Coming off a win against San Diego Tuesday, the Dirtbags have an opportunity to build momentum with a three-game conference home series against CSUN (15-17, 3-3 Big West) this weekend.
A series loss would show that the Dirtbags (5-26, 0-3 Big West) are still unprepared to be competitive in conference this year, but a series sweep would move Long Beach to .500 in the Big West.
“We’re just trying to progressively show improvement,” head coach Troy Buckley said.
With top-tier opponents still on the schedule, the Dirtbags must make the most of the series against the fifth place matadors. Still, CSUN presents notable challenges.
CSUN has three players with at least six stolen bases. The Matadors will likely use their speed to put several runners in scoring position over the course of the series. That means Long Beach’s pitching will have to remain composed in high pressure situations, something the staff has struggled with this year.
“[Priority] number one is keep those guys off base,” Buckley said.
Six different Matadors have been picked off this season. Most Dirtbags’ starting pitchers have deceptive pickoff moves which they’ll combine with other tactics to mitigate CSUN’s speed.
“As soon as you get strike one, then you’re able to control the running game,” Buckley said. “Then you can pitch out and they’re not as likely to be as aggressive.”
Sophomore LHP Adam Seminaris and Junior RHP Nick Avila are projected to start Friday and Saturday, respectively. Seminaris emerged earlier this year as the ace of the staff, but has struggled in his last two starts.
“We’ve talked about doing a few different things to try to get him off to a better start,” Buckley said.
Avila is recovering from a shoulder injury but had his best outing of the season on the recent road trip where he pitched seven innings allowing just three hits against Irvine.
“He’s been pitching down in the zone a little bit better so the rhythm and the tempo has been better,” Buckley said.
The Dirtbags will need length out of their first two starters. Freshman LHP Basilo Pacheco and junior LHP Dylan Spacke will be unavailable for the weekend. Pacheco has an elbow injury and Spacke is out for academic reasons. If the Dirtbags can combine long outings on the mound with the balanced offense they displayed Tuesday night, they’ll have a chance of getting back into the mix in the Big West.
Game one of the series against CSUN starts 6 p.m. Friday at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.