Let’s try this again.
The Dirtbags will play their home opener a week after rain washed out the scheduled opening series against Oklahoma and was moved to the Sooners’ home state. Long Beach dropped two of the three games in Norman, but looks to rebound this weekend against Fordham.
First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. Friday, with Saturday’s game starting at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
“Your home opener is always exciting regardless of when it is,” Coach Troy Buckley said. “Then again, you always have two opening days if your first game is on the road. Then you have opening day at your home park.
“But our guys are excited to be in the confines of home.”
The newly refurbished Blair Field will be a welcomed sight for the No. 20-ranked Dirtbags, who have lost three of their first four games – all played outside of the city limits. They lost Tuesday at USC, 4-3, in 11 innings.
“Our first four games we didn’t play to the level of the expectations because of the level of expectations,” Buckley said. “It’s human nature to try and do too much. We think these things will show up because they showed up in the fall and in early February.”
Buckley pointed to the Dirtbags’ offense for their slow start.
“It’s got to be a collective effort,” he said. “No one person can carry the team, so we need two or three guys to step up.”
One of those players is right-hander Darren McCaughan, who will be on the mound Friday against the Rams. He lost his first outing against Oklahoma giving up six runs on seven hits in a 6-2 defeat.
Several players have provided Long Beach with early bright spots, namely the freshmen pitchers. Buckley singled out right-hander John Castro, who threw seven strong innings against USC. He held the Trojans scoreless, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out six.
Freshman Matt Fields allowed only one run in three innings of relief against Oklahoma in securing the Dirtbags’ lone victory.
On the field, catcher David Banuelos batted .400 against Oklahoma that included a three-run home run Saturday. He’s currently batting .286. Outfielder Brooks Stotler (4 for 12) and third baseman Ramsey Romano (3 for 9) are both batting a team-high .333.
Blair Field is in the midst of a $20 million renovation, with the new Troy and Darnyll Tulowitzki batting cages, outfield walls, team clubhouse and the Jered Weaver bullpen.
Still to be completed are improvements to the grandstand, a practice infield along the left field side of the facility, upgraded parking lot and more. A timeline on additional phases of construction will depend on funding for the project, generated through the Blair Field Campaign.