March 28, 2012
Long Beach, Calif. -
Big West Conference action begins this week for Long Beach State, as the Dirtbags continue a long road stretch by playing their first two league series on the road, playing Cal Poly this weekend before traveling to UC Riverside next Thursday. The series with the Mustangs begins at 6 p.m. on Friday at Baggett Stadium, followed by another 6 p.m. start on Saturday before concluding on Sunday at 1 p.m. All Dirtbag games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
Long Beach State took its third series of the win by taking two games on the road at Wichita State as the team's resumed a home-and-home series in 2012. The Dirtbags broke out to a big lead on Friday, but ultimately surrendered it in a brutal ninth-inning loss 8-7. Rallying on Saturday, the Dirtbags put together their best offensive performance of the season, scoring 13 runs on 16 hits as Long Beach State won 13-1 behind a solid pitching performance from Ryan Strufing, who set a career-high with seven strikeouts over six scoreless innings. The Dirtbags then took the series by coming back in the ninth inning on Sunday, getting an RBI single from Brennan Metzger to tie the game with two outs, and then getting the win as Metzger scored on a suicide squeeze by Brennan Fulkerson with the bases loaded.
Despite Long Beach State's fairly solid work on the weekends, Long Beach State has struggled in its midweek contests this season. On weekends, the Dirtbags have gone 8-10, and nine of those losses have come by a single run. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Dirtbags have scored just seven runs while going 0-5, while the team's Tuesday ERA is 6.70, allowing 39 runs over those five games.
Scouting Cal Poly
Cal Poly comes into the weekend with the best record and some of the best numbers in the Big West. After starting the season with a sweep of Oklahoma State, the Mustans took three of four last weekend from San Diego State, and swept LMU in a four-game series in Westchester. Mike Miller is among the league's hitting leaders at .379, and Mitch Haniger is tops in home runs with five so far this season, as the Mustangs are hitting .283 as a team. Saturday starter Kyle Anderson has the best numbers on the staff with a 1.74 ERA in a 4-1 record, with five walks and 30 strikeouts. The Dirtbags won last year's series with the Mustangs in Blair Field, while Cal Poly took two of three the last time the team's met in SLO. Long Beach State leads the all-time series 82-44-1.
In Buck We Trust
After one season under head coach Troy Buckley, the Dirtbags lowered their team ERA from 4.67 to 3.55, and the starting pitchers are again impressing in 2012. Long Beach State has a different starting pitcher in the conference's top ten in top categories, as Ryan Strufing is eighth in ERA at 2.48, Shawn Stuart is fifth in OBA at .217, and Matt Anderson is sixth in both innings pitched and strikeouts, with 36.2 and 31 respectively. All three starters come into this weekend with an ERA under 3.00.
Closing the Gap
Long Beach State still ranks last in the Big West in hitting, but is continuing to close the gap, and is now hitting .240 while playing the nation's toughest schedule non-conference schedule. Long Beach State hit .321 against Wichita State, led by Richard Prigatano who had six hits. After starting the season in a 1-for-19 slump, the freshman Prigatano is now hitting .311, second on the team, while sophomore Ino Patron moved over .320 to .321 after getting five hits over the weekend in Wichita. Johnny Bekakis is third on the team in hitting at .279, while the Dirtbags have four players with 20 or more hits through 23 games. The Dirtbags also have three players ranked nationally in the toughest to strike out, as Patron, Jeff McNeil, and Brennan Metzger rank 26th, 30th, and 33rd respectively.
A year ago, Long Beach State posted a tremendous record in close games, going 13-4 in one-run contests, 21-10 in games decided by two runs or less, and 6-0 in extra innings; the success in close games was a large part of the team's success. 2012 has been the op¬posite, as Long Beach State is 4-11 in games decided by two runs or less, and has taken nine losses by a single run, three coming in extra innings, where the team is 0-3, which includes five one-run losses to ranked opponents. Long Beach State has also lost four games in walkoff-fashion on the road in 2012.
The Hard Way
After getting hit by a pitch on Sunday against Cal State Fullerton from Koby Gauna, Senior Brennan Metzger was passed Jeff Jones for the second-most HBP in school history, and he currently has 46 in his career. HBP is just one of many categories where the center fielder is is moving up the lists. The senior has started every game in 2012, and can reach the top 5 in games started and top 10 in games played this season. Additionally, with four more doubles, Metzger will tie Allan Burke and Terrmel Sledge for fifth-place in school his¬tory.
Long Beach State, as usual, as one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and enters conference play having had the No.1 non-conference strength of schedule in Boyd Nation's SOS rankings, in front of UC Riverside, BYU, and Cal State Fullerton. The Dirtbags re¬ceived votes themselves to start the season, and 11 of the 18 teams on the schedule were either ranked or receiving votes in at least one poll, including four other Big West schools, and Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly, and UC Irvine are all either still ranked or receiving votes in this week's polls.
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