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If it’s not one thing, it’s another for the Dirtbags right now.
No. 22 Long Beach State committed a season-high four errors in a 5-4 loss to visiting North Dakota State on Friday night at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. It is the fourth straight one-run loss at home for the Dirtbags, and their sixth consecutive loss after taking the season opening series at No. 3 Mississippi State.
“It’s almost like a hangover,” LBSU coach Eric Valenzuela said. “We got to that high, there’s so many expectations and these guys want to play so well in front of the fans here and get that old-school Dirtbags baseball back. So we’re all putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get that back instead of taking a step back and just playing good baseball.”
LBSU (2-6) retook the lead in the fifth inning, but North Dakota State (5-4) took it right back with two runs in the sixth. The Dirtbags stranded five runners, three in scoring position, in the final three innings.
“One play can change the outcome of it, but we want to play baseball where it’s not a one-run game,” said Dirtbags first baseman Jonathan Long, who gave his team the lead in the first inning with a 445-foot home run. “We’ve just got to get the bats going. We’re not hitting consistently. We’re striking out way too much so we need to make an adjustment there.”
Dirtbags starting pitcher Luis Ramirez gave up seven hits in five innings and his error helped North Dakota State take the lead in the third inning. Ramirez allowed three runs, one earned, and walked one batter. The Dirtbags had only made two errors before Friday.
North Dakota State starter Max Loven struck out eight batters in 6.1 innings, and retired ten straight before the Dirtbags broke through in the fifth inning.
After an 11-pitch at-bat, freshman pinch hitter Peyton Schulze singled into center, and then Chris Jimenez’ pinch-hit single sparked the rally. Rocco Peppi drove both of them in with a double off the top of the left field wall to tie the game 3-3. With two outs, freshman Eddie Saldivar came through with a two-strike knock up the middle to plate Peppi and give the Dirtbags the 4-3 lead.
In the sixth, LBSU reliever Ethan Clough had some tough luck on a seeing-eye single, hit-and-run and full count single as the Bison jumped back in front 5-4.
LBSU reliever Matt Fields came on after that and pitched three perfect innings while striking out six batters, but on offense the Dirtbags couldn’t score against North Dakota State reliever Tristen Roehrich.
“I felt like we battled until the very last pitch, and everybody who plays us is going to play their best baseball, but no excuses, we’ve got to get back to the drawing board and continue to fight,” Valenzuela said. “It’s a long season and I kind of feel like there’s some calmness in that we lost two this week and we’re going to be out of the rankings. Maybe that takes some pressure off of us and we can just focus on playing the game and have fun again.”
The second game of the series is 3 p.m. on Saturday at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.