Daily 49er

A look back at the Dirtbags’ up-and-down season

The Dirtbags put the 2015 season behind them and look to better days ahead.

Individual stars shined for the Dirtbags, but the team faltered in conference play to finish in sixth place.

Individual stars shined for the Dirtbags, but the team faltered in conference play to finish in sixth place.

Bobby Yagake

Bobby Yagake

Individual stars shined for the Dirtbags, but the team faltered in conference play to finish in sixth place.

Eddie Rivera, Contributing Writer

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A promising start became a subpar ending when the Long Beach State baseball team wrapped up their season by getting swept on the road against rival Cal State Fullerton.

The Dirtbags, who made a postseason appearance last year, failed to make the NCAA regionals this time around. They ended the season by going 28-26 overall, and finished sixth in the Big West with an 11-13 conference record.

Despite all this, the youthful squad showed lots of promise and flashes of brilliance throughout. The Dirtbags started off with a 10-3 record that included a stretch where senior righty Kyle Friedrichs accumulated 34 strikeouts in only three starts.

LBSU capped off this ferocious start by completing a series sweep over Wichita State at home on March 1. Freshmen right-handers Chris Mathewson and Darren McCaughan became part of Dirtbag lore that day by combining to throw the first no hitter in Long Beach State history.

The Dirtbags continued their strong push with some midseason magic by junior right-fielder Zack Rivera. Rivera lifted the Dirtbags to a 5-4 midweek victory over UNLV with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. This sparked a five-game win streak for the Dirtbags that included a series sweep over Cal State Northridge.

However, LBSU’s road woes would come to haunt them over the following weeks as they dropped series to both UC Irvine and Cal Poly. The Dirtbags appeared bounce back from the rough road stretch with a gritty 2-1 home win over No. 2 UCLA on April 28.

Freshman designated hitter Brock Lundquist collected the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 13th inning and helped legitimized his value at the plate to the team.

The Dirtbags wild season came to a screeching halt that weekend after suffering a series sweep at home to Hawai’i. The sweep proved to be too costly and all but erased any hopes of another postseason berth.

In spite of the failures, the talent on this Dirtbag team is obvious and it showed with several players receiving various awards and accolades.

Friedrichs, Lundquist and sophomore shortstop Garrett Hampson were all selected to the All-Big West Second Team. Freshman first baseman Luke Rasmussen earned an honorable mention.

Mathewson’s absurd freshman campaign earned him Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors as he became the first pitcher in Long Beach State history to claim the award. He was also selected to the All-Big West first team.

Mathewson appears to be in prime position to become the starting ace for the Dirtbags next season with Friedrichs senior season coming to an end. Friedrichs stellar year has him named a semifinalist for 2015 Gregg Olsen Award – the award goes to college baseball’s breakout player of the year.

Hampson followed up his impressive freshman campaign last season with an amazing sophomore outing which has earned him an invitation to join the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He is just the 11th Dirtbag to join team USA and the first since current major leaguer Danny Espinosa.

With the season now in the rearview mirror, the Dirtbags can focus on the road in front of them. They better put their shades on, the future looks bright.

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