The No. 8 Long Beach State Dirtbags released their 2018 season schedule on Tuesday, revealing a total of 13 games scheduled against teams listed in baseballamerica.com’s top-25 ranking. The impressive strength of schedule comes on the heels of a 42-20-1 campaign last year that resulted in a NCAA Super Regional appearance.
“We are excited about our 2018 schedule,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said in the press release. ”It will give us the opportunity to play outstanding programs both at home and on the road.”
Key matchups include a road series against No. 4 Texas Christian University (50-18) Feb. 24-26, a home game against No. 18 Vanderbilt (36-25) on March 6 and a road series against No. 10 Texas A&M (41-23) March 9-11.
“The non-conference schedule will be a huge test that will allow us to grow and develop our identity for this Dirtbag team,” Buckley said.
LBSU also has six total games against No. 7 Cal State Fullerton (39-24), three of which will count toward their Big West Conference record during the final homestand at Blair Field May 24-26. The Titans, TCU and Texas A&M all reached the college world series in 2017.
“I think [last season] we showed we can compete with anybody in the nation and we set a new standard,” senior shortstop Laine Huffman said. “A schedule like this is really good for us, but to stay on that track we’re going to have to beat those teams.”
Rated Power Index is determined by wins and losses against nationally ranked opponents, with extra points being considered for road wins. The Dirtbags finished 14th in the country in RPI, which helped them earn hosting rights for the NCAA Regional and Super Regional tournaments. Last season LBSU was 4-4 against top-25 teams, and have a great opportunity to improve their status in the upcoming season. The Division I Baseball Committee and the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee recently approved a measure changing the national tournament seeding from a 1 to 8 into a 1 to 16 format, making RPI more important than ever.
“That aspect puts a lot more emphasis on those series,” senior starting pitcher John Sheaks said. “We want to end up as one of those national seeds because, the returners know how important it is to host in the postseason.”
The Dirtbags will also host Mississippi at Blair field March 2-4, as well as Tulane in the following home series against Tulane March 16-18. Another important series will be a roadtrip to play the Mountain West Conference’s Fresno State March 29-31.
With the release of its schedule, LBSU caught the eye of many across the country and will likely enter the year highly ranked in the national scope.
“Playing schools from all of these different conferences is huge for us,” Sheaks said. “It really gives us the opportunity to prove ourselves on the national level.”
While the 2018 season feels much closer, LBSU has yet to hold an official practice, and will likely begin in the coming weeks. Returners such as Sheaks and Huffman not only have to get themselves prepared for the season, but also groom the crop of fresh faces added to the LBSU roster after seven key players were drafted and signed with MLB teams in July.
“The schedule will also allow the new guys to get a grip of what Division I college baseball is like at the highest level,” Huffman said. “It’s the top competition in the nation, and that’s what we all play for.”
If the Dirtbags can perform like they did in 2017 against the top quality teams on the slate this year, another exciting post season will be a strong possibility.