Feb. 11, 2013
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State opens up the 2013 season with a tremendous road trip, traveling to Nashville, Tenn., to take on No. 2 Vanderbilt in a three-game series beginning on Friday, February 15. The first game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, with Saturday's contest to follow at Noon and a Sunday start at 11 a.m. All Dirtbag games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
The Dirtbags have a strong core of position players returning, as seven of the ten that had over 50 at-bats in 2012 are on the roster for 2013. That group combined for a .274 batting average a year ago, started a combined 289 games. Juan Avila tied for the team lead in hits, and was second in RBI and doubles, while Ino Patron and Jeff McNeil each played in all 55 games for the Dirtbags last season. Patron was second on the team with a .379 OBP, and both players walked more than they struck out a season ago. Junior Jeff Yamaguchi added 27 starts, while the Dirtbags bring back two sophomores who started over 15 games in Josh Guerra and Richard Prigatano. Guerra hit .313 with 10 RBI in Big West play, while Prigatano hit .278 with five doubles and a home run.
Vanderbilt enters 2013 as one of the top contenders for a national title, ranked as high as No. 2 by Baseball America and No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball. Friday starter Kevin Ziomek and position players Spencer Navin, Conrad Gregor, and Tony Kemp were all named preseason All-Americans, and the Commodores also welcome in one of the nation's highest regarded recruiting classes, which features five players drafted that elected to come to Vanderbilt instead. This is the first meeting between the Dirtbags and Vanderbilt.
Scheduling The Best
In addition to the season opener against No. 2 Vanderbilt, the Dirtbags have again put together a tremendous schedule for the 2013 season. Long Beach State opens its home schedule by hosting the defending champions, No. 10 Arizona, and 11 out of the 21 teams on the schedule received votes in at least one poll entering the year. The Dirtbags will also host Valparaiso and Seattle in weekend series before resuming two traditional series in Blair Field against Wichita State and a non-conference meeting with Cal State Fullerton. The Dirtbags also have a trip to No. 16 Arizona State on the schedule, and weekday contests with LMU, UCLA, USC, San Diego State, and Pepperdine. Finally, Long Beach State will host Cal State Northridge, UC Davis, Cal Poly, UC Riverside, and first-year member Hawai'i in Big West play.
In Buck We Trust
Long Beach State enters the 2013 after two full seasons under Troy Buckley. After year one, the Dirtbags lowered their team ERA from 4.67 to 3.55, and that trend continued again in 2012, as Long Beach State posted the 17th-lowest ERA in the nation at 3.08. Long Beach State has been forced to turn over the whole rotation, but the last time that happened under Troy Buckley (as pitching coach), Jered Weaver, Cesar Ramos, and Jason Vargas were all drafted in 2004, and the 2005 Dirtbags led the nation with a 2.53 team ERA.
Long Beach State had 10 former players on opening day rosters, and Adam Wilk, Cesar Ramos, Drew Carpenter, and Nick Vincent were all promoted during the season, giving the Dirtbags 14 major leaguers in 2012, the most of any college for the third year running. Long Beach State had four former All-Stars in the league in Colorado's Jason Giambi, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Marco Estrada, Jason Vargas and Vance Worley are all members of major league rotations, while Bryan Shaw and Jared Hughes are in the Arizona and Pittsburgh bullpens respectively. Meanwhile, Danny Espinosa is an everyday second baseman for the Washington Nationals. The 14 major leaguers edged Arizona State for the most major leaguers in 2012; the Dirtbags had 16 play in the MLB in both 2010 and 2011, the most of any college in the nation.
The Next Step
The Dirtbags had three players selected in the 2012 MLB draft, continuing a streak of having at least one player drafted during the "Dirtbag Era" since 1989. Junior shortstop Matt Duffy was the first player selected, going in the 18th round to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants also picked another Long Beach State player, senior outfielder Brennan Metzger, in the 22nd Round, and senior starting pitcher Shawn Stuart rounded out the LBSU selectees, chosen by the Colorado Rockies in the 31st round. While the three selections were the fewest for Long Beach State since the 2000 season, the program's streak of producing at least one draftee has now reached 23 seasons in a row.
This and That
Long Beach State faces three first-time opponents this season, the most since the 1998 season (Texas Tech, Tulane, Kentucky, Alabama) ... Pitchers Ryan Strufing and Kyle Friedrichs are both out for the season with arm injuries ... Standings for the Uni Watch for 2013: Pinstripes (0-0); Black (0-0); White (0-0); Gray (0-0), Gold (0-0) ... The 2012 winner was far and away the Gold tops, as the team went 9-4 in them.
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