Dirtbags Clinch Series with 4-1 Win at No. 7 North Carolina
LBSU stranded seven North Carolina runners on base in the final four innings to preserve a 4-1 win on the road.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The Dirtbags walked the tight rope down the stretch, but made it to the finish line unscathed in a 4-1 win over No. 7 North Carolina (8-3) on Saturday. Long Beach State (6-4) stranded seven Tar Heels on base over the final four innings to preserve the win, clinching a series victory in Chapel Hill with a chance to sweep on Sunday.
John Sheaks got the start and was effective in his 5.1 innings on the mound, allowing four hits, two walks and just one run while striking out three. He was picked up by solid relief work from Zak Baayoun in the sixth, then Dave Smith, Connor Riley and Chris Rivera finished off the victory amid heavy drama.
Jarren Duran and Ramsey Romano each had two hits at the top of the order, both scored runs and Romano added an RBI. Lucas Tancas had a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth inning to give the Dirtbags some additional breathing room, and LBSU ended up out-hitting the Tar Heels, 10-5.
Long Beach State took the lead in the first inning as Romano smacked a one-out single to right, moved to second on a throwing error, then was brought home on a single up the middle from Luke Rasmussen. UNC tied the game with a run in the third, but LBSU responded to take the lead back with a nice two-out rally in the top of the fourth. Brock Lundquist worked a full count before lining a single into center field. He then advanced to second on a wild pitch and was brought home on an RBI single from Daniel Jackson to make it 2-1 Dirtbags.
The Dirtbags doubled their lead in the sixth thanks to a Duran single, then stolen base. After a wild pitch moved him to third, Romano crushed a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left to make it 3-1. Tancas’ RBI single in the night added additional insurance, scoring Brooks Stotler.
But it was the Dirtbags bullpen that really stole the show, weaving in and out of trouble. Sheaks left runners on at second and third with one out in the sixth for Baayoun, who was tasked with protecting the 3-1 lead. The freshman recorded a strikeout and a soft grounder to the right side to escape the jam unharmed. He then worked a scoreless seventh inning with another strikeout for good measure.
Smith allowed the first two men to reach in the eighth, but got a huge strikeout of UNC cleanup hitter Kyle Datres, then a fly ball to record the second out. Riley then entered the game, and after a passed ball moved both runners to scoring position, he loaded the bases with a walk. The freshman was able to strand the bases loaded, however, striking out Adam Pate looking. Rivera entered with a man on and no outs in the ninth, but locked down the save with a pair of strikeouts to give Long Beach State the huge win on the road.
The Dirtbags will look for a sweep on Sunday as freshman RHP Matt Fields (2-0, 2.00 ERA) takes the ball, facing RHP Jason Morgan (2-0, 2.38 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for Noon ET/9 a.m. PT.
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