After an incredible run down the stretch, the Long Beach State Dirtbags are back in the NCAA Tournament and headed to the swamps of Florida!
For the first time since 2008 the Long Beach State Dirtbags are headed to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The Dirtbags, who made the tournament as an at-large bid, are the #2 seed in the Gainesville Region in Gainesville, Florida and will open up against the #3 seed North Carolina Tar Heels. The Florida Gators are the #1 seed in the region and #2 overall national seed.
For Long Beach State, before April 4 it seemed that the season was going to be deemed a disaster, but a three game series with the defending national champion UCLA Bruins (April 4 – April 6) looks to the turning point when the team turned things around. Since an April 1 loss to the USC Trojans, the Dirtbags have gone 19-10 including finishing the year on a five game win streak and winning nine of their last 10. Prior to April 4, CSULB was 13-14 with inconsistent play becoming the theme along with a team that could not get out of their own way.
The road to the NCAA Big Dance was not an easy one for the Dirtbags, it took a number of key wins and stellar pitching outing from the 3-headed monster of Josh Frye (8-0 1.51 ERA), Andrew Rohrbach (6-2 2.13 ERA) and Ryan Millison (4-1 1.48 ERA) for an extended season to even be possible. Big series wins over UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside all were a product of a team that refused to lay down and let the 2014 season just fall threw the cracks.
Big series SWEEPS of the University of Hawaii, and the season finale over UC Irvine were a product of a team that looked around the clubhouse realizing that for some of them this was it – the swan song on their college careers. When nobody thought is was possible to beat UC Irvine, the Dirtbags went out and swept them — outscoring them 15-4. When nobody thought they could beat a Top 5 team in the country in Cal Poly they took two out of three — including a 1-0 shoutout against the nations top offense. Long Beach State earned where they are at and if North Carolina hasn’t been lost in the ACC, they will know what kind of challenge they are facing on May 30 at 10am.
CSULB has the potential to do damage in this tournament. The big bats of Ino Patron (.302 average), Richard Prigatano (.314 average), Garrett Hampson (.316 average) and Johnny Bekakis (.306 average) along with a pitching staff that has been lights out baseball down the stretch – 2.91 overall team ERA that is a recipe for destruction. The 3-headed monster in Frye, Rohrbach and Millison, beating one of them is going to be tough let alone trying to knock out all three. Undoubtedly Frye will be the starter against the Tar Heels and even with the Gainesville region favoring North Carolina in terms of home crowd, home field advantage does not mean jack when the pitching staff you’re facing isn’t too familiar with the term “loss” lately.
The regular season is in the books for the Dirtbags, chasing a dream and erasing a 15-year drought of reaching the College World Series is what is ahead. The team records don’t mean anything at this point – everyone is 0-0. All the Dirtbags have to do is continue to play the type of ball that got them to this point and not let the emotions get the best of them. They truly are one of the best teams in the country, had they not gotten off to a slow start a Top 5 ranking would have resulted.
Friday, May 30 @ 10am: #2 Long Beach State vs. #3 North Carolina – Gainesville, Florida