Monday, May 28, 2007


They closed the book on Long Beach State’s regular season last weekend but before we go forward we need to look back. The 2007 baseball campaign was book ended with marquee matchups against historic programs.

The season began in the chill of February when the 49ers, picked fourth in their own conference, won a series with 12 time National Champion Southern Cal. It ended in the sizzle of May winning a series over arch rival and four-time National Champion Fullerton. In between, now there is the story.

Faced with the dilemma of trying to simultaneously earn RPI points by playing the toughest schedule in the land and getting 30 something in wins the no-name Niners did both. Missing the 2006 party with just 29 victories, LBSU jumped that number up to 37 this season and although it is the lowest win total of any this year’s16 host schools that single digit RPI turned the heads of the selection committee. By Sunday noon the host honors were in hand, so the ’07 Niners sent their back book-enders, Fullerton, to the showers with a 10-11 conference record.

That brings us back to the future which begins Friday at Blair field when the LB Regional opens with second-seeded Pepperdine (35-20) playing third-seeded UCLA (30-26) in the 3 p.m. game before the Dirtbags welcome the fourth-seeded Illinois-Chicago Flames (34-19) at 7 p.m. Last year UIC made a non-conference visit and was swept but this year’s club has a series win over Tennessee in Knoxville, played #1 Vanderbilt tough and has a lockdown closer in Missouri transfer David Cales (0.84 ERA and 12 saves). The Beach also was perfect in four contests with Pepperdine and UCLA but those were all on Tuesdays when the front line pitchers usually just watch.

As Blair Field regulars know, pitching is the key in the wide open and sometimes misty spaces of the Niners home field. So how do the Niners go in this year when the winning has been done without a clear ace in their deck? One guess might be to mimic the 2004 regional when coaches Weathers and Buckley hid Jered Weaver in game one and used Jason Vargas to beat St. John’s. That set up two wins over Stanford before being upset by Arizona in the super regional the next weekend. How about using the 2007 Mini-Vargas Shane Peterson in game one and hold Andrew Liebel, Manny McElroy et al for later?

The Beach of course is still on an emotional high from winning the series at Fullerton getting bonus offense from Jason Tweedy and Travis Howell plus fine pen work from David Roberts and Jason Markovitz. The normal offense is built around core guys like Cline, Peterson, Godfrey, Mittlestaedt and Espinosa but the margin of excellence this season is effective team work and great depth.

Three other Big West teams are also at work this weekend, Riverside at Arizona State, Fullerton at San Diego and Irvine at Texas. Unlikely, but if everybody wins out three BWC teams could actually make it to Omaha. The exception would be Fullerton or Long Beach since the winners of their regional play each other in the Super Regional, and yes it might be LBSU and CSUF in round three.

Closing Quotes. Mike Weathers, "Illinois-Chicago played us tough last year, coming out from the snow. Last year it was a tough one. We do know all of our opponents. That works for us and against us. Odd years have been good to us, both with the College World Series (1989, 1991, 1993) and in hosting regionals (2003, 2005, 2007)."

Ticketing is through the normal LBSU box office (562-985-4949) but there is a neat twist this year. The beyond the left field wall knot-hole gang that would stand around and watch for free will have bleacher seats and a $10 ticket. Golfers on Big Rec Number 14 are still free but must let faster foursomes play through.—DR. DAN

Monday, May 21, 2007


You could call last weekend’s drama at Blair Field a Christmas play. The star was clearly 16th ranked Riverside who rolled out pitching triplets that played Scrooge to 11th-ranked Long Beach State. Of course good theatre needs an opposite character so the Dirtbag baseball team, deadly to all opponents in a 13 game winning streak, switched costumes and became Santa Claus.

The Scrooge part started on Friday with UCR’s James Simmons, a projected first round draft choice, followed on Saturday by sore–armed sophomore Matt Montgomery who came in with a mere 30 or so innings all year and like Simmons had a near complete game. Up two wins and the series clinched, on Sunday the Highlanders mixed starter Pat Cassa with closer extraordinaire Joe Kelly to broom the Bags out of first place and likely out of the pleasure of hosting an NCAA Regional.

By the end of the weekend the Beach’s ride to the post-season was smashed like whatever Paris Hilton was parallel parking. In three games the Dirtbags looked an awful lot like Santa Claus giving their visitors fourteen walks, nine errors, six wild pitches, two passed balls, one hit by pitch and a partridge in a pear tree. And no timely hitting.

If all of that seemed tough for the LB youngsters, going from Blair Field to Fullerton this weekend is analogous in terms of pressure to moving from a toaster oven to a nuclear reactor. With the help of other teams there is still a slim chance of winning the Big West and hosting a regional but I’m making my plans for a visit to San Diego or Tempe. Stay tuned and bring your ear plugs to Nutwood this weekend.

HAPPIER DUSTING. -- There were nice words and nice numbers for the Dede Rossi swan song at CSULB’s Jewels of the Night athletic scholarship fundraiser. Nearly $60,000 was raised in the live auction and every one of the silent auction items had a lot of action. And before the dancers hit the floor, the retiring but never shy Ms. Rossi was made the official Queen of the Night with an almost-diamond tiara presented by President King Alexander.

It was a moment of relaxation for the prez who will shake some 6000 hands of new grads before the weekend is over and probably twice that number of family and friends. Commencement ends a remarkable year for LBSU and their rookie president, who got over a potential faculty strike, hired a board room full of new VPs, replaced a llightning rod AD with a steady and popular guy from back east, and hired a new basketball coach.

Up next are serious talks with the NCAA over major infractions that go back two and a half years. “We will meet with the NCAA in August and propose self-imposed penalties. Hopefully they will be impressed with how I handled problems at Murray State and what Coach Monson did at Minnesota.” If the NCAA trusts Alexander and Monson the University hopes the forthcoming punishment will be a bit more lenient. Last add hoop issues…insiders expect that since the offending parties have already been dispatched the punishments will include a multi-year restriction on junior college recruiting and loss of any post-season possibilities. That might not be so bad since the Monson formula is to build with preps and next year ain’t likely to be too good anyway.

Now, more misery loves company for other ranked diamond outfits…last weekend it was No. 5 Texas sweeping No. 11 Texas A&M; No. 7 Arizona State sweeping No. 19 Oregon State; and No. 20 Missouri sweeping, No. 13 Oklahoma State…meanwhile in the Monday polls LB didn’t fall off the radar, #19 in Rivals, #20 in USA/ESPN and #22 in Baseball America.

Last add baseball. I don’t have a dog in these PAC 10 fights but you might. The hot topic, besides spring football, is the 8-13 conference record by the defending national champions from Oregon State, the recent slump of UCLA (losing five of their last six) and the just a game or so above .500 overall record of USC. Not to worry fans, the NCAA still loves the revenues from fall football.—DR. DAN

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Afterwards both head coaches said they thought it was a great game and both are master spin doctors. Doug Smith, the winning guy, boarding that fancy blue bus swore that the long ride back to the Inland Empire is just what he wanted. “Hey, we get to sleep in our own beds.” Mike Weathers, the losing guy, explained “For the second game in a row we out hit them.” Final score UCR 2, LBSU 1, and on May 20 it’s Mr. Smith and his team alone atop the Big West Conference.

And now the rest of the story. First the team who in 18 hours changed from front runner to what their coach calls, “the chasers”. Gritty Andrew Liebel went first, “we will be back, don’t count us out.” His line was good enough to win but on this day Andrew (now 7-3, 2.53) suffered the loss despite tossing a complete game. He gave up a mere eight hits while striking out four and walking none. More of the Weathers report. “We made good contact and hit the ball hard but they pitched and played defense awfully well.” Coach Smith, who hoteled his team Friday only, also complimented both pitchers and admitted surprise that his little-used (23 innings) previously-injured (tendonitis) Tuesday guy, Matt Montgomery, would be around one batter short of the end. “We hoped to get about 90 pitches out of him but he got us to the ninth.” UCR fans then added, “Coach Smith has done an incredible job of stockpiling arms and saving innings over the course of the year and it paid off.” Montgomery’s secret was that his mix of sinkers and fast balls tempted the Beach batters and, oh yes, turning FOUR double plays. Ironically LB had hit into only 26 twin killings in the 50 previous games this year. With the W the Highlanders have won six in a now and LB, after a 13 game win streak, is not looking at a two game losing streak at exactly the wrong time. The visitor’s offense was modest. In the fifth after husky catcher Jeff Dunbar hit a one-out single through the left side Joey Gonzales doubled to put runners on second and third for Ryan Goetz who ripped a two RBI single to right. Nothing else to report until the bottom of the ninth when a Mittelstaedt one out double was cashed in by a Peterson single. Tying run now on base, winning run at the plate in the form of Danny Espinsoa who had seven big bombs earlier this season. Smith summons another of his young arms, freshman Joe Kelly, fanned Espy on three 94 MPH fastballs. Game over, BWC lead gone, and now the four game title chase begins.

BRIGHT SHINY DUST---As grumpy as some of the faithful are this morning, the Boyd’s RPI for the Niners stays at #5 with UCI at #26, CSUF at 32 and UCR at 55…win today and go back into a tie for first and try to match the Highlanders next weekend…they host UCI and LB goes to you know where… UCR’s Coach Smith, who said he never even thought that his team would be playing well enough to win the BWC and host, got his AD to bid for a regional…they could play at their normal city park (they hosted the Division II World Series there) or maybe the glitzy Lake Elsinore Diamond…if for some reason the High steppers get shipped to the USD regional at SDSU they feel comfortable…they beat the Aztecs 3 of 4 there earlier this year…and before we sign off for this season (like beer sales, there is no legal Dusting during regionals) we figure that of the 41,000 of you that pushed the turnstiles, the 428 around the globe who are on the Dust Direct email list and the countless millions of blog visitors, we say in the words of our pal Gordy Verrell, “thanks for the read.”…underground copies subject to appear at anytime…last of the must-go notes is this breakdown by web whiz CCJulian on the relative youth of the leading BWC teams…figuring that young means freshmen and sophomores. CCJ looked up the number of at bats by those two classes and came up with these at-bat percentages, CSUF, 41%; UCI, 37%; LB 33%; UCR 56%, SLO 62% and UCSB 41%...translated SLO is giving the young bats the most work (62 out of 100 hacks) and LB the least, 33 of every 100…I tried to add in pitching for the Bags and the best I could get was of the 474 innings pitched this season 111 were by freshmen and sophomores, a little less than 25%...nice numbers for the Dede Rossi swan song at Jewels, nearly $60,000 raised in the live auction and every one of the silent auction items had a lot of action…closing with the BWC scores and standings…in first is UCR, then LBSU, then UCI, each a game apart, followed by SLO and CSUF who are tied for fourth…yesterday it was Fullerton 7, Cal Poly 1; UC Santa Barbara 11, UC Davis 8; Irvine 10, CSUN 0 and Stanford 11, Pacific 2…around town both UCLA (28-24) and USC (26-24) lost again and their stock is falling or fallen but, figured for fourth in pre-season and now 35-16, 13-4 with four to play, don’t count out your LBC homeboys.—DR. DAN

Saturday, May 19, 2007


You could call Friday night’s little drama at Blair Field a Christmas play. The star was clearly 16th ranked Riversides James Simmons who played Scrooge to 11th-ranked Long Beach State. Staked to two runs early, the potential first round draft choice grabbed the Dirtbags shiny 13 game win streak and smashed it like Paris Hilton parallel parking. And if Simmons was a perfect Scrooge, the Dirtbags looked an awful lot like Santa Claus on defense, giving their new partners in first place 10 walks, three wild pitches, two passed balls, one hit by pitch and a partridge in a pear tree. When the curtain mercifully came down a few minutes short of four hours the Niners had closed the earlier 7-1 margin to 7-4 but clearly today will have to be better if those Regional ticket applications are going to be more than scratch paper.

Simmons (now 10-2) shut down the Dirtbags over the first six and then Stephen Penny saved the big guns in UCR’s pen by covering the final three innings. Meanwhile Beach ace Manny McElroy (5-2) struggled for the first 3.2 frames before Adam Wilk gave up two more runs walking two and uncorking a couple of wild and untamed pitches and two hits as UCR built a 6-1 lead. The other part of the Santa stuff came on missed offensive opportunities. LB scored one run in the bottom of the third when T.J. Mittelstaedt hit a tripled to left-center and Matt Cline singled him home. But with the score 2-1 and runners on first and second with one out James Simmons got the next two guys to fly out. Another missed chance came in the fourth when Chris Nelson reached on an error and Brandon Godfrey, bunted to UCR freshman 1B Mark Samuelson who just watched the pill walk the chalk, bounced over the bag giving the Bags runners on first and second with no outs. A sac moved everybody over but once again Scrooge took the candy with strikeouts of Jason Tweedy and Mittelstaedt. Today soph Matt Montgomery (3-0, 3.18), the guy who has to replace injured senior lefty Marc Rzepczynski, brings what Coach Doug Smith calls “a good sink and command of his breaking ball.” He did that for a while last weekend and Smith said, "We'd be thrilled if we could get another good six innings." The Beach will try and rebound behind Andrew Liebel (7-2, 2.47) and hopefully a more active offense and a less generous defense.

DUST BEFORE JEWELS-- It was a sunny and breezy last Saturday and the King was surveying his Kingdom. A fine new flagpole popped up behind the center field fence at the softball complex with the stars and stripes and a bright gold Beach banner fluttering in the proper order. CSULB President F. King Alexander was chilling--next week he will shake 6,000 hands of new grads and who knows how many parents of their parents and friends…Commencement ends a remarklable year for LBSU and their rookie president, who got over a potential faculty strike, hired a board room full of new VPs, replaced a llighting rod AD with a steady and so far popular guy from back east, and hired a new basketball coach. Up next are serious talks with the NCAA over major infractions that go back two and a half years. “We will meet with the NCAA in August and propose self-imposed penalties. Hopefully they wil be impresed how I handled problems at Murray State and what Coach Monson did at Minnesota.”…if the NCAA trusts Alexander and Monson the punishment might be a bit more lenient…meanwhile Alexander and his new wife Shenette are really enjoying Miller House, as fine a Deep South estate as you might find even in Florida where the prez spent 13 years…back to baseball, how about Cal Poly’s Adam Melker’s three-run triple that was the feature of a six-run seventh when SLO erased a 3-0 deficit and whipped the Up-Titans 6-3...the win gave the Mustangs sole possession of fourth place in the Big West and dropped CSUF to 8-8 and fifth place…oh yes, the excitable Wes Roemer allowed six runs and 10 hits to take the big L…new Dirtbag recruit in the house today, Jacob Besack, 2 years old and son of former Daily Forty-Niner writer Mike Besack, class of ’99, …UCR defensive star was Aaron Wible who ran down a warning track drive by Mittelstaedt and made a shoestring catch of a sinking liner by Shane Peterson…BWC score boring from Friday, Cal Poly 6, Cal State Fullerton 3; Pacific 13, Stanford 7; UC Irvine 9, Cal State Northridge 0; and UC Santa Barbara 3, UC Davis 2…losers around the nation-- #7 South Carolina, #9 Texas A&M, #10 Oklahoma State, #15 Clemson and #18 Oregon State …did you know that the 49ers are #1 nationally in team ERA?…disclaimer, it’s the North Carolina Charlotte 49ers at 2.45, our 49ers check are #13 with their 3.40 ERA…last add, talks underway to move the College World Series from Rosenblatt Stadium to a proposed $50 million downtown Omaha ballpark…it would seat 9,000 for Creighton U and the Omaha Royals but expand to 25,000 for the CWS.—DR. DAN

Friday, May 18, 2007


You might think that a coach who’s team is on a 13 game win streak, alone in first place and pretty much dryed out from his 500th collegiate victory Gatorade bath would be calm, cool and collected but Mike Weathers is worried. “I picked Riverside to win this thing before the season began…” he says before cranking out a stream of facts and figures such as UCR hitting .401 last week, their “deep and powerful pitching staff”, great closers, etc. etc. So what’s left to do but play the games.

In one corner the above annointed Kings of the Inland Empire, the #16 UC Riverside Highlanders, (33-17, 12-3 Big West) winners of four in a row and 11 of their last 12. In the other corner, and ranked as high as #11, the yes-you-can-call-them Dirtbags again, LBSU 49ers (35-14, 13-2). The home stage favors LB, UCR is 0-6 at Blair and it is a place where home runs die well before the warning track. Now that opinion is both good and bad for the Dirtbags, who have had a impressive power surge of late, including Tuesday big flys from an unlikely pair, Jason Tweedy who had a three run bomb as part of a 4-for-5 day and AJ Pinocchio, a pinch-hit grand slam. And note we haven’t even mentioned reigning BWC Player of the week Chris Nelson who had five hits as part of LB’s season-high 24-hit 21-2 LMU lambasting.

The mound workers of course figure to restore some order although UCR will not have Mark Rzepczynski who is gone for the season with his glitzy 6-2, 2.72 numbers. He lost a battle with a counter top. The UCRs do offer the amazing James Simmons with his 9-2 record and 2.11 ERA. Improving Manny McElroy (5-1, 3.59) goes first for the Beach who get a wounded warrior back in the form of former starter now reliever Vance Worley. The other LB call to arms are relievers-now-starters Shane Peterson and Andrew Liebel leaving former starter Omar Arif, Dustin Rasco, and David Roberts as a bridge to closer (never a starter) Bryan Shaw. Maybe. Pay attention this could be on the final.

GUESSING DUST—More from Mike who thinks that his team will have to “figure out how to be in position to win before we get to the eighth inning”…in the polls BA moved us up 4 spots to #18, moved us up 3 spots to #16, CB moved us up 5 spots to #11, ESPN/USA moved us up 5 spots to #18 and NCBWA moved us up 3 spots to #17…last week UCR had nine home runs in the three games led by Kyle Barratt,.406 (13-for-32) over his last eight…and if you think that LB fans like their shortstop the UCRs think that their SS Jaime Pedroza is even better. Jaime has hit safely in 22 of the last 24 games and reached base safely in 37 of the last 40. He is hitting .455 and has 15 RBI in the last 12 games. For closing Taylor Bills has allowed just one earned run in his last five appearances and Joe Kelly is 2-1 with an 0.78 ERA in 18 pen outings Big West games both teams are scoring machines. LB enters hitting .322, giving up 4.73 runs per game and scoring 8.87 per game. UCR has a .308 batting average, allows 4.27 RPG and scores at a 7.07 per game clip. Translated, for a foggy Friday night figure on a 4-3 game…UCR won the opener against LBSU at home last year, 7-1, but the 49ers came back to take the series with an 11-9, 12 inning win on Saturday and Sunday’s 5-2 victory…back to the MIA, it was Rzepczynski who nailed the Titans at UCR with a complete game three-hitter (walking one and fanning nine) which makes him okay with me…expect Matt Montgomery (3-0 , 3.18) to fill Rzeps spot on Saturday and Pat Cassa (2-3, 4.07) on Sunday …now to what one of our trusty correspondents says is “Lights, Cameras, Action?” Translated, back in the last decade the City of Long Beach was a few dollars short of rehabbing Blair Field and the lighting dollars were trimmed…that doesn’t mean that LB is out for a regional or super, it does mean that somebody will have to pony up about $20-25,000 to rent and hopefully get it fixed by next season…making the first pitches this weekend are some of the finer student athletes on campus, golfers Brett Lederer and Kay Hoey tonight and pound for pound maybe the best Niner this year, BWC tennis MVP Hannah Grady…make her comfortable because she’s English and prefers cricket…proud papa time from Dan Smith about his daughter Mackenzie…”she just finished her first season of softball and drove in the game-winning RBI with a line shot off the best pitcher in the league”…last add regionals, get your ticket applications tonight and take a couple for your office-bound pals…finally, I don’t have a dog in these fights but you might…Fullerton visits Cal Poly who will sorely miss the leagues best hitter Grant Desme (he is/was leading the Big West in the triple crown categories at .405-15-53); Northridge is at UC Irvine (if they played six inning games the Mats might have a chance); UCSB plays improving UC Davis; and Pacific,(see CSUN lack of closers note), plays Stanford—DR. DAN

Monday, May 14, 2007


They keep this secret to themselves but there will be a hard core group of Long Beach fans gathered at Blair Field this weekend that think that neither the visiting UC Riverside Highlanders nor the Long Beach State 49ers should be in the Big West Conference.

Oh yes, these two teams are set to battle for the BWC baseball championship with games Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Both teams are in the NCAA Top 25 and both are fresh off of weekend sweeps of lesser confernce opponents. The Beach hard core however have always thought that considering the whole menu of sports, especially basketball, their instituion ought to be playing on the bigger stage of the WAC or Mountain West and that UCR is too facility and fan-challenged to stay in the Big West. That future argument won’t be resolved this weekend but the present baseball business will.

Riverside completed its three-game sweep of Northridge with a modest 7-4 victory Sunday after scoring 18 runs in the each of their first two contests. The Highlanders (33-17, 12-3) have won four straight and 11 of their last 12 games.

Top that you say, okay the Never Say Die Dirtbags have won 12 in a row, 21 of 24, (including a fistful of stunning late inning comebacks) and improved to 34-14, 13-2. Evidence, at UCSB the Beach boys answered an 8-4 deficit with a six run inning Saturday and then down 3-0 Sunday they tied the game at 4-4 before an 8 run effort in the 14th. Against Cal Poly LB was in a 4-0 hole and rolled 10 in the sixth.

Last add, at Pacific the homeboys were losing 6-4, tied it up and then in the 14th put up a five spot. All that hard work and the polls just inched the Niners up from 19 to 16 in Rivals and from 22 to 18 in Baseball America. UCR checked in at 24 and 21 respectively.

GAMETRACKER DUST—As the college baseball season gets down to the final couple of weekends there is a great temptation to become a mouse potatoe and use that nifty CSTV product Gametracker. So there I was last weekend on the home computer chasing not only the Dirtbag-UCSB progress but Fullerton, Pacific, Irvine, and Riverside in the BWC and national powers that rank just above or just below the Beach. Mix in the various web braodcasts and I was more worn out then those guys trying get a dry golf ball on that island green at Ponta Vedra Beach.

More golf. Getting better every day in at the NCAA West Regionals, Niner Kay Hoey tied for 10th place with a 220 (77-73-70) this week but best of all she lives to swing another day by qualifying for the NCAA Championship May 22-25 in Daytona Beach. That event may be her last in 49er colors since the talented junior has said she will take next year off to prep her game for the LPGA tour
Complaint Dept. The Big West has seven teams that play softball and one of them was 0-18 in conference. That would leave six contenders for post-season. The champions from Cal Poly were 14-4. Long Beach finished third at 11-7 but won the series over the second place team Fullerton, the fourth place team Pacific, fifth place Northridge and the sixth place team UCSB. So NCAA selectors you take five from the BWC and pass on LB because a tough non conference schedule left them with a mere 28 wins?

Now the bad news and good news from LBSU Track and Tennis. The bad was that after wining the Big West title last year the men finished fourth and the women third. The good news is again the Beach has a van full of first place winners and the two programs once again finished ahead of UC Irvine to keep the Black and Blue Rivalry Trophy.

The bad news for 49er women's tennis is that the Pepperdine depth wore out the Beach 4-2 in their NCAA first round but the good news is that a high-powered mix of admins and boosters are putting together a plan to totally redo the tennis complex which now has more active termites than places for fans to sit. The good news for everybody, Jewels of the Night is Saturday and you can eat, drink and bid merry for a good cause.--DR. DAN

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Forget the buffo box office done by Spiderman 3 last weekend, in this space the hit flick is Batman 49, starring the suddenly sizzling Dirtbags who in the distant past, say March, were struggling to get hits let alone runs. Case in point, on March 23 the Beach was batting an anemic .269 with a record of 12-8 and 110 runs scored.

After Sunday the Niner numbers were .291 batting, a record of 30-14, and 280 runs scored. In addition while the offense went up the team ERA dropped from 3.67 to 3.39. With those offensive and defensive improvements, plus some wobbles by formidable foes like Fullerton and Riverside, the Batman 49ers are all alone at the top the Big West Conference leaderboard.

Now if you expect head coach Mike Weathers to be able to explain his club and their end of season surge forget it. “Right now I just try to get out of the way. The bats have come alive and we are getting production up and down the order.” And what about this weekend at old nemesis UC Santa Barbara, a club that has beaten the Beach in seven of the last nine meetings and 14 of the last 21? “That’s an historical issue and I guess I really just don’t believe in history.”

The bit of history that Weathers does believe is that last year his team might have fallen one game, one inning, or one at bat from earning a post-season invite. The numbers (29-27) just didn’t add up even though LB wiggled its’ way into second place. With number 30 already in the W column and an outrageously high RPI, around or under 10, the national experts are not just talking getting in but even hosting a regional.

Getting to that point meant handling a Cal Poly team held in high esteem after beating Irvine two of three in March and sweeping Fresno State the previous weekend. Celebration however will have to be put on hold because the Fullerton wobble mentioned above, losing two of three at home, came from the very same Gauchos that LBSU will visit this weekend. Hopefully this movie will also have a happy ending.

END DUST—Chronically short of healthy players, the 49er softball team wraps of its season at home with a Friday doubleheader and a Saturday 1 pm contest. Unable to reach that 30 win plateau as did baseball, the series with UC Santa Barbara will be the last of the Coach Kim Sowder’s first year.

Tennis on the other hand already has won seven in a row plus the Big West title and is already in Fresno ready for Saturday’s match with #20 Pepperdine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team is led by sophomore Hannah Grady, the Big West Player of the Year, plus three others who have all conference honors, Stephanie Bengson, Katy Williams and Jessica Weeks.

Missing however will be their senior captain Sandra Rocha, who owns the school’s all-time win mark. She played well at the BWC championships but, according to sources, “opted for shoulder surgery this week on a season long standing micro tear.”

So who is coming for Regional hot dogs? Depends on who you ask. says Fresno State, Pepperdine and Oklahoma State, has LB versus Fresno State, UCLA and Wake Forest, and the Baseball America guess is UCLA, Oral Roberts and Manhattan coming to Blair…So far the polls are warming up to the Beach, Collegiate Baseball at 16, Rivals at 19, College Baseball Writers at 20, BA at 22, and ESPN/Coaches at 23…

Finally, we make our own visit to the NCAA regional hosting crystal ball. Despite the inadequate lighting for TV games, Blair Field and LBSU have in the past run great regionals in a big and comfortable ball park. Now that the host is also deserving, and with the flop at Fullerton, poor records for the area PAC 10 teams, and too small facilities for any of the West Coast conference contenders, we expect the bid to be awarded. That’s the good news, but after last weekend’s lackluster attendance (the season average is 1461) getting backsides in the blue seats remains an issue…last add, if you aren’t already on the 5 South you can catch tonight’s CSTV game live at Pete’s at the Beach…I recommend the Thai satay--DR. DAN

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Forget your Spiderman 3, this is the weekend that the Long Beach Film and Baseball Festival debuts Batman 49, starring the suddenly sizzling Dirtbags who in the distant past, say March, were struggling to get hits let alone runs. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and after a 15-4 laugher the Beach bashers once again scored early and often and as a result (thanks to Pacific and Santa Barbara for their Oscar-quality work as supporting actors) are all alone on top of the Big West Conference.

Breathless show biz analogies aside, these Niners, according to their regular critic coach Mike Weathers, “have become Bats Alive” and paired with upsets by UOP (over Riverside) and UCSB (over Fullerton) have at least temporarily cleared away some of the clutter on the road to the Big West title. The heroes were many but principally Andrew Liebel who shut down Cal Poly’s vaunted offense for six innings and often over-looked senior Robert Perry who collected a career-high six RBIs. Together they set up Long Beach State (29-14, 9-2 Big West) for a legitimate run at the 2007 conference title. Cal Poly, held in high esteem after beating Irvine two of three last month and sweeping Fresno State last weekend, fell to 24-22, 8-6 Big West. The Beach had crooked numbers in five of their eight innings with their seventh straight win with their clutch shortstop Danny Espinosa getting three hits and a pair of RBIs along with an assortment of almost expected web gems. Liebel upped his record to 7-2 although he was making only his second start and the only other time he began a game at Blair was in a Connie Mack summer league. Weathers liked the effort even though Andrew tired in the seventh. “He doesn’t strike many guys out but he gets the other teams bats going and that creates a tempo that the defense just loves.” Translated, it all looks good but really isn’t and nine fly ball outs and nine ground ball outs was all the Niners needed. Today the Mustang’s ace Thomas Eager (8-2, 3.08 ERA) will try to avoid the sweep when SLO faces LBSU sophomore lefty Shane Peterson (2-1, 3.96 ERA).

ABBEY’S ANGEL DUST—Liebel, who’s Mom Fran played a slick second base for the Santa Ana Lionettes some years ago, struggled early but then retired 15 of the next 17 with six scoreless innings...Red hot TJ Mittlestaedt got the day off but goes back to work again today and of course Mr. Peterson, who extended his hit streak to 19 games, does double duty on Sundays…even rookie third baseman Taylor Krick made all the hard throws and chipped in with a two-run double…switching topics my favorite tee shirt from the NCAA volleyball final last night was the one in the IPFW student section, “Where is Irvine???”… well, it is south of Fort Wayne, near John Wayne Airport and for the Mastodon fans UCI has a really silly mascot, an Anteater…back to the bases, catcher Travis Howell hit the ball hard for the second game in a row, adding two more doubles to his total and throwing out a SLO baserunner...if you remember volleyball ace Brittany Hochevar you will remember her brother Luke who went from Tennessee to the pros, well there is another baseball sibling Dylan…their dad says, "Dylan's starting to figure out his body and getting real comfortable with his arm slot. He had been struggling with his arm angle. But now it has really helped him with his tempo and lines to the plate."… he has attracted interest from Long Beach, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but the Vols likely have the best chance…look for some more Titan whine this week about missing David Cooper who bolted Nutwood for Berkeley…he was hitting .371/.443/.618 with 10 HRs and 46 RBI before the weekend

Next weekend are those D Bag killing Gauchos…UCSB has won seven of the last nine meetings and 14 of the last 21…in case you missed your Vic Cegles sighting that’s because he is playing poppa this weekend back east visiting both of his athletic offspring, Casey the football catching kid for Towson State in Baltimore and Vic Jr. on the Rutgers baseball team…our reporter, (Vic’s wife Bonnie) said Casey caught a couple of passes in the Spring game and the Scarlet Knight nine beat Cincinnati 16-6 and 7-3 to improve to 29-16 and a tie for first in the Big East…the Big West scores had a couple of whoppers especially Pacific 5, UC Riverside 3, UC Santa Barbara 11, Cal State Fullerton 9 and oh yeah, UC Davis 17, Cal State Northridge 12…Irvine has dropped baseball and just plays dungeons and dragons. volleyball and crew…or possibly they are off this weekend…word coming down that the Mets may promote Jason Vargas from AAA to an “interim” big league spot in their rotation…his numbers are ordinary, 5.23 2-3, but his stuff is impressive…and…he is a lefty…next up is a TV game from SDSU who is on a swoon…UNLV beat the Aztecs who dropped their seventh-straight game and are now 27-24, 11-9 in conference games...last Titan dig, when the F boys clubbed UCSB Friday why did the coaches leave Wes Roemer in for 110 pitches into the ninth?...the Titans were leading 12-0 after seven…our closing numbers come from Saturday where ranked teams continued to struggle with numbers 1,8,9,13,18, and 24 all losing…maybe the polls will notice, maybe not, enjoy the moment.—DR. DAN

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Welcome to crunch time. A weekend more of what isn’t than what is. It isn’t a battle of two first place teams. The Beach is in first but they are tied with remarkable Riverside not Cal Poly. It is not the Kentucky Derby but there is a five team Big West horse race for an NCAA pole position come June. The pony set have a visitor from Britain wearing a fancy hat and we have a visitor from Bellflower wearing a sombrero. Today is not Cinco de Mayo but you can get a festive brew tonight at the best (okay only) college ballpark beer bar in the USA. Need more, okay back to the crunch and this dandy baseball series between the Cal Poly Mustangs (24-20, 8-4 Big West and RPI of 72) and the Long Beach Dirtbags (27-14, 7-2, RPI of 9).

You can fuss and fume about how BIG the Big West really is in a lot of sports (no football, a one trick pony league in basketball, and volleyball teams that are non-factors in the post-season), but in baseball, now you have something. Beginning this weekend there are six teams above .500 in conference and you get to see numbers one and three collide after both clubs got the brooms out last weekend, the Beach surviving Pacific, 8-6, 8-4 and 14-9 (in 14) and SLO all over Fresno State, 6-4, 16-9 and 13-0. While LB started the season beating up ranked foes the Mustangs lost their first five. Then they won 10 of 12 before LMU shocked the Stangs with a sweep at SLO before their shocking series win at Irvine. LBSU, mixing 14 returnees with a lot of new guys, are trying to forget their 2006 mark of 29-27 when they missed the post season. The 49er hit parade has found a groove and skipper Mike Weathers thinks that this weekend is “all about pitchers trying to control the other guy’s offense. Both teams’s hit the ball and so far we have been able to overcome some of our defense.” The Beach bats are led by scrappy Matt Cline (.343, 13 RBIs), soph shortstop Danny Espinosa (.331, five home runs, 26 RBIs) and the bionic arms of pitcher/first baseman Shane Peterson (.325, three home runs, 27 RBIs, 2-1, 3.96 ERA).

The rotation for LB starts with Manny McElroy (3-1, 4.71) going against Eric Massingham (1-0, 4.84). Tomorrow converted reliever Andrew Liebel (6-2, 2.14 ERA) with Peterson on Sunday. Expect David Roberts to be the set-up specialist with the closing chores in the right hand of Bryan Shaw (4-2, 2.29 ERA, 8 saves). Both teams have mixed credits in the BWC stat list, LB is first in pitching (3.32) while SLO checks in at 4.65 but leads LB in hitting, .298 to .286. The Stangs do have one of the best hitters on the west coast in Grant Desme, .388, 12 homers, 47 RBIs.

CATCH UP DUST—back in the polls from 19 (Rivals) to 24 (Baseball America) the Beach is on a five game win streak and 13 of its last 16 games since that dismal Mid March when Wichita State and CSUF drilled the Dirtbags…in BWC play SLO is hitting at a .329 clip, 8.3 runs and 12.5 hits per game….last weekend at Fresno SLO hit .378…Larry Lee has turned SLO around with three consecutive winning seasons…this weekend is the start of the toughest stretch anybody has…next week is the team that torments LB like UCR torments Fullerton, UCSB, winners of 7 of the last nine encounters with the Bags…after that it is Riverside here, then the Titans there…this weekend UCSB goes to Nutwood, Riverside is feasting on UOP Tiger meat, CSUN is at Davis and Irvine is off…Nice video around on our favorite Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki…he of that unassisted triple play last was the 13th unassisted triple play in major league history…future recruiting gets tougher since the NCAA's board of directors approved a ban that will prohibit coaches from text messaging recruits beginning in BWC basketball coach called texting, “our biggest lifeline to recruits over the last three years. I'd be lying if I said we didn't send 200 a day."…other high RPIs (they change daily) in the West are San Diego, 14; Arizona State, 16; Irvine, 30, Oregon State, 31, Pepperdine 33, Fullerton 35 and UCLA 48…also changing daily are the guesstimates for regionals but BA’s highly regarded Aaron Fitt yesterday had LB hosting UCLA, ORU and Manhattan, the college not the cocktail…Fitts adds that if the Niners “slide in the Big West” then San Diego might be sent up as the top seed…third but…the Toreros could still host if they can negotiate the use of SDSU’s Tony Gwynn stadium…lots of ifs and buts, check back next week…last add tennis where the #44-ranked Long Beach State gets ready for #20 Pepperdine in the NCAAs at Fresno...some of the net set are moaning about Fresno but didn’t they just hate the prospect of going to USC or UCLA last week?...oh well that brings up our closing quote by old LB Poly and UCI coach Bill Mulligan who was asked why there were so many players from Chicago on the Fresno State team. He replied "That's easy; they think they are going to California". –DR. DAN


Manny McElroy doesn’t take anything for granted any more. He said that maybe he did earlier this season after going six plus in an opening weekend win over Southern Cal. Then something happened. He was knocked out early by Texas then suffered mysterious rib/back injury and went on the DL for two months. His comeback started with 2.2 against Oral Roberts (no decision), then a five inning win over CSUN. Against UC Davis McElroy relapsed giving up four earned in less than two innings and got a tough love lecture from Mike Weathers who banished him to Tuesdays. Mission accomplished, Manny gave up a mere two Tuesday night hits in 7 innings against San Diego State, and won the game. Last night he was back to vintage Manny, allowing one unearned run in seven innings while his teammates were scoring in bunches. The latter matter he said, “Gave me a lot of confidence. My slider was really working and I just seemed to be able to hit all my spots.” Closing numbers, #24 Long Beach State (28-14, 8-2) defeats Cal Poly 8-3 with two more to go.

The win over the Mustangs wasn’t a gimme especially since SLO had won 11 of its last 15 games including spanking Fresno State three straight in the Raisin City. McElroy (4-2) scattered eight hits and his only run was unearned after a Niner boot by Jason Tweedy. The Beach scored twice in the first inning with another fire started by the remarkable freshman TJ Mittelstaedt. He led off with a double before Shane Peterson extended his hitting streak to 18 games with an RBI triple then Danny Espinosa’s groundout scored Peterson to stake LB to a 2-0 lead. In the sixth the Niners did it with mirrors scoring five runs with just two hits, a walk and a hit batter. The big blow was a three run double by catcher Travis Howell who said in post-game that he has tried to stop being so mental. “I came in here as a guy that liked to think about things at the plate and Coach Weathers got on me to be more aggressive early in the count.” That three RBI shot he said came when he expected a first pitch fast ball, got it, and drove it to the left center wall. Game over.

CINCO DE DUSTO—that pre-game LF party was former Niner footballer Tim Richmond’s affair…SLO’s super slugger Grant Desme was handcuffed by McElroy who knew of him from their days in Bakersfield…Grant fanned his first two at bats, popped out, singled and flied out for a 1-5 night…the 49ers added their final run in the eighth on a bases-loaded wild pitch…despite some second guessing by the locals Weathers selection of AJ Pinocchio as his DH worked just fine…he had three of Long Beach State’s 11 hits while Mittelstaedt, Perry, Peterson and Howell each had two hits…today’s pitching matchups are SLO’s freshman southpaw Matt Leonard (3-4, 5.19 ERA) against Long Beach State junior reliever turned starter Andrew Liebel (6-2, 2.14 ERA)…with the lefty, expect Krick and some other RH faces to appear…Peterson has leaped to the front of the list for Big West Utility Player of the Year…the Niner pitching staff, 11th in the nation in team ERA at 3.32 and lowered it to 3.29…the Mustangs finished with 13 hits, their fifth straight game reaching double digits in hits...both Vance Worley and Brandon Godfrey are throwing and could be back in two weeks for Riverside...the Tulo triple play got the TBS baseball crew talking about Long Beach’s pipeline to the pros…"Why wouldn't you want to go to school in a place like Long Beach"…Where are they--Tim Hutting, an infielder from the 2003 Dirtbags, is with the Joliet Jackhammers, a team with hot tubs along each foul line… the Most Dreaded initials in college baseball are APR and last week’s report has six programs who will be limited to 10 rather than 11.7 scholarships starting next year for falling below the 925 minimun…Fresno State, New Mexico, Temple, Texas-Arlington, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas Tech…LBSU baseball is fine at 939, mens hoops is at 928 but those brilliant male golfers carded a perfect 1000… peace talks underway between the U of SD and San Diego State in the hopes that the #16 Toreros could rent the SDSU yard for a regional…USD has no lights and few seats but they do have a math dept. and know that 71 percent of the host schools win...if it doesn’t work down there the Toreros might become a top seed some where else, like maybe Blair Field…the NCAA, requires that a “host have“200 tickets be available to each of the visiting teams, within a prime location between the first-and third-base lines.”…now to getting an invite LB almost got some help from Pacific but…read on…the BWC Friday scoreboard: Fullerton 12, Santa Barbara 1; Davis 7, Northridge 4; and Riverside 5, Pacific 4…now the rest of that story… Riverside (29-16, 8-2) needed redshirt Mark Samuelson’s double in the 10th inning to overcome a 4-3 deficit before beating Pacific 5-4 in ten …it was UCR’s seventh straight and kept them tied for first with the Beach…SLO and CSUF are tied for third…around the USA it was a rough Friday for teams ranked ahead of the Beach as #7 Arkansas, #9 Oregon State, #12 Wichita State, and #13 Ole Miss all lost to unranked foes—DR. DAN

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Notes on My Napkin: With Dan Monson at the Century Club

It was Dan Monson’s first visit to the dinosaurs of the Long Beach Century Club and before he finished the new Niner basketball coach had scored a runaway victory (a laugher you might say) over the grizzled gin and tonic crowd. So in the popular Notes on My Napkin format here is some of what Dan said.

His opening comment was a salute to veteran Long Beach City coach, and one time applicant for the Beach job, Gary Anderson who was backed up by his son Ricky, a force for Lute Olson at Arizona and a well traveled international pro player. “I want to announce that Gary and I have signed an agreement that all of his players will come to Long Beach State and that after a red shirt year and some rehab on his Achilles, Ricky will play for us in 2008.”

On life at Minnesota. “When I went there people said that there are five things in life that are really hard to deal with--moving to a new town, taking a new job, building a new house, and getting married. I did four in one month but at least I didn’t get a divorce.”

His goals—short term: “Field a team. We’ve got six guys right now and they are now in open gym but it is all three on three…and two of those guys think they are hurt”

Long term: “we want to really immerse ourselves in this community…all of our players, coaches…give us some time and we will be there”

Asked if he was as good a coach now as he was at Gonzaga (2 years as head but a total of 11 with the Zag program): “Am I as good, NO. I am better because at Minnesota I had to learn how to adapt to what was there….”

On recruiting: “we are like the guy that is shopping for the prettiest Christmas tree in town on December 24th…but we will keep looking and we have some contacts out to some really good area kids…our assistants are really good at this and we have until May 15…I need at least three more so I can have an Iron Nine…but likely we will save some rides for good freshmen next year…”

On the returning players: “I had all six of them in conference room and I went around the table and asked them what position they played. Andrew (Fleming the 7 footer) said he was a 5 and the rest of the guys all said that they were 3’s…so I got to wonder about the 1s, 2s, and 4s…”

On what recruits are saying to him, “some are worried about the possible NCAA sanctions but I told them I am here and that they should not worry about that…so of the guys we aren’t going to get, they usually ask me if we are recruiting anybody else at their position…”

What will he say during his first time out: “it depends, if they are playing hard and not just jacking up shots I don’t care if we are down by 10 I will pat them on the (uses a family term for backside) …if they aren’t I expect to fix that"