Baseball Preview: Cal State Long Beach

Baseball Preview: Cal State Long Beach

Fullerton wraps up the regular season as they usually have over the past fifteen years with a series against Long Beach State. As has often been the case over the past two decades, the winner of this series will be the winner of the conference championship.

Fullerton entered last week with a good deal of momentum after winning eleven straight series and taking a two game lead into the week.  The Titans had their worst week of the season and lost their midweek game to UCLA 6-3 and followed that up by losing their first weekend series since the season opener at Florida when they were upset by Riverside in the final two games of the series 6-3 and 1-0 after Fullerton won the opener 3-2.  The Titans had their lead in the conference standings over Long Beach cut to one game when the Dirtbags won their series at home against Pacific.  Fullerton dropped its first weekend series at home since 2010 against TCU, its first conference series at home since 2009 against Pacific and its first series at home to Riverside after five previous series wins against the Highlanders at Goodwin Field.

UCLA got the better of Fullerton for the second time this season with a 6-3 win as the Titans lost for the sixth time on a Tuesday after winning a series the previous weekend.  UCLA scored twice off of Koby Gauna in the second inning and Fullerton stranded four runners over the first three innings before scoring a run in the fourth but stranding three more.  Matt Chapman singled and Anthony Hutting bunted him over and he advanced to third on a passed ball.  J.D. Davis walked and Anthony Trajano singled in Chapman.  Richy Pedroza's two out single into the hole at short loaded the bases but the Titans weren't able to push anybody else across.  Fullerton tied the game in the fifth with a two out rally off of Bruin starter Grant Watson when Chapman singled, Hutting walked and Davis singled in the run but poor baserunning in the fifth and sixth innings kept the Titans from taking the lead.  UCLA made it a 3-2 game with a run in the seventh off of Dave Birosak and Jose Cardona kept the Bruins from scoring any more runs.  Fullerton tied the game in the eighth without the benefit of a hit when Hutting walked and advanced on a SAC bunt by Matt Orloff, Trajano walked and when Clay Williamson grounded to short, the UCLA SS tried to throw out pinch-runner Austin Diemer at third but the throw got away and allowed Diemer to score with Trajano advancing to third.  Pedroza tried to give the Titans the lead with a safety squeeze but Trajano was thrown out at the plate.  The Bruins scored three runs in the top of the ninth off of Cardona to take the lead and Fullerton went down quietly in the bottom of the inning.  Chapman led the Titans with three hits and two runs and Pedroza and Trajano each had two hits.

Fullerton won their ninth straight game against Riverside on Friday behind an outstanding pitching performance from Dylan Floro, who allowed a run on three hits in the first inning but allowed only two batters to reach base on a single and a HBP over the next seven innings.  The Titans got a hit in each of the first three innings but were held off of the scoreboard by Highlander starter Eddie Orozco until the fourth when Lorenzen and Hutting walked, Chapman bunted them over and Williamson's groundout scored the run.  Fullerton took the lead with two runs in the fifth when Jared Deacon led off with a single and Pedroza's single was misplayed by the RF, allowing Deacon to score and Pedroza to advance to third.  Greg Velazquez's grounder scored Pedroza with the second run of the inning.  Both teams were held scoreless until the ninth when Riverside rallied and their first two batters got hits.  Lorenzen came into the game and a double play scored one run and after a walk he got a flyout to end the game for his Big West leading sixteenth save.  Floro moved into a tie for first in the conference with his ninth win by allowing two runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.  Carlos Lopez and Pedroza were the only players with two hits for the Titans.

Riverside got off to a fast start against Kenny Mathews when Eddie Young singled to lead off the game and Phil Holinsworth followed with a two run HR.  Mathews allowed a double and a walk before getting out of the inning and when he walked the leadoff hitter in the second he was replaced by Dimitri DeLaFuente, who got out of the second without any damage but walked Holinsworth to start the third and he was doubled in to give the Highlanders a 3-0 lead and when the next batter was walked, Willie Kuhl came into the game and he allowed a single to increase the lead to 4-0 before getting out of the inning.  Fullerton cut the lead to 4-3 with a run in the third and two runs in the fifth.  Pedroza led off the third with a walk, Ivory Thomas bunt was thrown away by Riverside starter Trevor Frank and Lopez's SF scored Pedroza.  The Titans cut the lead in the fifth when Matt Orloff and Pedroza led off the inning with doubles, Pedroza advanced to third on a groundout and scored on another SF by Lopez.  Kuhl had a solid outing with four shutout innings with four walks and seven strikeouts to keep Fullerton in the game until the eighth, when Gauna came into the game in relief and Riverside struck again when the leadoff hitter walked for the fifth time and Holinsworth hit his second two run HR of the game.  Frank went 7 1/3 innings to pick up his second win of the season and Ben Doucette allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings for his fifth save.  Mathews lost his second straight start to fall to 5-2.  Pedroza led the Titans with three hits, two runs and an RBI, Chapman had two hits and Lopez drove in two runs.

Sunday's game was an old fashioned pitchers duel between Grahamm Wiest and Dylan Stuart.  Fullerton got singles in each of the first three innings but had runners picked off by Stuart in the first and second.  Wiest allowed his first hit in the fourth inning and Stuart didn't allow a hit in the middle three innings while Wiest got out of his first jam of the game in the sixth when he stranded runners at second and third after a HBP and an error.  Riverside got to Wiest in the seventh on a single, a SAC and an RBI double by 3B Alex Rubanowitz.  The Titans finally got a rally going with two outs in the eighth when Derek Legg singled and Chad Wallach and Pedroza walked but Velazquez flew out to end the inning.  Fullerton threatened to tie the game in the ninth when Lorenzen doubled with one out and Chapman grounded out.  Orloff hit a ball down the line that Rubanowitz made a diving stop on and threw Orloff out on a bang bang play at first to end the game and give Riverside the upset in the game and the series.  Stuart earned Big West pitcher of the week honors for his shutout and improved his record to 7-6 with the win.  Wiest was the tough luck loser and saw his record fall to 5-4 despite holding Riverside to one run on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.  Legg was the only batter for Fullerton with two hits.

Fullerton wraps up the regular season as they usually have over the past fifteen years with a series against Long Beach State.  As has often been the case over the past two decades, the winner of this series will be the winner of the conference championship.  The Titans have a one game lead and only need one win to clinch a share of the Big West title for the third straight season and know that they will be in a regional next weekend regardless of what happens in this series.  The Dirtbags need to win the series to win the Big West title and know that they need to win this series to keep their season going because they will not receive an at-large bid for the post-season due to their poor start this year when they started the season 6-14.

 

Long Beach State Dirtbags

  • Current Record – 27-25
  • Conference Record – 14-7 (2nd)
  • Overall and Conference Record in 2011 – 29-27, 12-12 in 2011 (4th)   
  • 2011 Post-Season – None
  • RPI/ISR – 68/48.  2011 – 65/48. 
  • Current/pre-season ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 3rd by the Big West coaches, Baseball America and Easton College Baseball, 4th by Perfect Game.

 

2011 Review and 2012 Summary

The wheels fell off of the tracks at Long Beach in 2009-2010 and they missed the post-season both times after playing in regionals in fourteen of the previous sixteen seasons and the result was a coaching change with pitching coach Troy Buckley taking over for Mike Weathers.  The Dirtbags finished in last place in the Big West in 2010 after expecting to contend for a regional with an experienced team that returned seven starting position players and two starting pitchers.  Long Beach pretty much started over last year with seventeen freshmen and five JC transfers entering the program and as would be expected, they were inconsistent during the season against one of the most difficult schedules in the country.  The Dirtbags won series against three out of four teams in the top part of the Big West standings (UC Irvine, Cal Poly, UC Riverside) but lost series to also-rans UCSB and UC Davis.  Long Beach finished over .500 due to their pitching depth that allowed them to go 9-2 in midweek games.

Long Beach didn't change their offensive approach with the switch from Weathers to Buckley and their philosophy continued to be to try to get runners on, try to get them over and try to get them in.  The Dirtbags struggled with the getting runners on and getting runners in part of the equation and ended up near the bottom of the Big West in R, AVG, BB and OBP.  Long Beach didn't steal much or effectively with a success rate that was barely over 60% but often used the hit and run to get runners moving and bunted early and often with five players having at least seven SAC's.  The Dirtbags didn't have much power, which isn't a surprise playing their games at Blair Field, and they were last in the Big West in HR and SLG and scored three runs or less in over half of their games and two runs or less twenty-four times.  Only two position players hit over .280 for Long Beach and both of them have moved on.

Buckley returned to the program in 2010 after a two year absence and the pitching was improved with the ERA coming down half a run to 4.67 and Long Beach's ERA came down by another run to 3.55 in 2011 with teams hitting only .259 against them and they were among the Big West leaders in strikeouts.  The Dirtbags also did an outstanding job of finishing things off in close games and were 21-10 in games decided by one or two runs due to a deep bullpen.

Long Beach won their first two series at home this season against VCU and California with five of the six games being decided by one run.  The Dirtbags luck in one run games ran out when they lost five out of six games to Oregon and Arizona State with four of them by one run and followed that up by losing the first series at Fullerton with both losses by one run.  Long Beach's season bottomed out when they lost the opening game at Wichita State by allowing six runs in the bottom of the ninth to fall to 6-14, which was their ninth one run loss, before they turned things around and won the next two games of the series.  The Dirtbags took that momentum into the Big West schedule and won their first two series on the road at Cal Poly and Riverside, swept UCSB at home and won a key series at home against Irvine to be sitting at 9-3 and tied with Fullerton at the halfway point.  Long Beach fell a game behind in the standings after losing one of the games at Northridge and, after sweeping LMU in a non-conference series for their seventh straight series win, they fell further behind Fullerton when they lost their series at UC Davis.  The Dirtbags made up a game in the standings last weekend by winning their series against Pacific to set up a winner take all series this weekend.

Long Beach is struggling once again to score runs and they only hit .242 in non-conference games and were held to four runs or less twenty times.  The Dirtbags offense has been better in Big West games and they have hit .280 and scored five or more runs eleven times and have hit five of their six HR's in conference games and are fourth during the conference schedule in AVG and scoring.  Long Beach's offense is still predicated on getting runners on, getting them over and getting them in because they don't have much power with the lowest SLG % in the Big West, although their SLG % is fourth in conference games.  The Dirtbags don't use straight steals much, ranking in the middle of the Big West in SB's and last in SB's during conference games, and they use hit and runs to get runners moving and stay out of DP's.  Long Beach leads the conference by a large margin in SAC bunts and has eight players with at least five SAC's.  The Dirtbags are not a patient team at the plate, averaging three walks per game, but will stand in and take a HBP and are second in the Big West in that dept.

Long Beach has had the best starting pitching in the Big West along with Fullerton throughout the season and their weekend rotation has been the backbone of the team and the Dirtbags have held teams to four runs of less thirty-five times, including sixteen times in twenty-one Big West games, and they lead the conference in staff ERA.  Long Beach has played a large number of one run games (28) and has lost fourteen times in their opponents final at bat due to a bullpen that had trouble holding leads during the non-conference part of their schedule.  The Dirtbags had major issues with their bullpen earlier in the season but things have started to settle down after they finally settled on a closer at the start of the conference season.

 

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 81 (decreases offense by 19%). 
  • Batting Average – .259 (9th in the Big West).  .258 (8th) in 2011.
  • Scoring – 219 (8th), 4.2 runs per game.  216, (8th), 3.9 runs per game in 2011.   
  • Home Runs – 6 (9th).  10 (9th) in 2011. 
  • Slugging Percentage – .321 (9th).  .324 (9th) in 2011.
  • On Base Percentage – .346 (7th).  .326 (9th) in 2011.
  • Walks – 160 (7th), 3.1 per game.  133 (9th), 2.4 per game in 2011.
  • HBP's – 77 (2nd).  69 (4th) in 2011.
  • Strikeouts – 268 (7th), 5.2 per game.  389 (2nd), 6.9 per game in 2011.
  • Stolen Bases – 36-65 (5th).  51-82 (4th) in 2011.
  • Sac Bunts – 90 (1st).  75 (2nd) in 2011.

 

Lineup

Infield

Long Beach lost their SS and another player who split time between 3B and C and returned experienced players to take over for those two players as well as having experienced players back at the other positions around the infield.

C – SR #3 Kellen Hoime (RH – .200/.292/.257, 1-10-0.  '10 – .252/.338/.291, 0-19-5) was splitting time earlier in the season after sitting out 2011 as a medical redshirt and was the regular C for most of 2010.  He has been the starter during the Big West part of the schedule and started every game except for one.  Hoime has very little pop in his bat with only four extra base hits and will be batting ninth.  He will likely be asked to bunt when runners are on and he is seventh in the conference with nine SAC's.  Hoime went 2-7 at Fullerton earlier this season and is 3-20 in his career against the Titans.

C – Soph #50 Royce Murai (RH – .109 in 46 AB's.  '11 – .231/.277/.256, 0-1-0 in 78 AB's) split time pretty evenly in 2011 with Mike Marjama, who was second on the team in RBI, and struggled at the plate with 25 K's in 78 AB's and is having issues hitting again this season, which is why he has fallen out of a platoon and is rarely playing.  He will usually bunt with runners on and had 8 SAC's in 2011 and has 6 SAC's this season.  Murai went 0-2 at Fullerton earlier this season.

1B/DH – Soph #4 Ino Patron (LH – .287/.391/.354, 0-18-0.  '11 – .277/.363/.372, 3-24-3) was leading Long Beach in most hitting categories going into the last three weeks of 2011 but slumped down the stretch and saw his average drop over 30 points after he was hitting .321 going into the Fullerton series.  He does a good job of squaring up pitches and had one of the better BB/K ratios on the team in 2011 (18/25) and has been outstanding with his plate discipline this year with an 28/13 BB/K ratio and leads the team and is 6th in the conference in walks.  Patron was hitting over .300 earlier in the year but has struggled some since conference play started and he has only hit .260 in Big West games.  He has been splitting time between 1B and DH and will be hitting third.  Patron went 4-19 against Fullerton in 2011 but the Titans couldn't get him out earlier this season and he went 6-11 at Fullerton.

1B/DH – Soph #5 Jeff Yamaguchi (RH – .241/.366/.289, 0-10-2.  '11 – .263/.320/.305, 0-12-2) was in the lineup on a regular basis early in 2011, splitting time with Patron at 1B/DH, but had trouble making contact (39 K's in 118 AB's) and saw his playing time dwindle.  He has cut his K rate some but is still striking out almost 25% of the time.  Like almost everybody in the lineup, he will bunt when called upon and has five SAC's.  Yamaguchi has been splitting time between 1B and DH with Patron and will usually hit 7th or 8th.  He went 0-3 at Fullerton earlier this season and is 2-12 in his career against the Titans.

2B – Soph #1 Jeff McNeil (LH – .259/.332/.308, 0-11-5.  '11 – .271/.328/.307, 0-14-2) played some 2B in 2011 but was in LF most of the time and led the team with a .320 AVG in conference games.   He hit in the top two spots in the lineup in 2011 and earlier this season but due to his poor spot was moved down in the lineup and has usually hit 7th lately.  McNeil is a very good bunter and was second in the conference with 15 SAC's in 2011 and leads the Big West with 15 SAC's.  He does a good job of making contact and had 21K's in 2011 and has only struck out eleven times but he is not a patient hitter and only had ten BB's in 2011 and has walked eleven times.  McNeil will stand in and take one for the team and has ten HBP's.  He went 3-12 earlier this season at Fullerton and is 8-32 in his career against the Titans.

SS – JR #10 Matt Duffy (RH – .249/.345/.296, 0-22-1.  '11 – .266/.298/.290, 0-31-7.  '10 – .244/.261/.291; 0-7-2 in 86 AB's) was a part-time player most of his FR season before starting ten straight games down the stretch, started at 2B in 2011 and has taken over at SS for Kirk Singer.  He got off to a slow start in 2011 but hit better as the season went on and ended up leading the team in RBI and was 2nd team All-Big West.  He was one of the big surprises of the Cape Cod League during the summer when he finished third in the league in AVG but was pressing to show everybody he was going to be the next in a long line of SS's to be drafted highly got off to a frigid start this year and only hit .222 in non-conference games.  Duffy was hitting in the middle of the lineup early in the season, was moved down in the lineup to take some pressure off of him and has settled into the second spot in the lineup and hit in the .280's in Big West games.  He only walked ten times in 2011 but has been much more patient this year and has an outstanding 25/15 BB/K ratio, including an amazing 10/1 BB/K ratio in conference games, and is in the top ten in the Big West in walks.  Duffy has been bunting much more than he did in 2011 and is third in the conference with 12 SAC's.  He went 1-8 against Fullerton earlier this season and is 11-46 in his career against the Titans.

3B – JR #9 Juan Avila (RH – .274/.357/.349, 2-28-7.  '11 – .245/.350/.396, 2-7-0. '10 – .231 in 52 AB's) started mostly in RF or DH his first two years and was splitting time between 3B and RF earlier this season but has been playing exclusively at 3B since conference play started.  He was one of the few players to get off to a good start, slumped for a few weeks and started hitting well again once Big West play started and he has .307 in conference games and is in the top ten in R and RBI during Big West play.  Avila is a good run producer in the cleanup spot who is second on the team in RBI and led the team in SLG in 2011 but hasn't been hitting for as much power in Big West games with only three extra base hits.  He has below average plate discipline with a 12/29 BB/K ratio but will take a HBP and is fourth in the Big West with 13 HBP's.  Avila will also bunt when asked to and has seven SAC's.  He went 2-13 at Fullerton earlier this season and is 4-24 in his career against the Titans.

 

Outfield

Long Beach returned their CF and RF from 2011 and moved the RF to 3B and plugged their best recruit into the OF rotation along with a couple of reserves from last season and they have also been taking their turns at DH.

LF – Soph #2 Johnny Bekakis (RH – .297/.364/.367, 0-16-6.  '11 – .241/.302/.276, 0-7-2 in 58 AB's) didn't get much playing time as a FR until late in the year and started off well before cooling off the last couple of weeks.  He was platooning in LF earlier this season but has taken over as the regular LF and leadoff hitter.  Bekakis has been a sparkplug for the offense, hitting in the .290's in conference games and is in the top ten in Big West play in R and 2B, but has a poor 11/36 BB/K ratio and is in the top ten in the conference in strikeouts.  He went 1-4 at Fullerton earlier this season and is 1-9 in his career against the Titans.

CF – SR #12 Brennan Metzger (RH – .315/.418/.410, 1-34-11.  '11 – .279/.385/.390, 1-13-8; '10 – .308/.409/.453, 2-22-9) is one of four Big West CF's who are having outstanding seasons and he is in the top ten in the conference in R, RBI, OBP, HBP and SB and will be receiving All-Big West honors.  He is among the school career leaders in games played, doubles and HBP's.  Metzger has good speed and was the leadoff hitter most of his career but was part of the teamwide hitting slump earlier in the season and only hit .237 in non-conference games.  He was moved into the fifth spot in the lineup and has been a solid run producer and has been on fire in Big West games with a .421 AVG, .484 OBP, .558 SLG and 21 RBI.  Metzger is a scrappy player who will do whatever he can to get on base and has 15 HBP's after leading the team with 11 HBP's in 2011 after led the Big West with 20 HBP's in 2010.  Metzger had a very good 22/29 BB/K ratio last season and has an outstanding 21/14 ratio this year.  He is a good bunter and had nine SAC's in 2011 and has six SAC's this season.  Metzger went 0-10 at Fullerton earlier this season and is 6-39 in his career against the Titans.

RF – FR #31 Josh Guerra (RH – .311/.400/.426, 1-11-0 in 61 AB's) only started twice in the first 29 games but has come on like gangbusters lately and has hit .368 in Big West games with a .478 OBP and .526 SLG while usually hitting 6th and is a big reason why Long Beach's offense has improved during conference games.  He will go up to the plate hacking and has only walked four times.  Guerra will crowd the plate and has been hit five times in limited action.   

LF/RF/DH – FR #29 Richard Prigatano (RH – .282/.339./333, 1-14-3) was drafted in the 16th round and has good size and power potential, although that hasn't come out much yet with only six extra base hits.  He got off to a slow start by going 1-19 but got hot after that and hit .357 in the other non-conference games.  Prigatano cooled off and has hit .269 in Big West games while usually hitting 7th or 8th while splitting time between LF, RF and DH.  He has had major problems with making contact and is second in the conference in strikeouts and has a poor 9/44 BB/K ratio.  Prigatano wore out Fullerton's pitching staff earlier this season during his hot streak and went 6-11 against the Titans.

 

Defense

Fielding % – .972 (3rd) with 57 errors.  .965 (9th) with 75 errors in 2011.  Patron and Yamaguchi are solid at 1B.  McNeil and Duffy have good range up the middle but are prone to making the errors and have combined to make 20 errors (13 by Duffy, 3rd in the conference).  Avila is below average at 3B and has made nine errors so Fullerton will be testing him with the bunting game.  Metzger has very good range in CF and the other OF's are slightly above average.  Long Beach's defense is better than it was in 2011 but they have made errors at key times and have allowed 41 unearned runs.

Stolen Base Attempts – 36-64 (3rd).  59-83 (4th) in 2011.  2012 – Hoime (28-41).  2011 – Murai (29-38).  2010 – Hoime (32-46).  Both are solid against the running game.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 45 (6th).  2011 – 48 (5th).  Murai and Hoime are average at blocking pitches.

 

Pitching

  • ERA – 3.10 (1st in the Big West).  3.55 (4th) in 2011.
  • AVG – .253 (3rd).  .259 in 2011 (5th).
  • Walks – 174 (7th), 3.3 BB/9 IP.  175 (6th), 3.2 BB/9 IP in 2011.
  • HBP – 70 (3rd).  67 (2nd) in 2011.
  • OBP – .343 (5th).  .343 (5th) in 2011.
  • Strikeouts – 322 (6th), 6.1 K/9 IP.  403 (4th), 7.4 K/9 IP in 2011.
  • SLG – .322 (1st).  .350 (6th) in 2011.
  • HR – 8 (1st).  13 (3rd) in 2011.  

 

Starters

Long Beach lost their Friday SP from 2011, 2nd team All-Big West selection Andrew Gagnon, and returned two of the other three SP's.  The weekend rotation has gone 17-5 with a 2.71 ERA for the season and 11-3 with a 2.36 ERA in Big West games and has kept the Dirtbags in just about every game despite their offensive struggles for most of the season.

FRI – JC transfer #27 Matt Anderson (RHP – 4-2, 2.77 ERA, 14 GS, 81 IP, 67 H, 34 BB, 56 K, .232 AVG, 1 HR, 12 HBP, 8 WP, 7-14 SB) didn't pitch much until his Soph season in JC ball after being converted from being an infielder due to his strong arm.  His fastball sits around 90 and he has a good slider but has had trouble with his control with a 3.8 BB/9 IP ratio and combined with his HBP's has averaged allowing 5.1 batters per 9 IP to reach base via BB or HBP.  Anderson usually throws lots of pitches and usually is limited to about six innings in his starts.  He has been difficult to hit and is 8th in the Big West in AVG and 10th in ERA, allowing three runs or less twelve times and four runs in his other two starts.  When Anderson is on he is tough to beat but when his control is off he will get a quick hook, like he did last week against Pacific when he was pulled after walking three batters in three innings.  Fullerton should emphasize working counts because Anderson has a poor 24/20 BB/K ratio in 38 IP in seven conference starts.  Anderson allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in six innings at Fullerton earlier this season.

SAT/SUN – Soph #24 Ryan Strufing (LHP – 6-3, 3.20 ERA, 14 GS, 82 IP, 69 H, 29 BB, 46 K, .232 AVG, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 3 WP, 11-16 SB.  '11 – 3-2, 4.70 ERA, 17 apps, 9 GS, 54 IP, 53 H, 28 BB, 33 K, .272 AVG, 3 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP, 5-6 SB) was a middle reliever and midweek starter most of 2011 before moving into the weekend rotation for the last six weeks but struggled in last four starts when his ERA went up by a run.  He has an upper 80's fastball and is tough when he has control of his breaking ball and curve ball (9th in the conference in AVG) but if he's not throwing them for strikes hitters can wait him out and get his pitch count up.  Strufing will also get a quick hook when he is not on and has gone five innings or less in five of his starts.  He threw well last week in a no decision against Pacific (2 R on 5 H in 7 IP) after a poor start at UC Davis (5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 0 K).  Strufing has had his issues with Fullerton and only went 4 1/3 IP earlier this season (2 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K) after allowing eleven runs in eight innings in two appearances against the Titans in 2011.

SAT/SUN –  SR #22 Shawn Stuart (RHP – 7-0, 2.21 ERA, 13 GS, 1 CG, 86 IP, 65 H, 31 BB, 66 K, .214 AVG, 2 HR, 14 HBP, 6 WP, 6-8 SB.  '11 – 4-4, 3.16 ERA, 2 saves, 18 apps, 13 GS, 74 IP, 71 H, 31 BB, 70 K, .261 AVG, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 4 WP, 6-9 SB) pitched out of the bullpen early in 2011, was moved into rotation and allowed two runs or less in four of his first six starts, missed the better part of a month before returning and threw well down the stretch.  He has been one of the best pitchers in the Big West and is in the top ten in the conference in wins, ERA, IP, K and AVG and after allowing eight runs in his first three starts has had a 1.64 ERA in his last ten starts.  Stuart missed his start at Wichita State with a sore hamstring and returned to the rotation in the Sunday game at Cal Poly (and has stayed there despite being their best SP) and threw a one-hitter against a potent Mustangs offense to win Big West pitcher of the week honors.  He has continued to throw well and is 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA in seven conference starts and has allowed Big West batters to only hit .189 against him.  Stuart has one of the better arms on the staff with a good sinking fastball and a slider with good movement.  He held Fullerton scoreless in 5 2/3 IP earlier this season, allowing 6 H and 2 BB with 4 K, and picked up a save in the first series of 2011 against the Titans with 1 2/3 scoreless innings and lost his start in the second series (5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K).

 

Relievers

Long Beach's bullpen was a strong area in 2011 and a big reason why they won 20 of 28 games decided by one or two runs with six pitchers making at least fifteen relief appearances.  The Dirtbags relief staff was expected to be a strength against this season with most of those pitchers returning but the midweek SP's and relievers have combined to go 10-20.  Long Beach has lost fourteen games in their opponents final at bat.

Soph #37 Kyle Friedrichs (RHP – 1-3, 1.98 ERA, 9 saves, 27 apps, 36 IP, 33 H, 10 BB, 37 K, .248 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB.  '11 – 4-2, 3.99 ERA, 1 save, 20 apps, 47 IP, 46 H, 7 BB, 34 K, .254 AVG, 2 HR, 9 HBP, 2 WP, 4-5 SB) pitched in middle relief in 2011 and had a similar role earlier in the season as Long Beach kept shuffling things around to find somebody to finish off games and he settled down things for the most part at the back end of games.  He is a groundball pitcher who has been a workhorse and leads the Big West in appearances and is second in saves.  Friedrichs has converted six of eight save chances in conference games.  He threw 2 2/3 innings in two appearances at Fullerton earlier this season and held the Titans to no runs on two hits with four strikeouts.

Soph #46 Jon Maciel (RHP – 1-3, 1.36 ERA, 2 saves, 22 apps, 33 IP, 26 H, 16 BB, 16 K, .224 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 0-2 SB.  '11 – 0-1, 1.25 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 22 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 21 K, .211 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 2-2 SB) has the best arm among the relievers with a fastball that sits around 90 and a good slider.  He is eighth in the Big West in appearances and will be called upon late in games that are tied or when Long Beach has the lead to get the ball from their starters to Friedrich.  Maciel had been nearly perfect in Big West games until allowing three unearned runs to Pacific to take the loss last Sat.  He allowed three unearned runs in one inning last year at Fullerton and held the Titans scoreless in 1 2/3 IP while walking three batters earlier this season.

SR #16 Matt Johnson (RHP –  2-4, 3.72 ERA, 1 save, 20 apps, 8 GS, 58 IP, 55 H, 13 BB, 41 K, .259 AVG, 0 HR, 12 HBP, 6 WP, 1-5 SB.  '11 – 5-1, 4.31 ERA, 19 apps, 2 GS, 48 IP, 64 H, 8 BB, 45 K, .332 AVG, 2 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 3-7 SB) was a workhorse out of the bullpen in 2011 and led the team in wins.  He has been a workhorse again this season as the midweek SP and a middle reliever on weekends who will come into games when a starter is pulled early.  Johnson has a good changeup and has to keep the ball down to succeed.  He allowed two runs on six hits in 2 1/3 IP in relief to take the loss earlier in the season at Fullerton and has allowed 7 R (4 ER) on 16 H in 5 2/3 IP in his career against the Titans.

 

Other relievers who could come into a game this weekend:

JR #33 Eddie Magallon (RHP – 1-3, 4.09 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 22 IP, 35 H, 5 BB, 14 K, .376 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 1-2 SB. '11 – 2-1, 3.62 ERA, 9 saves, 23 apps, 32 IP, 32 H, 6 BB, 19 K, .252 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 1-1 SB) was the closer in 2011 and was third in the Big West in saves but got off to a bad start when he blew the save in the opener against VCU (1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R) and was relegated to middle relief after that.  He doesn't throw hard but is a strike thrower with good control who usually does a good job of mixing his pitches.  Magallon allowed 2 R on 7 H in 4 2/3 IP in two appearances against Fullerton in 2011.

Soph #19 Josh Frye (RHP – 2-2, 3.12 ERA, 17 apps, 17 IP, 22 H, 6 BB, 15 K, .297 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB.  '11 – 0-0, 1.72 ERA, 1 save, 15 apps, 16 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 10 K, .328 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB)

FR #39 Edgar Gomez (RHP – 1-0, 7.20 ERA, 1 save, 11 apps, 15 IP, 17 H, 9 BB, 7 K, .298 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB)

Soph #32 Jake Stassi (LHP – 1-0, 3.43 ERA, 18 apps, 21 IP, 22 H, 7 BB, 9 K, .278 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 2-4 SB.  '11 – 0-1, 3.50 ERA, 10 apps, 3 GS, 18 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .246 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB).

JC transfer #14 Landon Hunt (LHP – 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 9 IP, 7 H, 7 BB, 6 K, .233 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB).

FR #49 Nick Sabo (LHP – 0-5, 7.31 ERA, 8 apps, 3 GS, 16 IP, 27 H, 5 BB, 10 K, .365 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB).

 

Outlook           

Fullerton won all seven games against Long Beach in 2009-2010 by a cumulative score of 60-14.  The Dirtbags were more competitive in the first series of 2011 when they finally broke their losing streak to the Titans, whose two wins were each by one run.  Fullerton reverted back to dominating things when they swept Long Beach in the conference series on their way to winning the Big West championship.  The Titans won the first two games of the series at home earlier this season to improve their record against the Dirtbags to 14-1 before Long Beach won the final game of the series. 

Fullerton has had the best offense in the Big West during the conference schedule and the Titans are hitting .301 and averaging 6.4 runs per game.  The Titans had scored at least five runs in twelve of fourteen games before their offense came to a grinding halt last week and they only scored nine runs in four games.  Long Beach had the worst offense in the Big West during the non-conference part of their schedule but the Dirtbags offense has come around during the conference schedule and improved to the middle of the pack, which has been good enough most of the time with their pitching staff.  Both teams have a great deal to prove this weekend at the plate to see who can put some offense together to help out their pitching staffs.

Fullerton has been getting solid pitching most of the season, although there have been a few issues lately.  The Titans need Floro and Wiest to pitch like they usually have and need Mathews to bounce back in order to win this series.  Long Beach has also been getting good pitching most of the season and it has been even better during the conference schedule and the Dirtbags lead the conference with a 2.50 ERA in Big West games.  The difference between the two pitching staffs has been the ability of the Fullerton staff to finish things off with Lorenzen converting sixteen of seventeen save chances while it has been often been an adventure late in games for Long Beach.

Defense figures to be a key factor in this series with both teams looking to play for one run at a time and playing little ball with bunting and moving runners.  Both Fullerton and Long Beach struggled on defense in 2011 and are better this season.  The Titans have improved as the season has gone on and they have only allowed two unearned runs during Big West games.  The Dirtbags aren't making as many errors but they have often come at key times and they have allowed eighteen unearned runs in conference games.

Fullerton has to get back to playing like they were before last week to win this series and if the Titans get that fire back, they have a very good chance to win this series.  Long Beach has extra motivation to win this series because they know if they don't win the series their season will end this weekend.  Fullerton does not want this series to come down to a winner take all situation on Sunday and will be doing everything they can to wrap up the series on Saturday.  If it does come down to a one game season for the Dirtbags on Sunday, they will have the mental edge and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them win their first series against Fullerton since 2008.

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