Najera Scores First Win As Pepperdine Shuts Out #9 Fullerton
Offense rips five doubles led by freshman shortstop Eric Karch's 3-for-4, 2 RBI day at the plate.
May 10, 2011
MALIBU, Calif. – The Pepperdine baseball team posted its first shutout victory of the season Tuesday afternoon at Eddy D. Field Stadium, blanking the ninth-ranked Cal State Fullerton Titans 7-0. Sophomore Alex Najera started and pitched 6.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts to earn his first career victory.
The win raised Pepperdine’s season record to 20-24, while the Titans dropped to 33-14.
Ricky Villarreal (Edinburg, Texas/Edinburg HS) relieved Najera (Anaheim Hills, Calif./Canyon HS) in the seventh and pitched the final 2.2 innings with one strikeout. He induced a 6-4-3 double play ground ball to end the seventh, and in the eighth, escaped a two-on, one-out jam with a strikeout and fly ball.
Fullerton went on to empty its bench with three pinch hitters in the ninth, where Villarreal retired the side on three ground balls.
“Obviously this win feels real good for all of us after what happened over the weekend vs. Santa Clara,” Najera said, “and I came out today just looking to simplify my approach and work the middle of the plate. I pitched to contact, kept the ball low, and my defense and catcher (Trent Diedrich) made some great plays behind me.”
The offense also picked Najera up in a big way, scoring six times through the middle three innings and once more on an eighth-inning wild pitch. In his first start at shortstop, freshman Eric Karch (Fresno, Calif./Clovis West HS) led the Waves with three hits, including a pair of RBI doubles.
Several other Waves up and down the order posted multi-hit games. Harrison Kain (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks HS) went 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot and ripped one of five Pepperdine extra-base hits, Sam Meyer (Los Gatos, Calif./St. Francis HS) and Nate Johnson (Camarillo, Calif./Camarillo HS) both went 2-for-4, and David DiPaola (San Carlos, Calif./Junipero Serra HS) contributed two hits, two runs and a RBI double.
“I felt today presented a good opportunity to change things up a little in the lineup,” head coach Steve Rodriguez said, “and it was nice to see guys take advantage of the situation.“
The Waves scored three times in the fourth as five of the first six hitters reached base. DiPaola and Karch drove in a pair on almost identical doubles down the left-field line off starter Jake Floethe, and in between Tony Cooper (San Carlos, Calif./Junipero Serra HS) brought home Trent Diedrich (Fresno, Calif./Bullard HS) on a RBI ground out to second.
Pepperdine made it a 4-0 game in the fifth on a Johnson single to right, and took a 6-0 lead in the sixth as Karch and Kain both doubled in runs.
Najera allowed eight Fullerton base runners on five hits and three walks, but a few defensive plays made behind him prevented the Titans from scoring.
First baseman Johnson snared a hot shot off the bat of cleanup hitter Nick Ramirez for the second inning’s first out, and then after two reached with two outs, Joe Sever (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine College Preparatory) made a fine stop behind the second base bag to throw Zach Tanida out at first.
Ramirez, who entered the game a perfect 4-for-4 vs. Najera, later came to bat with runners in scoring position in the third and fifth but made the final out instead on both occasions. Najera got the 6-foot-3 first baseman to fly out to deep right in the third with runners at the corners, and ground out weakly to second base with the bases juiced in the fifth.
Fullerton threatened once more in the sixth, but Diedrich threw Greg Velaquez out at second trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt, and after Austin Kingsolver reached on an infield single to first, Najera got his 11th and final ground ball out of the game as Tanida was retired 6-3.
“The biggest thing Alex has going for him is the natural movement he can place on his fastball,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes it cuts, sometimes it sinks and that goes a long way in neutralizing an offense. It’s tough to execute when you don’t know what way the ball will move. He’s been really good for us the last few weeks, going deep into games and giving us a chance to win every time he starts. He’s still very young in his college career and I’m excited for him.”
Pepperdine returns to West Coast Conference action Friday for the start of a three-game series at first-place San Francisco.
Pepperdine 7, Cal State Fullerton 0 (May 10, 2011 at Malibu, Calif.)
Cal State Fullerton. 000 000 000 - 0 7 0 (33-14)
Pepperdine.......... 000 312 01X - 7 14 2 (20-24)
Pitchers: Cal State Fullerton - Floethe, Jake; Devenski, Chris(6); Hernandez, Raymond(7);
Coronado, Christian(8) and Tanida, Zach. Pepperdine - Najera, Alex; VILLARREAL, Ricky(7) and
Win-NAJERA, Alex(1-3) Loss-Floethe, Jake(3-3) T-2:35 A-132
Weather: 67, Sunny