A five-run eighth inning helped the No. 17 Long Beach State Dirtbags come back to beat Xavier 8-4 on Friday night at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, but the Dirtbags weren’t satisfied with finding a way to win.
“We played awful baseball today and they know that,” LBSU coach Eric Valenzuela said. “We didn’t have energy, and it showed. Wins are hard to come by, but we have to play a lot better and hopefully we learned our lesson tonight.”
There were three lead changes in the final three innings, and LBSU (9-4) gave up the lead twice after taking a 2-0 advantage into the fifth inning.
“It doesn’t matter who our opponent is,” Valenzuela said. “We have to play well, and we have to have energy.”
Dirtbags starter Adam Seminaris echoed his coaches criticism despite striking out a career-high 14 batters in seven innings. The junior lefty allowed three runs on five hits and one walk.
“My changeup was a little iffy tonight but it all worked out,” Seminaris said. “I have high expectations for myself.”
The last time a Dirtbags pitcher struck out 14 was Jered Weaver in 2004. He won the Golden Spikes Award that season.
“This year is all about winning ball games for me,” Seminaris said. “The stats are cool, I just want to win. That’s the biggest thing.”
Designated hitter Chase Luttrell had a career night with three RBIs in only his sixth start this season. The sophomore singled and scored to give the Dirtbags a lead in the first inning. He also helped LBSU retake a lead in the seventh inning with a sacrifice fly, and doubled home two runs to break the game open in the eighth.
“I just have to make the most of my opportunities,” Luttrell said. “I have to capitalize when I can, and that’s how I’m going to find my way into the lineup.”
Much to Valenzuela’s dismay, the Dirtbags loaded the bases in each of the first three innings, only to ground into three double plays.
However, they also scored twice. Luttrell scored on a bases loaded walk in the first inning, and Jacob Hughey both scored on a double play in the second for a 2-0 lead.
“We have to learn that when you get to a starter, a Friday night guy, and you put pressure on him early we have to get those executions,” Valenzuela said.
Center fielder Connor Kokx also extended his hitting streak to eight games with a first-inning single.
Xavier starter Lane Flamm settled down and only gave up two hits after the second inning. The sophomore righty pitched into the seventh inning while scattering six hits and five walks. The Dirtbags stranded seven runners on base against Flamm.
Xavier tied the game 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning with three singles and a walk. All three hits went to left field, and right fielder Luke Franzoni drove in both runs with two outs and the bases loaded.
Seminaris quickly rebounded and struck out thee of the next six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings. He only need eight pitches to get out of the sixth, and eight in the seventh.
“I got mad after the fifth,” Seminaris said. “That just sprung a second wind in me.”
The Dirtbags retook the lead in the bottom off the seventh when Calvin Estrada hit his second double off the second pitch from reliever Ethan Bosacker. A throwing error moved Estrada to third, and Luttrell skied a 2-0 pitch to center field to plate him on the sacrifice fly.
A leadoff single in the top of the eighth ended Seminaris’ night. After redshirt junior Matt Fields got a strikeout and a pop out, a walk and a single from Garrett Schultz scored two runs and gave Xavier a 4-3 lead.
The game-changing bottom of the eighth inning started with a walk drawn by right fielder Aidan Malm, and freshman Alex Pimentel ran for him. After Xavier brought in reliever Trey Schramm, catcher Cole Joy singled into left field and Pimentel took third.
LBSU third baseman Santino Rivera brought home Pimentel to tie the game with a single off the second baseman’s glove. Then pinch-runner Jesse Lopez slid under a slow tag at home on Riki DeSa’s bunt to give the Dirtbags a 5-4 lead.
With Rivera on second and pinch-runner Kaden Hogan on first, an Xavier throwing error allowed Tyler Porter to reach and Rivera to score. With two runners in scoring position and still no outs, Luttrell brought both of them home with a double to left center field.
“We didn’t execute tonight with guys in scoring position and less than two outs,” Valenzuela said. “When you keep a team in the ballgame like that they’re a two-out hit away from them going ahead. For us to fight back and get that big inning right after they punched us in the face is a good sign, for sure. We just have to play a better whole game. In order for us to continue to grow as a program we have to continue to play well. We can’t have games like this where we’re asleep for five innings.”
LBSU will try to clinch its fourth weekend series in as many tries at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The Dirtbags will send sophomore lefty Alfredo Ruiz (2-1, 1.80 ERA) to the mound and Xavier will counter with junior lefty Nick Zwack (2-1, 1.65 ERA).