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Baayoun Shines, Dirtbags Earn Comeback Win in Opener

Feb. 16, 2018

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LONG BEACH, Calif. - The 2018 season opened with a bang for Long Beach State, as dominant pitching combined with some late offense to give the Dirtbags a 4-1 win over St. Mary’s on Friday night at Blair Field. Sophomore Zak Baayoun picked up the win in his first career start, going seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits. His most impressive stat was one for the record books as he struck out 12 batters on the night.

The dozen strikeouts for Baayoun are the most for a Dirtbags pitcher on opening night in at least 20 years. The last LBSU pitcher to have double-digit strikeouts in a season opener was Andrew Liebel, who struck out 11 against No. 6 Rice on Feb. 22, 2008, also a 1-0 Dirtbags win. As a team, LBSU struck out 17 Gaels on Friday, which is the most for a Long Beach State pitching staff since striking out 18 batters in 12 innings against Wichita State on Feb. 29, 2008.

The only blemish for Baayoun was a second-inning solo home run, but he settled in and allowed just three baserunners the rest of the night. Dylan Spacke and Adam Seminaris took care of the eighth, while junior Chris Rivera closed the door in the ninth. The Preseason All-American struck out the side to pick up his 27th career save, giving him sole possession of second place on LBSU’s career saves list, trailing only Gabe Gonzalez’s 46 career saves.

The Dirtbags offense lost some runners on the basepaths in the early innings, but eventually came through with a fruitful rally in the seventh. Shaq Robinson and Santino Rivera started a two-out rally with consecutive singles, allowing centerfielder Clayton Andrews to tie the game with a single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch. Another Dirtbags debutant gave LBSU the lead as freshman catcher Chris Jimenez delivered a two-run single to left center in the next at bat, lining a shot into left center to give LBSU a 3-1 lead. Robinson would add an RBI single in the eight to score Brooks Stotler and give the Dirtbags some insurance.

Jimenez led the way with three of Long Beach’s 13 hits, but five Dirtbags had multi-hit games in the opener. Andrews, Robinson, Stotler, and Laine Huffman each had two hits to lead a persistent attack.

LBSU will look to take the series on Saturday afternoon as junior Eli Villalobos is the scheduled starter, facing off with SMC’s righthander Kevin Milam. First pitch will be at 2 p.m. and Dirtbags fans in attendance will receive a commemorative poster from last season’s Big West Championship, while supplies last.



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