Baseball Preview: Long Beach

Cal State Fullerton has been doing a great job of finding ways to win games all season long and have had three separate ten game winning streaks so they were probably due for a bit of a "market correction", to use an analogy used in finance, after playing so well for so long.

  The Titans went out to Hawaii last weekend and the first game of the series looked like something out of that old Brady Bunch episode when the family took a trip to the islands and the boys found what they thought was a good luck charm but it turned out to be anything but as Fullerton looked flustered on the mound, in the field and at the plate and were upset 4-3 by the Rainbows to make the Titans only 3-3 over the previous six games.  Fullerton restored order in the final two games of the series with back to back shutouts, winning 5-0 and 3-0 to win their eleventh straight series of the season and the third one in a row where they dropped a game in the series after sweeping six of their first eight series.

Fullerton looked like they were going to start the series like they have so often this season when they got out to a quick lead in the first inning after Richy Pedroza led off the game with a triple and Carlos Lopez drove him in on a ground out.  Hawaii stranded a runner at third in the bottom of the first and the Titans did likewise in the third before things went crazy for Fullerton in the bottom of the third when the Rainbows scored three times.  Austin Wobrock led off the inning for Hawaii with a single, a passed ball moved him up and another single put runners on the corners before a potential DP ball was thrown into RF by Pedroza to score a run and leave runners on 2B and 3B.  Another single scored a second run and a third run scored on a bad throw by Jake Jefferies to Pedroza on another potential DP ball.  Thomas Eshelman wasn't sharp and after he allowed back to back singles to start the fourth and they were moved up on a SAC bunt he was taken out of the game in what was easily his shortest outing of the season.  Koby Gauna came into the game and kept the Rainbows from adding to their lead, which was important with the way Hawaii starter Conner Little was throwing.  Little didn't know that he would be starting until after practice on Thursday and he didn't show any nerves, keeping Fullerton off of the scoreboard after the run in the first until the Titans cut into the lead in the sixth when Lopez led off with a double, J.D. Davis bunted him to third and Michael Lorenzen's SF scored the run.  Gauna shut out the Rainbows in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and the Titans tied the game in the eighth when Austin Kingsolver led off with a single, Pedroza bunted him over, Lopez singled to put runners on the corners and Davis' SF tied the game and Lawrence Chew relieved Little and got Greg Velazquez to ground out to end the inning.  Fullerton looked like they had the momentum going but the bad voo doo jumped up again in the bottom of the inning.  Gauna gave up a leadoff walk and a single that put the go ahead run on third before getting a strike out and being relieved by Tyler Peitzmeier, who struck out the first batter he faced before Wobrock squibbed a grounder up the 3B line that looked like it might be going foul before Matt Chapman tried to make a play on the ball and collided with Chad Wallach as the go ahead run crossed the plate.  Chew retired the Titans in order in the ninth to pick up his first win of the season.  Gauna was the tough luck loser after allowing one run in four innings of relief.  Lopez, Lorenzen and Kingsolver each had two hits in the game.

As Fullerton has usually done when they were challenged this season, they responded by scoring two runs in the top of the first on Saturday off of Hawaii starter Matt Cooper when Lopez and Davis singled with one out, Jefferies walked with two outs to load the bases and Chapman followed with another walk to force in a run.  Kingsolver followed with a grounder to SS that Wobrock misplayed for his first error of the season to score another run.  The Rainbows looked like they were going to make things tough for the second straight game when they got a couple of ground ball singles off of Justin Garza before he got out of the inning unscathed.  The Titans added to the lead with a run in the third when Davis led off with a single, Jefferies singled with one out, they pulled off a double steal with two outs and Davis scored on a passed ball.  Garza retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings before giving up a hit in the fifth with the runner quickly being erased on a double play.  Scott Squier came into the game in relief of Cooper in the fourth and matched zeroes with Garza through the middle three innings before Fullerton increased the lead to 4-0 in the seventh when Lopez doubled for his third hit of the game and Davis singled him in with his fourth hit of the game.  The Titans scored the final run of the game in the eighth when Chapman led off with a bunt single, Kingsolver bunted him over and Austin Diemer's double drove in Chapman.  Garza retired the side in order in the sixth, gave up a single with that runner being wiped out on a double play in the seventh and retired the side in order again in the eighth to finish off his night after allowing no runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts.  Davis became the first Fullerton player to get five hits in a game this season with a single in the ninth and Willie Kuhl came into the game in the bottom of the inning but was quickly taken out after allowing a hit and a walk.  Davis came into the game to finish things off and hit a batter but ended up preserving the shutout as Garza picked up the win to improve to 9-0 with Davis and Lopez combining for eight of the Titans thirteen hits in front of a sellout crowd of 4200.

Fullerton didn't score in the first inning on Sunday for the first time in the series but did get out to a lead for the third straight game when they got on the board in the second off of Hawaii starter Corey MacDonald when Chapman led off the inning with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch, Jefferies singled him to third and Chapman scored on Wallach's DP ball.  The Titans increased the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Lorenzen led off with single, Chapman doubled him in, Jefferies ground out moved Chapman to third and he scored on Wallach's SF.  Grahamm Wiest allowed a single in the second but that was the only hit he gave up until the fifth, when a single and a balk put a runner in scoring position for the only time in the game before Wiest got out of the inning.  MacDonald recovered from giving up two runs in the fourth and held Fullerton off of the scoreboard through the eighth before Chew pitched a scoreless ninth.  Wiest continued to mow down the Hawaii lineup and retired the side in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings before Lorenzen came in from CF and he hit the first batter he faced before getting a fly out and a double play to end the game and pick up his Big West leading thirteenth save.  Wiest improved his record to 7-2 after allowing no runs on two hits and one walk with five strikeouts and the Titans won a series for the third time this season and for the second weekend in a row after splitting the first two games.  Lorenzen led the offense with three hits. 

Fullerton didn't create much offense last weekend while playing in a ballpark that significantly favors pitchers but they did enough to win the series and probably should have won all three games.  The Titans hit a solid .292 in the series but only had five extra base hits and the Hawaii pitching staff only allowed nine free bases, a season low for Fullerton in a series, to hold them to eleven runs, the lowest output for the Titans since being held to ten runs by Texas A&M.  The leading hitters for Fullerton were Davis (5-10, 2 RBI), Lopez (5-12, 3 RBI) and Lorenzen (5-11) in the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup.  Despite Eshelman having a tough outing, the rest of the pitching staff was outstanding and the Titans had a 1.04 ERA in the series and held Hawaii to a .185 average, gave up no extra base hits and only allowed four walks.

Fullerton is looking forward to playing at home this weekend after playing seven straight games on the road and will be welcoming their long-time rivals from Long Beach State to Goodwin Field this weekend.  The Titans won all three games at Blair Field when these teams played a non-conference series earlier this season with the last two games having wild endings with Fullerton coming from behind and scoring seven runs in the final two innings of the second game and winning on a game ending double play in the third game when the runner who scored on a potential game tying SF was ruled to have left 3B too early for the final out of the game.  With the way that series ended and after Fullerton ended Long Beach's season in a winner take all game on the final day of the season last year, the Dirtbags are going to be highly motivated to win this series.

 

Long Beach State Dirtbags (21-21, 9-6)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 28-27
  • 2012 Conference Record – 15-9 (3rd)
  • 2012 Post-Season – None
  • Current RPI/ISR – 96/68.  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 they 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 third consecutive Big West championship and end the season for Long Beach.

Long Beach struggled offensively in 2012 when they hit only .255 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 the Big West schedule after they finally decided on a closer at the start of the conference season.

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 both being lost for the year due to elbow injuries.  Long Beach lost their first two games at Vanderbilt, one of the top five teams in the country, 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 looked like they had reversed the momentum of their season when they swept Wichita State at home before Fullerton went to Blair Field and swept Long Beach with close games in the final two games of the series.

Long Beach played like there was still a hangover effect from getting swept by Fullerton when they lost the Big West opener at home to Northridge before they bounced back to win the final two games of the series.  The Dirtbags had issues with their bullpen during the non-conference schedule and went 1-8 on the road going into Big West play and both of those problems jumped up again when they lost their series at Pacific the weekend after the Tigers had been hammered 45-8 in three games at Fullerton.  Long Beach bounced back to sweep UC Davis at home, outscoring the Aggies 22-8, but their bullpen and road issues bit them again when they lost the first two games of their series at UCSB before winning the final game of the series.  The Dirtbags played their best series of the season last week when they beat UCLA in a midweek game and returned home to and pulled off an upset series win against nationally ranked Cal Poly by rallying late in both of the final two games.

Long Beach's offensive issues continued once again during the non-conference schedule and they were next to last in the conference in scoring, averaging just over three runs a game, were eighth in the Big West in SLG and OBP and were held to three runs or less fifteen times going into conference play.  The light bulb went on for the Dirtbags offense once conference play started and they are second in the Big West in scoring, AVG and SLG and they are averaging over three extra base hits per game after averaging less than two per game during the non-conference schedule.  Long Beach is averaging about six runs per game in conference games and has scored at least five runs in eleven of their fifteen games.  The Dirtbags still aren't bunting nearly as much as they did in 2012 when they led the country in SAC's but they are running much more than they did during the non-conference schedule and lead the Big West in SB's during conference play. 

Long Beach hasn't had as good of a pitching staff as they had in 2012 and that isn't that surprising considering their personnel losses.  The ERA for the Dirtbags has gone up by almost a run from last season and they have allowed at least five runs sixteen times.  Long Beach has been getting inconsistent efforts from two of their starters and their bullpen and they have been doing a poor job of not giving out free bases and have been handing out close to five walks and HBP's per game.  The Dirtbags pitch more to contact this season than they did in 2012 and rank near the bottom of the Big West in strikeouts 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 – .264 (8th in the Big West/193rd nationally).  .306 in conference games (2nd).  Long Beach has raised their season batting average by 25 points since Big West play started.
  • Scoring – 181 (8/234), 4.4 runs per game.  91 runs in conference games, 6.1 runs per game (2nd).  Long Beach is scoring almost twice as many runs in Big West games than they did in non-conference games.
  • Home Runs – 9 (9/220).  5 in conference games (5th). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .365 (6/146).  .439 in conference games (2nd).  Long Beach is slugging almost fifty points higher than they did in non-conference games.
  • On Base Percentage – .340 (8/228).  .363 in conference games (4th).   Long Beach's OBP is almost forty points higher in Big West games than it was in non-conference games.
  • Walks – 105 (8/277), 2.6 per game.  34 in conference games, 2.7 per game (6th).
  • HBP's – 56 (4/58).  16 in conference games (6th).
  • Strikeouts – 216 (8/xx), 5.3 per game.  76 in conference games, 5.1 per game (8th).
  • Stolen Bases – 40-61 (5/176).  21-31 in conference games (1st).  Long Beach stole 18 bases in 24 non-conference games before stealing 21 in 15 Big West games.
  • Sac Bunts – 39 (4/73).  13 in conference games (5th).


Lineup

Infield

Long Beach lost C Kellen Hoime and SS Matt Duffy from 2012 and returned experienced players at the other three spots.  Their starting 3B missed the first Fullerton series and now the Dirtbags are dealing with another injury after their SS broke an ankle last week at UCLA.

C – FR #3 Eric Hutting (RH – .247/.315/.320, 0-12-0) got off to a hot start and went 6-15 the first two weeks of the season before going into a 5-36 slump during the rest of the non-conference schedule.  He has bounced back to hit .308 in Big West games and will usually hit seventh.  Hutting doesn't walk much but does a good job of making contact with a 7/13 BB/K ratio.  He went 2-7 in two starts against Fullerton earlier this season.  SR #7 Zach Miller (RH – .214 in 42 AB's) usually plays once a weekend to try to keep Hutting from getting worn down. 

1B – JR #5 Jeff Yamaguchi (RH – .245/.327/.367, 2-12-5.  '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 cut his strikeout rate some in 2012 some but it was still around 25%.  This season, Yamaguchi's plate discipline was much better with a 9/8 BB/K ratio going into the Fullerton series and he was putting together better AB's and hitting in the .280's.  He is one of the few hitters who has struggled since Big West play started, hitting only .228 over the last seventeen games, and a big reason why is he has been striking out much more with thirteen K's in 49 AB's in conference games.  Yamaguchi will hit second and he is third in the Big West with four SAC's in conference games.  He went 1-11 against Fullerton in the first series and is 3-26 in his career against the Titans.

SS – JR #6 Michael Hill (LH – .336/.357/.522, 3-17-6.  '12 – .140/.232/.180, 0-1-0.  '11 – .200/.252/.253, 0-7-4) took over for Matt Duffy and was 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 hit poorly his first two seasons before starting to get things figured out last summer.  He hit well in the fall and continued to hit the ball with authority once the season started and led Long Beach in AVG and SLG and was among the Big West in 3B, HR and SLG before fracturing an ankle last Tuesday at UCLA and was lost for the season.

SS/2B/CF – JR #1 Jeff McNeil (LH – .337/.388/.446, 0-18-8.  '12 – .258/.333/.304, 0-11-6.  '11 – .271/.328/.307, 0-14-2) is a versatile player who has taken over at SS after he started at 2B most of the time this season but he has also made fourteen 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 during the first month of the season before moving into the leadoff spot and he is a very good bunter and was second in the Big West with 15 SAC's in both 2011 and 2012.  McNeill usually does a good job of making contact, ranking #6 nationally among the toughest players to strike out, but is not a patient hitter and has walked nine times after only walking 23 times his first two seasons.  He will stand in and take one for the team and has six HBP's and had ten HBP's in 2012.  McNeil doesn't have much power with only eight extra base hits in his first two seasons, with most of those coming due to his good speed, but he has been spraying the ball into the gaps this year and leads the conference with fourteen doubles.  He leads the team and is tenth in the Big West with eight SB's.  McNeill has been one of the hotter hitters on the team and is batting .371 over the last seventeen games and went 6-14 against Cal Poly last weekend despite having a ten game hitting streak snapped on Saturday.  He went 3-12 in the first series against Fullerton and is 14-56 in his career against the Titans.  

2B – FR #28 Colton Vaughn (RH – .277 in 47 AB's) only had seven AB's going into the Fullerton series, got one of Long Beach's two hits as a pinch-hitter in the Friday game and went 2-7 in the next two games.  He was getting a decent amount of playing time, starting in five of the first twelve Big West games, when McNeil would go into CF but figures to be the starter at 2B the rest of the way with Hill out for the season.  Vaughn is currently on a six game hitting streak.  He doesn't have much patience and has only walked twice and will usually hit in the lower part of the lineup.

3B – SR #9 Juan Avila (RH – .274/.354/.372, 1-18-0.  '12 – .288/.364/.369, 2-30-7.  '11 – .245/.350/.396, 2-7-0. '10 – .231 in 52 AB's) got off to a slow start, injured his hand and missed the final eleven games of the non-conference schedule, including the series with Fullerton.  He has returned to the lineup with a vengeance and has hit .328 in Big West games and is among the leaders in conference games in R, H, 2B and RBI and had the game winning SF against Cal Poly last Saturday and series winning grand slam off of Mustangs closer Reed Reilly on Sunday and had three more hits on Tuesday against LMU.  Avila was one of Long Beach's better hitters in 2012 when he finished in the top ten in the conference in R and RBI, hit .325 during Big West play and received honorable mention all-conference honors.  He is a good run producer who was second on the team in RBI in 2012 and led the team in SLG in 2011.  Avila will crowd the plate and has been hit nine times, was fifth in the Big West in 2012 with 13 HBP's and is in the school's career top ten in HBP's.  He has below average plate discipline with a 6/17 BB/K ratio and had a 12/29 BB/K ratio in 2012 so he will be looking to hit fastballs early in the count.  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 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/SS – FR #32 Jonathan Serven (RH – .182 in 44 AB's) started the eleven games that Avila missed but hadn't appeared in a game before starting at SS on Tuesday against LMU.  

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 in the OF with players taking turns in LF, CF and at DH with RF being the only stable position. 

LF/DH – JR #4 Ino Patron (LH – .301/.365/.471, 1-27-0.  '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, when he was 8th in the Big West in walks, and after not walking much earlier in the season has started to walk a little more and has a 13/13 BB/K ratio.  He has usually been a hot starter in his first seasons while struggling down the stretch but this year it has been the opposite and he was only hitting in the .240's with five RBI going into the first Fullerton series before getting four hits and five RBI in the final two games and he has stayed hot, hitting .362 in conference play and ranking among the leaders in Big West games in H, 2B, 3B, RBI, SLG and OBP and had an eleven game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday against LMU.  Patron 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 batting cleanup.  He went 4-10 with five RBI in the first series against Fullerton, 8-23 against the Titans in 2012 and is 16-52 in his career against Fullerton.  

LF/DH – FR #8 Zach Rivera (RH – .250/.342/.333, 0-15-2  -  6-25, 0-2-1) only had two RBI in limited playing time earlier in the season but has been a solid run producer with 13 RBI over the last seventeen games.  He will usually start vs. RHP's so he figures to start at least a couple of times this weekend.  Rivera will split time with Patron between LF and DH. 

LF/DH – Soph #31 Josh Guerra (RH – .156/.316/.203, 1-6-5.  '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 and he was 0-6 in two starts against Fullerton earlier this season.  Guerra will usually start against LHP's with Patron moving over to DH.  He has been having issues making contact and has struck out 25% of the time.  Guerra has good speed and will look to run when he gets on base.

CF – JC transfer #23 Colby Brenner (LH – .167/.381/.208, 0-7-6) 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 getting free passes with 25 walks and HBP's but he has had issues when he has had to swing the bat with 21 strikeouts in 72 AB's and was only hitting .077 going into the first series with Fullerton but he has hit much better in Big West games with a .321 average.  Brenner hit leadoff most of the time during the first month of the season but he was moved down to 9th in the lineup due to his hitting issues.  Brenner was splitting time in CF with McNeil but figures to be the starter the rest of the way with McNeil having to play SS with Hill out for the season.  Brenner went 0-2 in his only start against Fullerton earlier in the season.

RF – Soph #11 Richard Prigatano (RH – .307/.365/.418, 1-23-6.  '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 is second on the team in RBI.  Prigatano had major problems with making contact as a FR and was 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 slightly better 12/32 BB/K ratio.  He has gotten hot against Big West pitching and is hitting .364 in conference games.  Prigatano was 3-11 against Fullerton in the first series this season and is 9-24 against the Titans in his career after going 6-11 in the first series at Fullerton in 2012.


Defense

Fielding % – .965 (8/152) with 56 errors.  .972 (4/59) with 61 errors in 2012.  Yamaguchi is average at 1B.  Vaughn has had some issues at 2B.  McNeil was improved at 2B from 2012 but had some trouble at SS last weekend and made two errors.  Hill had solid range at SS but led the Big West with sixteen errors.  Avila is below average at 3B after converting from OF earlier in his career.  Patron and Rivera are 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 39 unearned runs. 

Stolen Base Attempts – 40-61 (7th).  39-69 (4th) in 2012.  Hutting has been better against the running game as the season has gone on (25-38).  Runners are 12-16 against Miller and teams have been running on Long Beach more than any other team in the Big West except for UC Davis.  Fullerton went 3-7 on SB attempts in the first series.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 45 (8th).  48 (5th) in 2012.  Hutting and Miller have struggled with blocking pitches so look for Fullerton to be aggressive on balls in the dirt.


Pitching

  • ERA – 3.84 (4/95).  3.82 in conference games (4th).
  • AVG – .260 (3/95).  .267 in conference games (4th).
  • HR – 13 (5/xx).  5 in conference games (4th).
  • SLG – .342 (3/xx).  .354 in conference games (4th).
  • Walks – 143 (9/143), 3.6 BB/9 IP.  46 in conference games, 3.1 BB/9 IP (7th).
  • HBP – 55 (1/xx).  22 in conference games (2nd).
  • OBP – .352 (5/xx).  .354 in conference games (6th).
  • Strikeouts – 237 (6/211), 5.9 K/9IP.  72 in conference games, 4.9 K/9 IP (8th).


Starters

Long Beach knew work needed to be done with their rotation after losing 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 broke in an entirely new rotation, although it isn't much of a surprise that there is talent to work with due to Buckley's ability to develop pitchers.  Seven pitchers started games over the first five weeks of the season but things have settled down with Long Beach using the same three starters over the last six weeks.

JC transfer #22 Shane Carle (RHP – 2-7, 3.57 ERA, 11 GS, 68 IP, 68 H, 20 BB, 52 K, .254 AVG, 3 HR, 12 HBP, 6 WP, 15-18 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 has good control but will work inside to hitters and is second in the conference in HBP's.  Carle was in the top ten in the Big West in ERA, AVG, IP and K going into the conference season after allowing only seven earned runs in his first six starts but things have changed during Big West play and he is 1-4 with a 6.07 ERA in five conference starts.  He was bombed against Northridge when he allowed nine runs on ten hits in 4 2/3 innings but threw well in allowing two runs to Pacific, UC Davis and UCSB, picking up tough losses to the Tigers and Gauchos when Long Beach only scored one run in each of those games as part of the theme to his season in leading the Big West with seven losses, five of those when he allowed three runs or less.  Carle got knocked around early last weekend by Cal Poly when he allowed five runs in the first and ended up allowing eight runs (5 ER) on ten hits in seven innings.  He has trouble holding runners and has allowed the most SB's in the conference so look for Fullerton to run often.  Carle allowed three runs (2 ER) on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 IP in his first start against Fullerton.

JR #16 Jake Stassi (LHP – 4-1, 2.61 ERA, 12 apps, 8 GS, 59 IP, 52 H, 14 BB, 30 K, .242 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 4 WP, 2-8 SB  -  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 during his career but was moved into the rotation a month into the season after throwing four scoreless innings with 7 K's against UCLA.  He threw well in his final two non-conference starts against Wichita State and Fullerton and has been the best starter for Long Beach in conference play, going 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA and .237 AVG that both rank fifth in Big West games.  Stassi allowed one run against Northridge, two runs (0 ER) at Pacific and three runs against UC Davis in picking up wins in each start before getting no decisions at UCSB (7 2/3 IP, 4 R, 6 H) and against Cal Poly last weekend (6 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER).  His fastball sits in the 86-88 range and he has a solid changeup and curveball and relies on excellent control and pitching to contact to get hitters out and has averaged less than three strikeouts over his last six starts.  Stassi does an excellent job of holding runners so Fullerton is less likely to have success stealing bases on Stassi than they are against Carle.  He allowed one run on seven hits in seven innings against the Titans earlier in the season and was in line to pick up the win after leaving with a four run lead before the bullpen imploded in the final two innings.

FR #44 David Hill (RHP – 3-2, 4.72 ERA, 1 save, 13 apps, 7 GS, 48 IP, 51 H, 26 BB, 24 K, .280 AVG, 5 HR, 10 HBP, 3 WP, 2-3 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 and he has had issues with his control, walking at least three hitters in five of his seven starts.  Despite having a good fastball, because he is still working on his secondary pitches to put hitters away he has averaged only two strikeouts per start.  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 a month into the season.  He threw well in his first start against Fullerton but despite going 3-0 in conference games he has been inconsistent in Big West play, picking up wins against Northridge (6 1/3 IP, 3 R), UC Davis (5 IP, 0 R) and UCSB (6 IP, 2 R) and getting knocked out early at Pacific (2 2/3 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 3 BB) and against Cal Poly last weekend (2 1/3 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 1 BB).  Hill will throw over to first often to keep runners close, which is why there have only been three SB attempts against him.  He kept Fullerton off balance in his start earlier this season when he allowed two runs on five hits and four walks in 6 2/3 IP.


Relievers

Long Beach's bullpen was a strong area in 2011 but was a weakness 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 with nobody stepping up to finish games off and Long Beach going to a closer by committee.

JC transfer #36 Ryan Millison (RHP – 3-1, 3.54 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 3 GS, 41 IP, 30 H, 13 BB, 28 K, .226 AVG, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 8 WP, 7-11 SB  -  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 one of the main options at the end of games and he picked up the win last Saturday against Cal Poly after throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings to finish off the game.  He has been the most effective reliever for Long Beach in conference games, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings in five appearances.  Millison started against LMU on Tuesday and threw four innings so he might not be extended too much early in the series this weekend.  He tends to be wild, which was not a good combination in the first series with the disciplined approach that Fullerton has used this season when he was part of the bullpen meltdown in the Saturday game after he allowed four runs on two hits, a walk and a HBP in 1/3 of an inning.

JR #19 Josh Frye (RHP – 1-2, 1.88 ERA, 1 save, 15 apps, 14 IP, 7 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .149 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 1-3 SB  -  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 will usually only throw to a couple of hitters because he is very wild although he is very tough to hit.  Frye retired three of the four batters he faced against Fullerton in the first series and threw two scoreless innings in his only appearance against the Titans in 2012.

FR #30 Ty Provencher (RHP – 1-0, 3.38 ERA, 1 save, 15 apps, 16 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 12 K, .182 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) has been throwing well as another late inning option for Long Beach and is tied for  the lead on the staff with seven appearances in conference games, allowing two runs on five hits in 9 1/3 innings, and their coaching staff has a little more trust in him because he isn't as wild as some of the other options and has been tough to hit.  His worst outing of the season was against Fullerton in the first series when he allowed three runs on three hits in one inning, turning the Friday game from a close game into a rout.

SR #14 Landon Hunt (LHP – 2-0, 5.04 ERA, 1 save, 19 apps, 4 GS, 30 IP, 27 H, 16 BB, 20 K, .260 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 4-10 SB  -  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 main LHP option in the bullpen and is tied with Provencher with seven appearances in conference games, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks in six innings with seven strikeouts.  Hunt appeared in all three games in the first series against Fullerton and didn't allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings.

Soph #49 Nick Sabo (LHP – 2-2, 3.68 ERA, 12 apps, 4 GS, 29 IP, 33 H, 14 BB, 20 K, .292 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 3-4 SB  -  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.  He had a solid start against Arizona earlier in the season when he allowed 3 R (1 ER) in 5 IP and had a couple of so-so Tuesday starts after that before throwing very well at UCLA last Tuesday when he threw five shutout innings and followed that up by throwing 3 2/3 shutout innings in relief last Sunday to allow Long Beach to come back to win the game and he was the Big West pitcher of the week.  He didn't start against LMU on Tuesday night so he will be available out of the bullpen to give Long Beach another LHP option out of the bullpen this weekend.

JR #46 Jon Maciel (RHP – 1-5, 5.02 ERA, 5 saves, 15 apps, 4 GS, 38 IP, 43 H, 12 BB, 39 K, .307 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 4 WP, 4-6 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 was been moved into the closer's role and threw well in picking up two saves against Wichita State going into the Fullerton series, when he had a disastrous outing and allowed three runs on six hits in one inning to contribute to the bullpen meltdown in the Saturday game.  Maciel hadn't pitched well since that outing, allowing four runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings in four appearances in conference games, before pitching very well against LMU on Tuesday when he retired all ten batters he faced with six strikeouts to pick up the save.  He has allowed seven runs in six innings in five appearances in his career against Fullerton.

SR #33 Eddie Magallon (RHP – 1-1, 3.38 ERA, 1 save, 12 apps, 1 GS, 13 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 8 K, .304 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 0-2 SB  -  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 and has been working his way back into getting more meaningful innings.  Magallon threw a scoreless inning in the first series against Fullerton and allowed 2 R on 7 H in 4 2/3 IP in two appearances against the Titans in 2011.


Outlook

Fullerton has gone 19-3 against Long Beach over the last five seasons since the last time that the Dirtbags won a series against the Titans in 2008, which was also the last time that they played in a regional.  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 swept the first series of this season at Blair Field, dominating the first game, coming from behind in the second game and winning on a disputed play in the final game. 

Fullerton has been a much better offensive team than Long Beach for most of the season but that has changed during conference play, with the Titans and the Dirtbags the two best offensive teams in Big West games.  With some warm temperatures in the forecast for this weekend, there could be more runs scored than one would normally expect when these two teams play.  Fullerton is a very patient team and most of Long Beach's pitchers have had trouble avoiding walks and hitting batters so that is something to keep an eye on when the Titans are hitting.  Long Beach is an aggressive team at the plate and had issues in two of the games at Blair Field when they were kept off balance and held to one run.

Fullerton has gotten outstanding pitching most of the time on the weekends, holding teams to three runs or less twenty-four times with a 2.47 ERA this season, including a stellar 2.10 ERA in conference games, and they have been a key reason why the Titans have been so consistent in winning series.  Long Beach's pitching has been inconsistent with their ERA hovering between 3.80 and 4.00 throughout the season.  Only one of their starters has been pitching well on a consistent basis with their other starters and their bullpen going up and down like a roller coaster, throwing very well in some games and poorly in others.

Something else to keep an eye on in this series is how these teams are playing defense behind their pitchers.  Fullerton is usually one of the better teams in the conference in the field, with an occasional hiccup like they had in the third inning at Hawaii.  Long Beach has been one of the poorer fielding teams in the Big West all season and their defense has been shuffled around due to an injury to their starting SS, although he did lead the conference in errors before being lost for the season.  The Dirtbags need to help out their pitching staff if they are going to turn things around in this series.

Fullerton has consistently found a way to win all eleven series they have played and has won the last seven series against Long Beach.  The Titans have played well at home this season while the Dirtbags have been terrible away from Blair Field, losing all four series and going 4-12 on the road.  Long Beach has been playing better since the last time that Fullerton saw them and has gone 12-6 to get their record back to .500 but the Titans look like they are ready to go another run and should with their eighth straight series against the Dirtbags this weekend.

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