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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Years ago, back when New York considered itself the capital of baseball, the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants used to meet in a few exhibition games before the start of the regular season, often to benefit a charity.
The Dirtbags and Titans now have their own pre-Big West Conference series just like those old New Yorkers, the only difference being no one is in a charitable mood.
The three-game series opening tonight at Blair Field may not count in the conference standings, but it's a war nonetheless in one of the best rivalries in college baseball.
The rivalry got its birth in 1989 when Dave Snow became the Dirtbags head coach, and it intensified in 1997 when the conference season featured six games between its members, giving each rival a home series. The Dirtbags won 13 of those 24 games during that four-year period.
When the conference in 2001 slimmed down and cut the schedule to one series per season, the schools decided to keep the second series as a nonconference affair on the eve of league play.
"Every series we play against Fullerton is important, because we're rivals and the fans are into it," said Dirtbags senior second-baseman Chuck Sindlinger.
"It's hard to say what makes it different. I don't think we're any more intense, but there's a feeling in the air when we meet them. Both teams want it. You can sense the desire to not get more amped than we should, but it's hard to ignore who's across the field."
Tonight's starting pitchers have a connection. The Dirtbags' Cesar Ramos and Titans' Ricky Romero grew up in the same area, Ramos in Pico Rivera and Romero in East Los Angeles, and while they didn't meet in high school Ramos starred at El Rancho High School, Romero at L.A. City school Roosevelt they crossed paths in youth baseball.
They were teammates last summer on the U.S. National team and the left-handers bring minuscule stats into tonight's game. Ramos (4-3, 1.65), the Big West Pitcher of the Week, has posted a 0.96 ERA in his last five starts, and his three losses were all by one run. Romero is 5-1 with a 1.70 ERA.
Last season, the Dirtbags won two of three in the non-counting series and left the Titans a game over .500. Looking back, the Titans consider the win in the third game of that series as the start of their return to form that led them to a national title.
Both teams come into the weekend warm. Fullerton has ascended to the No. 1 spot in all three college baseball polls with a 16-4 record that includes series wins over No.6 Stanford, No.1 Tulane and No.9 Arizona.
The Dirtbags (16-9), ranked 29th in one poll, have won 11 of their last 14 games and also taken series wins against three ranked teams, Arizona State, Baylor and Wichita State.
Fullerton is hitting a robust .355 as a team, led by second baseman Ronald Prettyman (.442), and have hit 26 home runs compared to the Dirtbags' lonely one.
The Dirtbags hope to return third baseman Danny Mocny to the lineup. He's made one appearance since jamming his left shoulder in a loss against Cal. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki remains out while recovering from his broken left hand, but his cast is off and he started taking ground balls last week and light hitting this week.
DIRTBAGS NOTES: Game 2 Friday will match the Dirtbags' Marco Estrada (5-0, 1.94) against Titans left-hander Ryan Schreppel (4-0, 1.86), and Jared Hughes (1-2, 4.34) will start Game 3 Saturday for the Dirtbags against a Titan to be named. Fullerton's Scott Sarver has struggled with a 10.07 ERA in six starts as the No. 3 man in the rotation. ... The Dirtbag bullpen continues to blank opponents. Closer Neil Jamison has allowed one unearned run in 12 appearances and opponents are hitting .132 against him, and Brian Anderson has extended his two-season shutout string to 241/3 innings while foes flail at an .077 average. He's closing in on Rocky Biddle's 331/3 innings school record. The Dirtbags are 13-0 leading after six innings, and the team's season ERA is 2.31. ... Zach Barger is hitting .348 since entering the starting lineup, and Evan Longoria is hitting .327 with a team-high 12 runs scored, six doubles and seven multihit games. ... Last year's series at Blair against the Titans drew 7, 241, the second-highest all-time for the Dirtbags. Fullerton has a 42-39 edge in the series since 1989.