(Courtesy Pepperdine Sports Information)
MALIBU, Calif. – Two contests against defending College World Series Champion LSU highlight Pepperdine baseball’s 55-game schedule for the 2010 season.
The Tigers are one of five NCAA Tournament participants on next year’s slate, which also includes regional rivals Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton, Conference USA Champion East Carolina and West Coast Conference nemesis Gonzaga.
The combined win-loss record of Pepperdine’s non-conference foes is a healthy 77 games over .500 at 435-358 (.549).
“We’re excited to have some great teams on this year’s schedule,” said Steve Rodriguez, who is preparing for his seventh season as the Waves’ head coach. “I believe that our young players are going to be challenged, but that they’ll rise to the level of competition and learn a lot along the way before we get to conference season.”
Pepperdine’s first trip to Baton Rouge and Alex Box Stadium (March 4-6) also includes two games against Brown, which humbled the Waves last season at Eddy D. Field Stadium en route to a 24-19 record. The Bears just missed qualifying for NCAAs as they finished a game behind Dartmouth in the Ivy League standings.
Rodriguez said that after plans for a weekend series at Tulane fell through, LSU and Brown head coaches Paul Mainieri and Marek Drabinski agreed to turn their series into a three-team tournament that included Pepperdine.
“All this rescheduling happened before they won the College World Series, so it’s going to be great playing the National Champions twice in one weekend,” he said.
Continuing down the list of NCAA qualifiers, the Waves played some of their best baseball this past season against Cal Poly but could not do the same in two midweek meetings vs. the Titans, who finished seventh at the College World Series.
Cal Poly qualified for NCAAs at 37-19 and was nationally ranked heading into both its games with Pepperdine. The Waves, however, clobbered the Mustangs 16-6 at home and exited San Luis Obispo with an 8-4 victory.
East Carolina’s 46-20 record and 17-7 mark against Conference USA earned the Pirates an NCAA Regional berth at home, where they toppled South Carolina, George Mason and Binghamton prior to falling to North Carolina at Super Regionals.
The Waves were contenders for the final spot in the WCC Championship series right until the final day of conference season. Pepperdine did its job by completing a three-game sweep of Santa Clara, but Gonzaga’s loss to Loyola Marymount and San Francisco’s win over Portland kept the Waves in a tie for third place.
If the cards had fallen Pepperdine’s way that afternoon, its reward would have been a trip to Spokane to meet the Bulldogs, who were the WCCs most consistent team at 36-18 and 14-7. After clobbering Georgia Southern 19-10 in the first game of Fullerton Regional, Gonzaga was eliminated after suffering two narrow losses against the Titans and Utah.
Pepperdine’s first week of the season features five different opponents, starting with an Opening Day game at Long Beach State (Feb. 19) and concluding with a three-game series with Cal State Northridge (Feb. 26-28) . In between, the Waves will visit Fullerton (Feb. 20) and play host to Oregon (Feb. 21) and Cal Poly (Feb. 23).
Oregon is in just its second year of existence following a 28-year layoff. The Ducks finished last in the Pac-10 in their first year back on the diamond and posted an overall record of 14-42.
2009 was notable off year for many teams in the Pac-10 as evidenced by the mediocre records posted by traditional powers and upcoming opponents in Stanford (30-25), USC (28-28) and UCLA (27-29). Pepperdine’s three-game series at Stanford (March 19-21) is its first regular season matchup with the Cardinal since its national championship season of 1992.
“Teams work on their schedules a few years in advance and we just happened to have the same open weekend with Stanford,” Rodriguez said. “When opportunities like this open up against a good team like Stanford, you really have no choice but to play them. They’ll provide us with some very good competition.”
Elsewhere on Pepperdine’s non-conference agenda are two home games vs. Northern Illinois (March 9-10) and a three-game series vs. Stony Brook (March 26-28).
Northern Illinois compiled a 19-34 record this past season and were 10-16 in the MAC Conference. Stony Brook, the alma mater of Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, placed third in the America East conference at 14-10 and were 29-23 overall.
Because of an odd number of WCC opponents, Pepperdine will be playing four of its first five conference series on the road, which includes trips to Santa Clara (April 9-11), Gonzaga (April 16-18), St. Mary’s (May 7-9) and LMU (May 14-16).
The Waves don’t play their first WCC home series vs. Portland until the weekend of April 23. They later welcome San Diego (May 21-23) and San Francisco (May 28-30) to wrap up the regular season.