The Long Beach State Dirtbags only managed four hits against Arizona State on Tuesday at Blair Field, but they were inches away from walking off winners in the bottom of the ninth inning.
LBSU trailed the entire game, and finally put runners on second and third base with two outs in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Shaq Robinson hit a line drive into left field where ASU’s Trevor Hauver made a diving catch to end the game.
FINAL: @ASU 1 @LBDirtbags 0 Despite only getting three hits on the night, LB had the game-winning runs in scoring position when ASU left fielder Trevor Hauver made this catch in the ninth to end the game. Just. That. Close. https://t.co/DcDBlocJAi
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The Dirtbags (2-6) are on a three-game losing streak. This is their worst start since 2014, and they have scored two runs or less in 5 of 8 games.
“Our best at bats were at the end of the game,” LBSU coach Troy Buckley said. “There’s something to be said for that, but what happened the first eight innings? We didn’t put pressure on their defense. We’re not on time with fast balls, and they were 80 percent fast balls.”
The Dirtbags struck out eight times while LBSU pitchers struck out 14 batters. Adam Seminaris got his second start for LBSU, and settled in nicely after a loud first inning. The freshman left-hander gave up six hits and one run in 5.1 innings. He had eight strikeouts.
“He got better as the game went along,” Buckley said. “He was leaving it up early, and we’ve got to do a little better job in the first inning.”
LBSU has been outscored 7-0 in the first inning this year, and the last five opponents have scored in their first trip to the plate.
After struggling in a Saturday start, junior Eli Villalobos pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. The junior struck out six of the nine batters he faced.
“When you get that type of pitching performance you’ve got to win,” Buckley said.
Dirtbags designated hitter Jacob Hughey, a Millikan High alum, broke up a no-hitter with a seeing eye single in the fifth inning of his first collegiate start. Third baseman Chris Jimenez and right fielder Brooks Stotler had the only other hits.
ASU (4-4) took a 1-0 lead with three consecutive singles off of Seminaris in the first. Shortstop Sunny Rivera came up with a diving catch on a line drive and nice play in the hole for the first two outs of the game, and then Seminaris stranded two runners with a strikeout.
Dirtbags junior Jarren Duran led off the bottom of the first with a walk, and he stole second with one out, but ASU starter Jake Godfrey (2 IP, 2K) struck out Luke Rasmussen and Stotler.
Duran made a nice play behind second base to throw out ASU freshman Drew Swift for the final out of the top of the second, and ASU freshman second baseman Alika Williams made a similar play to get Chris Jimenez in the bottom of the second.
ASU reliever Alec Marsh (4.2 IP, 2 H, 4 K) came on in the third inning, and the sophomore set the Dirtbags down in order. Stotler drew a one-out walk in the fourth inning, but he was picked off by Marsh.
Seminaris used 17 pitches to strike out the side in the fourth inning, and he retired seven consecutive Sun Devils until a two-out infield single in the fifth inning. Seminaris then gave up a single and a walk before giving way to Eli Villalobos in the sixth.
Villalobos promptly got ASU designated hitter Carter Aldrete to ground into an inning-ending double play. He put a runner on in the seventh, but a Dirtbags catcher Antonio Torres threw him out on strike three to Swift. The hard-throwing junior struck out the side in the eighth, and one more in the ninth for five consecutive strike outs. That’s the most by a Dirtbags pitcher in two seasons.
“I got my confidence back and that’s huge,” Villalobos said.
Jimenez collected his first hit since opening night in the seventh inning with a bloop hit into right field that the freshman stretched into a double. Torres drew a walk to end Marsh’s night, but ASU closer Connor Higgins got pinch-hitter Domenic Colacchio to ground out into a fielder’s choice.
ASU’s Sam Romero only needed seven pitches to induce three ground ball outs in the eighth inning.
Stotler sparked the late rally in the ninth with a one-out single to center field off of ASU’s Chaz Montoya. Jimenez attacked early on a pitch up in the zone and lined a double into the left field corner with two outs.
Robinson did the same, but Hauver was playing shallow and in perfect position to take a few quick steps and dive for the game-winning catch.
“Our margin of error is small because of the competition we’re playing,” Buckley said. “We’ve got to start seeing adjustments.”
LBSU plays ASU again tonight at 6 before hosting No. 9 Ole Miss over the weekend.
INJURY UPDATE: Buckley said senior shortstop Laine Huffman can avoid surgery but will likely miss a month after injuring his shoulder over the weekend.