Thursday, May 20, 2010

BIG WEST TITLE DRAMA ALL DONE, DIRTBAGS JUST TRY TO PLAY THE GAME

The seasons may have gone sour but at Long Beach State the parties are almost always sweet. This weekend the featured 49ers are the men of volleyball who are hosting the USA Men's Volleyball Teams in the Pyramid Friday for two intra-squad exhibition matches in preparation for the upcoming World League and the Pan American Cup. Juniors take the court at 5:30 p.m., the London-bound US Olympians follow at around 7:30 p.m. and then the post match social.

On Saturday the hard core 49er faithful move downtown to the Law Offices of Keesal, Young and Logan for the third-annual Black and Gold Gala which salutes the 2010 LBSU team with a 6 p.m. reception then dinner, and program. You can expect many of the national team participants to be around, old timers Tom Hoff, David Lee, Scott Touzinsky, Tyler Hildebrand, Paul Lotman, Robert Tarr, Dustin Watten and new guys Antwain Aguillard and Dean Bittner.

Last weekend the giant gala called Jewels of the Night raised thousands for needed athletic funding but up against a horrific budget deficit the times have never been more difficult. The only light in this sporting tunnel, insiders say, is that President Alexander may impose a new student fee in June (effective in 2011) with proceeds spread across the campus, not just for sports.

Back to the present, the twin cash cows of men’s basketball and baseball struggled this year both on the playing surface and in the box office. A very modest crowd count this past weekend for the Fullerton series hurt almost as much as the series sweep by the Titans. With a week off for final exams, the Dirtbags resume baseball at Northridge Friday to Sunday in their next to the last weekend of the season.

At least softball finished with a pleasant taste in their mouth sweeping UC Riverside to finish the 2010 campaign dead even at 23-23. Senior Sunday sent off six good players but the cast and crew remaining likely will be picked on top next season. Big West pitcher of the year in her freshman season Brooke Turner did win 13 games in her junior season and crafty off-speed specialist Taylor Petty picked up 10 in her sophomore campaign. Returning offense should be led by Bree Stephan (.321) and Casey Burba (.333) with Caitlin DeBaun (20 RBIs) and Nalani St. Germain (8 home runs) mixing with a great incoming recruiting class.

Track and field is finished until a couple of 49ers compete in the NCAA regionals May 27th in Austin, Texas. During last weekend’s Big West championships the Niner men finished second behind Northridge and the women were seventh. Both squads came in ahead of UC Irvine, helpful in deciding the winner of their Black and Blue Trophy rivalry. In a neck and neck point race, the winner will come down to the baseball series in two weeks.

Bonus Bag bull--all day games this weekend because the Matadors don't have lights...the Dirtbags return home for four games over the final week of the season, hosting Pepperdine for a third game with the Waves before closing out the season with the Black and Blue rivalry series against UC Irvine May 28-30...the Sunday deal will be the final game for five Long Beach State seniors, with transfers Tre Dennis and David Brown joining three four-year members of the Dirtbag program in Jason Markovitz, Steve Tinoco and TJ Mittelstaedt and the last hurrah for head coach Mike Weathers, who is retiring following that game after 18 years with the program, the last nine as the skipper for the Dirtbags...finals are over this week and it works...Brennan Metzger, Long Beach State's sophomore outfielder earned first-team Academic All-District honors, recognizing his success on the field as well as his 3.79 GPA, becoming the first Dirtbag to receive the honor since Shane Peterson in 2008. The team as a whole was also recognized by the NCAA, earning a Public Recognition award with an APR in the Top 10 percent for all of college baseball, the only team in the Big West so honored...Back to the recent times Coach in waiting Troy Buckley kept his team waiting for almost 30 minutes post-game on Sunday giving his first “State of the Dirtbag” address. It is likely injured shortstop Devin Lohman will be cleared for the CSUN weekend but fastball pitcher Jake Thompson may be suspended for throwing behind a CSUF hitter with his first pitch Saturday...he was not listed as a starter this weekend...Jake has indicated that he will sign and go pro anyhow but it would be an odd ending to a season on the sink. –DR. DAN