The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, March 02, 1978, Image 10

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    Page 10
It has been two good years for Opie
The long bus ride to Baton Rouge
was only half over when I glanced at
my watch and saw it was just a few
minutes past 11 a.m. The Aggie
baseball team had left at 7:40 that
Thursday morning for their season
opener with LSU the following day.
VVe were a few miles past Beau
mont and my legs were cramping
from having them folded between
seats. I got up and yelled to the
players at the rear of the bus:
“What’s Opie doing?”
“Nothin’ right now,” someone an
swered from among a small group of
card players.
I made my way slowly to the
next-to-last seat — carefully step
ping over the card game in progress
in the aisle — and sat down next to
“Opie” is junior lefthander Mark
Thurmond, so nicknamed by his
teammates in reference to Opie
Taylor from the old “Andy Griffith
show. ”
Thurmond had turned in a great
sophomore season in 1977. He led
the SWC in pitching with a 0.64
earned run average, won ten
straight games before losing his last
two decisions of the year, and had
made all-SWC. He was also named
to the all-District Six team and was a
third-team all-America as well as
first-team Academic all-America.
In only two years at A&M, the
6-0, 175-pound two-letterman from
Houston has experienced many ath
letic thrills. Among them are his
three-hit shutout against Texas last
season in leading his team to the
SWC championship.
However, this past summer,
Thurmond had an experience only a
few college baseball players have.
He pitched for the United States in
the annual USA-Japan College All-
Star Series.
The USA won the series, four
games to two, winning for the fifth
straight year. The blue-eyed lefty
from Aggieland had a big hand in
making it happen.
Thurmond didn’t pitch in the first
game played at Dedeaux Field in
Los Angeles, a contest won by the
Americans 4-3.
In the second game, he was the
third pitcher in a battle that went 14
innings before the United States
pulled out a 5-3 win. Thurmond
went five innings, gave up six hits,
one earned run, walked five and
struck out three. He also went
0-for-2 at the plate.
The series then moved to Omaha,
Neb. for the next three games.
Japan won the third game of the se
ries 4-3 as Opie watched from the
dugout. In game number four,
Thurmond worked three innings,
gave up three hits, no runs, no
walks, and struck out five but Japan
still claimed a 4-0 win.
The USA got back on the winning
track the following day with a 2-1
win in the fifth game. Thurmond
didn’t see action in that contest.
The teams flew back to Los
Angeles and Dodger Stadium was
the site of game number six. Thur
mond turned in his best perform
ance of the series as he pitched the
final four innings to perserve a 6-3
USA win. The victory clinched the
series for the Americans. Opie
struck out seven of the 12 batters he
faced and again, did not allow a run
or a base on balls.
The final game was played back at
Dedeaux Field on the USC campus
with the USA claiming a 7-5 win,
taking the series, four games to two.
In three games he pitched,
Thurmond went 12 innings, gave up
11 hits, one earned run, five walks,
struck out 15. Those strike outs also
broke the series record held by
Arizona State’s Floyd Bannister.
Thurmond’s memory of those two
weeks of international competition
was the subject of my conversation
with the 21-year old Finance major
as we rode the Greyhound into
“I was impressed with how disci
plined the Japanese players are,”
said Thurmond. “Their coaches are
much more strict and the players re
spect them, whether they like them
or not. The coaches are very de
manding also. I remember at one
point their clean-up hitter made an
error in the field. The coach im
mediately took him out of the game
and that guy didn’t play the rest of
the series. They just don’t tolerate
But, as Opie pointed out, they
don’t make many mistakes, either.
“The Japanese emphasize funda
mentals and they work hard at per
fecting their skills. Baseball is the
most popular sport over there and
tfiey love it. Sadaharu Oh
(Japahense home run king) is to
them what Babe Ruth or Hank
Aaron was to us.”
Thurmond also said he was im
pressed by the endurance of the
Japanese players.
“They don’t play a long season,
but they work harder than most
American teams. They run before
practice instead of just after. Ameri
can players probably have more
natural ability, but there’s no ques
tion that the Japanese are in better
I asked Thurmond what it was
like playing against the Japanese.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of dif
ference really. Their strike zone is
higher and the first game I pitched,
there was a Japanese umpire behind
the plate. I walked five and had
trouble keeping my pitches up since
we re taught over here to keep the
ball low on the hitters. One other
thing 1 noticed during our games
was that their pitchers keep warm
ing up in the bullpen. They’re
taught that the best way to get sore
ness out of their arms was to keep
Thurmond will likely see many
more highlights in his career, but
one he has already experienced —
and will always remembei\— was
pitching at Dodger Stadium.
"It’s just a super place to play
baseball. The mound was the best
I’d ever thrown on. It was a thrill to
meet all the Dodger players, espe
cially Doug Ran (who pitched for
A&M from 1968-70). He told me a
lot of things about pitching and
about his years as an Aggie.”
Thurmond said Ran also gave him
advice on taking care of his pitching
“He said to eat a lot of bananas —
they have potassium which is
for the arm muscles.”
At that point, Opie grinned
hook his head.
Breaking the tape
A&M track star Leslie Kerr breaks the tape
in the 400-meter dash. The Aggies won the
duel meet against Rice. A&M will travel to
Laredo this weekend to participate in
Border Olympics.
Battalion photo by Jana Hazlitl
By David Boggan
Listen to the tournament; it will be 'Houston
Thanks to the no television deci
sion by SWC commissioner Cliff
Speegle, I will be one of the
thousands of “hard corps fans” who
will be glued to my radio this
weekend watching the third annual
Southwest Conference Basketball
The winner of the tournament
will represent the conference in the
NCAA play-offs, and the field of
hopefuls has been narrowed down
to five. With the first game of the
classic tipping off this evening (yes,
the jump ball has been reinstated
into the SWC). I think it is time for
me to pick a tournament winner.
Pretty bold of me, right? I wait
until four of the nine teams have
been eliminated before I make any
predictions. Well, I wasn’t going to
pick TCU or Rice to go all the way,
anyway. Honest.
SMU, Texas Tech, Houston and
the conference co-champs Arkansas
and Texas all have a shot at the
tournament crown.
The Mustangs and the Razorbaeks
start things off tonight at 7. Poor
Ponies. They did good getting into
The Summit by beating Baylor last
Saturday. But they will go no farther
for three reasons: Marvin Delph,
Sidney Moncrief and all-America
Ron Brewer.
Tech and Houston will finish off
the evening’s events in what should
be a close contest. If the Raiders
play team basketball like they did
against the Aggies last Saturday, it
will be a good game. But the
Cougar’s strong corps of reserves
will prevail in the end.
If my slelctions are correct, that
will pit the Razorbaeks against the
Cougars. I will be sure to have my
dial tuned in good for this one, be
cause I believe it will be the best
game of the tournament. If these
two teams do meet in The Summit,
it will be their rubber match this
season. Arkansas defeated Houston
in Fayettville during the Christmas
holidays, and the Coogs knocked
the Hogs off two week ago in
Hofheinz. It was that game that
knocked Arkansas oft the national
basketball throne after a one week
tenure as king.
Ironically, the three reasons that
give Arkansas a victory over SMU
tonight will be three factors that
give Houston the win Friday night.
It’s not that Brewer, Moncrief and
Delph, along with their fellow start
ers Jim Counce and Steve Schall,
play too much, it’s just that the rest
of the Hogs play too little. Lack of
depth and experience will send Sut
ton’s men back to Fayettville on a
Friday flight.
While Arkansas cannot afford to
bench Brewer, Moncrief or Delph
for any great amount of time, look,
or should I say, listen for the
Cougars to substitute freely. If Ken
Ciolli, Cecil Rose, Mike Schultz,
Charles Thompson or Ken Williams'
start to work up a sweat, coach Guy
Lewis can rely on the efforts of Ced
ric Fears, Chuck O’Neall, George
Walker, . . .
That means Houston and Texas,
who due to statistical circumstances
received a bye to the finals, will play
for all the marbles Saturday night, if
my predictions hold true.
While Houston will be coming off
two games in two nights, the Long
horns will be well rested. They ha
ven t played a game since Feb. 21;
make that too rested. That’s one
strike on Lemon’s Longhorns.
Texas has two of the conference s
top three score res. Jim Krivaes and
Ron Baxter averaged 21 arid 19
points this season, respectively.
Houston s leading scorer, Cecil
Rose, averaged 18 points. So give
the Cougars a strike.
But a team cannot score if the
cannot get the ball. Houston grabs
about five more rebounds per game
than their opponents. They lead the
conference is rebounding.
Meanwhile, at the other end of
the rebounding column sits, that s
right, the Texas Longhorns. Abes
army gives up about four more re
bounds per game than they get.
Give the Horns another strike.
And the straw that will break the
Longhorn’s back will be the om
nipresent Bayou City chant, Hou
ston, Hou-ston!” Even if the\ can’t
get into the sold out Summit,
Cougar fans will make sure they are
heard by the “hard corps fans” sit
ting by their radios Saturday night.
The decision not to televise the
SWC Basketball Classic
based on the premise that
corps fans can only beestabW
television is not involved.: I Mir
the opposite is true. Televisiijl
Classic would not detract
tournament but create interest
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