No. 20 Long Beach State Grinds Out 5-4 Win To Take Fullerton Series
LBSU has now won six straight weekend series to start the season, heading into Big West play next Friday.
Fullerton, Calif. -
Long Beach State (16-7) scored four times in the first four innings and got six strong innings from the bullpen to earn a hard fought 5-4 win over rivals Cal State Fullerton (12-11) in Saturday afternoon’s rubber match at Goodwin Field. The win gave the No. 20 Dirtbags a sixth series victory in as many tries this season heading into Big West action next weekend.
LBSU earns its first series win at Fullerton since the 2007 season, and improves to 8-0 in Saturday games.
“I said (to the team), it’s a big deal, there’s no question,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said after the series-clinching win. “I think we can play better, I think we can continue to extend by taking better at-bats… but I told them to enjoy it. This is a big deal for their credo and their confidence, but at the same time we start conference next weekend and it’s the second part of our season.”
Long Beach State took the lead in the top of the first on back-to-back hits off Titans starter Colton Eastman to start the game. Garrett Hampson (2/5, 2 R, RBI) started things off with a leadoff double past third base, then Tristan Mercadel (2/2, R, RBI, SB) lined an RBI single to right for the game’s first run.
That lead quickly evaporated thanks to a Titans rally in the bottom half. LBSU starter Tanner Brown walked the first two batters, then after a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout, Dalton Blaser dealt a big blow. The lefthanded hitting DH drilled a ball to right field for a two-out, two-run home run to put the Titans in front, 3-1.
Long Beach tied the game with a two-out rally in the third, started by Mercadel’s deep double to right. Alex Muzzi followed with a walk, then Luke Rasmussen delivered a lined RBI single to left, delivering his team-leading 15th RBI of the season. Pinch hitter Zack Rivera stepped up and blooped a single to right field, scoring Muzzi to tie the game.
The Dirtbags took the lead in the next inning when Zack Domingues started things off with a lined single to center. He was moved into scoring position by a sacrifice bunt, then brought home on a sharp single to center by Hampson, giving the Dirtbags a 4-3 edge. Hampson was involved again in the seventh, reaching on an error by first baseman Tanner Pinkston, then moving into scoring position on a wild pitch. Joey Sanchez at the plate was unable to get a sacrifice bunt down, but then slapped a 2-2 pitch past second base and into right field for an RBI and a 5-3 Long Beach lead.
The Titans got a run back in the eighth off Austin McGeorge as Pinkston delivered an RBI double, but freshman closer Chris Rivera entered the game to get the final two outs of the eighth, then finish things off in the ninth for a five-out save. Rivera did not allow a baserunner and struck out Jerrod Bravo looking to end the game and secure his nation-leading 10th save of the season.
Joshua Advocate improved to 3-0 after pitching two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. In all, the Dirtbags relievers covered six innings, allowing four hits, one run and a walk while striking out five.
Daniel Jackson had a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to five games to start the season, and Domingues also pushed his hitting streak to a season-long five games with his base hit in the fourth.
Long Beach State hits the road for a Tuesday meeting with Fresno State before beginning conference play on Apr. 1 at Blair Field against UC Santa Barbara. In an earlier meeting with Fresno State this season, the Dirtbags earned a 4-3 home win over the Bulldogs.
NOTES: The Dirtbags have now won 11 of their last 14 games going back to Mar. 5 … LBSU is now 5-2 on the road, playing at UCLA, Oklahoma and Cal State Fullerton … Brown had his shortest outing of the year, lasting just three innings … The Dirtbags got stolen bases from Mercadel, and his substitute, Sanchez … LBSU improved to 5-6 when the opponent hits at least one home run … Hampson recorded his team-leading 11th multi-hit game of the season.
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