After having no midweek games this week, which allowed the team to rest (and take its finals), the #11 Bruins return to action this weekend for a key three game series versus #7 Long Beach St. This series will see the teams open Friday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium before switching over to Long Beach St.'s Blair Field for a double header Saturday.
The Bruins have not played since last Sunday at Cal Poly when they mustered a win to win the series over Cal Poly and improve to 3-1 on the week. This series will be the Bruins' last weekend series before they begin conference play in Tucson next weekend, but it will be a very good test for the offense, which is finally emerging as the high powered offense everyone expected it to be.
After seeing a number of key batters struggle early in the season, the Bruins busted out of any perceived slump last weekend, totaling 42 runs in their four games last week and hitting six home runs after hitting only five in their first 11 games. The leader of the offense all season has been 2B Alden Carrithers. The senior went 12-22 at the plate last week and extended his hit streak to seven games. SS Brandon Crawford has also picked up it, improving his average .150 points in the last six games to a solid .305 batting average. RF Gabe Cohen's average is still below what was expected of him, but he has come through with the power. He has a team leading four homers and 15 RBI and has thirteen runs despite only fourteen hits.
Friday night's tilt (6 pm PST) at Jackie Robinson Stadium will see LBSU's RHP Andrew Liebel take on UCLA's LHP Tim Murphy. Liebel has emerged as the started of the Dirtbags' stellar rotation. The senior has a 1-0 record and 1.11 ERA against very good competition. LBSU has played Rice, Wichita St. and Hawaii and Liebel has made starts against all of them. Murphy suffered his first sub-par start last weekend versus Cal Poly, giving up seven runs and 12 hits, but he did manage 6.2 innings. He's going to enter Friday night's game with a 2-0 record and 2.35 ERA.
The first game of Saturday's doubleheader (1 pm PST) will match LBSU's RHP Jake Thompson and UCLA's RHP Charles Brewer. Thompson, a freshman, has been the weakest link in the LBSU rotation, but not very weak at all with a 1-1 record and 3.97 ERA. Thompson struggled in his last start, giving up four runs in 5.1 innings last weekend versus USC. Brewer will be making his first start in two weeks, but did have a stellar relief appearance last weekend. After the Bruin starter gave up five runs without retiring a batter, Brewer came in an pitched nine innings of relief, giving up only one run en route to the win.
The second game of the doubleheader will begin roughly 30 minutes following the completion of the first game and will see the Dirtbags send RHP Vance Worley to the hill to face the Bruins' LHP Gavin Brooks. Worley has a 3.29 ERA and 2-0 record on the season and his last start was a solid one. The junior pitched six innings versus USC, giving up only two earned runs, but did not pick up the win. Brooks was another Bruin pitcher that struggled last week at Cal Poly and his last two starts have been poor as his ERA skyrocketed to 5.79. Brooks' last start at Blair Field came in the regional there last season when he pitched a complete game versus UI-Chicago.
At the plate, the Dirtbags are led by SS Danny Espinosa, who has a .328 batting average in the middle of the LBSU lineup. 1B Shane Peterson is the Dirtbags' only other stellar bat. The junior enters the weekend with a .410 batting average, 22 RBI and .507 on-base percentage. After those two, the Dirtbags lack impact hitters as the light hitting lineup has struggled to put up runs this season. Against top notch competition, LBSU has averaged a mere 4.1 runs per game, but the team is 13-3 on the season against a very difficult schedule because of a pitching staff that has a 2.26 ERA on the year.
Come on out to Jackie Robinson Stadium Friday night and watch our Bruins continue their road to Omaha. If you're heading to the Honda Center Saturday, you can pop over to Blair Field to check out the game before watching our Ben Ball Warriors. Friday's game is a 6 pm PST and Saturday's first game will be at 1 pm PST with the second game beginning roughly 30 min following the completion of the first game. Tickets for Friday night are $7 for adults, $5 for children and free for Wooden Club members. If you can't make it out to the game, you can listen to it or follow it on GameTracker via the official site.