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Baseball Long Beach State

Long Beach State Dirtbags Take Series Lead On No. 25 UCSB

There haven’t been many games this season where the Long Beach State Dirtbags have put it all together, but they certainly did on Saturday in the second game of the doubleheader against No. 25 UC Santa Barbara at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.

LBSU (12-10, 10-9) got contributions from nearly everyone in a 5-4 win over UCSB, and it was a perfect time for that to happen. Considering the quality of opponent and where they are in their season, Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela agreed that it is the most complete team win of the year.

“They’re a pretty damn good team,” Valenzuela said. “We were able to get back on the horse and win a tough game here.”

After taking the series opener on Friday night, the Dirtbags dropped the first game on the doubleheader, but bounced back to take the third game of the series thanks to disciplined at-bats and a pair of innings with multiple runs. The final game is at 4 p.m. on Sunday and it will be carried by the ESPN family of networks.

“We’ve gone though a lot of adversity this year and this its just another thing that shows the resiliency of this group,” sophomore Connor Kokx said. “Going down early and coming back to win is huge.”

PHOTOS: Long Beach State Dirtbags vs. UC Santa Barbara, Baseball

The Dirtbags had some legitimate momentum coming into the doubleheader after back-to-back home runs from Chris Jimenez and Kokx propelled LBSU to a 4-3 win on Friday night. The last time the Dirtbags hit consecutive home runs at home was during the 2005 NCAA Regional.

“The more at-bats we get the more experience we get and the better we get,” Valenzuela said. “These guys are getting more comfortable in the box.”

The LBSU bullpen was also strong in the opener as Basilio Pacheco and Devereaux Harrison combined to pitch 3.2 scoreless innings. They each gave up one hit.

The first game of the doubleheader on Saturday was a pitcher’s duel between LBSU’s Luis Ramirez and UCSB’s Rodney Boone until Jordan Sprinkle’s grand slam in the seventh inning ended Ramirez’ outing. He only gave up four hits before the home run with four strikeouts and two walks.

The Gauchos added two insurance runs off the Dirtbags bullpen to win via shutout. Boone improved to 8-1 on the season by striking out 10 while scattering four hits.

Dirtbags second baseman Brennan Rozell also had an incredible play on a foul ball in the sixth inning.

LBSU Dirtbags on Twitter: “Rozell ranges a loooong way to make the catch in foul territory and then throws it home in time for the double play! #skoBags pic.twitter.com/JxjkU5kpLd / Twitter”

Rozell ranges a loooong way to make the catch in foul territory and then throws it home in time for the double play! #skoBags pic.twitter.com/JxjkU5kpLd

In the second game of the doubleheader, UCSB took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI single from Bryce Willits.

The Dirtbags didn’t threaten until the bottom of the fourth inning when Troye lost his control and walked Javier Rosales and Brennan Rozell after a single by Connor Kokx. The consecutive two-out walks chased Troye from the game (3.2 IP, H, 4 K, 3 BB) and was replaced by Connor Roberts, but the junior was greeted by Jesse Lopez who singled through the left side to score Kokx and Rosales for a 2-1 lead. Kokx also extended his streak of reaching base safely to 23 games.

UCSB responded quickly and tied in up in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI single from Cole Cummings. Ruiz had struck out the side in the fourth inning, and was replaced by Matt Fields in the sixth inning.

UCSB took the 3-2 lead off Fields in the top of the seventh when Cummings bounced his second RBI of the day off the wall in left center field. Designated hitter Christian Kirtley scored from first on the double.

The Dirtbags bounced right back and scored in the bottom of the seventh on Calvin Estrada’s RBI double down the right field line that scored Tanner Carlson. Then with the bases loaded and two outs, Toren Craig came home to take the lead on a wild pitch. After Jimenez drew a walk, Javier Rosales drew another one to bring home Estrada for a 5-3 lead. The Dirtbags left the bases loaded and stranded 17 runners in the two games on Saturday.

The extra insurance run meant a lot more when Mortensen led off the eighth inning with a home run. A walk brought Harrison out of the bullpen again, but he also walked a batter to put two on with one out. Harrison got a pair of pop outs to end the threat.

In the ninth, Harrison gave up a pair of 2-out singles but got a strikeout to end the game. Harrison let out a let directed towards the UCSB dugout, and the two teams traded shouts at each other as they exited the field.

“That is just the heat of the moment,” he said. “It’s a big game and a lot of things were on the line.”

Asked if his team will feed off of that energy, Harrison said, “We’ll see. That’s the first time we’ve gotten a little chippy with somebody, so hopefully we’re fired up and come out tomorrow with a lot of momentum.”

LBSU Dirtbags on Twitter: “BALLGAME! Harrison notches his league-leading 8th save and the Dirtbags take game two of the doubleheader! #skoBags pic.twitter.com/jhmEafNlDW / Twitter”

BALLGAME! Harrison notches his league-leading 8th save and the Dirtbags take game two of the doubleheader! #skoBags pic.twitter.com/jhmEafNlDW

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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.