Hibbert's homer leads Dirtbags to win over No. 16 UC Irvine
May 28, 2011
Irvine, Calif. - Matt Hibbert's three-run shot in the eighth inning capped a hard-fought comeback as the Dirtbags rallied to win 8-6 over UC Irvine on Saturday. Hibbert gave the Dirtbags the lead twice, scoring to start the game and then pushing Long Beach State over the top with his first career home run.
It took one pitch to end the hitless streak for Long Beach State (28-27, 11-12), as Hibbert led off the game with a single on the first offering from Matt Whitehouse. After a sacrifice by Jeff McNeil, an error by Tommy Reyes at second base allowed the senior to score and give the Dirtbags a 1-0 lead.
UC Irvine (39-16, 16-8) answered back in the bottom of the second. Following a double and a walk, an error on a sacrifice kept the inning alive and the Anteaters capitalized. After tying the game on the error, a second walk loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly from Sean Madigan and an RBI single by Brian Hernandez put the Anteaters in the lead 3-1.
The Dirtbags pulled back a run in the fifth inning. Jeff Yamaguchi singled to start the frame, and after a bunt single from Royce Murai, an RBI single from McNeil scored Yamaguchi. With runners on second and third, however, Whitehouse struck out Mike Marjama to end the Dirtbag threat with just one run across.
The Anteaters added two more runs with a couple of breaks in the bottom half of the same inning. With two runners on and one out, a bunt was nearly caught by pitcher Matt Johnson for what would have been a simple double play, but instead the play resulted in an error when first baseman Yamaguchi was unable to catch the throw from McNeil. Another bunt was well placed, scoring one run on a sacrifice and another as Christian Ramirez slid under the tag at home, following behind the lead runner.
Long Beach State answered once more in the sixth. Matt Duffy led off the inning with a double, and after Brennan Metzger beat out a bunt, advancing the runner, a single by Juan Avila scored the Dirtbags third run of the day, cutting the UCI lead to 5-3.
The Dirtbags pulled one step closer in the seventh with a two-out rally. McNeil singled for the second time on the day, and was followed by a triple in the gap by Marjama, scoring the freshman to reduce the Anteater lead to one run.
UC Irvine threatened to open up the game once again in the bottom of the seventh by hitting three straight singles to start the inning, scoring a run. A walk loaded the bases with no outs, but Johnson responded with a strikeout, and then got a double play to end the inning.
That play would loom large, as the Dirtbags finally regained the lead in the eighth inning against UC Irvine closer Brian Hernandez. Avila started the inning with a single, and after Jeff Yamaguchi was hit by a pitch, Hernandez picked up a pair of outs. Hibbert lifted his third hit of the game deep to left field, and it drifted over the wall to give Long Beach State a 7-6 lead, their first since the bottom of the second.
After adding an insurance run in the top of the ninth, Branden Pinder came on to complete the save, striking out two after a leadoff hit. Avila then ran down a fly ball from Reyes with a shoestring catch to end the game, giving the Dirtbags the victory.
Long Beach State ends the 2011 season tomorrow, as the team heads to UC Irvine with a chance to take the series in game three. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m., with Shawn Stuart facing Crosby Slaught.