May 22, 2012
Long Beach, Calif. -
It all comes down to this weekend - an old-fashioned rivalry series with Cal State Fullerton with the Big West Championship on the line on the last week of the season. With Long Beach State sitting one game behind the Titans, the winner of the series takes the title and the league's automatic bid into the postseason. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., with Saturday's start scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and a Sunday afternoon game to begin at 1 p.m. All Dirtbag games can be followed through live audio or Gametracker at www.longbeachstate.com.
About The Rivalry
Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton have met over 200 times, one of the most-played series on the West Coast, and more impressive since both schools have only been playing since after 1950. The teams have finished 1-2 in the Big West ten times, in the top three 15 times - and between the schools they have won 20 of the 34 Big West crowns, with one more to be decided between the teams this weekend. The winner of the series is guaranteed to win the Big West Championship. The teams have played two series a year since 2001, and as members of the Big West, Cal State Fullerton has made 25 NCAA Regionals and Long Beach State has made 17. The teams have met three times in the final week of the conference season as the top two teams; last in 2008 when the No. 18 Dirtbags took two of three from the No. 6 Titans to win the Big West at Blair Field.
Taming the Tigers
Sophomore Johnny Bekakis had three hits for the Dirtbags, and Kyle Friedrichs recorded a four-out save to stop a Pacific rally in the first game of last weekend's series with the Tigers, a series that Long Beach State ended up taking. The Dirtbags fell 5-3 in the Saturday game, but rallied behind senior starting pitcher Shawn Stuart, who had seven strikeouts over seven innings to improve to 7-0 on the season with a 2.21 ERA. Bekakis had six hits on the weekend, two doubles and drove in a pair of runs, while Brennan Metzger hit .400 with a pair of RBI as well.
Scouting Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Fullerton comes into the final week of the season ranked No. 12 by Baseball America, dropping from No. 8 after losing their series with UC Riverside, the Titans' first Big West series loss since 2009. The Titans still lead the league by a game at 15-6, and are 33-18 overall. The team is led by Richy Pedroza, who his hitting .347 with 19 RBI, while Michael Lorenzen, the team's top player, is hitting .311 while sligguing .450 with 29 doubles. On the mound, Dylan Floro is a Big West Pitcher of the Year candidate along with Long Beach State's Shawn Stuart, posting a 8-3 record with a 2.75 ERA, a K/BB ratio of 63-10, and 98.1 innings pitched. In conference, Floro is 6-1 with a 2.82 ERA. Also the team's closer, Lorenzen has 16 saves and a 1.29 ERA. The teams met earlier this season at Goodwin Field, with Long Beach State losing back-to-back 2-1 decisions before rebounding with a 7-2 win as Richard Prigatano had three hits for the Dirtbags. Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series 128-79, with the Dirtbags holding closer but still trailing 68-49 since 1989.
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 pitchers are again impressing in 2012, with a team ERA of 3.10. Long Beach State dots the league leaders in many of the top pitching categories. All three starting pitchers are under 3.25 on the season, with Stuart leading the way at 2.21, leading the Big West. All three are in the top ten in opponent batting average, with Stuart's .214 5th and Strufing and Anderson's .232 tied for 8th. Stuart also holds the nation's longest scoreless innings streak, having thrown 26.2 scoreless innings from March 9 to April 7. The Dirtbags' team ERA is currently 20th in the nation at 3.08.
The Hard Way
Senior Brennan Metzger recently passed Dan Twiss to reach third place in doubles in a LBSU career with 48 total. Doubles is just one category where Metzger is climbing the ladder; with 54 career HBP, he is three away from setting the Long Beach State record held by Bryan Kennedy. The senior has started every game in 2012, ranks fifth in career games started (184) and sixth in games played (196) in a Dirtbag uniform.
Speaking of seniors, Long Beach State will honor a tremendous class of six seniors before Sunday's game. The two best players for the Dirtbags in 2012, outfielder Brennan Metzger and Shawn Stuart are both seniors, as is everyday catcher Kellen Hoime and jack-of-all-trades pitcher Matt Johnson. Joining that group are a pair of junior college transfers finishing their careers in Juan Favela and Jonathan Kim.
Coming On In Conference
Long Beach State has totally turned around the team hitting in Big West play, improving what is still an overall mark of .259 to a league mark of .280, led by Senior Brennan Metzger, who is leading the Big West going into the final week, hitting .416 in conference. Freshman Josh Guerra is hitting .368 in conference games, and Juan Avila is also hitting over .300 at .307. That trio has led a late-season surge for the Dirtbags in offense, as the team ranks fourth in the league in hitting in balance to the team's league-best 2.50 ERA in conference play.
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