Tuesday, March 04, 2008


In the race for Rosenblatt in June, your fighting Dirtbags, underdogs in January, are making their move in March. On the strength of an amazing weekend whipping of Wichita State, Long Beach has cracked the top ten in one poll (#9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll) and came in #10 in Baseball America, #11 in Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA, and #12 in Rivals. I'm a writer, not a fortune teller and I know the Road to Omaha is long and winding but heading into tonight’s battle with Loyola Marymount the Niner stock is rising fast.

The Beach story has been moving from reliance on one very talented shortstop to getting some offensive balance to go with predictably great pitching. One important case in point is the new full time first baseman Shane Peterson who got the free Cadillac Escalade as the Big West Conference's Player of the Week for batting .471, collecting eight RBIs and putting up a .706 slugging percentage. Slash (for his old assignment of pitching and hitting) had three multi-hit games, drove in the game-winning run on Friday, a game-tying RBI double on Saturday and five RBIs on Sunday. That certain shortstop spoken of earlier, Danny Espinosa leads the team at .500 (14-for-28) and puts the wide open spaces to good use with five doubles leading to a .786 slugging percentage. Taylor Krick, the versatile third baseman/catcher checks in at .353, and even homered in the 8-3 Shocker rout on Sunday. LMU (3-5) has been a puzzle this season, scoring but not defending, but has a reputation over the years of making mid-weekers miserable. Lion vet Nate Keadle, 28 appearances last season posted a 2-0 record in WCC play and in last summer’s Jayhawk League, impressed with a 2.70 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 33.1 innings of work. The home boys are still looking for a hot Tuesday hand and are going with Tyler Topp who like most of the pen men has been perfect in his short order cooking with six strikeouts in his 5.1 innings. The best of the Lion bats is Kyle Spraker's .385 but the 14 errors already this season is worrisome. On the other side the Bags have a modest .968 fielding percentage but disgruntled and defeated Shocker coach Gene Stephenson told the media that "Let's face it, we beat ourselves…on critical plays we didn't make the plays…we did not have good at-bats in key points…you won't beat anyone when you strike out 35 times in a series."

FLASHBACK DUST—Over losing two in a row to the Beach, Rice swept through the Houston College Classic, the only team ever to win all three of its games in the Minute Maid Park tourney…the Owls beat Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech…Andrew Liebel, who last year at this time was coming out of the bullpen, is arguably the most effective pitcher in the nation, a 0.0 ERA and 22 Ks in 15.1innings…with the Bags on the way to Hawaii this weekend, softball invites you to their contest with Notre Dame Friday night in their tourney which features ranked opponents, including Virginia Tech, UCLA and Northwestern, playing at Mayfair Park…if you prefer your action indoors the Beach athletes can also offer men’s volleyball against Stanford Friday night back in the Pyramid…from the Hawaii papers some nice anticipation for the return of favorite son and Dirtbag catcher Kip Masuda. Kip got off to a great start as a freshman but his Dad got extremely ill and passed at the beginning of his sophomore year. Kip went back to the islands and then "I asked my mom if she wanted me to stay home and she told me that I should keep going on with it," Masuda said. He came back to Long Beach with a heavy heart and gold chain that his father always wore and now he wears it every game. “I wanted to keep playing" and so he will this weekend at “home” in front of friends and family…Tuffy stuffy…that three-game sweep of the Titans was the third time in a row Stanford has swept CSUF up there…UCLA visits Nutwood tonight and then Southern Miss comes this weekend…Irvine, 7-0, plays USD tonight then weekends at Tulane…where are they-Daniel Wolford who transferred to Cal got a win over USD throwing 4.1 innings, two hits, one walk and two strikeouts…more Grumpy Gene, “Long Beach is a good team, but I look forward to playing them in a few months."…hummm that would have to be post-season somewhere…LB travels to the University of Hawaii for the weekend (games do count despite rumors that the fall USD series worked against that)...you get extra games for going to the Big Rock...then Tuesday at home against the Leathernecks of Western Illinois—DR. DAN


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