-1. In Big West play, Long Beach State sits atop the conference in percentage, but has played fewer games than Cal State Fullerton at 12-3. LMU has split with Long Beach State the last three seasons the teams have played, and the Lions will look to make it a fourth year after falling to the then-22nd-ranked 49ers by one run on March 7. The Lions have won their last two Tuesday contests with wins over then-top-ranked Cal State Fullerton and USC.

At 12-6 in the WCC, the Dons sit atop the conference standings with 20th-ranked Pepperdine, but USF has the edge after winning its three-game series with the Waves earlier this season. Like the Lions, San Francisco has also won four straight games after sweeping Saint Mary's last weekend. USF boasts the reigning WCC Player of the week in Stefan Gartrell. Gartrell hit .500 (8-for-16) on the week, with a pair of home runs and seven RBI.

The NCAA collects and ranks all Division I teams in a variety of statistical categories. As a team, LMU is among the best in doubles per game and fielding percentage, ranking 19th in doubles (2.25) and 26th in fielding percentage (.971). Individually, Sean Dovel ranks 19th (.42) and Chris Pettit ranks 32nd (.40) in the nation in doubles per game.

After a career outing last Sunday against Gonzaga, Daniel Macias was named the WCC's Pitcher of the Week. It is the third Pitcher of the Week selection for the Lions in 2006, and the first career selection for Macias. Macias tossed a complete game two-hit shutout to lead LMU to the WCC series sweep over Gonzaga at Page Stadium. Sunday's 5-0 win made LMU a perfect 4-0 for the week. Macias opened the day by retiring the first 10 Bulldogs he faced. He went on to face 31 batters over the nine innings, just four batters over the minimum 27. The Lions' left-hander allowed just two hits, while striking out two in his first career complete game. Macias joins Brad Meyers as the two pitchers to receive the WCC's Pitcher of the Week selection this season. Meyers has earned the nod twice.

With a WCC victory at San Diego on April 14, LMU Head Coach Frank Cruz reached the 150 career WCC win mark. Cruz, a three-time WCC Coach of the Year, is in his 10th season at the helm of the LMU program. He ranks second among active coaches and eighth all-time in WCC victories. The win also placed Cruz at the 275 overall career win milestone.

Dating back to LMU's game against Long Beach State on March 7, Lions' senior Erik Johnson tallied a hit in each game through LMU's win over top-ranked Cal State Fullerton on April 18. His mark of 24 consecutive games is LMU's longest hitting streak since the program record of 27 was set in 1988 by Don Sparks. The baseball website Boyd's World believes it to be one of the 10 longest hitting streaks in the nation in 2006. The right fielder also has another streak that's still current: he has reached base safely in 34 straight games.

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.

A WCC opening series win against 19th-ranked Pepperdine led to a sweep of the weekly honors for the Lions. LMU's battery of Friday starter Brad Meyers and catcher Sean Dovel were named the WCC's Pitcher and Player of the Week. In Friday's win, Meyers carried a shutout into the ninth inning and allowed five hits in his 8.2 innings of work. He faced just 32 batters after retiring the side in the first, third, seventh, and eighth innings. The sophomore right-hander finished with four strikeouts and improved to 5-2 on the season. This week's WCC Pitcher of the Week selection marks the second honor for Meyers, who also earned the nod on February 27 after throwing a complete game at San Jose State. Dovel hit .583 (7-for-12) against the 19th-ranked Waves to help lead LMU to the WCC series win. The sophomore finished the weekend with five doubles, five runs scored, and four RBI. Dovel's third double of the game Saturday was key to the Lions' win, as it leadoff the ninth to start the rally. Later that inning, he crossed the plate to give the Lions the 11-10 walk-off win. The selection is the first career nod for the catcher, who earned WCC honorable mention recognition as a freshman.

Brad Meyers went 4-0 during the month of March, earning two wins on the road and three at home including the WCC opener against the 19th-ranked Pepperdine Waves. Meyers worked 37.2 innings on the month, but allowed just 11 earned runs for an ERA of 2.63 during March. With Meyers on the mound, the Lions outscored opponents 41-15 over his five appearances. He allowed just 26 hits, while striking out 18. Opponents hit just .197 off of him. At Cal State Northridge, Meyers earned a combined shutout win after 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. In Friday's win over 19th-ranked Pepperdine, Brad Meyers carried a shutout into the ninth inning and allowed just five hits in his 8.2 innings of work. He faced just 32 batters after retiring the side in the first, third, seventh, and eighth innings. The sophomore right-hander finished with four strikeouts.

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.

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 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.

Facing the nation's ninth-toughest non-conference schedule, LMU has picked up six 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. In the WCC opening series, LMU took two from 19th-ranked Pepperdine to win the series. The Lions went on to earn victories over 23rd-ranked San Diego and top-ranked Cal State Fullerton.

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.

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 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 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 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.