Pepperdine Wins Back-to-Back WCC Titles

Catcher Aaron Barnett earned All-WCC honors on the field and in the classroom.

One year ago, the Pepperdine baseball team made a magical run through the postseason, winning the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament, followed by capturing the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Regional and advancing to the NCAA Super Regional, where the Waves fell one game short of reaching the NCAA World Series. Their forty-three wins marked the most victories since 2006.

Fast forward one year later and Pepperdine produced another 30-win season, coming on the heels of a second consecutive WCC Tournament title. The Waves won two straight elimination games to capture the conference tournament by defeating regular season champion San Diego, 4-2, and then rival Loyola Marymount, 4-2, in the championship game.

“It’s amazing watching this team do exactly what they did this season, especially down the stretch,” Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said. “I really enjoyed all the hard work they have done in practice. I enjoyed the competitive nature, their attitude and personality that they brought to this tournament. The work ethic they put into this weekend was tremendous. I’m really proud of them.”

By virtue of the WCC Tournament title, Pepperdine earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 30th time in its history. It was the sixth tournament title for the Waves since the playoffs began in 1999.

Pepperdine (32-29) was selected to participate in the Cal State Fullerton Regional this past weekend where the Waves’ season ultimately came to an end. Seeded No. 4 in the regional, Pepperdine lost to host Fullerton, 9-3, in the opening round, and defeated Clemson 10-8 and Arizona State 7-4 in elimination games before succumbing to the Titans once again, 10-1.

The journey to reach the NCAA postseason had its peaks and valleys but the determination and drive by this group of Waves prevailed when the games mattered most.

Finishing the WCC regular season with a record of 17-10, the Waves were seeded second when tournament action began on May 22 at Banner Island Park in Stockton, Calif.

The Waves quickly fell behind 5-0 to No. 3 seed Brigham Young University (BYU) before rallying for five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game. BYU responded with two runs to take a 7-5 lead only for Pepperdine to get the final say as the Waves scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk-off with their biggest win of the season, 8-7.

Catcher Aaron Barnett went 4-for-5 with four RBIs, including the game-winning, two-run single that set off a wild celebration on the field.

The tournament only became more challenging after Pepperdine dropped a 4-2 decision to Loyola Marymount in the winner’s bracket.

With their backs to the wall, Pepperdine made amends and knocked off the University of San Diego Toreros, 4-2, and rode the long ball to victory in the nightcap as the Waves smashed three home runs en route to the tournament-clinching 4-2 win.

Making just his fourth start of the season, Chandler Blanchard threw 7.1 innings, giving up four hits and just one run to shut down San Diego’s potent offense.

“It feels really special,” Blanchard said. “I wanted to do it for my teammates and I feel like I owe it to them. They are great guys and my brothers. I wanted to give it my all.”

Matt Gelalich had a homer, a single and a steady diet of star-studded defensive web gems that aided in the monumental victory.

“It feels awesome being able to get out here as a team,” said Gelalich. “We didn’t have the best start to the season but we were able to pull together and work as a team to get this done.”

Gelalich, Blanchard, Brad Anderson (Most Outstanding Player) and Ryan Wilson were named to the All-Tournament team.

Pepperdine had seven players recognized on the All-WCC team. Hutton Moyer (.295 avg., team-high 14 home runs and 45 RBIs) and Brandon Caruso (.309 avg., team-best 19 doubles) earned first-team All-WCC honors; Jackson McClelland (6-4, 2.93 era) was named to the All-WCC second team; and Wilson (8-3, 3.78 era) and Jordan Qsar (.313 avg.) were selected on the All-Freshman Team. Barnett (.303 average, team-high 69 hits) and Gelalich (.289 avg., team-best four triples) received honorable mention. Barnett earned All-WCC academic honors as well.

Malibu High alumnus Chase Lambert, a freshman, started 17 games, batted .174 and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage on the season. He handled 56 chances flawlessly with no errors. Lambert’s first career collegiate hit was a home run against Hawaii in a game where he went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three RBIs.