May 25, 2014
STOCKTON, Calif. – The Pepperdine baseball team punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 6-1 victory over LMU in the WCC Championship game on Saturday night. Freshman Manny Jefferson sparked a late rally with a spectacular defensive play as the Waves scored three runs in the sixth inning to take control.
The Waves came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning the regular-season WCC Title and defeated the second-seeded Lions to lock up the tournament championship and the conference’s automatic bit to the NCAA Tournament. Jackson McClelland grabbed the victory for Pepperdine, giving up one run in six innings of work to help the Waves go 3-0 at the championship.
The win moves the team to 39-16 on the season. Pepperdine’s 39 wins are the most for the program since 2006.
Jefferson (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood HS) made the catch of the night to keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth, making a diving grab on a ball that looked destined to drop into shallow left field. That play ended the inning with a runner rounding third base and brought the Waves up in the top of the sixth.
Fittingly Jefferson was in the middle of the Waves’ rally the following inning. Chris Fornaci (Walnut Creek, Calif./De La Salle HS) doubled off the wall in right-center to break up Brenton Arriaga’s no-hitter and Jefferson followed with a bunt single to give the Waves runners on first and third with no outs. Brandon Caruso (Pasadena, Calif./Loyola HS) would drive in the first run of the game on a sinking liner to centerfield, scoring Fornaci. Jefferson and Caruso then came home when Bryan Langlois (Oak Park, Calif./Oak Park HS) doubled down the right-field line.
After LMU answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth, Jefferson came back up with Hutton Moyer (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) on third, doubling off the Wall in left to give the Waves a 4-1 advantage. Two more runs in the eighth inning gave Pepperdine a five-run advantage they would maintain until the end.
McClelland (Beaumont, Calif./Redlands East Valley HS) exited the game prior to the seventh having scattered seven hits and allowing just one run and one walk. A.J. Puckett (Danville, Calif./De La Salle HS) worked a scoreless seventh and eighth, stranding two runners in his final inning of work. The freshman righty did not allow a hit in his appearance. Eric Karch (Fresno, Calif./Clovis West HS) made his third appearance of the tournament in the ninth, shutting down LMU to preserve the win and set off the celebration for Pepperdine.
Jefferson and Karch were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Aaron Brown (Chatsworth, Calif./Chatsworth HS) and Brad Anderson (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza HS) for Pepperdine. Brown took home tournament MVP honors after he hit .333 through three games in Stockton, scoring four runs and driving in one more. The junior lefty also tossed eight innings and gave up only one run on Friday against LMU to power the Waves to the championship game.
LMU ends its season at 32-24 after finishing second in both the WCC regular-season race and tournament. The Lions also placed four players on the WCC All-Tournament team. Arriaga took the loss in Saturday’s finale after holding the Waves hitless through five innings. Arriaga gave up three earned runs in his 5.0 innings and LMU closer Brett Dahlson gave up the other two.
Langlois drove in a team-high two runs on the day and Jefferson led the way with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate. Seven different Waves contributed to the team’s eight hits on the night and five players drove in runs.
LMU had eight hits as well, getting two-hit days from Tanner Donnels and Austin Miller.
The Waves will learn where they will be headed for the NCAA Regional on Monday during the NCAA’s selection show, which starts at 9 a.m. Regional sites will be announced on Sunday.