May 12, 2009

Getting some good wins at Goodwin

May 12, 2009

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by MARK PATTON NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER

May 12, 2009 7:22 AM

You won't find the word "karma" anywhere in the rules of baseball, but it plays a bigger role in the national pastime than any infield fly, dropped third strike or catcher's interference ever will.

And Long Beach State took the "K" word right in the kismet last weekend while getting swept of a three-game series at UCSB's Goodwin Field.

That's right, Goodwin Field. You can find it on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

It became the Gauchos' home field after the Jesusita Fire forced them to postpone Friday's series opener with Long Beach.

UCSB had originally rescheduled it on Saturday as a doubleheader in San Luis Obispo, working their games around the Cal Poly-UC Irvine series. The plan was to return to UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for Sunday's finale.

But the 49ers, who actually call themselves "The Dirtbags" during baseball season for their alleged grit, apparently don't like to smudge their uniforms with ash.

"They complained that they'd be putting their kids in harm's way," UCSB coach Bob Brontsema said.

The Big West Conference upheld Long Beach's objection, nixed the SLO solution, and moved the entire series to Cal State Fullerton, right in Long Beach's backyard.

"We weren't too happy about that," Brontsema said. "I certainly took some motivation with me to Fullerton, and I tried to pass it on to the guys.

"I don't know if it played any role in how they played, but they certainly played well."

And the backyard turned into a minefield for Long Beach.

The bad vibes began flying during batting practice when a Gaucho line drive struck a Dirtbag infielder in the head, knocking him out of the series.

"Since we were playing just 20 minutes from their place, they made a call to bring another guy over and put him on their 25-man roster," Brontsema said. "We questioned that, and (senior associate Big West commissioner) Rob Halvaks initially said it was okay.

"But after reviewing the rules, he came back during the game and said that the guy wasn't eligible, bringing them down to 24 players."

By Sunday, Long Beach's roster had been whittled to 21, which is a good number only if you're playing Blackjack.

The 49ers lost leadoff batter Jordan Casas in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader when he sprained his ankle while throwing a ball in from center field.

Long Beach lost the rest of its starting outfield in Sunday's game when UCSB pitcher Zach Samuels hit Brennan Metzger on the elbow with one pitch, and Jonathan Jones in the face with another.

"That was really bad - you never want to see anybody get hurt," Brontsema said. "Their fans got really fired up about it because it came on the heels of the other guy getting hit a few innings earlier.

"But Jones was running up the box to bunt, and he hung in there for a long time before it hit him."

Brontsema considered appealing the call by arguing that Jones had offered at the pitch, but then decided against it.

"It's something you don't do when a guy gets hit like that," he said.

He knows that karma is a pitch, too. The worst bean ball of them all.

Long Beach's day got longer in the bottom of the eighth inning when the Gauchos scored seven runs, turning an 8-4 deficit into an eventual 11-9 victory ó and a sweep of the Dirtbags.

Brontsema, whose Gauchos had been swept of a three-game series at Fullerton the previous week, sent Titans' coach Dave Serrano an e-mail after the weekend odyssey.

"I thanked him for allowing us to play down there," he said. "He wrote me back saying, 'Yeah, you experienced some of the magic that comes out of that dugout.'

"That we certainly did."

And there was one more payoff for Brontsema, who had been forced to evacuate his San Roque home and move into a hotel on Wednesday because of the Jesusita Fire:

"My last two nights in a hotel wound up getting paid for by the school," he said.

Long Beach, on the other hand, never did get out from under that dark cloud of smoke.

Mark Patton's column appears on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: mpatton@newspress.com