LBSU baseball will square off against Cal State Fullerton in weekend series

web_sports_baseball_bobby yagakeThe Long Beach State baseball team will take on Big West rivals Cal State Fullerton for a three-game series that starts Friday at Blair Field. The series will count as nonconference.

The rivalry between these two teams started in 1989 during Dave Snows 13 year tenure as the Dirtbags head coach. Snow turned the baseball program around for the team. The Dirtbags and the Titans combined to win 12 of 13 Big West championships during his time.

The Titans (9-9) lead the all-time series 133-63 over the Dirtbags (10-7) and took 25 of the last 31 games. Sophomore shortstop Garrett Hampson said it’s a big series that the team will not take lightly.

“The first thing the alumni talk about when they come back is how important it is to beat Fullerton,” Hampson said. “All the team’s success is measured on how we play against them.”

Hampson leads the team offensively but the Dirtbags have struggled as a whole with just a .232 batting average. They rank dead last in both runs and hits in the Big West Conference. Hampson said that the Titans won’t give them many free opportunities, which is true since the Titans rank fourth in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio

A sluggish offense will force the Dirtbags to rely on their impressive pitching staff once again. Their pitching is among the best in the nation and they are averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranks them at second in the nation. They also rank fourth in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings.

Senior right-hander Kyle Friedrichs allowed just four walks this season but ranks 11th in the nation with 42 strikeouts thrown. Friedrichs holds a record 3-1 this season and has been focusing on attacking the strike zone in practice in order to pick up another win.

“I’ve been working on staying down because once I go up I get hit around a lot,” Friedrichs said. “This matchup is really important because it defines your career as a Dirtbag.”

Junior right-handed reliever Ty Provencher is struggling lately due to a thumb injury but will look to bounce back this weekend now that it’s healed. Provencher has a 1.17 earned run average and a team-leading four saves.

Provencher, who was born and raised in Long Beach, said that he is excited for the matchup that he has been watching since he was a kid. In anticipation of the matchup Provencher learned a new pitch, the splitter.

“It’s a hard pitch to control because you really need competitive juices and to be in game,” Provencher said. “For three years I never had a ball in my arsenal that would drop, so it’s pretty cool.”

The Titans are struggling right now with four straight losses under fourth year head coach Rick Vanderhook.

The (Titan’s/Dirthbag’s) Junior right-hander Thomas Eshelman is off to a strong start this year. He is just a week removed from winning Big West Pitcher of the week award honors. Eshelman has thrown 45 strikeouts this season, which ranks sixth in the nation and leads the Big West.

“We’re going to need to get the bunting game going,” Hampson said. “We need to get the pitcher off the mound and make him uncomfortable.”

While the pitching has been solid this season for the Titans they have been challenged offensively so far. The Titans are batting a .246 average have the second fewest total combined hits in the Big West.

Junior Jake Jefferies and sophomore Josh Estill have been the most consistent at the plate for the Titans. They have both garnished a Big West Field Player this season. Jefferies leads the team with 21 hits and 11 runs. Estill leads the team with 16 RBI, a .339 batting average and a .542 slugging percentage.
The first pitch for the rivalry game is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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