March 27, 2013
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State begins Big West play this weekend, hosting Cal State Northridge for three games beginning Thursday night at 6 p.m. The Dirtbags and Matadors will return to Blair Field for another 6 p.m. game on Friday, and then finish the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. as no Big West games are scheduled for Sunday. All Dirtbag games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
Big West Action
The second season starts Thursday, as Long Beach State will try to rally for a second chance at reaching the playoffs by winning a ninth Big West championship. The Dirtbags were picked to finish third by the coaches in the beginning of the season, and the team will try to best that prediction. Long Beach State will play Big West opponents in 12 of its next 13 games, facing off with Cal State Northridge, Pacific, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara in the first four conference series.
A Tough Weekend
Long Beach State was swept by Cal State Fullerton last weekend, dropping a 6-0 game on a two-hit shutout by the Titans' Thomas Eshelman, before giving up a late 5-1 lead on Saturday and falling in a one-run contest Sunday 2-1. Ino Patron led the team with four this and five RBI on the weekend, with a double and a triple.
Scouting Cal State Northridge
Cal State Northridge begins Big West play with an overall record of 11-12, but comes in to the LBSU series on a bit of a roll, having won five straight, including an 8-4 win over San Diego Tuesday after sweeping Utah Valley in four games over the weekend. Freshman All-American LHP Jerry Keel has led the staff, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.38 ERA and 26 strikeouts while pitching on Friday, while freshman Calvin Copping has been a solid second starter. Offensively, Nate Ring and Miles Williams split the top honors, with Ring hitting .341, while Williams has seven home runs and 23 RBI despite hitting just 221 on the year. Long Beach State leads the all-time series between the clubs 69-58, and won last year's series on the road behind a Big West Player of the Week performance by Josh Guerra.
Despite starting conference play ninth in team batting average, the Dirtbags have had some bright spots offensively. Junior Michael Hill is leading the league with four triples this season, and is fifth in the Big West in slugging percentage at .521, adding three doubles and a home run while topping the Dirtbags lineup with a .329 batting average. Just behind him is junior Jeff McNeil, who leads the Dirtbags with 30 hits, tied for fourth-most in the league in a league-high 96 at-bats. Also leading a conference category is sophomore Richard Prigatano, who has eight doubles, slugging .429 for Long Beach State while batting .286, third on the team.
Long Beach State will run the same rotation out this weekend for the third week in a row, as the trio of Shane Carle, Jake Stassi, and David Hill have strengthened the rotation for the Dirtbags. Carle in particular has been outstanding, locking down the Friday night role for Long Beach State, posting a 1.64 ERA with 29 strikeouts and nine walks over 38.1 innings while holding opponents to a .190 batting average. Carle ranks in the Top 10 in the conference in all of those categories. Jake Stassi has had two straight starts of seven innings pitched as the Saturday starter after moving from the bullpen. Against Wichita State, Stassi struck out six while allowing just one run, and gave up just a single run last Saturday against Cal State Fulllerton. Finally, freshman David Hill had a solid outing against the Titans on Sunday, throwing a career-best 6.2 innings while allowing just two runs despite taking the loss in a 2-1 defeat.
Jekyll And Hyde
Through non-conference, the Dirtbags have one streak that stands out; Long Beach State has had relative success against right-handed starters, going 8-8 overall on the year, but has gone 1-7 in games against left-handed starters, accounting for the team's sub-.500 record. That includes both losses against Seattle, as well as the last two games against No. 20 Arizona State and last tuesday's 12-2 loss at San Diego State. The overall average of the team has been similar against left-handed hitting, but that success has not transferred into victories. However, after dropping the first six, Long Beach State finally grabbed a win against a southpaw, fighting fire with fire as LHP Jake Stassi pitched seven innings to get the win Saturday against Wichita State.
Scheduling The Best
With the bulk of non-conference play concluded, the schedule for the Dirtbags rates as the No. 30 schedule in total strength according to FullySports.com, and much of the team's record problems can be attributed to a 2-10 record against ranked teams. The Dirtbags played six games against two teams currently ranked in the Top 5 and faced five ranked foes in total before the beginning of Big West play. Vanderbilt, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA remain in the Top 10, and both Arizona State and Arizona were ranked when they played LBSU. Coming up, the team still has series against the Titans, UC Irvine and Cal Poly who are all ranked entering conference action.
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