Long Beach State coach Eric Valenzuela (Shotgun Spratling)

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Elite Pitching, Deep Desire Drove Long Beach’s Dramatic Turnaround

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SEE ALSO: 2020 Conference Wrap: Big West


No college baseball program orchestrated a more striking turnaround from 2019 to 2020 than Long Beach State, which had clearly established itself as the nation’s most surprising team when the season was canceled heading into Week Five.

The 2019 season was a nightmare for Long Beach State, a proud program with a rich history. The Dirtbags limped to an 0-10 start to the season and never recovered, finishing a dismal 14-41 overall and 8-16 in the Big West, tied for last place. Head coach Troy Buckley was fired in April, replaced on an interim basis by two assistants, and the school opted for a fresh start after the season, hiring Eric Valenzuela away from Saint Mary’s to take over the program.

Everyone who knows anything about college baseball on the West Coast lauded LBSU’s grand slam of a hire. Valenzuela has helped elevate programs everywhere he’s gone over the last two decades, first helping to turn San Diego and San Diego State into serious contenders during his time as pitching coach for both rivals, then taking Saint Mary’s to regionals for the first time ever in 2016 as head coach. We all predicted Valenzuela would win big at Long Beach State — that was a no-brainer. But nobody expected him to turn things around this fast. …

 

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