Long Beach State baseball eyes a Big West title

View Original Notice ? Long Beach State baseball eyes a Big West title

Eric Valenzuela is beginning his third season as Long Beach State’s baseball coach, but you’ll have to forgive him if he feels as if his career here has been a little short-sheeted.

His first season was 2020, which the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out after LBSU was off to a 10-5 start. In 2021, his team got the latest start of any Division I program, and after a few shaky weekends rallied to a 28-15 overall record and a third-place finish in the Big West Conference (26-14).

As starts go, it was successful despite all the annoyances. Last season was the Dirtbags’ best since the 2017 team went 42-20-1 and reached the NCAA super regionals. Most of the top players from 2021 are back, topped by relief ace Devereaux Harrison.

The junior right-hander had a 1.57 ERA and 10 saves last season and has received a lot of preseason attention, including a spot on the Watch List for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the best player in college baseball.

“We’ve been through a lot the last two seasons, and we’ve learned how to deal with adversity,” Valenzuela said. “There were a lot of great things about last season that we will build on in 2022.”

The Dirtbags, ranked No. 24 in D1baseball.com’s preseason poll, open the season Friday with a three-game series at No. 3 Mississippi State, and then return to Blair Field for a three-game series against Sacramento State next Friday-Sunday (Feb. 25-27).

Long Beach only lost four key players in the offseason and returns eight position players who hit .276 or higher, including first baseman/outfielder Chase Luttrell (.316, 8 home runs, 30 RBIs), infielder Jonathan Long (.341, 5 HRs), and infielder Tanner Carlson (.298, 8 HRs).

Two starters from the 2021 rotation signed pro contracts, but there is good depth among the returning pitchers and a large handful of new arms bidding for innings. Luis Ramirez (4-4, 4.27), Marques Johnson (2-0, 3.46) and redshirt Juaron Watts-Brown will be the starters this weekend against the Rebels.

The Dirtbags were picked to win the Big West in the preseason coach’s poll, narrowly over defending champion UC Irvine. LBSU, UCI and UC Santa Barbara are all expected to contend for postseason berths out of the Big West.


Coach: Eric Valenzuela, third season

2021 record: 28-15 overall, 26-14 Big West

Who’s back? RHP Devereaux Harrison, RHP Luis Ramirez, RHP Matt Fields, RHP Jack Noble, 1B/OF Chase Luttrell, IF Jonathan Long, IF Tanner Carlson, OF Brennan Rozell, Utility Charlie Loost

Who’s gone? P Jonathan Lavallee, P Alfredo Luiz, OF Connor Kokx, OF Calvin Estrada

Who’s new? OF Kaden Moeller (All-CIF at Damien HS); OF Tommy Castillo (South Hills HS); OF Tyler White (Bishop Amat HS); P Dalton Ponce (transfer from St. Mary’s College).

Coach’s quote: “We have a good mix of experienced players and talented newcomers, and they’re all pushing each other.” – Valenzuela