April 15, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. -
Long Beach State will look to continue its unprecedented run to open the conference season, hitting the road to play rival Cal State Fullerton while riding a 9-game winning streak to open Big West play. In a scheduling quirk, the 49ers open against the Titans on Wednesday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU, before continuing with a doubleheader Thursday to finish the series.
The 49ers 9-0 start is the best ever conference beginning The Beach - the previous best was in 2000, when Pete Manarino's 49ers started Big West play with a 7-0 record.
Long Beach State is on a season-long 11-game winning streak in all, and can match the program record with a win on Wednesday. The 49ers won 12 straight games on two occasions; once in 1989, and once in 2004.
Cal State Fullerton is one of only a few teams to have bested LBSU historically - The Titans lead the all-time series with The Beach 72-55, in the most played opponent for both schools.
The two schools have combined to capture 15 of 29 contested Big West titles; with Cal State Fullerton winning 8 and Long Beach State capturing 7. Those numbers are by far the most among current members, with three other schools each winning two titles.
Offensively, the team picked up right where they left off last season, hitting .324 overall and closing out nine games in run-rule contests. Long Beach State is slugging .484 as a team, with 34 home runs and 56 doubles on the year. The team has also been balanced, with nine players hitting over .300.
Long Beach State leads the Big West in nearly every offensive category in 2014. The Beach is first in batting average (.324), slugging (.484), OBP (.400), runs (244), hits (359), RBI (218), doubles (56) and triples (10).
Shayna Kimbrough's Big West Player of the Year season in 2013 was based in large part in a LBSU 2nd-place season batting average of .374 in 2013. The junior shortstop is topping even that incredible number this season, hitting .403 in 2014, and has 50 hits and seven stolen bases on the year while leading the 49ers in on-base percentage at .479.
Cya Neal has come on of late - The senior is hitting .455 in Big West conference play, and is hitting .380 on the season, third on the team. Neal leads the team with 52 hits, has hit a team-high three triples, and leads the 49ers with 10 stolen bases. Neal also has just six strikeouts in a team-high 137 at-bats, which ranks among the nation's best.
WHAT'S THE SCORE
All remaining Long Beach State games can be followed through Gametracker on www.longbeachstate.com, the official livestats provider for The Beach. Gametracker is also now viewable on all tablets and smartphones.
Long Beach State currently has four of its top 10 home run hitters in program history on the squad in 2014. Along with De Gaetano, Ashley Holmes, Karli Sandoval and Darian Tautalafua are all in the school's Top 10, and are climbing fast. In particular, the career mark is well within reach of sophomore Darian Tautalafua, who ranks third, just ahead of senior Karli Sandoval. Additionally, with one more homer, seniors Ashlynn Booker and Sarah Carrasco can join the group as well, tying Marcel Torres with 13 in her career.
Much of the 49ers success will depend on the right arm of senior Erin Jones-Wesley. Already one of the 49ers' most successful pitchers in school history, Jones-Wesley will look to continue to climb the record books while also attempting to win a second Big West Pitcher of the Year award, to match the honor she earned as a freshman in 2011. A three-time All-Big West selection, Jones-Wesley can become just the seventh 4-time first-team All-Big West pick and the second at Long Beach State.
On the strength of a one-hit shutout against Hawai'i last Saturday, Jones-Wesley was named the Big West Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season. With the award, she broke the conference record for the most weekly accollades, garnering 15 over her career.
The senior now owns two of the most prestigious records in school history, setting the career wins mark to go along with the career strikeouts mark that she already holds. Jones-Wesley currently holds both marks with 82 wins and 680 strikeouts in her career.
The senior also ranks among the Big West all-time greats as well. Jones-Wesley currently ranks 6th in appearances (135), 5th in wins (82), and 10th in strikeouts (680), holding all three LBSU records.
THIS AND THAT
With the March 14 win over UT-Arlington, Sowder gained her 250th career victory at Long Beach State. She becomes the second coach to reach that mark at LBSU, and the 9th coach in conference history to pass that milestone as a member of the Big West.
Long Beach State reached 20 wins for the 31st straight season ... The 49ers have never had fewer than 24 wins under either Pete Manarino or Kim Sowder, and have never finished under .500 under Sowder in her seven seasons at the helm.
Last Saturday, LBSU also passed 30 wins. Under Sowder, Long Beach State has hit 30 wins now in five of her eight seasons, and now 25 times in the program's 34 years.
Long Beach State will have nine games on ESPN networks this season, as ESPNU will show the first game of Long Beach State's doubleheader with Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, April 16, and ESPN3 has announced that they will carry the conclusion of that series. Additionally. Long Beach State's home series with UC Riverside on April 5-6 and Hawai'i on April 12-13 were previously shown on ESPN3.
The Beach, with three more wins, rose to No. 37 in this week's latest RPI. That mark places Long Beach State firmly in the at-large conversation. With 14 games left to play Long Beach State will have additional opportunities to improve that number. Long Beach State still leads the conference, and has 11 games against RPI Top 100 opponents in Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly, UCSB and UCLA, No. 4 in the most recent RPI.
Long Beach State continues to receive votes in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches' Poll. The 49ers will play No. 2 UCLA in a doubleheader on April 21 in an opportunity to further impress voters.
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