The television cameras are in place. The banners are hung, chalk lines drawn and last-minute touch-ups to Blair Field’s grass completed. The makeovers are nice, but for the Long Beach State baseball team this simply is home.
The No. 7-ranked Dirtbags are playing host to one of 16 NCAA Baseball Regionals this weekend at Blair Field for the first time in nine years. The last time Long Beach State staged a regional was 2008 with University of San Diego, Cal and eventual national champion Fresno State.
“(Hosting a regional means) you have your routines, the comfortability (of being at home) and the weather,” Coach Troy Buckley said.
Call it home sweet home-field advantage.
The Dirtbags went 19-4 at home during the regular season, which included four series sweeps and an 11-game winning streak at Blair Field. They finished with an overall 37-17-1 record.
“We played really well here, so I do think there certainly is an advantage,” Buckley said. “And you have your fans.”
The Dirtbags open play against San Diego State (41-19) at 8 p.m. Friday. UCLA (30-25) and Texas (37-22) kick off the regional at 4 p.m. This will be Long Beach State’s third regional appearance in the past four years. Last season, they went 2-2 at the Coral Gables Regional in Florida.
“I think (being selected to host) is a testament to a really solid year,” Buckley said. “I think to get a regional bid at this time with the Power 5 conferences strongly influencing the direction of the sport, goes to show you’ve had a really quality year throughout the season.
“And it shows you were consistent and you played good competition. It means a lot to the community and to me to get it back here.”
The Dirtbags are led by Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year Darren McCaughan, the second time in his Long Beach career he was named the top pitcher. McCaughan posted an 8-2 record with a 2.66 ERA in 15 starts, striking out 94 with just 16 walks.
David Banuelos earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year after throwing out 17 of a potential 28 base stealers he faced. He has a .982 fielding percentage and committed just three errors in 49 starts.
All-session passes for the Long Beach Regional are available at LongBeachState.com/baseballregionals. Individual game tickets are on sale at the Long Beach State ticket office or by calling (562) 985-4949.