The562’s coverage of Dirtbags Baseball for the 2022 season is sponsored by P2S, Inc. Visit p2sinc.com to learn more
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl
In a game that lasted almost four hours and featured 15 different pitchers, it was one swing in the 12th inning that decided everything.
Long Beach State Dirtbags freshman Peyton Schulze hit the first pitch he saw in the 12th inning over the center field fence to deliver his team a 4-3 win over visiting No. 8 UCLA.
“I was sitting fast ball, so it was just see ball, hit ball and then once you hit it it’s the best moment in the world,” Schulze said of his first collegiate home run. “It feels good when you’ve got the team on your back and they’re patting you on the back. I didn’t have such a good game to start but they all came through for me.”
After a 10-game losing streak, the Dirtbags (18-25, 7-11) have won three of their last four games. LBSU hosts UC Riverside for a Big West Conference series this weekend.
“It was a team win and it had to be,” Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela said. “This hasn’t been the year that everybody wanted but they stay with it and stay together. There’s been no animosity and they deserve a good win like this.”
The game was bookended with home runs as UCLA (30-14) took a lead on the second pitch of the game when Cody Schrier hit a leadoff home run to left field. The Bruins scored again in the second inning, and then took a 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning when Darius Perry also hit a solo home run.
LBSU broke through in the bottom of the sixth inning when Jonathan Long drove in Eddie Saldivar and Rocco Peppi with a two-out double off the top of the wall in left center field. Saldivar singled and Peppi walked with one out.
The Dirtbags tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Tyler White led off with a one-out double to right field. He was the only Dirtbag with two hits, and scored on Connor Burns’ RBI single to left field.
After falling behind early, LBSU pitchers Zach Voelker, Josh Haley, Dalton Ponce, Ethan Clough, Devereaux Harrison, Jack Noble and Noah Carabajal all pitched well out of the bullpen. They combined for 10 strikeouts while allowing five hits and only two walks.
“We’ve been through everything and we’ve faced everything,” Valenzuela said of his bullpen. “I think our guys have started to relax a little bit and not making it so tough on themselves. They’re in a better place mentally. That’s really good to see.”
UCLA’s bullpen was just as good in the extra innings, and the Dirtbags had struck out in five of their last six at bats when Schulze came to the plate to face James Hepp in the 12th inning. The freshman first baseman jumped on a first-pitch fast ball and it went a projected 407 feet with a 104 MPH exit velocity.
“Not many home runs hit over the center field fence at night here at Blair and I’m proud of him,” Valenzuela said of Schulze. “He’s a kid who we had high expectations for and he kind of had to wait his turn. He wasn’t starting early, didn’t complain, worked hard and got his opportunity. He’s a very mature hitter, and we know that power is there.”
This is the seventh win over a ranked opponent for the Dirtbags, and their third walk-off win of the season.
“We refuse to look at the wins and losses,” Valenzuela said of his program’s approach to the rest of the season. “We’re just trying to get better and develop throughout the year. Hopefully we continue to do that.”
The Dirtbags started five freshmen and three sophomores on Tuesday night after the underclassman played the majority of the series against UC Irvine last weekend.
“The experience of being part of our schedule is huge for their development and the growth of this program,” Valenzuela said of his young starters.