Long Beach State beat Arizona State last night, 7-3, at Tempe, Arizona in the season opener for these two highly ranked teams. The crowd of 4,783 was the largest crowd at Packard Stadium since drawing 5,965 against LSU in 2001. (Boxscore)
The win was the 400th in the head coaching career of Mike Weathers, who recently agreed to a four-year extension through 2010. He took over the 49ers program in 2002 after serving as a long-time assistant coach to Dave Snow. Weathers, 54, joined Snow's staff after a successful run as the head coach of his alma mater, Chapman University in Orange, California.
Don't mistake the 3:51 time in the boxscore for Jim Ryun's record-setting mile run. Instead, it reflects the nearly four-hour marathon in which the 9th-ranked Sun Devils and the 14th-ranked Dirtbags combined for 21 hits while rummaging through nine pitchers. ASU, which lost its season opener for only the third time since 1977, now has a 13-3 all-time record vs. LBSU.
The star of the game was Long Beach State's All-American shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who went 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of intentional walks and three runs scored while making three sparkling plays in the field. Tulowitzki is a name to remember. The 6'3'', 200-pound junior is already drawing comparisons to former 49er SS Bobby Crosby. Tulowitzki and Crosby are both big and strong with outstanding arms and good power.
Tulowitzki, the sixth-ranked junior prospect in the country by Baseball America, was selected by the magazine as the tenth pick in its 2005 mock draft. The Sunnyvale, California native was the Most Outstanding Player in last year's Regionals and was the starting shortstop for the gold-medal winning Team USA last summer.
In a preseason poll among Big West coaches, Tulowitzki was chosen as the conference's best athlete, the best defensive shortstop, and the infielder with the best arm. "Tulo" was a first-team All-Big West pick last season and earned honorable mention All-America honors in a year that featured fellow highly acclaimed shortstops Stephen Drew and Dustin Pedroia.
Long Beach State ace Cesar Ramos, who was credited with the win last night, is also a likely first-round draft choice this June. The left-hander is Baseball America's 18th-ranked prospect among juniors. He was chosen by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the sixth round of the 2002 draft. Like Tulowitzki, Ramos was a member of Team USA in 2004.
Ramos, who has been likened to former Dirtbag and current Red Sox lefty Abe Alvarez, has big shoes to fill. The preseason All-American has been designated as the team's Friday night starter, an honor previously bestowed on last year's College Player of the Year Jered Weaver. Ramos and Alvarez, who Theo Epstein was pleased to take with Boston's second-round pick in the 2003 draft, are both 6'2", 190-pound southpaws with exceptional control and command of their fastballs and off-speed pitches.
The product of El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, California faced two potential first-round picks in third baseman Jeff Larish and right fielder Travis Buck. The latter was teammates with Ramos and Tulowitzki on Team USA.
Speaking of the Sun Devils, Arizona State honored former All-American Paul Lo Duca in a special pregame ceremony. His #16 jersey was added to the outfield wall--the 14th player in the school's history to receive that distinction. Lo Duca was the 1993 Sporting News Player of the Year, setting ASU single-season records with a .446 batting average and 129 hits.
If Long Beach State can win two out of three on the road against the 9th-ranked Sun Devils, it is possible that the Dirtbags could jump into the top ten in one of the polls next week. After playing the fifth most-difficult schedule in the country last year, the 49ers play several teams that have received votes in this year's preseason polls, including defending College World Series champion Cal State Fullerton six times as well as ASU, Wichita State, Baylor, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine, Houston, UC Irvine, California, Cal Poly, and UC Santa Barbara.
Saturday Update: The Sun Devils beat the 49ers, 8-6, on Saturday in game two of the three-game series.
Sunday Update: Long Beach State won the rubber match, 11-1, on Sunday. The Dirtbags outscored the Sun Devils, 24-12, in the series. Tulowitzki went 7-for-14 with two doubles, two walks, and a hit by pitch. His on-base percentage for the series was .588 and his slugging average was .643.