The Long Beach State baseball team will welcome the winless Utah Valley Friday night in the start of a three-game series at Blair Field.
The Dirtbags’ (3-1) pitching staff combined for 51 strikeouts in its first four games, allowing only a .187 opposing batting in that span. The Wolverines (0-4) scored just eight runs in their four game road trip at the CSUN invitational.
Junior right-hander Ryan Cruz, who struck out nine batters against Pepperdine on Feb. 17, said he is expecting to “play some Dirtbag baseball” against visiting Utah Valley (0-4).
“I don’t know too much about them,” Cruz said. “We [will] just play our game.”
Head coach Troy Buckley said that the Wolverines were a scrappy bunch when they played them last year.
“They are going to fight for at-bats,” Buckley said. “They are not afraid to play people.”
The Wolverines annually schedule preseason games against quality opponents. In 2014 they played at Arizona, Pepperdine and LBSU. In 2013, they played then No. 6 Oregon State, No. 10 Arizona and Gonzaga.
Utah Valley head coach Eric Madsen is in his seventh year as head coach of Utah Valley, collecting a record of 193-146 record (.564 winning percentage) during his tenure with the Wolverines. Utah Valley is coming off a 28-30 season in 2014 as part of its first year as a member of Western Athletic Conference.
The Wolverines reached the WAC championship game last year, where they lost to Sacramento State and failed to reach their first NCAA Regional. The WAC preseason coaches’ poll picked the Wolverines to finish fifth in league play.
Buckley said it was going to be a good test for his young team.
“We’ll see how [freshman right-hander Chris] Mathewson goes tomorrow and see what happens with that,” Buckley said.
The Wolverines have some returning starters for this season, the most important being junior first basemen Mark Krueger, a WAC Player of the Year candidate. Junior outfielder Craig Brinkerhoff led the team with 21 doubles last season. Senior outfielder Kade Andrus was a WAC all-tournament team selection last season.
On the mound, junior right-hander Danny Beddes returns for the Wolverines. Beddes was an All-WAC second team selection last year with a 4-5 record and 4.09 ERA. Senior right-hander Chad Michaud tied for the team lead last year in appearances with 22.
Sophomore shortstop Garrett Hampson said the team put an emphasis in practice this week on hitting the outside pitch.
“We have to start committing to that,” Hampson said. “I think we are taking too many 2-0 strikes.”
The Dirtbags host Utah Valley for a three-game series starting Friday night at Blair Field at 6 p.m.