RIVERSIDE, Calif.–Plenty of people warned me about the traffic in the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, nobody gave me the heads-up about the Ontario International Airport, which is no more than 20 minutes from Riverside. Instead, I flew into Burbank and got to experience that splendid L.A. traffic firsthand. The 70-mile trip from Burbank to Riverside took a solid four hours to complete, but I was still able to reach the Riverside Sports Complex about 45 minutes before the first pitch of the big UC Riverside-Cal State Fullerton showdown (albeit without a meal in 13 hours).
That’s all the whining you’ll hear out of me this weekend; I feel fortunate to be here in Riverside on a lovely Friday night. I’m not the only one who thinks this is the place to be on a lovely Friday night. Among the dignitaries on hand are former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and general manager Paul DePodesta, former Long Beach State coach Dave Snow, Padres GM Kevin Towers, former Titans great Tim Wallach and an impressive gaggle of scouts and scouting directors.
The reason for all the attention, of course, is the outstanding pitching matchup between two of the best righthanders in the nation: Fullerton’s Wes Roemer and Riverside’s James Simmons. Both have looked strong in the early going, but here’s one thing to keep in mind: seven of UCR’s nine starters tonight are either lefthanded or switch-hitters. Roemer has held righthanded hitters to a .200 batting average this season, but lefties have hit him at a .329 clip.