With the toughest part of its season in the rearview mirror, the Long Beach State baseball team will welcome the hapless UC Riverside for a three-game weekend series starting Friday night at Blair Field.
The Dirtbags (19-13, 4-3) are coming off a losing five-game road trip, but they managed to collect some accolades along the way. The Dirtbags picked up their third straight Big West Pitcher of the Week honor after freshman right-hander Chris Mathewson’s eight-inning shutout performance on April 12 at Irvine.
Three LBSU starters have earned the weekly award including senior righty Kyle Friedrichs and junior righty Tanner Brown. Brown said it creates a competitive atmosphere among the starters.
“I wouldn’t say I want to go and beat them,” Brown said. “They motivate me, and when they put out a good game I have to match them.”
The Dirtbags’ rotation ranks in the top 15 in several pitching categories including ERA, strikeouts per nine innings, hits allowed per nine innings and walks/hits per innings pitched.
Meanwhile, LBSU’s offense has accumulated the fewest walks and possess the worst batting average and on base percentage. There were some positive things to take away from this past weekend, however. Freshman designated hitter Brock Lundquist made Dirtbag history by doubling four times in one game on Saturday.
Shortstop Garrett Hampson continues to produce at the plate and put together his third consecutive two-hit game. He also is fourth in the Big West in stolen bases with 11 on the season. Hampson said the team is putting together better at-bats recently.
“We’re starting to figure out (how??) to score and manufacture runs,” Hampson said.
The Highlanders (10-24, 0-6) are in the midst of an 11-game losing streak under first-year head coach Troy Percival. The Dirtbags should be able to take advantage of a pitching staff that ranks last in the Big West with a 5.22 ERA. Offensively the Highlanders are not faring much better so far.
CSUN is fifth in the Big West in batting average and second to last in on base percentage. Two of the few bright spots have been freshman outfielder Austin Colvin and sophomore Vince Fernandez.
Colvin leads the Matadors in batting average and Fernandez in base hits, including five home runs. Despite the losing streak, Dirtbags head coach Troy Buckley said the Dirtbags will not take their opponent lightly.
“We are at the halfway point,” Buckley said. “You have to take what’s in front of you and not lose sight of the big picture.”
The first pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Blair Field.