Long Beach State

Long Beach State Dirtbags Drop Big West Opener

The Long Beach State Dirtbags opened the Big West Conference schedule with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to UC Irvine on Friday at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. It is the first Friday night loss at home this season.

The Dirtbags (11-19, 0-1) took an early lead but couldn’t hold off the Anteaters (16-12, 2-2) who scored the game-winning run in the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly. LBSU left the potential game-tying run on second base. The Dirtbags were 2-for-13 with runners on base.

“It was a good competitive game that came down to execution at the end,” Dirtbags coach Troy Buckley said. “They executed and we didn’t. The margin of error is tinny, and I think that’s how the whole Big West will be this season.”

The Dirtbags also got some bad news in terms of injuries. Senior shortstop Laine Huffman is officially out for the season with a shoulder injury, and he will apply for a medical redshirt.

“It a loss of good at bats, speed and leadership,” Buckley said. “We’re a bit of a MASH unit.”

The Dirtbags took a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a pair of UCI errors and an RBI double from designated hitter Jacob Hughey.

Duran led off the bottom of the first inning by reaching on an error, and he took second on a fielder’s choice. Catcher Chris Jimenez drove the first pitch he saw into left field and Duran was held at third base, but the throw home from left field was high, and Duran scored on the error. Hughey went the other way with an 0-1 pitch for a double down the left field line that scored Jimenez.

Tough Questions With LBSU Dirtbags Sophomore Jacob Hughey

UCI starter Andre Pallante settled in after that and pitched into the ninth inning. The sophomore gave up seven hits and struck out five without issuing a walk. He retired eight of nine batters faced from the fourth to the seventh inning, and also got two nice double plays turned behind him in the late innings.

LBSU starter Zac Baayoun walked a tight rope all night and scattered eight hits in six innings. The sophomore had two strikeouts and a walk. It is the second consecutive start with eight hits allowed for Baayoun, and its his first loss since March 10.

UCI broke though in the sixth inning when first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick led off with an infield single to the left side. Designated hitter Nick Anderson went the other way with a double off the wall to put two runners in scoring position with no outs.

Shortstop Parker Coss brought Fitzpatrick home with a sacrifice fly to center on the second pitch he saw, and left fielder Matt Reitano brought home Anderson with a single to center on the first pitch he saw.

Relief pitcher Eli Villalobos replaced Baayoun, but got into trouble in the top of the ninth inning. UCI pinch hitter Jake Palmer led off with a single to left field, and right fielder Ryan Johnston drew a four-pitch walk.

The runners were sacrificed into scoring position, and after an intentional walk loaded the bases, Dirtbags closer Chris Rivera came on in relief. However, he gave up a sacrifice fly to Kreuter that scored Palmer as the game-winning run.

Hughey led off the ninth with a clean single, but Anderson came on in relief to record the save with a fly out and a ground out.

The series continues at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.