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Welcome

Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at dirtbagsfan@yahoo.com.

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This website is not affiliated with Long Beach State University or its NCAA Division I baseball program. All original material copyright 2004-2006 by Jeffrey A. Agnew.

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Monday, January 31, 2005

I'm Back From The Frozen Tundra....I Mean Tempe

How cold was it? Well, okay, there wasn't any snow, but it did go from cold (Friday night) to cold and wet (Saturday). But yesterday was a beautiful day...and the weather was pretty good too.

A few observations from the Dirtbags series win over the ASU Sun Devils at Packard Stadium in Tempe:

...I have no doubt that Arizona State will be outstanding this season, but they did not play up to their No. 9 ranking this weekend. For the series, they hit eight batters, threw five wild pitches and committed four errors. Long Beach State hit .336 (39 hits in 116 at bats), and drew 7 walks (in addition to the 8 hit batters). They looked especially bad Friday, when they committed 3 errors (4 of the Dirtbags 7 runs were unearned). Preseason All-Americans Travis Buck and Jeff Larish were hardly heard from. While Buck went 5 for 12, Larish was 2 for 12, and neither had a single run batted in.

...While the Dirtbags will miss Jered Weaver, pitching depth appears to have improved remarkably. Each starter (Cesar Ramos, Cody Evans and Marco Estrada) was impressive. Collectively, they gave up 5 earned runs in 16.2 innings (a combined 2.70 ERA). Cody and Marco, each in their Division I debuts (both are JC transfers), were outstanding. Cody went 4 innings before the long rain delay on Saturday, then returned for 2/3rds of an inning afterwards. He yielded only 1 earned run (and 1 unearned run). It's woulda, coulda, shoulda, but without the delay it seems likely that Cody and the Dirtbags would have won the Saturday game. Marco put in a very strong performance, scattering 8 hits over 6.0 innings, giving up only 1 run.

If this weekend is any indication, the bullpen will be much deeper than last season. Last year through the second half of the season the Dirtbags relied almost exclusively on setup man Brian Anderson and closer Neil Jamison. Each pitched outstanding at ASU, with Brian going 2.0 innings (no runs, 1 hit, 1 walk, 3 Ks) and Neil going 1.1 (no runs, no hits, no walks, 1 K, 1 save). You can add to that a very impressive debut by junior LHP Steve Hammond, a transfer from Sacramento City College. Steve pitched Friday and Sunday, going a total of 2.2 innings. He gave up no runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 6. Having a go to leftie in the bullpen is going to make pitching coach Troy Buckley's day...over and over. Though it wasn't all smooth (see below), I was impressed with freshman RHP Andrew Liebel, who went 1.0 inning and took the loss on Saturday. Watching him throw for the first time as he warmed up, and then pitching to ASU, this young man has some pop in his fastball. He mostly kept the ball low in the zone. With experience, we may be hearing a lot from him in the future.

...Now for the rough spots in the inning Andrew Liebel pitched. Catcher Tito Cruz made repeated trips to the mound...it appeared that Andrew was not getting the signs correctly. Troy Buckley made a trip to the mound, but the problem persisted. Buckley went back to the mound with the count 1 ball, 2 strikes, called for a new pitcher and had an "animated" discussion with the freshman. As Andrew reached the dugout, the umpires converged on the mound and called for him to come back in. He was required to finish pitching to the batter (who hit an RBI single), before Buckley pulled him (for Brett Andrade). From the first base umpire, Bill from our party learned that there is a rule in college baseball that on the second trip to the mound by a coach during the same at bat by a hitter the pitcher cannot be replaced. This rule prevented Buckley from making the substitution.

...The Dirtbags' defense on Saturday left a lot to be desired. They were charged with 3 errors, and should have had a 4th (on a ball dropped by Steve Valazco in right field).

...On the flip side, that catch by freshman rightfielder Jose Hernandez in the 6th inning Sunday was the real deal. With two outs and the Dirtbags holding a slim 3-1 lead, ASU had runners at the corners when ASU first baseman Joe Persichina hit a line drive towards the right field corner and nearly to the warning track. Jose snagged it at full speed with the ball tailing away. It killed the Sun Devils potential rally, and they never threatened again (the Dirtbags scored 3 in the top of the 7th). All wind left in the sails died. It was simply an outstanding play at just the right time.

...Troy Tulowitzki is stepping up as the leader of this team. Troy went 7 for 14 with 2 doubles and 4 RBI. Just as importantly, he plays with enthusiasm that is clearly infectious.

...ASU has some fans who get a little surly when things don't go their way. One particulary obnoxious fellow in the third row of section A claimed to own all of the seats in the two rows in front of him (which were vacant when some Dirtbags fans moved down in the middle of the Friday night game). After an inning of bile from his mouth, our fans moved. One later went down and offered him $2 in rent for the use of the seats...I won't print his reply. On Sunday, by midway through the game he was gone. In fact, by the end of all three games Dirtbags fans came close to outnumbering Sun Devil fans (Saturday because of weather).

posted on 1/31/2005 by Jeff Agnew

Comments:
I too was out in Alaska.........I mean Tempe for the three game series against the Devils and was equally impressed not only with the newest members of our pitching staff but also with the absolute confidence that Coach Weathers and Coach Buckley displayed in them. In the case of junior transfers Cody Evans, Marco Estrada, and Steve Hammond it is understandable given their previous collegiate experience, but in the case of the true freshman, Donnie Hume, Andrew Liebel and Matt Fitts, it's another thing entirely. The fact that Fitts didn't see any action over the weekend means very little. The fact that he was on the bus should speak volumes in terms of what the coching staff thinks of this young man and his abilities on the hill. In saturday's game both Hume and Liebel were placed smack dab into the pressure cooker known as college baseball. I thouhgt both of them did extremely well given the circumstances. We remember Donnie getting tagged for a few runs to tie the game but we forget that he came in the previous inning with two outs and struck out his opponent looking. We remember the walk given up by Andrew Liebel and then the balk that moved the runner to second as well as the last pitch he delivered that was lined to left producing the go ahead run for ASU. Let's not forget that the inning before he retired the number 2, 3 and 4 batters for Arizona in order on a mere ten pitches. Great stuff in a tough situation for the rookie. I was disappointed to come home and see that our own local newspaper, we all know which one, seemed to finger Liebel as the weak link in saturdays game when in fact it was a losing effort by our team. Nobody knows more than I that the Dirtbags live and die as a team. There are no individuals on this team, only teammates. The camaraderie of this buch is uncannny and we should all take our hats off the Coach Weathers, Coach Buckley, and Coach Barbara for making it so. We have a wonderful young pitching staff this year and I for one am looking forward to watching them grow.
 
You make several very good points.

I'll take the last first. It may be purely a gut feeling, but this looks like a TEAM. These guys really seem to be working together and pulling for each other like I haven't seen before. And that is no knock on prior years, because in the years I have been watching (since 2002) they have worked pretty well together. If this teamwork continues, it will more than make up for relatively less top end talent.

Donnie Hume did perform quite well for a first outing. And Andrew Liebel's difficulties took nothing away, to me, from the potential I saw. He got into trouble, I believe, primarily because he is a freshman and the nerves that go with facing a power like ASU in that situation. It is unfortunate that, because of an obscure rule, he had to go back out and finish the last batter. He had just received a "lesson" from Buck, and could not have been in any kind of frame of mind to perform at his best. Hopefully, they will work with him to both handle the pressure, and build up his confidence. He appears to have the ability to do very well.

I also agree about Matt Fitts. I read that they took 11 pitchers with them. They were: Ramos, Evans, Estrada, Jamison, Anderson, Andrade, Hammond, Hume, Liebel, Fitts and Shopshire. That's junior Ramos, and the three seniors in the bullpen, Jamison, Anderson and Andrade. Everyone else is a transfer or freshman, i.e., no D-I experience. There is no question in my mind that these guys earned the right to be part of the travel team. That Fitts and Shopshire didn't get in only means that we didn't need all our pitchers. Coach Weathers was true to his word that we were going there to win, and that he wants to get more guys in to see what they can do. This year, we are going to use more than 5 pitchers. Hopefully, we'll have fresher arms available when it really counts later in the season.
 
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