The Cal State Fullerton Titans will try to do what they couldn’t do in the regular season this weekend, beat the Long Beach State 49ers in a series. Long Beach State swept Cal State Fullerton at home in their three-game series earlier this season and the 49ers followed that up by beating the Titans two games to one at their place. This matchup means that the Big West Conference will place a team in Omaha for the fourth straight season.
This series will be contested from Friday, June 9, 2017 through Sunday, June 11, 2017 at Blair Field in Long Beach. Friday’s tilt will be broadcast on ESPN2, while Saturday’s clash will be on ESPNU with Sunday’s game not having a fixed time or station if it is necessary.
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LBSU knows which three pitchers it will bring to the mound in this series. The best of the bunch has been Darren McCaughan. McCaughan has been pretty unlucky if you take into account his advanced metrics this season. He has a 2.65 ERA, but hitters are batting less than .200 against him this season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is greater than five-to-one and he has shown the ability to go the distance with four complete games.
Conversely, Dave Smith has gotten fortunate. Smith has a 1.32 ERA, but opposing batters have left a lot of runners on base against him. Hitters are batting .261 against him, yet it hasn’t affected his numbers as much since he is a groundball pitcher. Smith has given up just one home run this season, while McCaughan has given up 12 dingers.
John Sheaks will get the call if needed in Game 3. He isn’t as accurate as either Smith or McCaughan with 26 walks, five wild pitches, and six hit batsmen on the year. His average start lasts just five innings, so the bullpen must be ready to give him help.
The situation for the Titans isn’t as clear cut. Connor Seabold is going to get one of the starts. He is the team’s strikeout leader with a K an inning, but has also given up 32 extra base hits. Seabold threw a complete game with 11 strikeouts in Cal State Fullerton’s lone win over Long Beach State this season.
John Gavin will get a start as well. He has not shown the ability to go late in games like Seabold has, but he is effective when he is on the mound. If the umpire squeezes the strike zone against Gavin, look out. He is giving up a walk every three innings.
Hitters to Watch
Scott Hurst has been the most talented hitter on the Titans this season. Of the regular starters, he is one of only two to be hitting better than .300 and Hurst has the best power numbers on the team as well. His slugging percentage of .597 is a full 140 points better than any of the other starters. Don’t be surprised if Long Beach State avoids pitching to him in certain situations.
Lucas Tancas and David Banuelos have been the Bash Brothers of Long Beach in 2017. They have very similar stat lines with Tancas having an OPS of .884 and Banuelos having an OPS of .860. The Dirtbags don’t score a lot of runs so their production is vital to this team’s chances to get to the College World Series.
What to Expect
Three of the six regular season games between these two teams ended up being a pitcher’s duel. Long Beach State won two of those games by a margin of 1-0 and one by a score of 2-1 and the 49ers have the more reliable pitchers.
If it ends up being left to the bats, the Titans have the advantage. Their hitters have been better at getting on base and hitting for power this season.
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