Dirtbags want to leave stench

Two consecutive weekends of games against the Florida State Seminoles, left head coach Jim Morris seeing red as the Hurricanes lost five of six games to their state-rival to fall to the .500 mark for the season.

Through 36 games this season, the results have been different to that of 2001 when the Hurricanes capped the season with a 17-game winning steak and a national championship game victory over Stanford.

But the Hurricanes (18-18) don't have too much time to ponder what's wrong as they open a three-game series against Long Beach State at Mark Light Stadium, April 19-21.

The Hurricanes, off to their worst record since 1966, were swept at home last weekend and are riding a four-game losing streak. The 49ers, ranked 13th by Baseball America and coming off a 10-9 extra-inning win over San Diego State, are 24-10 and lead the Big West Conference at 8-1.

"I believe right know we're on a roll and playing with a lot of confidence," said Long Beach State starting leftfielder Chris Wright, hitting .352 with two home runs and 19 RBI. "We really feel good about how things are going and it would make no sense to change anything at this point."

"I guess playing Miami is special anytime because of what they have meant to college baseball and all the tradition that surrounds their program. But we have to continue to play the game one pitch at a time and not get caught up in all that. We play the opponent, not the names across the jersey. If we go down there with that frame of mind we should come out alright in my opinion." Despite having 10 players drafted from last year's team, Long Beach State is enjoying another strong season in part to a strong starting pitching staff and a scrappy offensive philosophy that has led to a .314 batting average, through April 17th.

Head Coach Mike Weathers is in his first season as head coach replacing Dave Snow, who retired last July. Not much has changed.

Alvarez, a southpaw, heads one of the best pitching staffs in the nation with a team-leading eight victories. Alvarez, 8-1 with an ERA of 1.97, has recorded 56 strikeouts and walked just 11 on the season. Opponents are batting .220 against him.

Right-hander Daniel Eisentrager has just one victory to his credit since mid-March, although he has been effective overall. Eisentrager has shown superb control, striking out 40 batters and walking just eight in 55 innings pitched. After a rough start, freshman right-hander Jered Weaver is 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA in his last six starts. Weaver, limiting opponents to a .224 batting average, was reached for 15 earned runs in his first four starts of the season.

Senior right-hander Nate Beucler (1-1, 2.97 ERA), the reigning Big West Conference co-pitcher of the week, is coming off a career-high seven-inning performance against Loyola Marymount in a starting role and closed the game against UC Santa Barbara to earn his first save of the season. Beucler has given up just two walks in 30-plus innings.

The 49ers bullpen is filled with reliable arms including senior right-hander Chris Demaria who has yet to allow an earned run or a walk in 15 appearances this season. Demaria has 13 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Long Beach State is fourth in the nation with 2.90 ERA.

Senior third baseman Nick Covarrubias continues to lead the offense with a .378 average, along with 22 RBI and 28 runs scored. Covarrubias, who has six multi-hit games in the last 11, has a .519 slugging percentage, second on the team. Wright, who is 13 hits away from tying a school record of 245, is 44-for-125 on the season, including seven doubles.

Shortstop Kevin Randell, along with first baseman Paul McAnulty, has a team-leading four home runs. McAnulty also has 24 RBI to lead the team.

"This isn't a team that's going to step on the field and blow everybody away, but we're taking care of the little things that win baseball games," Wright said. "Our team chemistry has been great and that has helped everybody stay on the same page."

The Hurricanes have dropped seven of their last nine and look far from the team that came home from Omaha a year ago with the national title. Already this season, Florida, South Florida, Elon and Florida State have handed the Hurricanes series losses at home.

"We need to pitch better and hit with consistency if we're gonna win some of these games," said Miami head coach Jim Morris after watching his team loss three straight to FSU. "We need to improve in all areas."

The Hurricanes shortstop Javy Rodriguez (.350 batting average, 20 stolen bases) will make another attempt to jump start an offense that has gone hot and cold for most of the season. Junior catcher/designated hitter Danny Matienzo is hitting .328 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 32 RBI. Jim Burt, tied with Kevin Howard for second on the team with a .336 batting average, has contributed offensively with five home runs and 29 RBI. Matt Dryer (.314) has four home runs and 25 RBI.

But getting hits in key situations has been a problem for the Hurricanes despite Howard's optimism.

"I really think we're making progress and about to go on a little run. The young kids are growing up more each day and I think the offense will turn the corner," said Howard, before the Hurricanes played Florida State last weekend.

Miami has a 9-6 edge over the 49ers in a series that will resume after an omission last season. Both teams met in Coral Gables in 2000 with the Hurricanes taking two of three games. The teams split two games in the 1998 College World Series, but it was Long Beach Beach State that eliminated Miami with a 6-3 victory. The 49ers won two of three from the Hurricanes in 1993.

The Friday and Saturday games are scheduled for 7 p.m. start times, while the Sunday game is slated for a 1 p.m. start. Saturday's game will be on Fox Sports Net on a tape delay.

The 49ers will open the series with Alvarez (8-1, 1.97 ERA) followed by Eisentrager (5-2, 3.93) and right-hander Jared Weaver (5-2, 3.35). Although the rotation has not been set for the weekend, the Hurricanes could answer with sophomore Dan Touchet (3-2, 4.66), T. J. Prunty (4-3, 5.90) and Kiki Bengochea (2-5, 7.12).

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