Moore League Baseball, 3:30 & 6:30 p.m.
After a Moore League baseball season full of predictably close contests the last day of the regular season features the top four teams in a doubleheader on Thursday at Blair Field. Lakewood and Long Beach Poly will play at 3:30 p.m. before Wilson and Millikan play in the 6:30 p.m. nightcap that will decide the league title.
The Rams (19-7, 9-1) have already clinched a share of the league crown, but the Bruins (16-10, 9-2) can also grab a share of it with a win. A loss could drop Wilson all the way to third if the Lancers (16-3, 8-2) beat the Jackrabbits (13-15, 5-5) to stay in the title hunt. Wilson and Lakewood wins would make for a three-way shared championship.
When the four teams played these games on April 10, Millikan and Lakewood both won, 1-0. The Rams stayed in first place with the win thanks to the only RBI of the game from junior Matt Bakke in the sixth inning. Senior Max Pappas pitched six scoreless innings for the win. He gave up three hits and four walks while striking out five. Wilson stranded six runners in scoring position.
In the second game, Lakewood starter Bryan Sandoval and Poly starter Micah Wallette kept the scoreboard clean through five innings. Wallette was no-hitting the Lancers in the sixth inning when he walked Buck Anderson. He stole second and Jake Habelitz got the first hit of the game with an RBI ground ball through the right side.
Sandoval and his four league wins have been the key to Lakewood’s turn around this season.
“Nothing phases (Sandoval),” Lakewood assistant coach John Yakel said. “He’s our guy. When he’s dialed in and we’re playing defense behind him we can complete with anyone.”
Sandoval is by far the biggest baseball player in the league at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, but he’s also one of the most soft-spoken athletes in the city.
“I’ve always been pretty quiet and I think I get it from my mom,” Sandoval said. “I mostly keep to myself.”
The left-handed pitcher didn’t start playing baseball until he was 9 years old, and didn’t start pitching until he played with Heartwell PONY in Lakewood.
“I was always the biggest kid,” Sandoval said. “I had to get over feeling like I might hurt someone. I played mostly first base because they couldn’t miss me (with the throw to first base) so they had no excuse, but (my PONY coaches) just wanted to see me pitch because I was so big and my fastball naturally moves a lot.”
Sandoval said pitching started to be fun just before high school, so he dedicated himself to getting better. He worked hard on his mechanics with Lakewood assistant coach Chis Viera and helped his freshman Lancers team win the Moore League. Sandoval slowly became a bigger part of the staff while gaining valuable experience.
“I’m much more confident in myself now so I’m a little louder,” Sandoval said.
The other Lancer players clearly love Sandoval and weren’t afraid to show it after his recent complete game performances.
“I guess I bring a different intensity that they like,” Sandoval said. “I’m the biggest on the team, so I’m there, and they jump on me after games. My teammates have helped me get into games more and be more confident.”
Long Beach State Softball at Hawaii, 9 p.m.
The final series of the regular season is on the big island where the 49ers (21-27-1, 9-9) are trying to win their first conference series since sweeping Cal Poly to take over first place in the Big West. LBSU is now tied for second with three other teams. Cal State Fullerton clinched the conference title last weekend. Hawaii (28-21, 7-11) has lost three of its last four and sophomore third baseman Nicole Lopez leads the Big West with 12 home runs.
Long Beach State Beach Volleyball At USA Championships
The 49er duo of Rachel Nieto and Kobi Pekich were among the 24 women’s pairs selected to compete in the inaugural USA Volleyball Collegiate Beach Championships this weekend in Hermosa Beach. Pool play starts today and the seeded elimination is Friday. USA Volleyball has initiated a competition in partnership with the NCAA that will be played in an individual, rather than team, format with the winner of the tournament earning a spot on the USA Beach Collegiate National Team.
Long Beach State Dirtbags at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m. PST
Long Beach State will try to get the most out of playing three nonconfernece games at Minnesota this weekend. The Dirtbags (30-15-1, 15-3) are ranked as high as No. 8 by Baseball America, and No. 25 in RPI (Rating Percentage Index), after beating Cal Poly last weekend to stay atop the Big West. Three games against the Gophers (29-15, 12-6) out of the Big Ten Conference gives LBSU a chance to maintain those rankings while preparing for the postseason. The first game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get some more experience on the road against a quality team,” LBSU coach Troy Buckley said. “Minnesota has been good and their conference is getting better every year.”
Minnesota is up 11 spots to No. 74 in RPI this week after sweeping Penn State (14-32) while LBSU dropped two spots to No. 25 after taking the series from Cal Poly (21-25).
Minnesota has a balanced offensive attack with six starters who all hit over .300 and a .374 team on base percentage. Shortstop Terrin Vavra leads the Gophers with 29 runs scored, and according to Buckley who is on the USA coaching staff, Vavra in the running for a spot on a USA Baseball team this summer.
Junior starting pitcher Lucas Gilbreath is 5-0 for Minnesota and has a 2.30 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .167 against the left hander. Closer Brian Glowicki leads the nation with 15 saves.
LBSU will keep the same starting rotation with pitchers Darren McCaughan, John Sheaks and Dave Smith. McCaughan leads the Big West with 80 strikeouts, Sheaks leads the Big West with seven wins and Smith leads the Big West with a 1.83 ERA.
CIF Southern Section Swimming Finals
The Moore League will be at the Riverside Aquatics Complex on the campus of Riverside Community College this week for the CIF-SS finals in swimming and diving. The entire league will be competing in Division 2 this season.
CIF Southern Section Boys’ Golf Team Division Championship
The Wilson Bruins are the defending champions after posting a score of 347 (13-under) at Mile Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley last year. They will be back at Mile Square again with Long Beach Poly and Millikan. Wilson junior Moore League individual champion Tyler Schafer, junior Andre Calubid and sophomore Brad Calubid are the only Bruins returning from that team.