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


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