Baseball Preview: CSULB (9-12)

Cal State Fullerton has been on a roll to start the 2013 season after winning their first ten games for the first time in the history of the program and after winning all four games against three opponents on opening weekend has won all four weekend series they have played.

The Titans swept their series at TCU and won series at home against Oregon and Texas A&M before going back on the road last weekend and sweeping Oral Roberts by scores of 5-0, 6-2 and 7-4 to improve their record to 16-3.

Despite the 5-10 record that ORU brought into the series, Fullerton knew they were going to be in for a tough game on Friday with Alex Gonzalez pitching.  He shut out the Titans for 7 2/3 innings last season and is projected to be drafted in the first two rounds in June.  To nobody's surprise, the game turned into a pitching duel between Thomas Eshelman and Gonzalez with both pitchers on their game and it was scoreless after six innings.  Fullerton was trying to build up Gonzalez's pitch count and they finally got to him in the seventh inning when J.D. Davis walked to lead off the inning, Michael Lorenzen singled him to second, Jake Jefferies walked to load the bases and Anthony Hutting came through with a clutch two run single for the first runs of the game.  Koby Gauna came on in relief after Eshelman gave up a one out double in the bottom of the inning and retired both hitters to end the threat, the first one on a diving stop by Matt Chapman on a ball going down the line that would have scored a run.  The Titans broke things open with three runs in the eighth when Lopez led off with a triple, Davis hit a comebacker and Lopez got in a rundown trying to score but got back to third and allowed Davis to get to second, Lorenzen was intentionally walked and Matt Wallach walked to force in a run to make it 3-0 and end Gonzalez's night.  Keegan Dale welcomed the reliever to the game with a squeeze bunt and when the bunt was mishandled by the 3B before he was able to get Dale at first, it allowed Lorenzen to motor home all the way from second for a two run RBI SAC bunt.  Gauna retired all six batters in the eighth and ninth to pick up the save and Eshelman improved his record to 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing six hits in 6 2/3 innings and stretching his streak without a giving up a walk to 35 innings.

After not scoring in the first six innings on Friday, it didn't take long for Fullerton to score on Saturday when Richy Pedroza led off the game with the first HR of his career.  The Titans weren't done scoring in the first when Lopez followed with a single, was picked off but ORU starter Drew Bowen threw ball away to allow Lopez to go all the way to third and Lorenzen's RBI ground out scored the second run of the inning.  Fullerton added to the lead in the third when Lorenzen doubled and Wallach singled him in.  ORU got to Justin Garza for a run in the bottom of the inning and the Titans got the run back against the Golden Eagles bullpen in the fifth when Chapman walked, Davis singled, Lorenzen bunted the runners over and Hutting's SF scored the run.  Fullerton tacked another run onto the lead in the seventh when Davis doubled and ended up scoring on Wallach's SF and wrapped up their scoring on the first HR of the season by Lopez in the eighth.  Garza's day was done after eight strong innings in which he allowed only one run on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts to improve his record to 5-0 with a 0.99 ERA.

After Fullerton left the bases loaded in the top of the first, ORU got the scoring started on Sunday with two runs in the bottom of the inning off of Grahamm Wiest.  The Titans took the lead with three runs in the third inning when Lopez singled, Chapman was hit by a pitch, Davis and Lorenzen followed with RBI singles and Davis scored on a passed ball but for the second time in the game Fullerton left the bases loaded.  The Titans took advantage of some more shaky defense by the Golden Eagles to score in the fourth when Lopez walked, stole second, went to third on a balk and, after Chapman walked, scored on an errant pickoff attempt of Chapman.  ORU didn't roll over and scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to tie things up at 4-4 and after Fullerton left the bases loaded in the fifth for the third time they took the lead for good in the sixth when Davis singled, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Hutting.  The Titans tacked a run onto the lead in the eighth when Lopez was hit by a pitch, Davis walked, the runners moved up on a wild pitch and Lorenzen's RBI ground out scored Lopez.  Fullerton scored the final run of the game in the ninth when Dale singled, stole second, went to third on a ground out and came home on a wild pitch.  Wiest battled for six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, and picked up the win to improve to 3-1.  Davis threw two scoreless innings in relief of Wiest and Lorenzen finished things off a little more uneventfully than he did against Texas A&M with a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.

Fullerton didn't have too many offensive standouts against Texas A&M but had plenty of heroes last weekend at ORU.  Lopez was 6-13, got three free bases, stole three bases and scored six runs, Davis broke out of his slump and was 5-10, got four free bases and scored five runs, Hutting drove in four runs and Lorenzen and Wallach both had three RBI.  The freshman dynamic duo of Eshelman and Garza were outstanding once again and are now 9-1 with a 1.26 ERA.

The series against Oral Roberts was part of an ongoing trend for Fullerton where the team didn't hit much but was productive and found ways to score by getting on base via a ton of walks and HBP's.  The Titans hit .235 with seventeen walks and HBP's at TCU, hit .239 and received nineteen free bases against Oregon, hit .241 against Texas A&M and received nineteen more free bases from the Aggies pitching staff and last weekend Fullerton hit .235 with twenty walks and six HBP's at ORU.  As long as the Titans continue to stay patient at the plate, when they start hitting the ball the offense should take off and be even more productive than it has been while averaging about six runs a game.  

Fullerton got this week started with a two game midweek series against Nebraska in the Huskers second visit to Goodwin Field this season.  The Titans were sloppy on defense and made five errors on Tuesday but rallied from a 4-0 deficit to end up winning 6-5 in 11 innings on a bases loaded walk to Jared Deacon and came back from two runs down with an eight run sixth inning to pull away to a 10-4 win and improved Fullerton's record to 18-3, the best start for the Titans since 1996.  The Titans will be traveling over to Blair Field this weekend to renew their rivalry with Long Beach State in the last non-conference series of the season before Big West play gets started next weekend.  The stakes aren't as high this time around as they were the last time these two teams squared off when the conference title was on the line but the Dirtbags are going to be very motivated to win this series because they haven't won a series against the Titans since 2008.


Long Beach State Dirtbags (9-12)
  • 2012 Overall Record – 28-27
  • 2012 Conference Record – 15-9 (3rd)
  • 2012 Post-Season – None
  • Current RPI/ISR – 105/138.  2012 RPI/ISR – 68/45. 
  • Current/pre-season ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 3rd by the Big West coaches and Baseball America, 5th by Perfect Game, 6th by Easton College Baseball.

2012 Review and 2013 Summary

Long Beach got off to a very slow start in 2012 under long time pitching coach and second year head coach Troy Buckley when they started out 6-14 with nine of those losses coming by one run, including two 2-1 losses in the first series at Fullerton.  The Dirtbags won the final series on the non-conference part of their schedule at Wichita State and took that momentum into the Big West part of the schedule, winning their first two series on the road at Cal Poly and Riverside, sweeping UCSB at home and winning their series at home against Irvine and were 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 their 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 before making up ground when they won their series against Pacific to set up a winner take all series with Fullerton for the conference title at Blair Field.  Dylan Floro shut out the Dirtbags to win the opening game of the series for Fullerton to wrap up conference pitcher of the year honors, Long Beach came back to win the second game and the Titans won the final game of the series to clinch an outright Big West championship for the third straight season and end the season for Long Beach.

Long Beach brought in 22 newcomers when Buckley took over for the 2011 season and expectations were higher going into 2013 with many of those players in their third year in the program but the off-season didn't treat the Dirtbags well with their closer and only returning starting pitcher being lost for the year due to elbow injuries.  Long Beach lost their first two games at Vanderbilt, one of the top five teams national rankings, before winning the final game of the series, returned home and split a midweek series with defending national champion Arizona and swept Valparaiso before hitting the skids and losing eight of their next nine games, including three midweek games, a series loss at home to Seattle and a sweep at Arizona State.  The Dirtbags reversed the momentum of their season last weekend by sweeping Wichita State and holding the Shockers to six runs in three games before losing 12-2 on Tuesday at San Diego State.

Long Beach struggled offensively in 2012, hitting only .242 and they were held to four runs or less twenty times in non-conference games.  The Dirtbags offense was better in Big West games when they hit .270 and scored five or more runs twelve times, hit five of their six HR's and were fourth in conference games in scoring, AVG, OBP and SLG.  Long Beach's offense was predicated on getting runners on, getting them over and getting them in because they didn't have much power with the lowest SLG % in the Big West.  The Dirtbags didn't use straight steals much, ranking in the middle of the Big West in SB's and last in steals during conference games, and they often used hit and runs to get runners moving and stay out of DP's.  Long Beach led the nation in SAC bunts and had eight players with at least five SAC's.  The Dirtbags were not a patient team at the plate, averaging three walks per game, but would stand in and take a HBP and were second in the Big West in that dept.

Long Beach had the best pitching staff in the Big West along with Fullerton throughout last season and their weekend rotation was the backbone of the team.  The Dirtbags held teams to four runs or less 37 times, including eighteen times in conference games, and they led the Big West in ERA and finished in the top 20 nationally.  Long Beach played a large number of one run games (28) and 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 but they started to settle things down at the end of games during Big West games after they finally settled on a closer at the start of the conference season.

Long Beach's offensive issues have continued again this season and they are next to last in the conference in scoring, averaging just over three runs a game, and have been held to three runs or less thirteen times.  The Dirtbags are eighth in the conference in SLG and eighth in OBP, primarily due to being in the top fifteen nationally in HBP's.  Long Beach is still relying on putting runners in motion to get them over and get them in and stealing more than they did in 2012 but not bunting quite as much, although they have had seven SAC bunts in the last four games.

Long Beach has had some issues with their pitching staff and that isn't surprising considering their personnel losses from 2012.  The ERA for the Dirtbags has gone up by almost one run from last season after their meltdown on Tuesday at San Diego State and they have allowed at least five runs eight times.  Long Beach was doing a good job of not letting teams get good swings against them before Tuesday's game but they have been doing a poor job of not giving out free bases and have been handing out five walks and HBP's per game.


Offense
  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 81 (decreases offense by 19%).  Blair Field is notorious for being one of the toughest parks for hitters in the nation with large dimensions, plenty of foul territory and winds that usually blow straight in off of the ocean from RF.
  • Batting Average – .246 (9th in the Big West, 226th nationally).  .255 (8/255) in 2012.
  • Scoring – 68 (9/262), 3.2 runs per game.  225 (9/267), 4.1 runs per game in 2012.   
  • Home Runs – 3 (7/211).  7 (9/283) in 2012. 
  • Slugging Percentage – .325 (8/215).  .318 (9/281) in 2012.
  • On Base Percentage – .334 (8/211).  .340 (7/250) in 2012.
  • Walks – 55 (7/219), 2.6 per game.  165 (7/236), 3.0 per game in 2012.
  • HBP's – 35 (3/20).  77 (2/52) in 2012.
  • Strikeouts – 108 (7/xx), 5.1 per game.  283 (7/xx), 5.1 per game in 2012.
  • Stolen Bases – 17-28 (4/164).  38-68 (5/228) in 2012.
  • Sac Bunts – 20 (3/59).  91 (1/1) in 2012.

Lineup

Infield

Long Beach lost their C Kellen Hoime and SS Matt Duffy and return experienced players at the other three spots, although an injury to one of their starters has resulted in starting two FR in the infield.

C – FR #3 Eric Hutting (RH –.205/.308/.295, 0-7-0) has been starting most of the time with SR #7 Zach Miller (RH – 4-18) usually playing once a weekend.  Hutting has the potential to be an all-conference player down the line if he continues to develop.  He got off to a hot start, going 6-15 the first two weeks, but has gone into a 3-29 slump since then.  Hutting has solid plate discipline with a 4/5 BB/K ratio and has usually been hitting sixth.  He has been able to drive the ball on occasion and is second on the team in doubles.

1B – JR #5 Jeff Yamaguchi (RH – .282/.378/.324, 0-5-3.  '12 – .230/.352/.276, 0-10-2.  '11 – .263/.320/.305, 0-12-2) was in the lineup on a regular basis the first part of his FR season but had trouble making contact (39 K's in 118 AB's) and saw his playing time dwindle and his cut his strikeout rate some in 2012 some but it was still around 25%.  This season, Yamaguchi's plate discipline has been much better with a 9/8 BB/K ratio and he has been putting together better AB's while batting third.  He hasn't been hitting for much power with only two extra base hits but he has been consistently getting on base and is second on the team in OBP.  Yamaguchi has been splitting time between 1B and DH with Patron and will usually hit 7th or 8th.  He went 0-6 against Fullerton in 2012 and is 2-15 in his career against the Titans.

2B/CF – JR #1 Jeff McNeil (LH – .321/.363/.417, 0-10-4.  '12 – .258/.333/.304, 0-11-6.  '11 – .271/.328/.307, 0-14-2) is a versatile player who has started at 2B most of the time this season but has also made four starts in CF and was the starter in LF as a FR, when he led the team with a .320 AVG in conference games.   He hit second most of the season before batting leadoff in all four games last week and does a good job of moving runners along because he is a very good bunter and was second in the Big West with 15 SAC's in both 2011 and 2012. He usually does a good job of making contact but is not a patient hitter and has walked three times and only walked 23 times his first two seasons.  McNeil will stand in and take one for the team and has three HBP's and had ten HBP's in 2012.  He hit .382 in his first eight games before going into a 1-19 slump and snapped out of it against Wichita State when he went 6-11 over the weekend and had three more hits on Tuesday at San Diego State.  McNeil doesn't have much power with only fifteen extra base hits in his career with most of those coming due to his good speed, which makes him a threat on the bases.  He went 6-24 against Fullerton in 2012 and is 11-44 in his career against the Titans.  FR #2 Alex DeGoti (RH – 2-27) has started six times when McNeil has gone to the OF and FR #28 Colton Vaughn (RH – 2-7) has started once.

SS – JR #6 Michael Hill (LH – .371/.412/.597, 1-8-1.  '12 – .140/.232/.180, 0-1-0.  '11 – .200/.252/.253, 0-7-4) has taken over for Matt Duffy and has been an upgrade offensively after Duffy had a disappointing JR season.  Hill is a good athlete with good size and was projected to be a solid contributor coming into the program but couldn't put things together and hit poorly his first two seasons before starting to get things figured out last summer.  He hit well in the fall and has continued to hit the ball with authority once the season started and leads Long Beach in AVG, OBP and SLG and is second in the Big West in SLG and sixth in AVG.  Hill will go up to the plate swinging and has only walked twice.  He was usually batting in the lower part of the order despite being the most productive hitter on the team before being moved up to second last weekend.  Hill went 2-7 in two starts against Fullerton last season.

3B – SR #9 Juan Avila (RH – .227/.358/.250, 0-5-0.  '12 – .288/.364/.369, 2-30-7.  '11 – .245/.350/.396, 2-7-0. '10 – .231 in 52 AB's) has a hand injury and will miss the series this weekend.  Avila started mostly in RF or DH his first two years and was splitting time between 3B and RF earlier in 2012 but has been playing exclusively at 3B since conference play started last season.  He was one of Long Beach's better hitters in 2012, finishing in the top ten in the conference in R and RBI and hitting .325 during Big West play and received honorable mention all-conference honors.  Avila is a good run producer who was second on the team in RBI in 2012 and led the team in SLG in 2011.  He will take a HBP and was fifth in the Big West in 2012 with 13 HBP's and has been hit six times already.  Avila has below average plate discipline with a 3/8 BB/K ratio and had a 12/29 BB/K ratio in 2012.  He was only 4-24 in his career against Fullerton before going 6-12 against the Titans in the season ending series at Long Beach in 2012. 

3B – FR #32 Jonathan Serven (RH – .241/.290/.310, 0-1-0) is the 3B of the future and is the 3B of the present with Avila out and has started the past nine games.  He got off to a good start, going 4-11, but has cooled off since then with only three hits in 18 AB's.  Serven has good size and has the potential to develop into a middle of the lineup hitter.  He has been switching between the 6th-8th spots in the lineup.  Serven is tied for the team lead with three SAC bunts.

Outfield

Long Beach lost their best player from 2012, 1st team All Big-West CF Brennan Metzger, along with honorable mention all-conference LF Johnny Bekakis so things have been unsettled a bit in the OF with the OF's taking turns at LF and DH.

LF/DH – JR #4 Ino Patron (LH – .244/.289/.295, 0-5-0.  '12 – .279/.379/.342, 0-18-0.  '11 – .277/.363/.372, 3-24-3) does a good job of squaring up pitches and had one of the better BB/K ratios on the team as a FR (18/25) and was outstanding with his plate discipline in 2012 with a 28/15 BB/K ratio and was 8th in the Big West in walks but hasn't been getting too many free passes with only three walks.  Patron has usually been a hot starter in his first seasons and struggled down the stretch but this year it has been the opposite and he has been hitting in tough luck, part of which is due to being overanxious and hitting what pitchers want him to instead of getting his own pitch to hit.  He split time between DH and 1B his first two seasons but has been playing mostly LF with some time spent in the DH spot while usually batting cleanup or 5th.  Patron went 8-23 against Fullerton in 2012 and is 12-42 in his career against the Titans.  

LF – Soph #31 Josh Guerra (RH – .158/.347/.237, 1-3-3.  '12 – .282/.370/.380, 1-11-0 in 71 AB's) only started twice in the first 29 games as a FR but came on like gangbusters and was hitting .368 in Big West games going into the Fullerton series, when the Titans cooled him off and he went 1-10 with four strikeouts.  He has gotten off to a terrible start and was only hitting .121 before getting two hits in the final game of the Wichita State series.  Guerra was usually hacking away as a FR and only walked five times but he has been much more patient and has already walked eight times but is striking out too much with nine K's in 35 AB's.  He has decent speed and will look to run when he gets on base.

CF – JC transfer #23 Colby Brenner (LH – .077/.357/.077, 0-1-2) is a little guy with a fast motor and is probably the quickest player on the team.  He does a great job of getting on base by free passes with eight walks and a conference leading nine HBP's but he has had issues when he has had to swing the bat and has only three hits, all singles, in 39 AB's and 14 strikeouts.  Brenner hit leadoff most of the time before last weekend when he was moved down to 9th in the lineup due to his hitting issues.  McNeil and Brenner have split the last eight games in CF.

RF – Soph #11 Richard Prigatano (RH – .288/.326/.450, 1-11-3.  '12 – .278/.335./329, 1-14-3) was drafted in the 16th round out of HS and has good size and power potential, although that didn't come out much as a FR with only six extra base hits.  He developed his power stroke in the summer when he hit 11 HR's in the Northwoods League and has been driving the ball more this season and leads the Big West with seven doubles and leads the team in RBI while usually hitting either cleanup or 5th.  Prigatano had major problems with making contact as a FR and is third in the conference in strikeouts with a poor 9/45 BB/K ratio and it has been more of the same this season with a 4/19 BB/K ratio.  He wore out Fullerton's pitching staff in the first season in 2012 when he went 6-11 but only batted twice, going 0-2, against the Titans in the second series.
DH – When Patron and Guerra both aren't in the lineup, the other choices to be the DH are FR #8 Zach Rivera (RH – 6-25), FR #42 Zack Belanger (LH – 2-11) and JR #26 Brennan Fulkerson (0-8)


Defense

Fielding % – .964 (8/134) with 28 errors.  .972 (4/59) with 61 errors in 2012.  Yamaguchi is solid at 1B but has made some errors.  McNeil has good range and has improved at 2B.  Hill has solid range at SS but won't always make the play when he gets to the ball and leads the Big West with nine errors.  Avila is below average at 3B and Serven is slightly better but is a FR so he will get tested this weekend.  Patron is below average in LF, Brenner has good speed in CF and Prigatano is solid in RF with a good arm.

Long Beach's defense has been porous at times and has contributed to allowing 29 unearned runs. 

Stolen Base Attempts – 25-38 (9th).  39-69 (4th) in 2012 – Hoime (32-48).  Hutting has been average against the running game (16-22) and runners are 5-6 against Miller and teams have been running on Long Beach more than any other team in the Big West so Fullerton figures to be aggressive on the bases.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 26 (9th).  48 (5th) in 2012.  Hutting and Miller have struggled with blocking pitches so look for for Fullerton to be aggressive on balls in the dirt.


Pitching
  • ERA – 3.90 (5/75).  3.08 (1/17) in 2012.
  • AVG – .258 (5/59). .251 (3/40) in 2012.
  • HR – 8 (9/xx).  9 (1/xx) in 2012.  
  • SLG – .346 (5/xx).  .322 (1/xx) in 2012.
  • Walks – 80 (10/161), 3.8 BB/9 IP.  180 (6/89), 3.2 BB/9 IP in 2012.
  • HBP – 23 (2/xx).  73 (3/xx) in 2012.
  • OBP – .356 (7/xx).  .341 (5/xx) in 2012.
  • WHIP – 1.41 (6/90).  1.29 (3/46) in 2012.
  • Strikeouts – 133 (5/149) 6.7 K/9 IP.  340 (5/207), 6.1 K/9 IP in 2012.
Starters

Long Beach knew work needed to be done with their rotation after losing SR's 2nd team All-Big West SP Shawn Stuart and swingman Matt Johnson but figured to return Matt Anderson and Ryan Strufing.  Anderson had a strong summer and got a big bonus to sign as an undrafted free agent and Strufing had elbow surgery and as a result the Dirtbags are breaking in an entirely new rotation, although it isn't much of a surprise that there is talent due to Buckley's ability to develop pitchers.  Seven pitchers have already started games as Long Beach tries to find some stability after their Friday SP.

JC transfer #22 Shane Carle (RHP – 1-2, 1.42 ERA, 5 GS, 32 IP, 24 H, 7 BB, 24 K, .202 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 6-7 SB) is tall and very projectable with a fastball in the low 90's with good sink, a very good slider and a solid changeup and figures to be drafted in the first 5-6 rounds in June.  He is in the top ten in the Big West in ERA, AVG, IP and K and has thrown well in every start.  Carle held a strong Vanderbilt offense to 3 R (1 ER) on 3 H in 5 IP, allowed 2 R (1 ER) in 7 IP against Valparaiso, allowed 2 R (0 ER) in 6 IP against Seattle and allowed 4 R (3 ER) in 6 2/3 IP at ASU before having his best start against Wichita State when he allowed only 1 R (0 ER) on 3 H in 7 IP.  He doesn't allow too many runners but when he does he has trouble keeping them from running.
JR #16 Jake Stassi (LHP – 1-1, 3.94 ERA, 6 apps, 2 GS, 16 IP, 14 H, 7 BB, 12 K, .241 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-3 SB.  '12 – 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) has mostly been a middle reliever but was moved into the rotation last weekend after throwing four scoreless innings with 7 K's against UCLA and had a strong start against Wichita, holding them to 1 R on 6 H with 0 BB in 7 IP.  His fastball sits in the 86-88 range and he has a solid changeup and curveball.

FR #44 David Hill (RHP – 0-1, 5.30 ERA, 1 save, 7 apps, 1 GS, 19 IP, 22 H, 9 BB, 13 K, .297 AVG, 4 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB) was projected to have a chance to be drafted in the first ten rounds last June but slid down the draft board and was picked in the 17th round.  His fastball sits in the low 90's and he has decent a slider and changeup that he is working on developing.  Hill started the season in the bullpen and was being brought along slowly but due to the ineffectiveness of some of the other starters, he was moved into the rotation last weekend after throwing four innings in relief at ASU.  He struggled against Wichita and was taken out after allowing 3 R on 4 H and 4 BB in 3 IP.

Soph #49 Nick Sabo (LHP – 1-2, 3.68 ERA, 6 apps, 3 GS, 15 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 12 K, .328 AVG, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 2-2 SB.  '12 – 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) has been the midweek starter and is usually available to throw an inning or two on the weekends.  His best start came against Arizona when he allowed 3 R (1 ER) in 5 IP.

Relievers

Long Beach's bullpen was a strong area in 2011 but was a weak area last season and the midweek SP's and relievers combined to go 10-20 and the Dirtbags lost fourteen games in their opponents final at bat.  They did have a solid closer in 2nd team All-Big West RP Kyle Friedrichs but he was lost for the season to elbow surgery.  Things have been in a state of flux in the bullpen but it looks like things could be settling down with one of their starters moving into the closer role.

JR #46 Jon Maciel (RHP – 1-3, 4.94 ERA, 3 saves, 7 apps, 4 GS, 24 IP, 26 H, 9 BB, 23 K, .274 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 4-5 SB.  '12 – 1-3, 1.27 ERA, 2 saves, 24 apps, 35 IP, 29 H, 17 BB, 16 K, .234 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) was tough to hit in his first two seasons throwing from a 3/4 arm slot that allowed him to get good sink on his fastball that sits in the low 90's and he also has a good changeup and slider.  He was 2nd team All-Big West in 2012 and was moved into the rotation but struggled in three of his four starts, going 1-3 with his only win coming against Valparaiso, and he has been moved into the closer's role and threw well in picking up two saves last weekend against Wichita State.  Maciel has allowed four unearned runs in five innings in four appearances in his career against Fullerton.

Other relievers who would be likely to come into the game:

JC transfer #36 Ryan Millison (RHP – 1-1, 3.42 ERA, 1 save, 9 apps, 2 GS, 24 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 15 K, .250 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 8 WP, 5-8 SB) has been a workhorse out of the bullpen and able to go 2-3 innings as the main option to get the ball from the starters to Maciel and picked up a two inning save in the game that Maciel didn't save last weekend.  He tends to be wild, which might not be a good combination with the disciplined approach that Fullerton has used this season.

JR #19 Josh Frye (RHP – 1-1, 2.35 ERA, 8 apps, 8 IP, 2 H, 6 BB, 7 K, .083 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 1-2 SB.  '12 – 2-2, 2.79 ERA, 18 apps, 19 IP, 22 H, 6 BB, 16 K, .275 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) is very projectable at 6'7" and he is finally starting to take on more of a role in the bullpen and pitching up to his ability level with a low 90's fastball and a slider.   He threw two scoreless innings in his only appearance against Fullerton in 2012.

SR #14 Landon Hunt (LHP – 2-0, 6.00 ERA, 7 apps, 3 GS, 18 IP, 16 H, 11 BB, 8 K, .258 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 1-5 SB.  '12 – 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 9 IP, 7 H, 7 BB, 6 K, .226 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB) was a lefty specialist who would only face 1-2 batters in 2012 and started this season in the rotation but didn't throw well in two of his three starts before being moved back to the bullpen.  He is the only LHP in the bullpen.

SR #33 Eddie Magallon (RHP – 0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1 save, 5 apps, 3 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K, .286 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 0-1 SB.  '12 –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 last season 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.

FR #30 Ty Provencher (RHP – 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 6 apps, 4 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K, .133 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB).

FR #41 Logan Lombana (RHP – 1-0, 5.06 ERA, 6 apps, 5 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 4 K, .188 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB).


Outlook           

Fullerton has gone 16-3 against Long Beach over the last four seasons since the last time that the Dirtbags won a series against the Titans.  Fullerton won all seven games against Long Beach in 2009-2010 by a cumulative score of 60-14 but 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, before 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 last season, both of them by 2-1 scores, before the Dirtbags won the final game and in the series at Blair Field for all the marbles in the conference race, the teams split the first two games with Fullerton earning a 5-1 win in the winner take all game.

Fullerton is a much better offensive team than Long Beach, scoring almost three runs per game more than the Dirtbags.  The Titans have had some issues in weekend series putting together rallies with hits but they have been very patient at the plate and averaging over six free passes a game by walks and HBP's.  The pitchers for Long Beach have handed out more walks than any other staff in the conference and it is doubtful that the Dirtbags can win this series if they continue to hand out free bases to a patient team like Fullerton.

The pitching for Long Beach was much better last weekend with some of the changes that they made with the starting rotation and the closer but Fullerton also has been a consistently better pitching staff than the Dirtbags this season.  The pitchers for the Titans hardly walk any batters and Long Beach is not a patient team and the hurlers for Fullerton also do not hit many batters, which is a key way for the Dirtbags to generate offense.  If the Fullerton pitchers continue to throw well like they have, Long Beach figures to have difficulty scoring runs in this series.

Fullerton was playing excellent defense going into the ORU series but made ten errors over a four game stretch before playing error free ball against Nebraska in the second game of the midweek series.  The defense for the Titans usually improves in close games and they know that they cannot make errors to help Long Beach stay in the series this weekend.  The Dirtbags have had issues defensively that have had an impact on their inexperienced pitching staff and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure that Fullerton has been putting on teams.

With the way that Fullerton is playing and how Long Beach has fared against higher caliber teams like Vanderbilt and Arizona State, this is a series that the Titans should win.  The Dirtbags will give Fullerton their best shot playing at home and will make this a competitive series but Fullerton is a better team and should win at least two games this weekend.

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