Dedicated to fans of Long Beach State Dirtbags baseball (well, okay, officially the 49ers).

Dirtbag's 2006 Rankings

15th in ESPN/Sports Weekly
15th in NCBWA
16th in Collegiate Baseball
16th in Baseball America
1st in Non-Conference "Intended" SOS -
21st in Overall "Intended" SOS -

Posted Articles [View Selected Article Only]

Dirtbags Win 30th, 1st Game Of Davis Series

Dirtbags Remain 1st In Team ERA

Paul McAnulty Back In Action

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues...

Kudos For Former Dirtbag Jason Vargas

In The Minor Leagues...

7 Inning Game Rule, Etc., Resolved...

BA Baseball Chat Q&A...

Rankings Update

In Case You Missed it....

Dirtbags Take Series At Pacific

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

Neil Jamison On Watch List

The Wheels Come Off

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

From The Baseball America Chat

Troy Tulowitzki Is Big West Conference Player Of The Week

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

Dirtbags Crack Top 10

Features, Features Everywhere...All Of Them To Read


Beach Wins Opener Against CSUN, Dirtbags Lead Nation in Team ERA

You Don't See This Often

Former Dirtbags Prospects Get Noticed

Former Dirtbag Chris Wright Signs With GBL Fullerton Flyers

2005 NCAA Stats Leaderboard

Updated Dirtbags In Professional Baseball

RPI, ISR, SOS Updates

Former Dirtbag Abe Alvarez Receives World Series Ring

Former Dirtbag Paul McAnulty Having Hot Start

Jared Hughes Is BWC Pitcher of the Week

Baseball America Tracking The Dirtbags

Troy Tulowitzki's Team Attitude Impresses

Rankings Update

Dirtbags Take Series From 'Eaters

Dirtbags Keep It Rolling, Top UCI 3-2

Cesar Ramos, Neil Jamison, On BoydsWorld Leader Board

Cesar Ramos' All-American Status Elevated

Neil Jamison Named Baseball America's Mid-Season First Team All-American Relief Pitcher

The Beach Makes A Couple Of Baseball America "Tops" For The First Half

Dirtbags Take On UC Irvine Anteaters This Weekend

You Don't Say?!

Now THAT'S Pitching Depth

Baseball America On The Dirtbags Following The Riverside Sweep

More Rankings Updates

Dirtbags Play UCLA Bruins At Blair Field Tonight

Cesar Ramos Featured In Hometown Paper

Beach Now 19th In Sports Weekly/ESPN Poll

Dirtbag Starting Pitchers Have Been World Beaters

Dirtbags Surge In Collegiate Baseball Poll, Move Up In Baseball America

Dirtbags Make Clean Sweep Of UCR Highlanders

Chris Jones Featured In Press-Telegram

Press-Telegram On BWC Opening

Big West Conference Deep In Quality Pitching

Newsflash....Tulo Wanted To Rip Off His Cast


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Blair Field Tour

Take a Virtual Tour of Blair Field - Home of the Dirtbags - Courtesy


"Weekend Link: Dirtbags Baseball. Although "dedicated to fans of Long Beach State Dirtbags baseball," Jeff Agnew covers college baseball about as well as anyone."

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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


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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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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dirtbags Win 30th, 1st Game Of Davis Series

Here's the links:
Friday: Dirtbags 4, Aggies 0: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
UC Davis Website
Box Score
...The Dirtbags logged their 3rd shutout victory of the year and the 2nd in April (on the 10th against UC Irvine, who they beat 10-0). It's also Cesar Ramos' 2nd of the year, after getting the 1-0 win against Wichita State starter Mike Pelfrey on March 18.

...Long Beach State's NCAA Division I leading team ERA fell from 2.19 to 2.14 on the game.

...I haven't checked, but this game may have had the best run production/hit ratio of the year, as they scored 4 runs on just 7 hits.

...When the 2004 Dirtbags won their 30th game, their record stood at 30-9. Then the Beach played a series we'd all like to forget, getting swept at home by UCSB. The 2004 team ended up 36-19 at the conclusion of the regular season, going 6-10 after that 30th win. No predictions ... but I'd bet the 2005 team will fare better!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Dirtbags Remain 1st In Team ERA

NCAA Division I stats are out, and Long Beach State remains #1 in team earned run average at 2.19. The next lowest team ERA is held by Nebraska, at 2.52. Of the 283 teams ranked, the Beach is 33rd in team fielding percentage.

On the individual leader board...

...Neil Jamison is 5th in saves at 10 (2 players are in 1st with 12).
...Cesar Ramos is 7th in wins at 8 (6 players have 9).
...Cesar is also 23rd in ERA at 1.71 (the leader, Max Scherzer of Missouri, stands at 1.09). Marco Estrada (29th at 1.91) and Jared Hughes (81st at 2.45) also make the ERA rankings.
...Chuck Sindlinger is 32nd in sacrifice hits at 32 (Bill Rankin at UMass is tops at 43).

Paul McAnulty Back In Action

Former Dirtbag Paul McAnulty must not have busted his knee up too bad. He was back in action yesterday for the Mobile BayBears (AA Southern League), going 1 for 4, with 2 RBI. He's batting .345.

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues...

...former Dirtbag....

...Bryan Kennedy hit a two run homer to help lift the New Britain Rock Cats to a 5-2 victory over the Reading Phillies in an Eastern League (AA) contest.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Kudos For Former Dirtbag Jason Vargas

From Baseball America's Minor League "Daily Dish":
Who is the best lefthander in the SAL [Class A South Atlantic League], Gio Gonzalez or Jason Vargas? Kannapolis' Gonzalez struck out 10 in six innings Saturday while allowing one run to lower his ERA to 1.23. Vargas threw seven shutout innings while fanning 11 on the same day. Gonzalez now has 38 strikeouts in 22 innings while allowing just 11 hits and walking six. Vargas has 27 punchouts in 25 2/3 innings with seven walks and 14 hits allowed while sporting an ERA of 1.05. Let the debate begin.

In The Minor Leagues...

...yesterday, former Dirtbag.....
Todd Jennings homered to help the San Jose Giants complete a 4 game sweep of the Modesto Nuts.
...Saturday, former Dirtbags.....
Jason Vargas pitched 7 shutout innings for his 3rd win, cutting his ERA to 1.05. In the same game, Brad Davis had two hits, including a homer.
Bryan Kennedy had a double for New Britain in a losing cause against Trenton.
...Friday, former Dirtbags.....
John Bowker's RBI single in the 13th inning gave the San Jose Giants a 3-2 win over Modesto.
Mike Hofius singled and scored the Hickory Crawdads 1st run on a balk in a 2-1 victory over the Kannapolis Intimidators

7 Inning Game Rule, Etc., Resolved...

...and it doesn't look like any results will be eliminated. In this post I wrote about this. Here is the result from the NCAA.

BA Baseball Chat Q&A...

From the Baseball America college baseball chat this week:
Q: Mike from SoCal asks:
Tulowitzki or Greene?

A: Will Kimmey: I'm a Tulowitzki guy, on a gut feel because for me he means way more to his team. But if Tulo was surrounded by the bats Greene is, maybe I'd go the other way. Scouts are very split here, either loving Greene or not liking him at all.

Rankings Update

Long Beach State fell from 9th to 11th in the Collegiate Baseball rankings, after going 2-2 on the week, including a 2-1 series win over the Pacific Tigers.

The Dirtbags also fell 2 spots, from 10th to 12th, in the Baseball America rankings.

UPDATE: The Beach moved up in the Sports Weekly/ESPN poll, from 13th to 12th.

In Case You Missed it....'s a great piece from last week on Dirtbags Pitching Coach Troy Buckley in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Dirtbags Take Series At Pacific

Here's the links:
Friday: Dirtbags 1, Pacific 5: Story
Daily Breeze
Pacific Website
Box Score

Saturday: Dirtbags 11, Pacific 2: Story
Long Beach Press Telegram
Orange County Register
Pacific Website
Box Score

Sunday: Dirtbags 9, Pacific 2: Story
Long Beach Press Telegram
Pacific Website
Box Score
...Don't get too bent over the loss on Friday. As pointed out in this thread on the Big West Baseball message board, Pacific starter Luke Massetti has had several quality starts against good competition, including one against CS Fullerton in which he went 7 innings and gave up 2 earned runs (3 total). More often than not, it is the Dirtbags who are on the positive side of the adage "good pitching stops good hitting."

...Sure was good to see Marco Estrada rewarded with a "W" after another quality performance, rather than a "no decision."

...Dirtbags hitters had a good time Saturday and Sunday, batting .342 for the 2 games. Evan Longoria and Tom Sarti each had a homerun in the series, and Troy Tulowitzki had two.

...This was the Dirtbags 9th series win in a row (since losing the Cal. series February 18-20).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

Former Dirtbags...

....Paul McAnulty, I'm sorry to report: "broke his knee when he crashed into the outfield wall chasing down a flyball in Huntsville (Ala.) while playing for Mobile (Ala.) last night. McAnulty is hitting .354 through the first 12 games."
....Carlos Muniz recorded his 3rd save for the Hagerstown Suns.

Neil Jamison On Watch List

Dirtbags closer Neil Jamison (3-0, 0.00, 10 saves) has been added to the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association Stopper of the Year watch list. The complete mid-season updated watch list is here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Wheels Come Off

Dirtbags 6, LMU Lions 10. Here's the links: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
LMU Website
Box Score
...The Dirtbags ERA "ballooned" to 2.06, from 1.94. Still, that's well ahead of the second best team pitching in the nation (for games through Sunday, that's Nebraska at 2.41).

...It was a bad game. Enough said.

...The positives: Pitchers who haven't got much playing time, did. One or more of them are likely to be called on down the road, and the mid-week games (now over until the season ending make up with USC) offered the opportunity to get them some innings. The Beach had 10 hits, and scored 6 runs (but stranded 10). Evan Longoria went 4 for 5, with 2 RBI. Sean Boatright was 2 for 5 with 2 RBI, and scored a run. Tito Cruz was 2 for 4, and scored a run.

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

Former Dirtbags.....

....Chris Demaria worked two perfect innings in relief for his High Desert Mavericks. But after he left the game, John Bowker hit a grand slam for the San Jose Giants.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

From The Baseball America Chat

These Q&As:
Q: Trevis from Columbia, SC asks:
Who are your favorites in the SEC to make it to the CWS at this point in the season?

A: Will Kimmey: How can you note like Florida thus far? In a league where you could probably put all the teams in a hat and shake them out differently each week, the Gators are on top, having won four series already. If I've got to pick CWS teams now, here's a fun group: Texas, Tulane, Fullerton, Long Beach State, Arizona, Miami, Nebraska, Oregon State. I know, everyone, that I left out your favorite team, but I can only pick eight.
Q: Dave from Fullerton asks:
Will, thanks for taking the time today. With two western teams in the top 8 this week, four western teams in the top 16 and three more at the back end of the top 25, how many western teams (and which ones) do you think would be hosting regionals if the season ended today?

A: Will Kimmey: Arizona and Fullerton are locks. Write them down. Oregon State and Long Beach State can each be considered strong contenders for the third, and there's a chance you could still see an Arizona State or Stanford push in there. Mostly like three of the first four I mentioned, but all four in that group are deserving.

Troy Tulowitzki Is Big West Conference Player Of The Week

Here's the Big West Conference story:
Troy Tulowitzki (Sunnyvale, Calif./Fremont HS) clutched up at the plate to lead the 49ers to a three-game sweep of Cal State Northridge. The 6-3 junior shortstop went 8-for-14 (.571) from the plate for the week, including two doubles, one run scored and six RBI. Tulowitzki earned a pair of walks and was hit by two pitches on the week, reaching base for the 49ers any way he could.
Reaching base any way he could....oh, yeah, he's a Dirtbag! Troy is now hitting .386, with an on base percentage .482, and he's slugging at .614. How great is it to have Troy back in the lineup?!

Yesterday In The Minor Leagues....

Former Dirtbags.....

...Tim Hutting had an RBI double for the Norwich Navigators.
...Todd Jennings knocked out a two-out two-run homer for the San Jose Giants.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dirtbags Crack Top 10

In weekly rankings out today, Baseball America has ranked Long Beach State 10th (up from 16th), and Collegiate Baseball has the Beach 9th (up from 14th).

Features, Features Everywhere...All Of Them To Read

Take a look at these:
On Marco Estrada, in the Daily News.
On Cesar Ramos, in the Daily Breeze.
On Jared Hughes, in the Orange County Register.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Boyd Nation does a periodic column entitled "Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha" on his website. His most recent column is "Storm's a Coming." The article discusses the possibility that 300 to 400 games this year could be wiped off the books, and possibly affect post-season play selections. I'll let you read his discussion, but it affects primarily games shorter than 9 innings, and games in which a 10-run mercy rule is invoked...none of which directly applies to the Dirtbags to this point in the season. Tempest in a teapot, or tip of the iceburg....who knows? But Boyd gives us the heads up.

Beach Wins Opener Against CSUN, Dirtbags Lead Nation in Team ERA

Dirtbags 7, Cal. State Northridge 2. Here are the links: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Cal. State Northridge website
Box Score
...Both runs scored by the Matadors were unearned. As a result, Long Beach State's team ERA fell to 1.96, passing North Carolina for the best team ERA in Division-I baseball. North Carolina was blown out by Miami (Fla.) 17-7 last night, increasing it's team ERA from 2.02 at the beginning of the week to 2.33.

...Evan Longoria hit his 2nd homerun, and the Dirtbags 7th, of the season. Troy Tulowitzki is the only other Beach player with 2. Dirtbags pitching has allowed only 3 HRs.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

You Don't See This Often

Even while losing (4-3 - Story - Box Score) at Malibu to Pepperdine on Tuesday, the Dirtbags team ERA improved further to 2.04 (3 of the 4 runs allowed were unearned - the errors killed the Beach in this one). A near sub-2.00 ERA is certainly unusual in college baseball, but you can add to this accomplishment the fact that 9 of the 11 pitchers who've been in action this year for Long Beach State have ERAs under 3.00! Here they are:

Neil Jamison (0.00 3-0 , 9 saves)
Brian Anderson (0.64 3-0, 1 save)
Cesar Ramos (1.67 7-3)
Marco Estrada (1.77 5-0)
Andrew Liebel (2.61 0-1)
Jared Hughes (2.67 4-2)
Cody Evans (2.67 0-2)
Donnie Hume (2.77 1-1)
Matt Fitts (2.84 0-0)

Pretty amazing, if you ask me!

Former Dirtbags Prospects Get Noticed

From Baseball America's current National League West Notebook:
San Francisco Giants

Prepare For Takeoff: While Martinez-Esteve turned heads with his bat in his debut, so did [John] Bowker. His college numbers were hurt by playing at Long Beach State's spacious Blair Field, and Bowker showed a consistent line-drive stroke and gap power after signing. He's limited to left field but could move quickly.
From the current National League Central Notebook:
Houston Astros

What The System Has Produced Lately
: ...Righthander Chad Qualls and lefty Mike Gallo developed into useful setup men last year as well....
From the current National League East Notebook:
Florida Marlins

Best-Stocked Position: Few clubs have the quality and depth of lefthanders the Marlins possess....The Marlins' top two picks in the 2004 draft, Taylor Tankersley and Jason Vargas, both made strong pro debuts and look ready to move quickly...
Washington Nationals

What The System Has Produced Lately: ...Terrmel Sledge overcame a brutal April to give the lineup a steady lefthanded bat...
From the current American League West Notebook:
Oakland Athletics

What The System Has Produced Lately: Shortstop Bobby Crosby was the 2004 American League rookie of the year, ...
Seattle Mariners

What The System Has Produced Lately: ... Shortstop Jose Lopez and third basemen Greg Dobbs and Justin Leone started for Seattle over the final two months....
Jeremy Reed must go without saying...yeah, that's it!

Former Dirtbag Chris Wright Signs With GBL Fullerton Flyers

Former Dirtbag Chris Wright, who played for the Beach from 1999 to 2002, went undrafted and never played professional baseball. That's about to change. In this nice feature, it's reported that Chris has signed a contract with the Fullerton Flyers in the new independent Golden Baseball League.

Chris had a fine college career with Long Beach State, with records to prove it. He's the all-time career leader in hits (with 260) and at-bats (817), and is 2nd in games started (200) and played (228). Chris is 3rd in total bases (339) and doubles (47), and 4th in RBIs (133) and triples (10).

Here's what former Dirtbags Coach Dave Snow had to say about Chris in the feature piece:
"I think he was a guy who played with passion," said Wright's coach at Long Beach, Dave Snow. "He had great determination and drive. If you look at what he did at Long Beach State, it was a solid college career, probably a better than average baseball career."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

2005 NCAA Stats Leaderboard

The NCAA is now posting national stats, and the Dirtbags open up with the following (games through April 10):

Team Stats:
...2nd in team ERA at 2.07 (North Carolina is 1st at 2.02), well ahead of 3rd place Missouri at 2.33.
...40th in fielding percentage (out of 283) at .969. Given the earlier fielding difficulties, I'd say this ain't too bad.
...42nd in Win-Loss percentage at .686.

Individual Stats;
...Neil Jamison is 4th in saves, at 9.
...Cesar Ramos is 5th in wins at 7.
...Steve Velazco is 31st in sacrifice hits at 23.
...Cesar Ramos is 36th in ERA at 1.68.
...Chuck Sindlinger is 37th in sacrifice hits at 21.
...Marco Estrada is 43rd in ERA at 1.77.

Updated Dirtbags In Professional Baseball

Below is the listing of former Long Beach State Dirtbags playing professional baseball this season. I've been able to confirm the status of most of those who played last season, but there are a few at the end of this post that are not yet confirmed. The "Former Dirtbags In Professional Baseball" page, linked to in the upper left hand column, has been updated and will be as changes occur during the season.

For all former Long Beach State baseball players who played in the Major Leagues (current as well as past), try one of these site: LBSU 49ers Who Played MLB. Baseball-Reference.

Major League Baseball

Bobby Crosby, Oakland Athletics [Stats]
Greg Dobbs, Seattle Mariners [Stats]
Jason Giambi, New York Yankees [Stats]
Chris Gomez, Baltimore Orioles [Stats]
Jeremy Reed, Seattle Mariners [Stats]
Terrmel Sledge, Washington Nationals [Stats]
Steve Trachsel, New York Mets [Stats]

Class - AAA

Abe Alvarez, Boston Red Sox, Pawtucket Red Sox (IL) [Stats]
Mike Gallo, Houston Astros, Round Rock Express (PCL) [Stats]
Jeff Liefer, Cleveland Indians, Buffalo Bisons (IL) [Stats]
Russ Rohlicek, Chicago Cubs, Iowa Cubs (PCL) [Stats]

Class - AA

Chad Bentz, Florida Marlins, Carolina Mudcats (SL) [Stats]
Tim Hutting, San Francisco Giants, Norwich Navigators (EL) [Stats]
Bryan Kennedy, Minnesota Twins, New Britain Rock Cats (EL) [Stats]
Paul McAnulty, San Diego Padres, Mobile BayBears (SL) [Stats]
Jeremy Ward, Atlanta Braves, Mississippi Braves (SL) [Stats]

Class - A (Advanced)

John Bowker, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Giants (CalL) [Stats]
Chris Demaria, Kansas City Royals, High Desert Mavericks (CalL) [Stats]
Daniel Eisentrager, Cleveland Indians, Kinston Indians (CarL) [Stats]
Adam Heether, Milwaukee Brewers, Brevard County Manatees (FSL) [Stats]
Todd Jennings, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Giants (CL) [Stats]
Kaulana Kuhaulua, Minnesota Twins, Fort Myers Miracle (FSL) [Stats]
Kevin Randel, Florida Marlins, Jupiter Hammerheads (FSL) [Stats]
Edgar Varela, Arizona Diamondbacks, Lancaster JetHawks (CalL) [Stats]

Class - A

Brad Davis, Florida Marlins, Greensboro Grasshoppers (SAL) [Stats]
Mike Hofius, Pittsburg Pirates
, Hickory Crawdads (SAL) [Stats]
Carlos Muniz, New York Mets, Hagerstown Suns (SAL) [Stats]
Jason Vargas, Florida Marlins, Greensboro Grasshoppers (SAL) [Stats]

Class - A (Short Season) and Rookie

None at this time.

Mexican and Independent Leagues

Note: Not confirmed as re-signed for 2005, except those marked with an asterisk (*)

Angel Aragon, [Ind.] Fort Worth Cats (Central League) [Stats]
Rolo Avila, [Ind.] Bridgeport Bluefish (Atlantic League) [Stats]
Israel Gonzalez, Campeche Piratas (Mexican League) [Stats]
*Justin Hall, [Ind.] St. Paul Saints (Northern League) [Stats]
*Curt Lee, [Ind.] Gary Southshore Railcats (Northern League) [Stats]
*Kirk Pierce, [Ind.] Schaumburg Flyers (Northern League) [Stats]
*Darrell Sherman, Puebla Pericos (Mexican League) [Stats]
*Max Tremblay, [Ind.] Lincoln Saltdogs (Northern League) [Stats]

Players Who Played Last Season - Current Status Unknown

I do not know the current status of the following players who played professional baseball last season. If you have information about any of them, I'd welcome an email letting me know. As I receive info, I'll update this page.

Rocky Biddle, Washington Nationals. Rocky was released by the Nationals. Unconfirmed information is that he may be through with professional baseball.

Josh Buhagiar, Arizona Diamondbacks, last known to have played in 2004 in Rookie ball.

Casey Grzecka, Florida Marlins, last known to have played in 2004 in Class AA ball. Update: Casey Grzecka has been released by the Marlins.

Josh Alliston, Milwaukee Brewers
, last known to have played in 2004 in Class A - Advanced ball. I believe he may be on the disabled list.

Bo Ashabraner, Cleveland Indians, last known to have played in 2004 in Class A ball.

Bob Cramer, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, last known to have played in 2004 in Class A ball.

Nick Orlandos, Seattle Mariners, last known to have played in 2004 in Class A ball. Update: Nick Orlandos has been released by the Mariners.

Nate Beucler, [Ind.] North Shore Spirit
, last known to have played in 2004 in independent ball.

RPI, ISR, SOS Updates

The Long Beach State Dirtbags' Ratings Power Index (RPI...actually pseudo-RPI as calculated by improved this week from 18th to 17th. BoydsWorld's Iterative Strength Ratings (ISR), which correct for bias against western NCAA Division-I schools (the result of relative scarcity of D-I programs in the western states), remained at #6. Strength of Schedule (SOS) improved from 7th to 6th.

Former Dirtbag Abe Alvarez Receives World Series Ring

Former Dirtbags ace southpaw Abe Alvarez, who pitched one game for the Boston Red Sox last season, was awarded a World Series ring at Fenway Park yesterday. Here's the story in the Lowell (MA) Sun.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Former Dirtbag Paul McAnulty Having Hot Start

Former Dirtbag Paul McAnulty, promoted to Class AA Mobile by the San Diego Padres, has come out swinging to start the season. Here's a blip from Baseball America:
All Padres first baseman Paul McAnulty does is hit. The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder has been compared to former big leaguer John Kruk throughout his pro career, but McAnulty slimmed down last year, improving his agility as well as his bat speed. In his first four games for Mobile, McAnulty is hitting .571 (8-for-14) with a homer and five RBIs.

Jared Hughes Is BWC Pitcher of the Week

Was there any doubt? Here's the write up on the Big West Conference website:

Jared Hughes
, Long Beach State (Laguna Beach, Calif./Santa Margarita HS) - Hughes had a career day for Long Beach State to clinch the weekend series win over UC Irvine. The sophomore right-hander went the distance, walked no one, allowed just two hits and fanned a career-high 10 batters in the 10-0 victory. Eight of those strikeouts came in the final five innings, including a seventh-inning effort that took down the Anteaters looking.

Baseball America Tracking The Dirtbags

From Baseball America's "Tracking the Top 25":
Last Week: 3-1. Overall: 24-11, 5-1 in Big West. (6-3 vs. Top 25).
NOTES: It was Jered (Weaver), now it's Jared (Hughes) dominating for the Dirtbags. The So. RHP thew a two-hit shutout Sunday with 10 strikeouts to clinch the series, while Sean Boatright homered and drove in three runs. Boatright and Fr. 1B Brandon Godfrey each totaled five hits in the series. Jr. LHP Cesar Ramos struck out eight over eight innings Friday to improve to 7-3. Irvine nabbed game two with single runs in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 11th.
April 5: UCLA: W 2-1
April 8-10: @ UC Irvine: W 3-2, L 4-3 (11 inn.), W 10-0
April 12: @ Pepperdine
April 15-17: Cal State Northridge

Troy Tulowitzki's Team Attitude Impresses

From Baseball America's college baseball chat this week:
Q: john lopez from irvine california asks:
I watched long beach states shortstop troy tulowitzki this weekened not only is he an unbelievable player he is such a leader he got his troops ready every inning do scouts realize this and will this make his stock rise?

A: Will Kimmey: They do, and love how he plays the game. His other skills play well, so they like the entire package of a defender at SS with some pop in the stick. He's one of the best 10 college draft prospects right now, and he's not likely to rise or fall much should he remain steady and not show any ill affects from the broke hamate bone, and he hasn't yet.

Rankings Update

The Dirtbags jumped 5 spots in the Baseball America rankings, from 21st to 16th. Those who follow this poll know it's fairly stable, and a move of 5 slots doesn't happen often. Collegiate Baseball, on the other hand, can be quite volatile. Inexplicably, Long Beach State fell from 13th to 14th in their rankings, despite a 3-1 week. Go figure!

Update: The Beach has moved from 19th to 17th in the Sports Weekly/ESPN coachs' poll.

Dirtbags Take Series From 'Eaters

Here's the links:
Friday: Dirtbags 3, UC Irvine 2

Saturday Dirtbags 3, UC Irvine 4 (11 innings):
Long Beach Press-Telegram
UC Irvine website
Box Score

Saturday Dirtbags 10, UC Irvine 0:
Long Beach Press-Telegram
UC Irvine website
Box Score
...Is it just me, or is it not ridiculous to be freezing your buns off in southern California on a mid-April Saturday evening?!

...The Dirtbags were just a tad off their game on Saturday. Given the results on Sunday, I'd say it was just a bump in the road. It sure was a shame, though, to see Marco Estrada put in another outstanding performance and come up with another no-decision. His luck has to turn soon, luck created by some fine pitching efforts. Marco's ERA is now 1.77 in 11 appearances, 10 of them starts.

...Boy did our side need Sunday! The Beach crushed the ball, belting 16 hits, 6 of them doubles (1 each for Danny Mocny, Sean Boatright, Brandon Godfrey, Tito Cruz, Jaime Huizar and Steve Velazco), and a homerun (Sean Boatright's 1st of the season). Five players had multiple hits, led by Brandon with 4 (and an RBI) and Tito with 3 (and 2 RBIs). Sean went 2 for 5, the 2 being his double and homer, and drove in 3.

...Jared Hughes was nearly unhittable. Literally. The box score says he gave up 2 hits. To be indelicate, the UC Irvine official scorer ought to make an appointment to get his eyes (or head) examined. Early in the game, a comebacker was hit to Jared. It deflected off his glove and he was unable to make a play for the out. It should have been scored an error, but instead it went down as a hit. The Anteaters did get a legitimate hit in the 9th inning. The only thing good I can say about that is that it kept me from popping a gasket over denying Jared a no-hitter he would have rightly been entitled to. None of which takes away from his amazing effort. With 123 pitches, he recorded a complete game shutout, struck out 10 and walked none.

...The Dirtbags fans in attendance got some entertainment from Coach Mike Weathers on Sunday. Brandon Godfrey attempted a stolen base in the middle innings (I can't remember which). The ump at 2nd called him out on a tag that clearly looked too late. As the ump made his way to the 3rd base line, Coach Weathers slowly jogged almost to the pitcher's mound, then walked at a leisurely pace out to 3rd. The "argument" that ensued looked more like a patient teacher instructing a student who just can't quite understand the concept. The result, one of the more predictable in baseball, was no change in the decision. As Coach Weathers walked back to the 1st base dugout at a pace that would challenge a 10 year old going to confess throwing a ball through the neighbor's window, UCI fans grumbled and Dirtbags fans cheered. Coach Weathers stopped at the 1st base foul line and scratched his shoe in the dirt for a few moments to cheers and laughter from the faithful...then donned his cap to the stands. It was hilarious, and couldn't have helped but loosen up the guys on the bench. I gotta give him credit for a great sense of theater!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dirtbags Keep It Rolling, Top UCI 3-2

Here's the links: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Daily Breeze
Orange County Register
UC Irvine website
Box Score
...With the win last night, the Long Beach State Dirtbags have won 6 straight, 7 of 8, 11 of 13, and are 18-4 since they were 5-6 following the Cal series. And, oh yeah, they are 4-0 in conference play!

...Injury. What injury? Troy Tulowitzki sure hasn't taken long to hit his stride since returning following hand surgery. Last night he went 2 for 3, drove in 2 runs, and scored 1. He had 7 total bases in those 2 hit - a triple and his 2nd homerun - increasing his team leading slugging percentage to .660. His batting average is now .383, leading all regular players.

...Cesar Ramos (7-3, 1.67) went 8.0 solid innings, throwing 113 pitches, allowing 5 hits and 2 earned runs. He also recorded 8 strikeouts. On the season he has 66 strikeouts in 80.2 innings.

...Neil Jamison recorded his 9th save in relief of Cesar, pitching a perfect 9th inning. Their combined effort lowered the team ERA another tick to 2.11. The NCAA 2005 stats aren't online yet (they always wait until after basketball is over, so they should be soon), but the only Division I school I know of with a lower team ERA is North Carolina, at 1.99 through this morning.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Cesar Ramos, Neil Jamison, On BoydsWorld Leader Board's Leaderboard includes Neil Jamison, 3rd in the nation in saves (at 8), and Cesar Ramos, 4th nationally in innings pitched (with 72.2).

Cesar Ramos' All-American Status Elevated

Cesar Ramos, a pre-season 1st team All-American according to Collegiate Baseball newspaper and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association, and a pre-season 3rd team All-American on Baseball America's list, is now named as a 2nd team All-American on Baseball America's Mid-season list.

Neil Jamison Named Baseball America's Mid-Season First Team All-American Relief Pitcher

Baseball America's pre-season All-American teams lists 1 relief pitcher on each of the 3 teams. Dirtbags closer Neil Jamison wasn't on any of those lists. He was named pre-season 3rd team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association.

At Mid-Season, BA now has Neil as it's 1st team All-American reliever (paid subscription area, so no link).

The Beach Makes A Couple Of Baseball America "Tops" For The First Half

Baseball America is out with it's College Midseason Report (paid subscriber section, so no link), and Long Beach State makes the list on two counts. First, they have the Beach in one of the top 5 games:
March 18: Long Beach State 1, Wichita State 0

Long Beach State leadoff man Evan Longoria reached on an error to open the game and eventually scored an unearned run. No other man crossed the plate that night as two potential first-round draft picks proved their merit. Long Beach State lefthander Cesar Ramos permitted four singles and a walk in a complete-game shutout while Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey allowed three hits while racking up 11 strikeouts and no walks over nine innings of his own.
And then they have this "top":
Top Health Watch: Troy Tulowitzki

Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki broke the hamate bone in his left hand on Feb. 5, and eight of the team's 10 losses came during the 20 games he missed. His return came at home against then-No. 1 Cal State Fullerton, and Long Beach State won two of three to rejoin the national rankings and hasn't lost since. Tulowitzki began the year in a battle with Georgia Tech's Tyler Greene to become the first shortstop drafted this June. There are scouting directors on each side of the debate, and the injury shouldn't hurt him as long as he shows he's healthy again by the end of the year. His return to the heart of Long Beach State's lineup has boosted the Dirtbags back into the national race.
Unlike our optimistic friends at, Baseball America at mid-season predicts that Long Beach State will be a #2 seed at Stanford. God forbid! But it would be par for the NCAA course!

Dirtbags Take On UC Irvine Anteaters This Weekend

The pre-series release at is here in html, and here in pdf. UC Irvine's series outlook is on their main page here.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram has this today:
Dirtbag's bullpen full of aces

Ramos to take the mound vs. UC Irvine tonight.

By Bob Keisser
Staff writer

The Dirtbags' good pitching apparently is contagious.

In their first midweek game in a month Tuesday, head coach Mike Weathers used seven pitchers in a 2-1 win over UCLA, and only one of them is a member of the Big Five.

Weathers got work for Donnie Hume, Cody Evans, Matt Fitts, Steve Hammond, Brett Andrade and Andrew Liebel in addition to one inning (and a win) for closer Neil Jamison.

The Dirtbags thus go into their Big West weekend series at UC Irvine starting tonight flush with arms. They've ascended to No. 13 in the weekly Collegiate Baseball poll and are now 22-10 on the season and 3-0 in the Big west, with 17 wins in their last 21 games.

The team has a season ERA of 2.11. Tonight's starter, Cesar Ramos, has thrown three straight complete games and is 6-3 with a 1.61 ERA. Saturday starter Marco Estrada is 5-0 and 1.83, and Sunday starter Jared Hughes 3-2 and 3.20.

Closer Jamison (3-0, eight saves) and setup man Brian Anderson (3-0) combined have allowed two runs, just one earned, all season.

The Dirtbags will need to pitch well against the Anteaters, whose 14-13 record on the season is misleading. They rank third in the conference in pitching and fourth in hitting, swept then-No. 9 Washington and took two of three from Cal, a team that swept the Dirtbags back in February.

First-year coach Dave Serrano, the long-time former aide to Cal State Fullerton and head coach George Horton, was caught short in arms early in the season when two players were KO'd by injuries. He's been forced to use his All-American closer, Blair Erickson (1.06 ERA, five saves, 28 strikeouts in 17 innings), in spots other than closer.

Tonight's starter Chris Nicoll (4-1, 2.28) is coming off a one run, three-hit win against Fullerton, and Justin Cassell (3-2, 3.88) is coming off a complete game loss against the Titans. Serrano hasn't announced Sunday's starter as of yet, but Steve Schroer, who posted a 1.23 ERA in seven-plus innings of work last week, is a candidate.

The Anteaters are led by senior Jaime Martinez (.346, two home runs, 20 RBI), catcher Mark Wagner (.346) and Matt Anderson. Wagner, who starred at Mayfair, was 7 for 12 last week, while Anderson, a standout at Millikan, was 7 for 16.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

You Don't Say?!

The prognosticators at are out with their first post-season bracket predictions. Take these with one giant grain of salt, but they predict the following as National seeds:
#1 Cal State Fullerton
#2 Tulane
#3 Texas
#5 Ole Miss
#5 Florida
#6 Baylor
#7 Georgia Tech
#8 Miami Florida
They round out their Regional #1 seeds with the following 8 teams (in order - essentially #9 through #16):
Long Beach State
Oregon State
North Carolina
Louisiana State
They predict a Long Beach Regional bracketed with an Austin Regional as follows:
Long Beach Regional
Host: Long Beach State
#1 Long Beach State
4. Rutgers *

2. Clemson
3. Washington

Austin Regional
Host: Texas [3]
1. Texas
4. LeMoyne *

2. Vanderbilt
3. Texas Christian

* Automatic qualifier - conference winner
In this article, they discuss their reasons, and indicate that Long Beach State is in the group just outside the top 8 National seeds. Whatever it's worth (and at this point, not much), it's nice to see a little recognition of the results the Beach is achieving on the field.

Now THAT'S Pitching Depth

The UCLA Bruins ran into the Dirtbags pitching juggernaut last night, as the Beach won for the 6th time in their last at bat, 2-1. But other than the 9th inning pitched by Neil Jamison (3-0, 0.00, 8 saves), the pitcher's mowing them down weren't "the usual suspects." After UCLA scored 1 run in the first, the following pitchers shut them out the rest of the way:
Donnie Hume, 2.0 innings, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 2 strikeouts, 0 walks.
Cody Evans, 2.0 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk.
Brett Andrade, 1.0 inning, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 strikeout, 0 walks.
Andrew Liebel, 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks.
Steve Hammond, 1.0 inning, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 strikeout, 0 walks.
Matt Fitts, 1.0 inning, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 strikeout, 0 walks.
Neil Jamison, 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 strikeout, 0 walks.
As great as it was to win, it's also a big plus that the entire portion of the pitching staff that has not seen much action got in...and aquitted themselves quite well, thank you very much! Their efforts lowered the team ERA from 2.15 to 2.12.

Troy Tulowitzki hit his first homerun of the season, raising his team leading slugging percentage to .545. Brandon Godfrey's game winning sac fly in the 9th increased his team leading RBI total to 18.

Here's the links: story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
UCLA webpage
Box Score

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Baseball America On The Dirtbags Following The Riverside Sweep

From Baseball America's College Weekend Recap:
Last Week: 3-0. Overall: 21-10, 3-0 in Big West. (6-3 vs. Top 25).
NOTES: The Dirtbags have won five of six and 16 of 20 (and 21 of 31, for that matter). It's all pitching, as usual, with a 2.14 ERA on the year. Jr. LHP Cesar Ramos threw his third straight complete game Friday (9 K's, BB) to pass Abe Alvarez as the school's winningest lefthander (24 wins). C Chris Jones drove in the only run Saturday with a bases-loaded single with one out in the ninth. He's batting .372 on the year with hits in 17 of his last 18 games. So. RHP Jared Hughes allowed a run over seven innings Sunday, a day after Jr. RHP Marco Estrada threw seven scoreless innings but got a no decision. Jr. SS Troy Tulowitzki went 4-for-9 with four runs.
APRIL 1-3: UC Riverside: W 6-1, W 1-0, W 4-1
April 5: UCLA
April 8-10: @ UC Irvine

More Rankings Updates

After sweeping UC Riverside, the Dirtbags Ratings Power Index (RPI) went from 19th to 18th (according to Their Interative Strength Rating (ISR), a ranking conceived and maintained by BoydsWorld, remained at #6. Strength of Schedule fell from 4th to 7th.

Dirtbags Play UCLA Bruins At Blair Field Tonight

The release gives us this:
This will serve as the only midweek affair between the two ballclubs, as John Savage's club enters Tuesday's game 7-17 and on a 13-game losing streak... Arizona swept the Bruins this past weekend... UCLA is hitting .261 as a team with a .955 fielding percentage, and a 5.69 team ERA... pitcher/designated hitter Hector Ambriz is batting .355 with 13 runs and 10 RBIs, while outfielder Will Penniall is hitting .330 with 16 runs and 10 RBIs... shortstop Tommy Landsdon has a .421 average in 13 games, while outfielder Anthony Norman is batting .351 in 19 games.... Daniel Reid (2.08) has the only ERA under 5.00 on the staff, as the team has used seven different starters and 12 pitchers overall... LBSU is 5-2 against UCLA under Mike Weathers.
The Dirtbags pdf release indicates that the Beach will go with southpaw Donnie Hume (1-0, 2.89) and/or rightie Cody Evans (0-2, 2.74).

According to the UCLA webpage, the Bruins will start right-hander Brant Rustich (1-2, 5.53) [see UPDATE below] against the Beach tonight. The UCLA release has this to say about the matchup:
UCLA travels for a midweek non-conference matchup with Long Beach State Tuesday before heading down the road to arch rival USC for a three-game Pac-10 series this weekend. The streaking Bruins have not won since a February 25, 9-0 shutout over Pacific. In that span, the Bruins have been ousted by seven different teams and hold a collective team batting average of .238 while the piching staff has posted an ERA of 8.11. This week should prove no easier for the boys of Westwood as No. 21 Long Beach State has won four straight and 20 of its last 24 while USC is coming off a successful weekend against Pac-10 opponent Washington.
UPDATE: The UCLA site now has Adam Simon (1-3, 8.05) starting for the Bruins.

Cesar Ramos Featured In Hometown Paper

Here's a nice article in the Whittier Daily News on Dirtbags ace, and El Rancho High School grad, Cesar Ramos:
Ramos a perfect fit as new Long Beach ace

Cesar Ramos understands the role and accepts the responsibility.

Just don't expect the former El Rancho High School star to change his approach now that he's the Long Beach State baseball team's ace, a role previously held by All- Americans Abe Alvarez and Jered Weaver.

"We've had some great guys (pitch) on Friday night,' Ramos said. "Now I get my shot. I hope I can fill their shoes. But I just take it as another night that I get to pitch. I just want to go out there, pitch and do my best.'

So far, he's done a pretty good job.

Ramos, a preseason All-American, has been dominant. He's won six of his first nine decisions with a 1.61 ERA in 10 starts, including three consecutive complete-game victories in his last three outings.

"It started slow, but it's getting better,' Ramos said. "I just try to get better every time I go out there. This year, I just wanted to be better than I was last year. I'm not too big on numbers. My only goal is to help the team get to (Omaha, Neb.) and the College World Series.'

Ramos, an all-area player his senior year at El Rancho, almost turned pro out of high school. He was selected in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball entry draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but decided on Long Beach State after negotiations broke down.

"I really wanted to (turn pro),' Ramos said. "The organization (Tampa Bay) just didn't seem like it was high priority. So I took this route. It's really worked out for the better.'

Long Beach State would agree.

Ramos has been solid since he arrived. He was a steady 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA as the No. 3 starter behind Alvarez and Weaver in 2003. Then while Weaver was earning National Pitcher of the Year honors, Ramos hovered under the radar with a 12-4 record and a 2.29 ERA to earn second-team All-America.

"We knew what we were getting,' Long Beach State coach Mike Weathers said. "He was good enough (out of high school) to be drafted in the sixth round, so we knew he could compete at this level.

"We've been fortunate in my time here to have guys like (Alvarez and Weaver). But Cesar has made his own name for himself.'

Some of that reputation came this past summer when Ramos helped Team USA earn a gold medal at the World Championships in Taiwan. He was 3-2 with a 3.22 ERA.

He's picked it up this spring, especially during his past three outings, when he tossed consecutive complete games and beat highly-touted Mike Pelfrey of Wichita State and Ricky Romero of Cal State Fullerton.

He hopes to continue it during the back half of the season and help the Dirtbags, ranked No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball last week, reach the Division I promised land Omaha.

Long Beach State was close last season, advancing to the Super Regionals before losing on the final day to Arizona.

"We still have a lot of baseball left, but we're playing very well right now,' Ramos said. "We just have to keep doing that. That's what's going to carry us and put us over that hump.'

Ramos has also put aside his pro aspirations until the end of the season.

"(The draft), that's something I can't control,' he said. "Whichever team drafts me, it won't effect how I play.

"I'm here to help us get to the CWS. That's my concern now. I will worry about the draft later.'...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Beach Now 19th In Sports Weekly/ESPN Poll

The Dirtbags moved from 24th to 19th in the coachs' poll (Sports Weekly/ESPN).

Dirtbag Starting Pitchers Have Been World Beaters

Long Beach State's weekend starting pitching trio has been nothing short of amazing as the Beach has gone 5-1 against CS Fullerton and UC Riverside. In two starts apiece, Cesar Ramos, Marco Estrada and Jared Hughes have put together some pretty impressive combined numbers: 46.2 innings pitched, 42 strikeouts, only 7 walks and 7 earned runs allowed, and holding opponents to a .169 batting average. Their cumulative earned run average is 1.35!

On two successive Fridays, Cesar has pitched 18.0 innings in back-to-back complete games. He has allowed a total of 3 earned runs, for a 1.50 ERA. Opponents have hit just .150 against him, as he struck out nearly 1 per inning (17 in 18.0), walking only 3.

Marco, who has not been involved in the decision in either his start against Fullerton or Riverside, has allowed 2 earned runs over 12.2 innings, for a 1.42 ERA. He's also walked 3, and has struck out 13 (1.03 per inning).

And Jared has been phenomenal on Sundays. After pitching a complete game against Fullerton, he came back to pitch 7.0 against Riverside. In each outing, he gave up only 1 earned run, yielding a 1.13 ERA. He's struck out 12 over those 16.0 innings, and walked just 1 batter. Opposing hitters have managed only a .130 batting average (7 for 54).

Dirtbags Surge In Collegiate Baseball Poll, Move Up In Baseball America

Long Beach State made a big jump in the Collegiate Baseball rankings this week, moving from 20th to 13th. They moved from 22nd to 21st in the Baseball America rankings this week.

Dirtbags Make Clean Sweep Of UCR Highlanders

Here's the links:
Friday: Dirtbags 6, UC Riverside 1: Story
Daily Breeze
UC Riverside website
Box Score

Saturday: Dirtbags 1, UC Riverside 0: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Daily Breeze
UC Riverside website
Box Score

Sunday: Dirtbags 4, UC Riverside 1: Story
Long Beach Press-Telegram
UC Riverside website
Box Score
Streeeeakinnn'....The Dirtbags have won 4 straight, 5 of the last 6, and are 16-4 since their record stood at 5-6 after the Cal. series (February 18-20).

....Dirtbags pitching once again dominated, allowing the UC Riverside Highlanders to score only 2 runs in 3 games. The 49er team ERA fell to 2.15. Riverside batted .213 (20 for 94), and Beach pitchers allowed only 2 walks on the weekend.

....Long Beach State batters were held to a .247 average (20 for 81), but drew 9 walks. They did a nice job of timely hitting on Friday and Sunday. that's another story. Haley Winter, Riverside's starter, threw them a steady diet of breaking balls. With the exception of Sean Boatright (2 for 3 with a walk), Winter handcuffed Beach batters. Even so, there had to have been 5 or 6 balls hit very hard...but right at fielders for outs.

....After shaking the rust off against Fullerton, Troy Tulowitzki went 4 for 9 (.444), including 2 doubles, and drew 2 walks. He also scored 4 runs.

....From the top to the heart of the order, the Beach was red hot on Friday night. At leadoff, Evan Longoria was 2 for 4, scored a run and batted one in (his first homerun of the season). Troy Tulowitzki, batting 3rd, went 2 for 3, and scored 3 runs. At cleanup, Sean Boatright also got 2 hits in 3 at bats, scored 2 runs and batted in 1. Chris Jones followed him, going 2 for 4 with an RBI.

....The bullpen was stellar again, as Brian Anderson (3-0, 0.36) pitched 2.0 shutout innings for the win on Saturday, and Neil Jamison (2-0, 8 saves, 0.00) did the same on Sunday for his 8th save.

....At 3-0, Long Beach State is tied with Cal. Poly SLO for 1st in the Big West Conference.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chris Jones Featured In Press-Telegram

From the Long Beach Press-Telegram today:
Dirtbags catcher hits stride

Maturity, work ethic key to improvement.

By Bob Keisser
Staff writer

Dirtbags catcher Chris Jones was in a full-out sprint to second base last Friday against Cal State Fullerton, hoping his third-inning shot to the left-center field gap at Blair Field would get to the warning track.

So as he looked up and saw Titans left fielder Danny Dorn gazing at a spot over the fence, he admittedly got a little disoriented. Balls don't exactly jump out of Blair, and it was the first home run of his college career. He had no concept of the home run trot.

"I still can't remember half of it," the junior from Fresno said. "It didn't really hit me until I got back to the dugout and everyone was going kind of wild."

Halfway into a season that has featured impressive performances from a handful of new faces, Jones may be the most surprising and pleasing of them all. From deep on the bench, he has claimed the starting catching job while hitting a team-leading .355 and playing his position well.

He came to the Dirtbags last year after limited playing time at Fresno City College in 2003. He was what college coaches call a recruited walk-on, someone who came to Long Beach on faith and a minimal financial aid package.

"Coach (Troy Buckley) told me he wanted someone who was solid defensively when he got in the game," Jones said. "I knew I could do that."

He didn't get to do it much last season. He got into 10 games and had eight at-bats as the No. 3 catcher, behind all-Big West catcher Brad Davis, and he was expected to backup Tito Cruz in 2005.

"He thought and we thought Tito would be the guy," said Mike Weathers. "Tito had the most experience.

"We always knew Chris could throw and catch. He has those skills. He just came back to the team a better player after the summer. You see that happen at times. Guys just grow up. He's earned the playing time he's getting."

Jones hit well in a few early Sunday starts this season. When third baseman Danny Mocny injured his shoulder, Weathers moved Cruz to third and Jones behind the plate, and Jones hasn't left since. He has his safely in 14 of the last 15 games.

After initially hitting ninth, he's now been moved up to second or third in the order. He has the best strikeout to at-bat ratio on the team with just seven in 76 at-bats. Defensively, he has a great arm and is getting better at communicating with his pitchers.

"I came back expecting that Tito would be the starter and hoping that I might get some playing time," Jones said. "I still ask myself how this happened."

It likely happened because Jones spent the summer doing what Weathers and Buckley had advised work on his conditioning and dedicate himself to becoming a better player.

"I probably came here pretty immature as a baseball player," Jones admits.

He was an outfielder and third-baseman in youth baseball, not moving behind the plate until his junior season of high school. After graduation, he was recruited to play football. He went to Fresno City College and lettered two years in football.

He didn't meet the school's baseball coach until the team's first workout, redshirted his freshman season, and hit .288 with 19 hits in limited playing time the next.

His training as a college catcher didn't really start until he landed in Long Beach and had the chance to work with Weathers and Buckley. Buckley may now be known as the Dirtbags' pitching guru, but he was an All-American catcher at Santa Clara and was the Dirtbags' hitting coach when he first arrived.

"Buck is amazing," Jones said. "He knows your strengths and weaknesses and turns all of your work into a positive."

The Dirtbag coaches call pitches for the staff, so Jones has had to immerse himself in the team's pitching philosophy. Buckley encourages dialogue; he wants his pitchers and catchers to understand why he's calling a particular pitch.

"It gives you a lot of confidence after awhile when you can start anticipating what pitch is going to be called," Jones said. "It's a great way to learn."

It's even greater when you can put that learning on display every game.

Press-Telegram On BWC Opening

From the Long Beach Press-Telegram today:
Dirtbags home for conference opener

Ramos gets the nod for the start against UCR.

By Bob Keisser
Staff writer

A few days after taking two of three games from No. 1-ranked Cal State Fullerton, it sounds odd to say that the Dirtbags' preliminaries are over.

But it's true. The series win over the Titans was gratifying but it doesn't count in the Big West Conference standings. The league race starts tonight against UC Riverside.

The Dirtbags begin the weekend series 18-10 overall and with 13 wins in their last 17 games, good enough to return the team to the Top 25 rankings in the various collegiate polls No. 20 in Collegiate Baseball, No. 22 in Baseball America, and No. 24 in the Sports Weekly/Coaches poll.

They've also played half of their games against ranked teams. It's a nice resume to date. Now they have to put it aside and try to win as many of their 21 conference games as they can over the next eight weeks.

Fullerton and the Dirtbags are the only ranked teams in the Big West, but only Pacific has a losing record. Both Pacific and Cal State Northridge are improved after poor seasons in 2004, and most every team has quality pitchers.

They're also battle tested, having played up and down the west coast against Pac-10 teams and other reputable west coast opponents.

"Everyone plays a tough schedule," said Dirtbags coach Mike Weathers. "Week in and week out. No one out here has the mentality to play an easy schedule and run up a good record. We play and beat each other up."

Six of the eight Big West schools have RPIs, the strength of schedule ratings, in the top 70. The Dirtbags' biggest statistical edge as league play begins is team pitching the Dirtbags have a 2.31 ERA, more than a run per game better than No. 2 Fullerton (3.72). They are 14-0 this season when they lead after six innings, with relievers Brian Anderson and Neil Jamison allowing one earned run between them.

Cesar Ramos (5-3, 1.70) was named conference pitcher of the week again after his two-hitter over the Titans a week ago, and he'll open the series tonight against either James Simmons (3-1, 2.95) or Jose Shaw (1-01, 4.35).

Saturday, it will be Marco Estrada (5-0, 2.08) versus Hayley Winter (4-3, 1.58) and Sunday Jared Hughes (2-2, 3.55) against Taylor Bills (2-4, 5.32).

A look at the seven Big West opponents, with records and dates of their series with the Dirtbags:

UC Riverside (12-12; today-Sunday at Blair): The Highlanders have received good work thus far from Winter and Simmons. They took two of three from then-No. 9 Arizona in Tucson last month and split a pair with USC. Catcher Nick Salotti (.367, five home runs, 19 RBI) is the leading hitter.

UC Irvine (13-11; April 8-10 at Irvine): The Anteaters, who made the NCAA tourney last season for the first time, have gone 6-2 against Pac-10 teams and three of their losses came at Clemson. They have an experienced pitching staff led by Chris Nicoll (3-1, 2.36), Justin Cassel (3-1, 3.40) and closer Blair Erickson 2-0, 0.40, five saves). Jaime Martinez (.371) leads the team in hitting.

Cal State Northridge (12-11-1; April 15-17 at Blair): The Matadors, coached by one-time Dirtbag assistant Steve Rousey, have rebounded from a 19-38 mark last season despite playing only five home games before last week. Erik Hagstrom is hitting .391 and closer Peter Eberhardt (2.22) has three wins and six saves. The Matadors lead the league in errors with 51.

Pacific (12-15; April 22-24 at Pacific): The Tigers had lost eight of nine before beating Stanford Tuesday, 2-0. Justin Baum has a league-leading nine home runs but the Tigers do not have a .300 hitter and are hitting .244 as a team. Closer Josh Schmidt (0.57) has four wins and five saves.

UCSB (14-12; May 6-8 at Santa Barbara): The Gauchos opened 7-2 but then lost eight of nine, getting swept by Oregon State and Washington. The pitching has been spotty Andy Graham is 4-1 and Alex McRobbie has six saves and 2004 freshman All-American Chris Valaika is hitting .208. Matt Wilkerson leads the conference in RBI (28).

Cal Poly (17-12; May 13-15 at Blair): The Mustangs, who do not play a single game outside California in 2005, are led by Kyle Blumenthal (.337, 24 RBI) and Matt Cooper (.318, five home runs, 20 RBI). Garrett Olson is 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA.

Cal State Fullerton (18-6; May 20-22 at Fullerton): The Titans need no introduction after visiting Blair last week for the annual nonconference series. The defending national champs are led by pitcher Ricky Romero (1.98) and swingers Ronnie Prettyman, Justin Turner, Brett Pill and Sergio Pedroza.

Big West Conference Deep In Quality Pitching

Here's a great article from the San Luis Obispo Tribune running down the pitching in the Big West this season:
Lefties are all right

Big West baseball preview

Brian Milne
The Tribune


Try O.G.A.F. -- Oh great, another Friday.

Big West Conference sluggers were hoping the league would finally become a hitters' conference now that Friday night aces Jered Weaver and Jason Windsor are gone, but it appears the Big West's pitching prospects are as strong as ever with three of the best southpaws in the country taking the mound in tonight's openers.

Cal State Fullerton's Ricky Romero, Long Beach State's Cesar Ramos and Cal Poly's Garrett Olson are three of the top four left-handed prospects in Baseball America's recent midseason draft prospects report.

"You don't get guys like this very often," one California-based scout said. "You might have one good lefty in the mix, but not three. You can't just go out and find premium left-handers like that anywhere, and you have three in one conference? That's pretty impressive."

While Olson (5-2, 3.21 earned run average) has come on strong for the Mustangs this season, Romero and Ramos have drawn the most attention as they are among a class of only five 12-game winners who have returned to college. Both are among the eight candidates in the running for Baseball America's national pitcher of the year.

Romero, who plays for the second-ranked and defending national champion Titans, is 5-2 with a 1.98 ERA. He's struck out 57 batters in 50 innings.

Ramos, who plays for the 22nd-ranked 49ers, is 5-3 with a 1.70 ERA. He's struck out 49 in 632/3 innings.

The two have already battled head-to-head this season with Ramos earning the win, throwing a complete-game two hitter against the conference favorites.

"Ramos and Romero are doing what Weaver and Windsor were doing the previous year," said Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee. "They just go out on Friday night and step up their game. I think the pitching in this conference is as good as ever with some high-profile guys that are known all over the country."

Then there are the Big West starters who the scouts are calling their "sleepers."

Pitchers like Olson, who leads the conference in strikeouts (68 in 671/3 innings) and after a solid summer for the Anchorage Bucs has evolved into the Mustangs' ace.

"Olson is definitely a sleeper," the scout said. "Right now he's not getting a whole bunch of looks, but once conference starts and he's matched up against some of those marquee guys, everyone's going to start following him."

UC Irvine, which advanced to the postseason in the program's third year of resurrection, may have the most underrated staff in the bunch. First-year Anteater head coach Dave Serrano, a pitching at Cal State Fullerton over the last decade, has a starting staff that includes former Righetti High School standout Chris Nicoll (3-1, 2.36), Justin Cassel (3-1, 3.40) and Steve Schroer (3-3, 3.94).

Rotations like UC Irvine's are why Lee expects a lot of one- and two-run ballgames this season. Even now that Weaver (drafted by the Angels in the first round but has yet to sign) and Windsor (third-round pick by the A's) are out of the picture.

"You should see a lot of close ballgames," said Lee, whose team travels to pitcher-friendly stadiums at Pacific, Long Beach State and UC Irvine this season. "Staying in games will fall on the shoulders of our starters. They have to be able to keep us within striking distance in the later stages. Defensively, we have to make all the right plays and offensively you have to do just enough to outscore your opponent in those particular games."

Saturday night live

Expect Saturday's games to be closely contested as well.

Like most of the teams in the conference, Cal Poly has moved Saturday's 1 p.m. start times to 6 p.m. this season, giving Saturday games that Friday night lights feel. And the Mustang coaching staff is lining up its rotations accordingly, moving senior right-hander Jimmy Shull from Sunday into the Saturday night role.

Cal Poly hopes the move helps shake Shull out a nonconference slump that saw him go 2-5 with a 6.34 ERA. Shull was 9-5 with a 4.15 ERA a year ago as the Mustangs' Friday night starter and was drafted in the eighth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"You look at a team like SLO and see teams have more than one good starter in their rotation," Cal State Fullerton pitching coach Ted Silva said. "It seems like when someone is supposed to be the guy, another pitcher steps right up and he becomes a stud.

"I think that's why, with as deep as everybody's staff is this season, the scores throughout the weekend are going to be closer. Especially in the night games, which give the advantage to the pitcher."

Cal State Fullerton's rotation looked stronger than anyone's until Saturday starter Ryan Schreppel (4-0, 2.00 ERA) went down with an arm injury [my note: it was a knee injury suffered last Saturday at Blair]. He will be replaced by freshman right-hander Wes Roemer (0-1, 2.37).

Other strong Saturday night starters include Cassel, Long Beach State's Marco Estrada (5-0, 2.08) and UC Riverside ace Hayley Winter (4-3, 1.58).

Providing relief

The conference also has an impressive roster of relievers this season.

Relievers like Cal Poly's Mike Bille, who has overcome a pair of arm surgeries to become the nation's saves leader with nine.

UC Irvine reliever Blair Erickson has five saves this season to go along with a 0.64 ERA. Erickson, who was second in the nation with 17 saves a year ago, has struck out 24 in 14 innings of relief.

Long Beach State has a pair of talented senior right-handers in the bullpen. Closer Neil Jamison (2-0, 0.00), an All-American candidate, has yet to allow an earned run in 12 innings, recording seven saves and 12 strikeouts.

Teammate Brian Anderson is 2-0 with a 0.40 ERA in 16 appearances. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has struck out 20 in 222/3 innings.

But none have been more impressive than Pacific senior closer Josh Schmidt, who returned to the Tigers despite being drafted last June. On Tuesday, he improved to 4-1, throwing 22/3 innings of hitless relief in a victory over No. 12 Stanford. The right-hander, who tallied 73 strikeouts in 54 innings in 2004, currently has a 0.57 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 312/3 innings.

"We're going to have to find a way to beat those guys," Lee said of the conference's wealth of talented pitchers. "The key is minimizing the big innings. You can't give up a load of runs in this conference and expect to win games. You want to be within a swing of the bat in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings and hope you can pull it out."

Newsflash....Tulo Wanted To Rip Off His Cast

I've got some land in Florida to sell to anyone who is surprised by this revelation! Here's the write up in Baseball America's College Weekend Preview:
Long Beach State expected to get All-America shortstop Troy Tulowitzki back this week to open conference play at home against UC Riverside, but received an earlier return than planned after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand. The junior batted cleanup last weekend in the series victory against Cal State Fullerton, and though he went 1-for-12 over three games, his name in the lineup gave the No. 22 Dirtbags a mental boost.

"Just the presence he brings to the game is uplifting," lefthander Cesar Ramos said. "He's always grinding and wanting to win. It's always good to have a guy that's going to be a high first-round pick back. When he was out, he was really frustrated at not being able to play. He wanted to rip off his cast."