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The church of baseball has been holding revival services on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field lately.
After a six-game losing streak during a tough non-conference schedule, the Long Beach State Dirtbags have turned it around and started the Big West Conference schedule with a 4-0 win over visiting Hawaii in front of a boisterous crowd of 2,253 on Friday night.
“I looked around in the eighth inning and said, ‘This is awesome,’” Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela said. “People were going nuts. There were a million kids running around. We win, then the fireworks… the whole thing was great. It has such a good feel. There’s nothing like it on the West Coast.”
Long Beach State (9-7, 1-0) has now won four straight and seven of its last eight games.
“We’re just rolling and it’s big,” Dirtbags freshman Rocco Peppi said. “This is what we’ve been working for and we’re coming out hot and we’re going to stay hot.”
Dirtbags ace Luis Ramirez was fantastic in his return after a week off due to arm soreness. The sophomore righty gave up two hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings while striking out 10 batters.
“It felt good to be on the mound again,” Ramirez said. “I like bringing the energy, setting the tone for the weekend and it felt good being up there.”
Ramirez (2-0) lowered his ERA to 0.28 on the season.
“He had a week to get back on track and get full strength again and that’s as good as I’ve seen him,” Valenzuela said of Ramirez. “When he’s on he’s really hard to beat. We make an error, or he walks a guy, and he gets tougher in those moments when he needs a big pitch.”
The Dirtbags offense consistently put runners on base with 10 hits and three walks. In the fourth inning, they took the lead on an RBI infield single from Tanner Carlson after Sebastian Murillo and Eddie Saldivar collected back-to-back one-out hits to spark the rally.
Long Beach State broke the game open in the fifth inning when Peppi led off with a double down the left field line. He came around to score on Jonathan Long’s RBI single. An error loaded the bases, and then Eddie Saldivar drove in two with a double.
The562.org on Twitter: "The @LBDirtbags are breaking it open in the fifth as @EddieSaldivar3 drives in two and the big Friday night crowd loves it! pic.twitter.com/swxL1D8Sho / Twitter"
The @LBDirtbags are breaking it open in the fifth as @EddieSaldivar3 drives in two and the big Friday night crowd loves it! pic.twitter.com/swxL1D8Sho
“We’re going for stingers,” Peppi said. “We’ve lost just trying to hit home runs and we’re just trying to hit balls hard and hopefully they turn into home runs.”
Peppi has a five-game hitting streak going after a slow start.
“He’s a hitter and for the first time in his life he went through a rut early where he wasn’t getting results,” Valenzuela said of Peppi. “But he’s been able to fight through that and he’s totally confident. He’s awesome.”
“I’m just doing what I can and putting in the work off the field,” Peppi said. “All we try to do is put pressure on the defense.”
The four runs is the most support Ramirez has received this season.
“That’s the longest I’ve waited in the dugout between innings so it’s the most rest I’ve gotten,” Ramirez said. “It felt good to know my team was behind me and it gave me more power and momentum.”
Ramirez didn’t give up a hit in his last two innings of work and struck out the side in the seventh.
“This is just a stepping stone for sure,” Ramirez said of opening the Big West schedule with a win. “I feel like we can be way better than we are right now, defense and offense. We’ve been good lately, but I feel like we can step it up even more.”
Long Beach State fifth-year senior Matt Fields was also great on the mound with two scoreless innings of relief.
“It’s a comforting feeling that you have the old man, Matt Fields, who you can just go to,” Valenzuela said with a chuckle. “When he’s in the game I swear I feel like I could sit back and have a Piña Colada. I know I shouldn’t say that but I’m just saying that when he’s on the mound it’s his mound. He’s golden. He pounds the strike zone. It’s so nice to count on that guy.”
The562.org on Twitter: "The @LBDirtbags take the first game of this @BigWestBaseball series with Hawaii 4-0 as the 'Bags win their 4th straight game pic.twitter.com/3qMq9ygpJQ / Twitter"
The @LBDirtbags take the first game of this @BigWestBaseball series with Hawaii 4-0 as the 'Bags win their 4th straight game pic.twitter.com/3qMq9ygpJQ
Saldivar led the Dirtbags offense with two hits, a walk, two RBI and a run scored. Peppi, Long, and Tanner Carlson also had two hits each.
“I said to our team that we play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country for this moment,” Valenzuela said. “Now we’re ready. What we’re going to see in our conference is nothing we haven’t seen before.”
The Big West series continues Saturday at 3 p.m.