The pressure is mounting for the Long Beach State baseball team as it hits the road to take on conference opponent Cal Poly in a three-game weekend series starting Friday night at Baggett Stadium.
The Dirtbags (21-15, 7-5 Big West) are not faring well lately, dropping five of their last eight contests including a 4-2 Tuesday night loss at Loyola Marymount. LBSU is just 4-9 on the road, and head coach Troy Buckley said the team needs to learn how to win away from Blair Field if it wants to make a push towards the postseason.
“We’ve got to get tougher on the offensive side of the baseball field,” Buckley said. “We need to take better at-bats and not fall behind.”
The Mustangs’ (17-20, 5-4 Big West) pitching has been suspect all season as evidenced by their 4.35 team ERA, which ranks near the bottom of the conference. However, they are riding hot right now by winning seven of their last nine games.
Right-hander Casey Bloomquist is slated to get the start Friday night against the Dirtbags. The third year starter is 3-2 on the season with a 3.36 ERA and is second on the team in total strikeouts with 44. However, his control on the mound is lacking so far this season as he leads the Mustangs in both wild pitches and walks.
The Mustangs rank in the top-four in multiple offensive categories in the Big West. Junior first basemen Ryan Drobny is one of six Big West players hitting over .400 in conference-only contests. He possesses a .419 batting average with a .500 on base percentage against Big West opponents.
Dirtbags junior right-fielder Zack Rivera said the players are stressing the importance of scoring runs and making sure the offense lessens the burden on the pitching staff.
“It’s not acceptable what we have been doing,” Rivera said. “We definitely need to finish strong if we want to be on top of the conference.”
The Dirtbags have the lowest team batting average and on base percentage in the Big West conference. However, freshmen outfielder Joey Sanchez and designated hitter Luke Rasmussen are giving much needed production at the plate for the Dirtbags as of late.
Sanchez is getting more playing time at centerfield and is coming off a breakout performance Saturday against UC Riverside. He went 5-5 and scored the game-winning run. Rasmussen leads the team with a .419 batting average and his last two games have been his best of the season. He went 4-5 with three walks and two RBIs between Saturday and Tuesday’s games.
The Dirtbags are fairing better on the mound, where three of their starters have combined to win six of the 10 Big West Pitcher of the Week awards this season. Freshman right-hander Chris Mathewson was the latest to win the weekly honor, his third of the season.
Mathewson is the fifth Dirtbag and first freshman in school history to win the award three times, joining Marcus Jones (1996), Cesar Ramos (2005), Andrew Carpenter (2006) and Jared Weaver (2003, 2004). He also ranks 10th in the nation with a 1.28 ERA.
“We just need to keep working and moving forward,” Mathewson said. “We can’t take a step back.”
The Mustangs will host the Dirtbags at Baggett Stadium, where they are 9-9, on Friday night starting at 6 p.m.