The postgame talk on Sunday at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field was a stern one after the Long Beach State Dirtbags lost to visiting Cal State Northridge 6-1 to split the four-game Big West Conference series.
“I think we’re searching for our identity a little bit,” Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela said. “If we continue to play this way, in about two weeks we could be playing for funzies for the rest of the year. None of us want to be part of playing for funzies.”
CSUN starting pitcher Blaine Traxel scattered eight hits over seven shutout innings while the Dirtbags went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
“We need to be a lot tougher,” Valenzuela said. “(Traxel) pitched on Friday when he came on in relief and he’s able to do that two days later against us. I hope that shows our guys that’s how you’re tough. That’s what tough means.”
Second baseman Brandon Rozell and first baseman Chase Luttrell were the only Dirtbags with two hits. Luttrell had six hits in the series.
“We saw a little side armer and I guess it threw us off a little bit,” Luttrell said of Traxel. “I thought we had a good plan going into it but it just wasn’t there today. I think we have some guys, including myself, who need to come up in big situations. We left a lot of runners on base and it’s just not happening right now.”
The Dirtbags (3-5) had the tying run at the plate in the second and eighth inning.
“They have to go up there with confidence,” Valenzuela said of his offense. “I think they’re trying too hard instead of being themselves and being under control and not letting it get so big. For us to be 3-5 and be in every single game is amazing to me based on how we played because we have not played well at all. That’s how good we can be.”
Dirtbags lefty freshman Basilio Pacheco gave up three runs over 2.1 innings in his second start of the season. Matt Fields pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
CSUN led 4-0 after scoring in the second, third and fourth inning. The Matadors added two runs in the ninth.
Junior Chris Jimenez scored the only run for LBSU when he doubled down the right field line and took third on an error in the seventh. Sophomore Toren Craig brought him in with a ground ball RBI.
“We’re already crunch time,” Valenzuela said. “We didn’t get the luxury of having a nonconferece season to work things out.”
“We just need to win, it’s as simple as that to me,” Luttrell said. “We need to throw strikes and string hits together. It’s pretty simple.”