Long Beach State’s first home series in Big West play could have played out a number of different ways. The Beach needed to come from behind twice on Saturday to win a pair of one-run games against UC Davis, then saw the Aggies return the favor with a 13-inning comeback victory on Sunday afternoon.
LBSU (14-16, 4-2) has now won each of its first two Big West series, sitting a game back of the three conference leaders–Cal State Fullerton, Hawai’i and UC San Diego.
Long Beach State trailed 3-0 in the series opener on Saturday before a five-run fifth inning rally helped flip the script against UC Davis starter Kenedi Brown. With the help of a few key Aggies errors, the Beach made the rally sting with a three-run double by senior Kyra Snyder to take a 5-3 lead. LBSU eventually held on for a 5-4 win, getting some key defensive plays in the final inning by freshman shortstop Marissa Caballero.
In game two on Saturday, the Aggies jumped out to an even earlier lead as the first four batters reached and scored for UC Davis in the first inning. But LBSU righted the ship quickly, scoring two runs in the bottom half of the inning thanks to two more RBIs from Snyder, and eventually tying things up in the fourth inning.
With the game tied, 5-5, in the seventh inning, a double from Naomi Hernandez put the winning run on base for freshman Jacquelyn Bickar. With two outs, Bickar delivered the walk-off single to center field, giving LBSU the 6-5 win.
In Sunday’s series finale, it was Long Beach State that got out to an early advantage, putting three runs on Brown through five innings. However, the Aggies scraped two unearned runs across in the sixth inning, and smacked a game-tying home run with two outs in the seventh to push the game to extra innings.
Both offenses went cold through extra innings as the game wore on for 13 innings, eclipsing the four-hour mark. It ended up being the longest home game for Long Beach State since 2004, with the Aggies eventually coming out on top with three unearned runs off Sophia Fernandez in the top of the 13th inning.
Meanwhile, Brown was the hero for UC Davis, going all 13 innings while racking up a staggering 233 pitches in Sunday’s game alone. She kept the Beach off the board for the final eight innings to allow her team the opportunity to come back and salvage the series finale.
“We had opportunities, I just think that pitcher made big pitches every time she needed to today,” said LBSU head coach Kim Sowder after Sunday’s 6-3 loss. “From extra innings on, we didn’t have very good contact in those situations. (Brown) did a really good job, they made some really good plays,and I thought there were a lot of good defensive plays on both sides. It’s just that they got a couple key hits when they needed it.”
LBSU had a bases loaded situation with one out in the bottom of the seventh, representing their best chance to win in another walk-off, but Brown was able to escape trouble. UC Davis nearly took a lead in the 10th after a one-out triple put a runner at third, but Bickar made a great play at second base to field a grounder and throw home in time to keep the game tied.
The Beach will take the series win, but are still looking to put all phases together and play their best softball. After putting up 29 runs against UC Riverside, LBSU scored just 14 this weekend. Conversely, the pitching improved by only giving up 15 runs in 27 innings (compared to 18 runs in 19 innings last weekend). Samantha Fowler started two of the three games, allowing eight runs (five earned) combined in 13.1 IP with 19 strikeouts. Sophia Fernandez made two relief appearances, but ended up with 12 IP, allowing four runs (0 earned) on just five hits.
“We did a good job in the circle for the most part, and that's the one area I wanted to see improvement,” Sowder said. “We've been putting runs on the board, I think the defense has been solid, and we've had a lot of good pitching performances, I just want it to be a little bit more consistent. They worked a little bit more ahead and we've struggled with that. So they went right at hitters, using a lot less pitches than then they have been, so that was a positive. I think we’ve just got to put it all together.”
Long Beach State will have another chance to get things clicking on their home field next weekend. The Beach will host CSUN for a three-game Big West series starting with a Saturday doubleheader at 1 & 3 p.m.