Thursday, May 19, 2011

With Little Hope for the Playoffs, Dirtbags Look to the Future

The beginning of the 2011 baseball season for the Long Beach State Dirtbags was one of callow, hope and uncertainty. The youthfulness of this squad provided both a wealth of talent, and a profusion of concern. The combination of youth and talent had to be harnessed perfectly in order for this to be a successful season. Unfortunately, with the Dirtbags sitting at 8-10 in Big West Conference play and 25-25 overall on the season, they find themselves at great risk of missing the playoffs.
Entrance to Blair Field, Home of the Dirtbags
Photo Courtesy of Devin Ugland

Many could call this season a severe disappointment. The opulent history that comes with playing baseball at Long Beach State University requires a lot more than just skill to succeed. To accomplish what they set out to do every year, the team must encompass skill, maturity and mental toughness throughout the long season. Too many times this season did they lack the latter of the two aforementioned qualities, which lead to their subpar season.
Fortunately for this team, they are very young. They are a team budding with exuberance and excitement, a team that is one step away from pulling together all the qualities of a winning team. Out of the 35 players on the squad, only 3 of them are seniors. One of their best hitters, first baseman Ino Patron is only a freshman. Their best starting pitcher, Andrew Gagnon is a Junior. Their best relief pitcher, Eddie Magallon is just a sophomore.

Despite the less than acceptable record for such a storied program, there has been a lot of good to come out of this season. Junior outfielder Brennan Metzger feels that this team is on the brink of something great, "This team has a ton of talent, we just need to put all the parts together", he said. I believe that coach Troy Buckley's inaugural season was a learning experience, and something he can use to build upon his first good recruiting class.

Some more good elements to come out of this season are the offensive breakouts of some of the Dirtbags young players, especially freshman Ino Patron. Patron is hitting .299 on the season with a team high 3 homeruns, and 24 RBI. Patron is they key cog behind Long Beach State's youth movement. Another offensive star is Junior third baseman Mike Marjama. Like Patron, Marjama is batting .299 with one homerun and 24 RBI. A good omen for these Dirtbags is all of their offensive powerhouses are going to return next season, to give a real run to the post season.

The pitching staff has been extremely up and down this season, but there are a few guys who really stood out throughout the season. Obviously, Andrew Gagnon the staff ace has been pretty solid all season. Gagnon has a 2.83 ERA with 78 strikeouts, but just a 4-8 record due to a lack of run support. A pleasant surprise was the strong performance of freshman reliever Ryan Strufing. Strufing made 15 appearances on the season leading to a record of 3-2. Sophomore reliever Eddie Magallon led the team with 22 appearances and has a respectable 3.66 ERA with a record of 2-1 and nine saves. Although Magallon's numbers are solid, he expects much more out of himself and fellow members of the pitching staff, "we have struggled at some points this season, but there are a lot of good things that we can carry over into next year", he said. Look for the Dirtbags pitching staff to come back in 2012 with a vengeance, they have their best starters and relievers returning who are looking to make amends for what happened this season.

The Long Beach State baseball team may not be heading to the playoffs, it has yet to be decided, but all indications point to them missing the post season, but you couldn't tell because all of the optimism that radiates from their comments. Senior outfielder Matt Hibbert, who saw limited playing time this season, see's a lot of potential with this young group, "We had a tough year, but the guys on this team are hungry, and they will be back next year", he said.

The myth behind the fountain of youth is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries the world has ever seen, but if there is any truth behind it, the Long Beach State Dirtbags must've found it and stolen some water from it. Their abundance of youth is what some coaches dream of, they are able to watch and help these kids go from good baseball players, to great ones. Their lives are molded right before our eyes, and even if they don't go on to play professional baseball, they go on to do great things in a field other than the baseball diamond.

I have two more years at Cal State Long Beach myself, and I look forward to watching these guys grow into the great potential they possess. I wish nothing but the best for this group of guys.

Player Spotlight: Freshman pitcher Ryan Strufing

Freshman pitcher Ryan Strufing
Photo Coutesy of LBSU Athletics
Ryan Strufing is a long way from home. Graduate of Niwot high school in a small town in Colorado conveniently named Niwot. A "suburb" if you will outside of Boulder, Niwot has a population of just under 5,000 people. Strufing used his stellar pitching abilities to move west, to the glitz and glamour of Southern California. Strufing is one of three players who is not a California native, but home sickness is not a problem.

Usually freshman have a tough time adjusting to the college life, especially if they have the weight of classes as well as the weight of a baseball season on their shoulders, but Strufing has handed it with the poise of a seasoned veteran. His numbers aren't spectacular, 3-2 with a 5.24 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched, but Strufing has proven that he is a future star for this Dirtbag squad with his tenacity and savvy on the mound

Big West Standings and Statistics

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hibbert Comes Up Big For Dirtbags in 7-1 Win Over USC

Senior Matt Hibbert with one of his four hits on the day
Photo Courtesy of Dirtbag Baseball



Senior right fielder Matt Hibbert has been lost amongst the talent and youthfulness of many of the Long Beach State players. On April 26th at Dedeaux field, however, Hibbert made sure he was not forgotten. Hibbert had a career high four hits against the Trojans, and led the Dirtbags to a huge 7-1 victory over USC. First baseman Ino Patron went 2-4 on the night with one RBI, while three USC errors led to four runs for the Dirtbags.

The Dirtbags went to their stable of pitchers, six to be precise, all of them combining to hold USC to just one run on five hits. Austin Boyle made his first start of the season, going just two innings, allowing one run on three hits. Nate Underwood earned his second win of the season, tossing two innings allowing no runs on one hit.

This win is very big for the Dirtbags heading into the home stretch of the season. The great offensive production, pitching, and the spark from a veteran player could perhaps inspire this team to make a late post season run. With the talent they possess, the Dirtbags could be a headache for many teams if they can somehow squeeze their way into the playoffs.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

UC Santa Barbara Takes Series from Dirtbags

Ino Patron hits a two run homerun
Photo Courtesy of LBSU Athletics

Series Overview:
Game 1 - L 5-3

Game 2 - L 7-2

Game 3 - W 6-2

Long Beach State suffered two more losses on the season at the hands of UC Santa Barbara. Despite the two losses, and the series loss, the Dirtbags have a lot of positive things that they can take away from the games against UCSB

Game 1 -

The first game of the series was a pitching duel between the Dirtbags ace Andrew Gagnon (4-5), and UCSB pitcher Jesse Meaux. Gagnon and Meaux both pitched complete games, Gagnon allowing five runs (all unearned) on five hits and Meax allowing three runs on 10 hits. The defense behind Gagnon let him down, two key errors led to all five runs UCSB ended up scoring.

The Dirtbags amassed 10 hits, but could not capitalize on RBI opportunities. Second baseman Matt Duffy had another solid game going 2-4 with a RBI and a run scored. Freshman designated hitter Michael Hill, who has seen limited time this season, had two hits on the day. Center fielder Brennan Metzger and first baseman Ino Patron got back on track each with a hit and a run scored.

The loss dropped the Dirtbags to 18-17 overall and 5-5 in the Big West

Game 2 -

More pitching trouble dooms Long Beach State. Shawn Stuart lasted just one inning, allowing four runs on three hits and dropping his record to 2-3 on the season. Such a bad start demoralized a Dirtbags squad that have now lost three straight games. Matt Johnson came on in relief of Stuart and allowed three more runs over three innings. Not all was bad on the mound however, Freshman Ryan Strufing closed out the game with four no hit innings, while striking out two.

The Dirtbag offense was not much better either, scoring just two runs on 10 hits. Over the last three games, Long Beach has had trouble driving in runs, whether it's just a lack of concentration, or bad pitch selection, has yet to be determined. Jeff McNeil had three hits on the day, but an entire team effort is needed to get this offense back on track.

This loss dropped the Dirtbags to 18-18 overall and 5-6 in the Big West

Game 3 -

Ino Patron was the designated hitter Saturday afternoon, and hit is exactly what he did. Long Beach State avoided the series sweep against UCSB behind two homeruns and four RBI from Patron. Center fielder Brennan Metzger and second baseman Matt Duffy each chipped in a RBI each, making this the best offensive performance for the Dirtbags over the last four games.

Branden Pinder pitched a very nice game for the Dirtbags. Pinder tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, one walk and struck out six. After a handful of rocky outings, Kyle Friedrichs pitched very effectively for 2 2/3 innings to earn his first save of the season.

The win improved the Dirtbags overall record to 19-18 and their Big West record to 6-6

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dirtbags Bounce Back Against UC Riverside; Take Two of Three

Jeff McNeil had a solid series vs. UC Riverside
Photo Courtesy of Long Beach State Baseball

Series Overview:
Game 1: W 1-0 (12 innings)
Game 2: W 7-5
Game 3: L 14-2

Game 1-

This was an old-fashioned pitching duel. Long Beach starter Andrew Gagnon threw eight strong innings, allowing just one hit and recording a season high 10 strikeouts. Not to be outdone, however, UC Riverside starter Matt Andriese pitched 10 innings allowing just three hits and recording six strikeouts.

The game was decided by the relief pitchers. The Dirtbags counted on Eddie Magallon and Branden Pinder who combined for four scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Once Andriese could no longer go, UCR left the game in the hands of Dylan Stuart.

Stuart gave up the winning run to Dirtbags second baseman Matt Duffy. Duffy singled up the middle in the bottom of the 12th inning which scored Ino Patron and sealed the victory for Long Beach.

Game 2 -

If the first game of this series was a sign of things to come, the sign was way off. The first match up of these two teams featured an amazing pitching battle between CSULB's Andrew Gagnon and UCR's Matt Andriese. This game featured an offensive burst from both teams that resulted in a 7-5 victory for the Dirtbags.

Ino Patron led the offensive charge going 2-4 on the day with two RBI. Second baseman Matt Duffy had a great game for Long Beach with four hits and three runs scored against UC Riverside.

Shawn Stuart got the start for the Dirtbags and tossed 4 1/3 innings allowing four runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts. Matt Johnson came on in relief of Stuart and pitched 4 2/3 strong innings allowing just one run on one hit with six strikeouts, earning him his second win on the season.

Game 3 -

After two solid victories over UC Riverside, the Long Beach State Dirtbags came out and layed an egg. Consistency has been the biggest problem for this team, and the 14-2 loss to UCR in the final game of the three game series proved they still have a ways to go.

The pitching struggled mightily, Long Beach used six pitchers in this game, by far their most this season. Ryan Strufing got the start for the Dirtbags, he went two innings allowing two runs, which is not the kind of production that you want out of your starter. The game got out of hand when Kyle Friedrichs came on in relief of Strufing. Friedrichs pitched 2 1/3 innings allowing six runs on eight hits. From that point forward, the game was out of reach for Long Beach State.

The offense for the Dirtbags did not provide much help either, the lone bright spot on an otherwise gloomy day was left fielder Jeff McNeil, who drove in both of the Dirtbags runs on the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dirtbags Put Up Fight Against #12 UCLA, But Fall Short

Ino Patron celebrates during a comeback.
Photo Courtesy of LBSU Athletics

In what can be described as the biggest test the Dirtbags may face all season, Long Beach State put up a good battle against the twelfth ranked team in the country, UCLA. The game went back and forth at Jackie Robinson Stadium, but ended with a 6-4 UCLA win. Despite the loss, there are a lot of good things that Long Beach can take away from this game.

The Dirtbags scored four runs on eight hits against UCLA starter Zack Weiss, but it wasn't enough against an extremely potent Bruin offense. Ino Patron led the way for Long Beach, going 2-3 with a run scored. Mike Marjama got back on track, going 1-4 with one RBI. Juan Avila and Kirk Singer combined to go 2-7 with two RBI.

The production by the Dirtbag offense was steady, but the pitching staff could not keep UCLA lead-off hitter Chris Giovinazzo off the base paths. Giovinazzo, a right fielder, went 3-5 from the plate with a homerun and two stolen bases. UCLA left fielder Cody Keefer also had a huge game for the Bruins, going 3-4 with three RBI.

Freshman Jake Stassi got the start for the Dirtbags, and he just couldn't get into a rhythm against the high-powered UCLA squad. Stassi lasted just two innings, surrendering three earned runs on five hits. Kyle Friedrichs came on in relief of Stassi and did a good job of keeping the Dirtbags in the game. Friedrichs pitched three strong innings, allowing two runs (both unearned on errors) while striking out four batters. Matt Johnson came on for Friedrichs in the sixth and pitched two innings allowing one run.

The Dirtbags performed well despite the loss, they had a solid offensive game, and it seemed like the game was too big for Freshman starter Jake Stassi.

With non-conference loss, Long Beach State dropped to 16-15 on the season, and stayed idle in the Big West.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Long Beach State Drops Two of Three to UC Davis

Catcher Mike Marjama gets a base hit in Game 1 vs. UC Davis.
Photo Courtest of LBSU Athletics

Series Overview:
Game 1: L 8-1
Game 2: L 11-1
Game 3: W 3-1

Game 1 -

It looked like the Dirtbag's took the Aggies for granted. Yes, UC Davis has a horrendous record (6-18, 1-3), but they are a college baseball team, not a high school or little league one. The difference between good teams and great teams is great teams take advantage of lesser teams. UC Davis is a team that Long Beach State should feast on, not get beat by.

Nothing was working for the Dirtbag's on this day, not the offense, not the defense, and definitely not the pitching.

The only bright spot on offense was catcher Mike Marjama, who went 2-4 from the plate, other than that, it was a rough day for the Dirtbags on offense. If you take out Marjama's production, the rest of Long Beach State's batters went 3-28. Center fielder Brendan Metzger who scored LBSU's only run felt the lack of offense was only an aberration, "We have been playing well on offense, this was just one of those days where you can't get anything going", he said.

The pitching was just as dismal as the offense, Junior starting pitcher Andrew Gagnon had one of his worst outings of the season. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings while giving up six runs (four earned) and walking three. Freshman Kyle Friedrichs came on in relief of Gagnon and pitched 4 1/3 solid innings. Friedrichs gave up just two runs while the game was already out of reach.

This loss dropped the Dirtbags to 15-13 overall and 2-2 in the Big West

Game 2:

If the Long Beach State Dirtbags thought it couldn't get any worse than a 8-1 loss to UC Davis, it did. A day after dropping the first game of this three game series to the Aggies, the Dirtbags got routed 11-1 in the second game.

The Dirtbags offense was stagnant for a second straight game, the lone bright spot being left fielder Jeff McNeil who wen't 4-4, but other than that, the rest of the team combined to hit 3-27.

The pitching, again, was a big problem for Long Beach. Branden Pinder took the loss, dropping his record to 1-4 on the season. Pinder gave up eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings. Junior Matt Johnson came on in relief, and didn't fare much better than Pinder. Johnson gave up three earned runs on five hits in just four innings.

When both the offense and the pitching are struggling, it is nearly impossible to beat anybody. The Dirtbags are now 15-14 overall with a 2-3 mark in the Big West.

Game 3:

After two disappointing losses to the UC Davis Aggies, Long Beach State finally got back on track. The Dirtbags defeated the Aggies 3-1 behind outstanding pitching from Shawn Stuart, Ryan Strufing and Eddie Magallon.

Stuart, the junior starter, pitched six strong innings, allowing just one run on six hits while striking out two. Stuart was happy with his performance, and glad that his teammates could sustain the lead, "I felt good out there today, I had my stuff going, and the guys behind me (Strufing and Magallon) picked me up", he said. Strufing earned his second relief win of the season, allowing just one hit and striking out two of the seven batters he faced. Magallon closed out the victory to get his eighth save of the season.

The stars of the day on offense were first baseman Ino Patron who went 3-4 from the plate with a run scored, center fielder Brennan Metzger who went 2-4 with a run scored and shortstop Kirk Singer who was 2-3 with a run scored.

The Dirtbags put together a solid performance on the mound, in the field, and at the plate - and the result? A win. It is all about consistency for this Long Beach State squad, the talent is unlimited, now they must put it all together on a consistent basis.

With the win, the Dirtbags improved their overall record to 16-14 and 3-3 in the Big West.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Avila Continues Hot Streak, Dirtbags Beat San Diego State 3-1

Juan Avila slides safely into third base for his first triple of the season
Photo Courtesy of LBSU Athletics

Juan Avila has continued his assault at the plate. One game after registering one of the best games of his LBSU career, Avila followed it up in a huge 3-1 victory over the Aztecs. Despite the solid production, Avila is staying mum on his recent performance, "I'm just trying to do what I can to help my team win" he said. Avila's offensive breakout is a welcome sight for the Dirtbags now, and for the future.

Junior center fielder and lead-off hitter Brennan Metzger set the tone against the Aztecs going 1-3 with a two RBI double. Avila went 2-4 with a single and a triple, while scoring twice. The other RBI came from left fielder Jeff McNeil, who was 1-4 in the game.

While the Dirtbags had a decent day at the plate, two Long Beach State Freshman dominated from the mound.

Jake Stassi and Ryan Strufing pitched six combined innings, allowing no hits, while striking out three Aztecs. Strufing earned the first victory of his Dirtbag career. Jon Maciel, Nate Underwood, and Eddie Magallon ensured the victory for Long Beach in the last three innings, with Magallon earning his seventh save of the season.

This was a non-conference game for the Dirtbags, they improved their overall record to 15-12, while they stayed idle in the Big West at 2-1.