April 21, 2012
Long Beach, Calif. - After a rocky start, Long Beach State settled in and gutted out a 4-3 walkoff victory Saturday night to even up a crucial Big West series against UC Irvine. Junior Matt Duffy drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for the Dirtbags.
Things didn't start as rosy for Long Beach State after just the first half-inning. DJ Crumlich started out the game with a single, and after a sacrifice, a hit batter by starter Ryan Strufing put two runners on. A single by Conner Spencer then put runners on the corners for the Anteaters.
The lefty was then victimized by a play that generally only happens to southpaws. Both runners were set in motion, and Strufing didn't see the runner on third until too late as Fox stole home, making the score 2-0. Another RBI single put the Anteaters up 3-0.
Long Beach State's struggles with the bat continued in the early going, as Phillip Ferragamo retired the first eight batters he faced, making it 11 innings without a hit for the Dirtbags in the series. Senior Kellen Hoime ended the drought in the third inning with a double, however, and the Dirtbags began to dig their way out of the hole.
A big part of that was in a solid performance from the sophomore starter Strufing. After three runs and three hits in the first inning, Strufing recovered for 5.1 scoreless after that, striking out the side in the fourth and reaching the seventh inning while the Dirtbags offense went to work.
It wasn't until the eighth inning that Long Beach State really got going. Jeff McNeil started out the inning with a single, and after Duffy reached on an error, back-to-back singles by Juan Avila and Brennan Metzger tied the game at 3-3.
In the bottom of the ninth, Bekakis drew a leadoff walk, and after a perfect sacrifice from Brennan Fulkerson, UC Irvine intentionally walked McNeil and Duffy made them pay with a game-ending base hit, scoring Bekakis.
Matt Johnson pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in relief of Strufing, struck out two with no walks and got the win.
Long Beach State and UC Irvine play to decide the series on Sunday, April 22 with a 1 p.m. game. Shawn Stuart will make the start for the Dirtbags, who has a 3-0 record and a 1.17 ERA in three Big West starts.
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