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SoCal Weekend Wrap: Devastating Dirtbag Losses

Rough weekend for Long Beach.

It was a rough weekend for Long Beach State, who had two very disappointing endings. Outside of the Dirtbags’ struggles against rival Cal State Fullerton, it was a very successful weekend in Southern California as SoCal squads won five of the seven other series that were played.

We provided you with live updates on Twitter (@SoCal_CBDaily) throughout the weekend, but here’s a recap of all the weekend action:

High Heat

League play started up and there were two West Coast Conference series that had a flare for the dramatic with walk-off finishes, so we’ll start there:

#8 Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State — When two rivals get together, even if it is a non-conference series betwixt two conference rivals, all bets are off as anything can happen. After Fullerton dominated the Friday night contest, 6-0, thanks to a 7-inning, 62-pitch, one-hit effort from Thomas Eshelman, the soft Long Beach State lineup came alive to score five runs against Titans freshman stud Justin Garza — the worst outing of Garza’s young career. Ino Patron led the way for the Dirtbags, reaching base four times and collecting four RBI. Jake Stassi was strong for seven innings, but when he turned things over to the bullpen, things fell apart. Fullerton scored five runs in the eighth inning, including runs on a bases-loaded walk and bases-loaded hit by pitch, to take a 6-5 lead and eventually pull out an 8-6 victory.

In Sunday’s finale, Grahamm Wiest had his best start of the season, allowing one run in eight innings while striking out a career-high nine. But Long Beach was able to put runners on second and third against closer Michael Lorenzen and appeared to have tied the game on a one-out sacrifice fly from Eric Hutting. However, an appeal to third base resulted in a game-ending out as the umpires said Michael Hill left third base early when tagging. The baserunning gaffe gave Lorenzen his second save of the series to go along with a 4-for-10 weekend at the plate that included a homer and a double in the first game. One thing did go against the Titans as Matt Chapman sprained an ankle and is expected out for more than a month.

San Diego at Gonzaga — San Diego went on the road to the Pacific Northwest with a chance to solidify itself as the team to beat in the West Coast Conference. Instead the Toreros only solidified our concerns with this team. The defense was atrocious committing nine errors and the starting pitching struggled. Even ace Michael Wagner was roughed up for six runs in the first inning on Friday night before settling in. However, against Marco Gonzales, one of the premier two-way players in the country, it was too big of a cushion to overcome.

San Diego dropped the series, losing 6-1 and 8-1 in the first two games. The Toreros did show their resolve salvaging a win in a crazy, back-and-forth 10-9 series finale that featured seven lead changes, nine errors and 39 players participating. Kris Bryant, who was “held in check” for a 4-11, 2 R, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 3 BB weekend had a three-run double in the seventh, but it was his teammates that picked him up in the ninth inning, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs after he flew out to leadoff the inning.

Willie Kuhl Pitcher of the Week

Kuhl allowed three hits in 7.2 IP of relief.

Diamond Studs

Pitcher of the Week:
Willie Kuhl (Cal State Fullerton) —
 It can be hard for a reliever to have enough of an impact in a week to overshadow the strong starting pitching performances that happen each week, but Willie Kuhl did that with a pair of great long relief appearances. Kuhl pitched a career-high 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday against Nebraska after starter Koby Gauna struggled. Kuhl allowed three hits and an unearned run while striking out a career-high eight.

That got his name on the Pitcher of the Week watch list heading into the weekend, but it was his three hitless innings in Fullerton’s come-from-behind win Saturday that helped him win the award. Kuhl kept the Titans in the game and was rewarded with his first win of the season when Fullerton rallied for seven runs in the final two innings. The 6-foot-3 right-handed sophomore now sports an 11.81 K per 9 after four more strikeouts against rival Long Beach.

Honorable Mention: Thomas Eshelman (Fullerton), Jake Stassi (Long Beach), Trevor Megill (LMU), Nick Vander Tuig (UCLA), Grahamm Wiest (Fullerton), John Salas (Northridge).

Austin Davidson Player of the Week

Davidson had 10 hits this weekend.

Player of the Week:
Austin Davidson (Pepperdine) —
 Even though he is only a sophomore, Austin Davidson is one of Pepperdine’s most experienced hitters. By now, he should know that hitting the ball deep to straight away center is typically a fruitless endeavor at Eddy D. Field Stadium. But it wasn’t on Sunday when Davidson roped a two-run shot out to dead center to top off his strong weekend.

Davidson crushed the ball all weekend, finishing 10-for-14 with seven runs, five doubles, the home run, three RBI and a walk as the Waves swept Santa Clara to move into first place in the West Coast Conference standings.

Honorable Mention: Michael Lorenzen (Fullerton), Kris Bryant (San Diego), Ino Patron (Long Beach State), James Roberts (USC), Ryan Muno (San Diego State), Kyle Ferramola (Northridge)

Caught in ‘The Rundown’

Sweep City:
Pepperdine vs. Santa Clara  After needing a pair of close victories (4-3, 7-5) in a doubleheader Saturday, Pepperdine went for the kill shot early on Sunday. The Waves scored eight runs in the second inning…and then added another eight-run frame the very next inning on their way to a 19-4 win. Chris Amezquita propelled the offense from the leadoff spot. He reached base seven times on the weekend and knocked two doubles and two home runs, but the biggest star was Player of the Week Austin Davidson: 10-14, 7 R, 5 2B, HR, 3 RBI.

Carlos Lopez had two hits each game.

Kyle Ferramola had an impressive debut.

Cal State Northridge vs. Utah Valley — After scoring four runs late to bust open the first game, Northridge scratched and clawed for three more wins, winning by four total runs, to sweep the four-game set with Utah Valley. Jerry Keel (6 IP, 5 H, ER), Calvin Copping (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and Bryce Rutherford (5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) each delivered strong starts for the Matadors, but it was John Salas that really shined. Salas pitched a career-high eight innings, allowing only five hits and no runs as he picked up his first win for Northridge.

The Matadors got a significant boost to the lineup when pitcher Kyle Ferramola was inserted into the designated hitter role. Ferramola delivered two hits in the Frida matchup, including a two-run triple. He followed that with his first two career home runs in the second game Saturday despite hitting only one home run during his high school career. Not to be outdone, Miles Williams blasted his second home run of the series on Sunday after he cleared the batter’s eye in centerfield for a three-run shot Friday.

Series Win:
San Diego State vs. UNLV  It took a pair of last at bat wins, including a walk-off hit by pitch by Jake Romasnki on Sunday, but the Aztecs took the series win over visiting UNLV and sit tied with New Mexico atop the Mountain West standings after two conference weekends. The starting pitching was strong again, allowing five earned runs in a combined 20 2/3 innings. Ryan Muno returned to the lineup since being injured opening weekend and had an immediate impact with two doubles in the series opener. He reached base nine times in the series.

Pat Valaika 6 H, 6 RBI

Pat Valaika had six hits & six RBI.

#11 UCLA vs. Cal – Cal scored four runs in the seventh inning Friday night to beat Bruins ace Adam Plutko, but the Bruins bounced back with a pair of close-until-the-end wins to take the series. Pat Valaika had six hits and six RBI in the series and Eric Filia responded after not being in Saturday’s starting lineup. Filia reached base in five of his final seven plate appearances and knocked three extra-base hits after pinch hitting late Saturday. Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson both pitched seven innings and allowed only one earned run combined.

Loyola Marymount at St. Mary’s — If it wasn’t for an offensive outage on Sunday, the Lions would have swept St. Mary’s. LMU’s starting pitching was lights out. Even though his innings without allowing an earned run streak ended at 42 (after an inherited runner scored against a reliever), Colin Welmon improved to 4-1, going 7 2/3 innings. Trevor Megill followed with seven strong, in which he allowed three hits and no earned runs. Aaron Griffin allowed only four hits and one earned run, but took the complete game loss in Sunday’s 2-0 finale.

USC at Washington – With a brief respite from ranked teams on the schedule, the Trojans really needed to pick up a win in Sunday’s rubber match at Washington. But once again, the bullpen’s training wheels had a screw loose and that resulted in a painful crash. Trailing 3-2, Nigel Nootbaar entered in the sixth inning needing to shutdown the Huskies and give the offense a chance. Instead, he recorded only one out and was charged with five runs and the offense could never recover. Despite 25 hits (8 for extra bases) and 15 free passes, the Trojans managed only nine runs in the series. USC couldn’t get the clutch hits, stranding 28 runners in the series. One bright spot was another strong outing from Bobby Wheatley, who picked up the win with eight innings of two-run ball on Friday.

  • Larry Braverman

    When Buckely was hired he said “he doesn’t expect much to change from a philosophy
    standpoint” well Troy, nothing has changed, the 49er’s still stink. Now into his third bad
    year, coming off another sweep by the Titans it is clear that the program has
    actually gotten worse under the leadership of Troy Buckley. I think a lot of the blame
    has to rest on the shoulders of top assistant Jesse Zepeda as he runs the day to day operations of the offense and defense; the pitching coach is in the bullpen most of practice. If you are a pitching coach as the head coach you have to have a quality guy running the rest of the program, so much of the teams make up will be dictated by the person running the offense and defense components of practice. LBSU was once a great program with a proud history and would fight you tooth and nail every pitch,
    now they are just an easy game on the schedule and a total embarrassment to what is a great fan base. The right guy in there could really make a difference, I think Buckley will have to cleans house on his staff, maybe he could save face by quitting and taking a pro job, either way changes have to be made. I think Buckley will get 2 more years with a new staff, if nothing changes he is gone and I think the University will have to look outside of its family this time, who wants to throw out the first candidate?


    • Larry,

      Thanks for the comment. Long Beach State hasn’t quite been the same ever since Dave Snow left. The biggest difference is that they just aren’t getting the high-profile recruits the last couple years. There are no Evan Longoria, Jared Weaver types.

      The Dirtbags also don’t have the depth. Buckley has done a tremendous job piecing together a starting rotation this season after losing two of his top three returners to Tommy John surgery and having last year’s Sunday starter Matt Anderson get his fastball up to the mid 90s during summer ball and get signed as a free agent. When you lose three pitchers you were expecting to be significant parts of the pitching staff, new roles have to be filled. Now the guy that was a lefty specialist becomes the setup man and your midweek starter becomes your No. 2.

      There was plenty of reason that the Dirtbags were getting a little hype before the season. With Strufing and Friedrichs, the staff goes from good to really good. And expectations were that Ino Patron and Richard Prigatano would bat closer to .330 than .230. Patron seems to be breaking out after his big performance in game two of the Fullerton series. Jeff McNeil and Michael Hill have been carrying the team offensively, but they need some support behind the top of the lineup.

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