Feb. 13, 2012
Long Beach, Calif. -
The Dirtbags kick off the 2012 season on February 17, bringing in Virginia Commonwealth to Blair Field for a three-game series. The festivities start on the 17th, with first pitch coming at 6:30 p.m. The teams will then face off for a second time at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday before finishing the series at 1 p.m. on Sunday. All three games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
It's All Coming Back
How quickly it can all change. One season after welcoming in a bevy of new faces, the story for the 2012 Dirtbags is the team's increased depth both on the mound and in the field. Long Beach State returns seven position starters, including the entire outfield, as well as the "heart of the defense" up the middle with catcher Royce Murai, shortstop Matt Duffy, second baseman Jeff McNeil, and center fielder Brennan Metzger. On the mound, Long Beach State returns eight pitchers that accounted for 19 of the team's 29 wins and 14 of its 19 saves. In all, Long Beach State bids farewell to just eight letterwinners from last season's team, and has eight players back that made 25 or more starts in 2011.
VCU and Long Beach State have met just once before, with the Rams getting the better of The Beach back in the 1992 playoffs, as VCU topped Long Beach State 16-6 in Austin, Texas. 20 years later, the teams meet back up for their first full series. The Rams of note include the battery, returning top pitcher Kyle Haynes, who posted a 6-7 record with a 3.36 ERA last season as well as catcher Taylor Perkins, who had a .320 average with four home runs and 38 RBI in 2011. Also returning is infielder Joey Cujas, who hit .321 with a team-high 41 RBI as a freshman.
Bringing In The Talent
Freshman Richard Prigatano is the highest regarded incoming prospect for the Dirtbags. After posting a .494 average with six home runs as a high school senior, Prigatano was a Top 200 draft prospect before being selected in the 16th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. Prigatano elected to come to Long Beach State, and his profile remains just as high, being named the No. 14 draft prospect among freshmen by Baseball America. Also coming in after being drafted is right-hander Matt Anderson, and Long Beach State will expect big contributions from Robert Vickers, Edgar Gomez, Ty Provencher, and Chaz Meadows among other newcomers in 2012.
Calling The Bullpen
One season after recording nine saves, junior Eddie Magallon has been named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch list for the second consecutive season. Magallon had a 2-1 record with a 3.62 ERA in 23 appearances last season, a team high, and leads a strong and deep bullpen into the 2012 season. Also returning from the bullpen are Jon Maciel (1.25 ERA, 17 APP), Josh Frye (1.72 ERA, 15 APP), Jake Stassi (18 IP), Kyle Friedrichs (4-2, 47.1 IP), and Matt Johnson (5-1, 48.0 IP).
In Buck We Trust
In Troy Buckley's first season as head coach of the Dirtbags, Long Beach State made immediate strides in a number of areas. After finishing the 2010 season in last place in the Big West, the Dirtbags improved to a fourth-place finish and a .500 record in league play. Additionally, Buckley's work with the pitchers also showed immediate dividends, as the Long Beach State lowered its team ERA over a full point, moving from 4.67 to a 3.55 ERA, with 11 pitchers throwing 15 or more innings. Long Beach State has eight of those pitchers returning to form the heart of the staff in 2012.
The Dirtbags, as usual, have one of the toughest schedules in the nation coming into the season. While down from last year's No. 1 rated non-conference schedule, the Dirtbags still have the No. 6 non-conference schedule and are 18th overall in a year that is perceived to be down in the Big West from some publications. That being said, the Dirtbags are receiving votes themselves to start the season, and 11 of the 18 team's scheduled to start the year are either ranked or receiving voths in at least one poll, including four other Big West schools.
Tops In The Bigs
From MLB All-Stars Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jered Weaver to 2011 call-ups Jared Hughes, Adam Wilk and Bryan Shaw, Long Beach State has now had 41 players in the major leagues, and had 16 former players in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the most of any college in both years. Long Beach State's success is coming throughout eras, and in both pitching and offense. Troy Tulowitzki won the NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for the second straight season, Jared Weaver finished second in the AL Cy Young voting, and Evan Longoria overcame early-season injuries to power the Tampa Bay Rays into the playoffs in a thrilling run, while Jason Giambi continued his LBSU record-length career with another strong season among Dirtbags who have been named All-Stars. The Dirtbags have others on the horizon, however, as both Danny Espinosa and Vance Worley each finished in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, while Marco Estrada, Jason Vargas, and Shaw spent the majority of the season in the majors as well.
From The Draft
Long Beach State had four players drafted following the 2011 season. Two-year ace Andrew Gagnon was the first selected, in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers, and was followed by another pitcher from the rotation in the 16th round, Branden Pinder. The Dirtbags also had two position players who signed; Mike Marjama in the 23rd round with the Chicago White Sox and Kirk Singer in the 29th with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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