Long Beach, Calif. – Dirtbags pitchers were asked to throw 22 innings of baseball on Saturday afternoon at Blair Field and they passed the test with flying colors, allowing just a single run across two games to lead Long Beach State to a pair of wins over the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers. The wins propel LBSU to its third series victory of the season after a frustrating loss in Friday’s opener.
“I think coming back from last night, from a character standpoint, I thought it was really really good by those guys,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said of his team’s performance on Saturday. “Obviously the pitching in both games was outstanding, to go one run in 22 innings was pretty impressive, so give a lot of credit to the guys that pitched and give a lot of credit to the guys that grinded. It was a long day and I thought they showed some mettle and some resolve in order to get two victories, which is hard to do.”
Game 1: Long Beach State 1, Nebraska 0 (13 innings)
It took over four hours for the first run to be scored on Saturday but it was worth the wait for Dirtbags fans. Alex Muzzi delivered a walkoff single with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Dirtbags a 1-0 win in the opening game, finally putting the exclamation point on a wonderful pitching performance.
Darren McCaughan was unlucky not to get the decision and move to 3-0 after his third straight quality start. He went seven strong innings allowing just four hits and a walk while again matching his career high with six strikeouts. The sophomore righthander lowered his ERA to a sparkling 0.84 on the season and he sports an 18:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Not to be overlooked was the performance of Austin McGeorge out of the bullpen. The junior tossed five innings of scoreless relief, shattering his previous career high of 2.2 innings pitched, while racking up a career-high nine strikeouts. At one point, McGeorge retired seven consecutive batters via strikeout from the eighth through the 10th inning. Joshua Advocate ended up with the first win of his career pitching a scoreless 13th inning.
The offense ran through two players in game one, and they were directly involved in the winning run. Zack Domingues and Alex Muzzi each had four hits in the opening game for the Dirtbags, both setting new career highs in that category.
Zack Rivera started the game-winning rally by lining a leadoff single to left in the bottom of the 13th. After a groundout moved Rivera to second, Domingues smacked a single to right field and scooted up to second on the throw to the plate. Garrett Hampson was then intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, and after Jarren Duran grounded into a fielder’s choice, Muzzi came up with his chance to win it. With the bases full of Dirtbags and two down, Muzzi sent a long drive to the opposite field, sailing it over the left fielder’s head for the walk-off single, bringing home Domingues for the 1-0 win.
The Dirtbags left 15 runners on base in the game thanks to their 13 hits and five walks, but finally broke through for the victory after a handful of chances to win the game earlier.
Game 2: Long Beach State 3, Nebraska 1
The Dirtbags got another quality start in the series finale, this time from senior Tanner Brown. The righthander went seven innings, allowing just one run one five hits with five strikeouts to earn his second win of the season. The winning runs were supplied by the power of freshman first baseman Garrett Nelson, who launched his second two-run home run of the season to put the Dirtbags up for good in the fifth inning.
Long Beach took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a great individual effort from Hampson. The junior slapped a leadoff single through the left side, stole second base, and was in prime scoring position after a sacrifice bunt from Duran. Muzzi did his job again, sending a sacrifice fly to deep left, allowing Hampson to score easily.
Nebraska would tie the game in the next half inning thanks to the bottom of their order. No. 8 hitter Luis Alvarado led off the inning with a single, then shortstop Steven Reveles lined a double to put two men in scoring position with no outs. A Ryan Boldt sacrifice fly brought home the tying run, but Brown did a nice job limiting the damage with back-to-back strikeouts in a key spot.
The Dirtbags wasted no time in delivering the decisive counterpunch, however, as the first four batters recorded hits in the bottom of the fifth inning. Brock Lundquist led off with a double off the right field wall, setting the stage for Nelson, who would take things a step further. Nelson sent the first pitch he saw from Huskers starter Matt Waldron over the wall in right field, just to the right of the scoreboard. It’s the second homer of the season for Nelson, but this one stood as the game winner.
The 3-1 score would hold, but the bullpen made a key intervention. Chris Rivera entered the game with no outs in the eighth inning and a runner on second base, but did a beautiful job stranding him there. The freshman struck out the first two batters he faced, then induced a short ground ball that catcher Eric Hutting gobbled up.
Rivera worked into some trouble in the ninth, working multiple innings for the first time in his brief career, but a double play ball hit to Duran ended the game as the second baseman reached down to tag the oncoming baserunner and fire over to first for the final out.
With hits in both games on Saturday, Lundquist extends his hitting streak to seven games, which is the longest of the season for any Long Beach State player. Hampson is right on his heels with an active six-game hitting streak after recording seven hits in 12 at-bats this series. Hampson has hit safely in 10 of Long Beach State’s 11 games this season.
Long Beach State plans to return to action on Monday night at 6 p.m. at Blair Field with Fresno State coming to town. That is weather permitting, of course, with rain in the Monday forecast. Be sure to check LongBeachState.com for scheduling updates.