Baseball, Sports

Ex-Dirtbag looks to make major leap

 In the last few years, ex-Dirtbags have burst onto the Major League scene like never before. Jered Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria have all made an immediate impact, paving the way for current Long Beach State stars to make the jump themselves.

 Andrew Liebel is one such star. Converted from a reliever to a starter halfway through the 2007 season, the senior flourished in the new position with the Dirtbags.

 This year, he raced to an 8-2 mark before losing his last two starts. The accolades have since come pouring in.

 Two weeks ago, he was named the Pro-Line Athletic National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association for his shutout of UC Santa Barbara. This came on the heels of his first career shutout the week before at UC Davis.

 A Roger Clemens Award semifinalist, an honor given to the nation’s top pitcher, Liebel is also a nominee for the Golden Spikes Award — given annually to the best collegiate ballplayer, regardless of position.

 Just last week he was named tri-Big West Pitcher of the Year and a second team All-American.

 “He’s a bulldog,” said Niall Adler, an LBSU associate director of media relations. “The type of guy you want in a foxhole with you.”

 Long Beach Press-Telegram Dirtbag beat writer Bob Keisser agrees. “He’s got the right mental framework and he knows how to pitch,” he said. “He wants the ball and he works fast.”

 Indeed, Liebel’s trademark this season was working fast. The shutout he threw against UCSB lasted just two hours and 12 minutes.

 “I like to get on the mound and get going,” Liebel said. “I don’t want to walk around and think too much.”

 It’s been opposing hitters that have had the time to think. Liebel showed tremendous control this season registering 97 strikeouts to just 19 walks, with a stingy 2.22 ERA.

 In every start except one, Liebel worked into at least the 7th inning. He only went six innings against Fullerton two weeks ago due to a nearly two-hour rain delay.

 “I try and throw nine [innings] every time I go out there,” Liebel said. “It’s definitely something I take pride in.”

 Added head coach Mike Weathers, “He showed he can keep his velocity up. He can pitch at 89-91 [miles per hour], and he can do it in the first inning and he can do it in the seventh or eighth.”

 Liebel went a long way to debunk the myth of a weak fastball by working hard last off-season to improve his heater along with his secondary pitches.

 “Andrew’s command of all his pitches is way above average,” Weathers said.

 With the Dirtbags’ season over, the attention on Liebel has shifted to today’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and his draft stock remains high despite lackluster performances against Fullerton and Fresno State in his last two outings.

 Projecting the way drafts will unfold is always difficult. Drafted out of high school in the 47th round, Liebel could go as high as the 6th or 7th round, Keisser said.

 Adler thinks he could go even higher.

 “[Liebel] as a senior draftee is tricky, but his stock is rising. The draft is a funny thing,” he said. “All it takes is one guy that likes you and you can go really high, even the 2nd or 3rd round.”

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