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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Normally, this is the last act a la Shakespeare, this bloodletting known as the Dirtbags (35-17, 13-5) versus the Titans (38-12, 13-2), beginning tonight at Goodwin Field, usually placing the final dagger in the ribs of one team or the other.
But thanks to a quirk in the 2005 Big West Conference schedule, it isn't. The Dirtbags and Titans both have 13 wins, but Fullerton three less losses because they still have one more Big West series left after this weekend, at UC Riverside.
Meaning, the Dirtbags need to sweep the Titans to guarantee themselves a share of the league title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If the Dirtbags win two of three, Fullerton will have to win two of three from UC Riverside next week to clinch the title.
"It's unfortunate, because the one thing you always knew is that it would come down to the last series between us, so it's odd that we're not going to be done," said Titans coach George Horton. "Usually, we're talking about who wins the league and national implications and regionals being on the line."
All those things are still relevant, of course.
Fullerton is ranked No. 1 and seems guaranteed to host a regional. The Dirtbags are ranked No. 10 and winning the series would likely moved them up a notch and make it very hard for the NCAA committee to deny them the chance to host.
Taking two or three games this weekend, after winning two of three at Blair in the nonconference series early when Fullerton was also No. 1, would give them a 4-2 record against the No. 1 team, which could also be enough for the Dirtbags to get one of the eight national seedings.
The Dirtbags' preparation for the series mentions not a word of this. Putting other goals and desires on the same plate as the Titans would be a distraction, so Mike Weathers has just been preparing his team to play good baseball and let that take care of things.
"We can't win all three games at once," closer Neil Jamison said. "We have to go in and take it one game at a time. Win Friday, put it behind us and prepare for the next test."
Weathers expects good games, something that is about an 85 percent certainty based on the closeness of the series since it went legit in 1989. He thinks it will come down to "pitching, defense and luck," something you can't prepare for but can always use.
The Dirtbags took two of three in late March. Cesar Ramos outdueled Ricky Romero in the opener, 3-2, Fullerton outlasted the Bags in a rare sloppy Game 2, 5-4, and Jared Hughes tossed a four-hitter in winning Game 3, 3-1.
Troy Tulowitzki returned for that series after missing 20 games because of a broken left hand. This weekend, Horton will be down a few key bodies. Felipe Garcia still has his foot in a cast from a small break, infielder Bobby Andrews has a hamstring injury and pitch Ryan Schreppel (5-0, 1.97) is slowly easing himself back into the mix after missing more than a month with a knee injury.
Horton considered starting Schreppel, but figured that would be rushing him so he'll use him out of the bullpen as needed before starting him next week week at UC Riverside.
"Both teams are playing well, but neither of us are killing anyone," Fullerton won two of three from Poly but scored just seven runs for the weekend; ditto for Long Beach last week.
DIRTBALLS: The pitching matchup tonight will be the same as in March, Cesar Ramos (10-5, 2.02) facing Ricky Romero (10-4, 2.60). Game two Saturday will be Marco Estrada (7-23, 2.32) against Wes Roemer (5-2, 3.02), and Jared Hughes (7-2, 2.42) Sunday against Scott Sarver (8-2, 4.14). … Fullerton has won 12 of its last 13 and is hitting .309, led by Sergio Pedroza (.341, 12 homers, 46 RBI) and Brett Pill (.338, 8-42). … The Dirtbags continue to lead the nation in pitching with a 2.24 ERA. … Jamison's appearance last week made him just the second player with 100 appearances in his career, and his next save will make him No. 2 all-time on the school list. … Tonight's game will be on KVMD, Saturday's on CSTV and Sunday's on Fox college Sports. … The Dirtbags visit USC Wednesday in a makeup game and their last regular season game of the season.