Baseball, Sports

No summer vacation for Dirtbags

Summer is typically the time when college athletes rest up for their upcoming season, but three Dirtbags are working hard to ensure that 2010’s last place Big West Conference finish doesn’t happen again.

Long Beach State sophomore infielder Matt Duffy has spent his summer playing in the West Coast League for the Corvallis Knights of Corvallis, Ore. Teammates Andrew Gagon and Kirk Singer traveled to Brewster, Ma., to play for the Brewster Whitecaps in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

“This has been one of the best summers I’ve had,” Duffy said. “We’ve got great team chemistry. No one knew who was supposed to be the leaders, which players were juniors, sophomores or freshmen. We just come and play relaxed.”

The biggest adjustment for Duffy and Singer has been trading in their aluminum bats for wood.

“As a batter, I prefer aluminum,” Duffy said. “If you make it to the next level you will be using wood, so it’s good experience.”

Duffy played 20 games as a freshman for Long Beach State. Last season’s .244 batting average and seven RBIs are close to what he has produced for the Knights. Duffy is currently hitting .231 with seven RBIs in 31 games this summer.

“I’ve made some tweaks to my swing this summer, but surprisingly I haven’t hit as well with wood,” Duffy said.

As a sophomore in 2010, Singer hit .315 with 21 RBIs and blasted five home runs, good enough for second on the team behind third base slugger Joey Terdoslavich (7). Terdoslavich left LBSU earlier this summer after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

This summer hasn’t been as productive for Singer who has struggled so far, hitting .205 with six RBIs in 25 games for the Whitecaps. He also continues to have problems on the defensive end with a team-high five errors.

Gagnon has enjoyed not having to face aluminum bats this summer, looking very impressive in his first six appearances. The junior has posted a 5-0 record with a 1.67 ERA in five starts for the Whitecaps while making one relief appearance. Even more impressive, the right-hander has struck out 38 batters in 32 innings and has been named to the league’s all-star game roster.

Gagon started 15 games last season for the Dirtbags, going 5-7 with a 3.28 ERA while striking out 65 batters in 93.1 innings.

Looking ahead to next season, the first under new head coach Troy Buckley, will be a complete transition for the team with more than 20 new players coming in (according to The Tribune).

“Coach Buck will bring a whole new atmosphere,” Duffy said. “We’ve got some new kids coming in. We had the talent last year but didn’t really get it done.”

As always, Big West play will be tough again next season. In the final national rankings released by Baseball America last season, Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine finished No. 11 and No.22, respectively.

“Obviously both Fullerton and Irvine will be tough,” Duffy said. “Irvine’s pitching staff will be pretty good next year.”

Duffy finds himself teaming up with players this summer that he normally calls rivals.

Pitchers Nick Hoover and Evan Brock both play for UCI. Hoover and Brock have had a great time throwing to batters in the West Coast League, giving up a combined four earned runs in 32.1 innings of work.

UC Riverside’s Mitch Patito has been the standout this summer in the closer role for the Knights. Patito hasn’t given up a run in 13 innings, only allowing three hits while racking up eight saves. UCR (32-23, 13-11 Big West) finished third in the conference last season.

Both the Whitecaps and Knights will finish their seasons in early August. The Cape Cod League All-Star game will take place at Fenway Park on July 28 at 4 p.m. and will be televised on CBS College Sports.

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