Baseball Preview: Long Beach

Cal State Fullerton is heading down the home stretch of the season with only one series left for the Titans to take care of business and potentially wrap up a national top eight seed that would guarantee hosting a regional and a super regional if Fullerton won their regional.

After a 4-7 slump in the middle of the season, the Titans have rebounded to win 16 of their last 19 games including a sweep of UCSB and series wins at Cal Poly and against UCLA in their last three weekend series.  Fullerton is looking to continue their solid play this weekend at Goodwin Field as they wrap up Big West play against their archrivals from Long Beach State.  

The Dirtbags have won their last two series against the Titans and Fullerton would like nothing better than to end Long Beach's season on a negative note by winning this series and go into the post-season with more momentum.

Long Beach (25-26, 11-10) knew they were going to have a rebuilding year after losing eleven players to the draft last June and returned only three pitchers with over 20 IP last season (two of them were middle relievers) and two starting position players along with several reserves. 

The Dirtbags figured they would probably get off to a slow start but couldn't have expected that they would struggle as much as they did in losing their first five series to USC, Cal, South Carolina, Washington State and Wichita State.  Long Beach started playing better when their schedule eased up some and they bounced back to win five out of six series. 

The Dirtbags looked like they might be potentially playing their way into consideration for a regional when they were scheduled to play at UCSB, a series that was moved to Fullerton due to fires in the Santa Barbara area a couple of weeks ago.  Goodwin Field wasn't a hospitable place for Long Beach as the Gauchos swept the Dirtbags to start them on a 1-6 skid that included a series loss at home last weekend to Cal Poly.

OUTLOOK

Any hopes that Long Beach had of making it into a regional were squashed the last two weekends against UCSB and Cal Poly so the Dirtbags are playing for pride this weekend and are hoping to finish with a winning record and in the top third of the conference standings.  Fullerton has much higher aspirations for this season and is playing to host post-season series at Goodwin Field. 

Also, the Titans are looking for revenge after losing the last two series to the Dirtbags and do not want to lose three straight series to Long Beach for the first time since 1996-1998.  Injuries and inexperience have caught up with Long Beach down the stretch and they are not playing well right now while Fullerton has gotten over their midseason slump and are coming into this series with lots of momentum. 

Long Beach has a chance to pull off the upset in this series with the way that Wilk has been pitching on Fridays and will be motivated to finish this season with a series win but Fullerton is on too much of a roll to pick against the Titans and Fullerton should win two of three games this weekend.