2017 College Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 20 Long Beach State

SEE ALSO: College Preview Index

20. Long Beach State

2016 Record (Ranking): 38-22 (NR). RPI: 41.
Coach (Record at school): Troy Buckley (186-155, 6 years)
Postseason History: 21 regionals (active streak: 1), 4 CWS trips (last in 1998), 0 national titles.

Long Beach State experienced success throughout the program last year. On the field, the Dirtbags earned their first ranking since 2008, finished second in the Big West Conference and advanced to the finals of the Coral Gables Regional before losing to Miami. Meanwhile, Blair Field’s renovations began with significant contributions from some of Beach’s most famous baseball alumni, such as Troy Tulowitzki and Jered Weaver.

Coach Troy Buckley is hopeful the Dirtbags will be able to carry that momentum into 2017. He said the experience they got in regionals will be particularly valuable.

“Getting a taste of it, really being close and—credit to Miami, they were a really good team—but I think we lost, we didn’t play as well as we needed to play,” Buckley said. “You realize on the pitching end what you need to develop if you fall into the loser’s bracket. The things you know as a coach, but those guys need to know it, too.”

From that team, Beach returns 21 lettermen, including Big West pitcher of the year Darren McCaughan. Still, the Dirtbags will have to account for some significant losses, as shortstop Garret Hampson, Friday starter Chris Mathewson and setup man Austin McGeorge were all drafted in the top 20 rounds.

McCaughan spent the summer pitching for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and is ready to take over the Friday night role, but Buckley said he will get competition from junior college transfer A.J. Jones. Freshman lefthander Ryan Mauch, who was drafted in the 32nd round by the Orioles last June, gives the Dirtbags a third strong option for the rotation. McGeorge was outstanding last season (1.02 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 53 innings), but righthanders Chris Rivera and Joshua Advocate give Beach two pieces to build around in the bullpen.

While the whole staff has something to prove, Buckley believes the Dirtbags have enough depth.

“Our four best pitchers either need to start or close,” Buckley said. “I also think you need a second closer. We’re not going to throw our closer three games in a row if we’re in that situation, so we need to develop a second closer. That’s what happened with McGeorge last year. I like that flexibility. I think we have a chance to have a third guy, but I’m not sure who yet. There are guys.”

Offensively, Beach is much more experienced. First baseman Daniel Jackson and outfielders Brock Lundquist and Luke Rasmussen, the team’s three leading hitters last year, give the Dirtbags three veteran hitters to build around. There is more depth around them, giving Buckley exciting options as he fills out his lineup.

“It’s the best group I’ve had by far,” Buckley said. “It’s the fastest, most athletic, most physical. It’s extremely deep, versatile and well-balanced left- and righthanded.”

The departure of Hampson, a third-round pick who led the team in hits, stolen bases and anchored the defense, does leave Beach with a big hole to fill. Junior college transfer Markus Montelongo is set to take over at shortstop, where he is a steady defender.

Buckley said the Dirtbags are more process-oriented and haven’t talked about specific goals for the season yet. But after making regional finals in two of the last three years, they are poised to take the next step. In both years, the Dirtbags were sent across the country for regionals, where, both times they had to contend with the heat and humidity of Florida in June in addition to the No. 2 national seed.

Beach would like to avoid that fate this year. But to earn the right to stay at home for the NCAA Tournament, Buckley knows they will first have to contend with a rugged Big West campaign.

“I think they realize we can’t prepare for that type of weather, so one of best things to do is to take care of business out here so we can host again,” Buckley said. “In order to do that, we have to take care of the conference and I think the conference again is going to be strong.”

C David Banuelos, Jr. .299 .404 .436 3 26 2
1B Daniel Jackson, Sr. .321 .394 .491 6 34 4
2B Jarren Duran, So. .272 .373 .346 1 17 13
3B Ramsey Romano, Jr. Tr.—Yavapai (Ariz.) JC
SS Markus Montelongo, Jr. Tr.—South Mountain (Ariz.) CC
LF Brock Lundquist, Jr. .315 .372 .479 3 36 4
CF Brooks Stotler, So. .257 .348 .327 6 33 5
RF Garrett Nelson, R-So. .173 .214 .357 4 13 3
DH Luke Rasmussen, Jr. .305 .380 .441 5 46 3
Pos. Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Darren McCaughan, Jr. 10 1 2.03 111 84 0
RHP A.J. Jones, Jr. Tr.—Southern Nevada JC
LHP Ryan Mauch, Fr. HS—West Covina, Calif.
RP Chris Rivera, So. 2 2 4.60 29 21 13

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