Dirtbags offense sputtering to begin season
By Matthew Gozzip Athletics Editor
The beginning of the season is usually a time of promise for most baseball teams.
For Long Beach State it’s an opportunity for redemption after a loss in the regional round of the College World Series.
So far, so bad. The Dirtbags (3-3) have only won half of their games, a disappointing beginning to the season, especially since hey were ranked in the top 20 in the country.
The Dirtbags bats are currently hitting .223 through six games while their opponents are hitting .266 with nearly 20 more at bats.
Much of the offense is powered by spotty slugging and ineffective top of the order, other than sophomore infielder Jarren Duran at the lead off spot.
Junior outfielder Luke Rasmussen leads the team in RBI as expected but is also beginning to show more plate discipline, increasing his batting averages across the board.
Juniors Brock Lundquist and David Banuelos sit on the back half of the order but if they can begin to produce runs, the offense can be stabilized.
It is the beginning of the season so the batters should get a longer rope at the beginning of the season.
Depth of the rotation will be the key to winning early season contests for the time being while the bats begin to pick up steam.
Sophomore Darren McCaughan, a preseason all-american, is expected to play at a high level after a 10-1 campaign and a successful summer tour with the Team USA Collegiate National team.
Unfortunately, McCaughan pitched one of his worst games in recent memory on Opening Day.
The ace gave up six runs on six hits in only six innings against the Oklahoma Sooners, only the second time he conceded three runs in a start in the past two seasons.
Of course, that start may have been a case of rust since McCaughan did rebound with a shutout win against Fordham in his next outing. Regardless, McCaughan can’t carry the load by himself.
A trio of newcomers make up the bulk of the rotation and much of the early portion of the season rests on their arms.
Freshmen right handers John Castro and Matt Fields are a bit of a mystery even though they both arrived to Long Beach as highly touted recruits. After both making their debut appearances in the young season, the future looks promising.
Fields took the mound during the second game of the opening series with Oklahoma, pitching three innings in relief to pick up his first career win against the same formidable order that bullied McCaughan.
Castro didn’t get a win in his first appearance but he did not allow a run in seven innings, allowing only six hits against the USC Trojans.
Junior transfer John Sheaks, another Dirtbag who made his debut this year,, generally starts off his outings strong but seems to fade as the innings progress.
In his first start against Oklahoma, Sheaks blanked the Sooners the first four innings but later gave up three runs in the next two innings.
He also had difficulty in his second start on Saturday against Fairfield, allowing four runs in four innings.
Establishing consistency remains the main objective for the Dirtbags. At some point the rhythm of the swing will be restored to The Beach’s bats and the pitchers will show how talented they really are. It remains to be seen though if this slow start is an adjustment period or a season long issue.