May 1, 2013
Long Beach, Calif. -
After polishing off the month of April with a 10-5 record following one more win Tuesday, the Dirtbags resume their rivalry with No. 4 Cal State Fullerton in a crucial Big West series this weekend. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday's game has been moved to 8 p.m., to accommodate ESPNU, who will be broadcasting the game, while the series ends Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Bright Lights
Long Beach State will play its first game on national television this season on Saturday at Cal State Fullerton, which has been moved to 8 p.m. ESPNU will carry the game, with Roxy Bernstein calling the action while Paul Lo Duca will provide analysis.
Long Beach State picked up late leads against Cal Poly to take two out of three games last weekend against the No. 18 Mustangs after routing No. 7 UCLA 11-1 to start the week. After losing the opener against Cal Poly, Jake Stassi allowed just two runs over 6.1 innings, and Juan Avila drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Dirtbags a late 3-2 win. The next day, the Dirtbags trailed early, but took a brief 4-3 lead, and came back once more behind Avila's bat, as the senior cracked a grand slam, the first of the season for Long Beach State before a 9-5 win.
Yes, We're Really Called That
The OFFICIAL nickname of the Long Beach State baseball program is the Dirtbags.
Scouting Cal State Fullerton
The Titans have put together a tremendous season, entering the week with a 36-7 overall record and ranked No. 4 in the nation. While the Titans have two very good hitters in Michael Lorenzen and Carlos Lopez, the team's real strength has been in the rotation, where Thomas Eshelman, Justin Garza, and Grahamm Wiest have been outstanding, each combining in three shutouts and throwing over 70.0 innings this season while posting ERAs under 2.50. Eshelman leads the conference with a 1.41 ERA, while Justin Garza has not taken a loss, going 9-0 in 11 starts this season. Wiest leads the trio with 64 strikeouts, but probably the most impressive statistic is Eshelman has struck out 50 while walking just one batter in 2013. In one of the West Coast's most heated rivalries, Cal State Fullerton holds the all-time edge in meetings 133-80, and won all three games of the non-conference series earlier this season. The 213 meetings between the two teams is the most between any two teams in the Big West in any sport.
Sabo's Big Week
Sophomore left-hander Nick Sabo was named the Big West Pitcher of the Week after helping the Dirtbags win in two games against ranked opponents in the last week. Getting the start on Tuesday against No. 7 UCLA, Sabo rose to the challenge with his best start of the season. Matching a career-high with five innings pitched, Sabo earned the win over the Bruins, scattering three hits with no runs allowed in an 11-1 rout at UCLA. Then on Sunday against No. 18 Cal Poly, Sabo entered the game in the third inning in relief with the bases loaded and one-out with the Dirtbags trailing 3-0. With a shallow fly ball and a popout, Sabo got Long Beach State out of the inning and threw three more scoreless innings as the Dirtbags rallied to defeat Cal Poly 9-5.
Long Beach State is hitting .306 in Big West play, second-best in the league, and has a balanced lineup that will hope to continue to have success in the absence of junior Michael Hill, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle. Taking over at shortstop is leadoff hitter Jeff McNeil, who rose to the 6th toughest to strike out in the nation this week, and leads the team with 57 hits and a .335 batting average. One other active player is hitting over .300 in Richard Prigatano (.308), while Ino Patron and Juan Avila are just under .300, but batting .362 and .328 in Big West play respectively. Also having an improved season in the Big West is center fielder Colby Brenner, who is hitting .321, while another player who has stepped up is second baseman Colton Vaughn, hitting .286 in 21 games played since joining the regulars midway through the year.
Jekyll And Hyde
Just past 40 games, the Dirtbags have one streak that stands out; Long Beach State has had relative success against right-handed starters, going 15-10 overall on the year, but has gone 5-11 in games against left-handed starters, accounting for the team's .500 record entering the week. The overall average of the team has been similar against left-handed hitting, but that success has not transferred into victories. In another similar split, the Dirtbags have welcomed playing at Blair Field, going 17-9 overall, but are now 4-12 on the road this season, despite winning their last outing at No. 7 UCLA.
Scheduling The Best
With the bulk of non-conference play concluded, the schedule for the Dirtbags rates as the No. 13 schedule in total strength according to Boydsworld.com, receiving a bump in the last week as the Dirtbags played four games against ranked teams last week, going 3-1. 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 and Cal State Fullerton are both in the Top 5, while UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona are all still in the rankings this week. The Dirtbags have three games this weekend against No. 4 Cal State Fullerton, and then finish the season on the road against UC Irvine, ranked No. 20 by the coaches this week.
This and That
With Shane Peterson's call-up to the Oakland A's, the Dirtbags now have had 12 active major leaguers in 2013, the most of any college ... Long Beach State has had the most active former players in the MLB in each season since 2010 ... Juan Avila passed Bobby Crosby and Terrmel Sledge and now stands in fourth place at LBSU with 36 career HBP ... Eddie Magallon threw 1.1 innings Tuesday and is now 10th in school appearances with 68 ... Ino Patron reached base in 19 straight games passing the streaks of Jeff McNeil (17) and Jeff Yamaguchi (15) for the longest of the year before it was snapped Tuesday ... Long Beach State faces three first-time opponents this season, the most since the 1998 season (Texas Tech, Tulane, Kentucky, Alabama) ... Pitchers Ryan Strufing, Kyle Friedrichs, and J.C. Cloney are out for the season with arm injuries, Michael Hill is done for the year with a broken ankle, and Johnny Bekakis is ineligible during 2013 ... Standings for the Uni Watch for 2013: Pinstripes (3-4); White (6-1); Black (7-8); Grey (1-4); Gold (3-3); Charity Dirtbags (1-0) ... The 2012 winner was far and away the Gold tops, as the team went 9-4 in them.
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