Just two years into his five-year extension, Dirtbags’ head coach Eric Valenzuela has departed The Beach, taking the St. Mary’s job that was vacated following the firing of the Gaels head coach Greg Moore on June 19.
In it, Valenzuela finds himself a reunion with the program where he found success leading the Gaels to four consecutive 30-win seasons from 2016-2019, and the program’s only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016.
This season, the Dirtbags finished (33-22) with the best record under Valenzuela, but were seventh in the Big West standings.
With his departure comes a new opening, one that is currently being filled by now Interim head coach Bryan Peters, who was the associate head coach and came over from St. Mary’s alongside Valenzuela.
Peters has been at the program for four years focusing on the offensive side of the ball and helped the team tally its second highest home run total in program history this past season. During his time he has seen junior first baseman Jonathon Long climb to second all-time in career home runs with 25, just five shy of the program record held by Jeff Liefer.
“Bryan has worked side by side with Eric helping to instill the culture that exists within the baseball program,” said Interim Executive Director of Athletics Ted Kadowaki in a statement released from the athletics department. “He will continue to guide our student-athletes in the best way possible.”
A tournament appearance eluded Valenzuela at Long Beach. However, he led his team to winning seasons in all four years, a necessary step in the right direction following the (14-41) 2019 season, a year before he was hired.
“Eric took over our baseball program and immediately returned it to the national spotlight that is rooted in the Dirtbags’ history,” said Kadowaki in the statement.
During his tenure, the Dirtbags saw nine players selected in the MLB draft. Six of whom were pitchers an area of emphasis under Valenzuela who had been a pitching coach for multiple programs before his hire.
This season that pitching staff once again shone with the pitchers compiling a 10.0 K/9 the best mark in program history, and right-handed graduate student Nico Zeglin becoming the sixth All-American pitcher during the time Valenzuela was with the Dirtbags.