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Dirtbags closer Chris Rivera named preseason All-American by the NCBWA

The LBSU baseball program has now had at least one player honored for three consecutive seasons.

Closer+Chris+Rivera+celebrates+after+closing+out+Cal+State+Fullerton+Friday+at+Blair+Field.+Rivera+gave+up+one+hit+as+the+Dirtbags+defeated+the+Titans+3-0.%0A
Closer Chris Rivera celebrates after closing out Cal State Fullerton Friday at Blair Field. Rivera gave up one hit as the Dirtbags defeated the Titans 3-0.

Closer Chris Rivera celebrates after closing out Cal State Fullerton Friday at Blair Field. Rivera gave up one hit as the Dirtbags defeated the Titans 3-0.

Jose De Castro

Jose De Castro

Closer Chris Rivera celebrates after closing out Cal State Fullerton Friday at Blair Field. Rivera gave up one hit as the Dirtbags defeated the Titans 3-0.

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Dirtbags junior closer Chris Rivera was named a preseason third team All-American by the National College Baseball Writers Association, making it three consecutive seasons that the program has had at least one player recognized.

“It’s obviously an honor just to be on a list with some of those guys,” Rivera said. “To follow up guys like Darren [McCaughan], Garrett [Hampson] and Chris [Mathewson] makes it even more special to me.”

Hampson and Mathewson received the same honor prior to the 2016 season, when the Dirtbags fell one game short of a NCAA Super Regional. McCaughan got the call last February before his final act as the Long Beach ace starting pitcher. All three players were drafted and continue to play professional baseball today.

“There’s a lot of history of pitching here so we tried to recruit and develop guys that fit the mold and the system,” head coach Troy Buckley said. “Ultimately, you have to give a lot of credit to [Rivera], [McCaughan] and [pitching coach Dan] Ricabal.”

In 26 appearances on the mound last season, Rivera had a 2.60 ERA and struck out 47 batters over 34 ⅔ innings. He closed down 13 of the teams 21 saves and was a constant out of the bullpen for Long Beach along with setup man Josh Advocate, who is now in the Texas Rangers organization.

He now enters his third year as the Dirtbags closer, but perhaps more importantly as one of the veteran leaders among a team of young talent.

“Now it’s about keeping the culture alive,” Rivera said. “We’re process driven and to get [the younger players] to understand how important the little things we do here are is definitely a big focus for me.”

Rivera was also an impact player as a freshman in 2016 when he nailed down 13 saves after assuming the closing role toward the end of the season. Being brought up around players and leaders such as Mathewson, Hampson and McCaughan were crucial in his growth as a stopper on the mound.

“It’s all about the foundation they have laid and keeping that tradition alive,” Rivera said.

With opening day just over one week away, Rivera sets his sights on being the cornerstone of another successful campaign.

“I think I just have to continue what I’ve done; understanding who I am as a player and not trying to do too much and hopefully be a guy they continue to count on.”

Joining Rivera as honorees of preseason accolades are senior starting pitcher John Sheaks and junior second baseman Jarren Duran, who were both named to the All Big West Conference team by PerfectGame.org.

Long Beach will open its first weekend series, at 6 p.m. against St. Mary’s Feb. 16-18 at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.

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