Baseball Long Beach State

Dirtbags Come Back Late to Win Series With Milwaukee

The562’s coverage of Dirtbags Baseball for the 2024 season is sponsored by P2S, Inc. Visit p2sinc.com to learn more.

Pretty wins don’t mean more in the standings box than ugly ones, and dominant wins don’t count for more than games where you have some luck go your way late. That’s the lesson of Saturday night’s showdown between Long Beach State and Milwaukee on a chilly night at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field–a game that was delayed 45 minutes due to rain. The Dirtbags had just one hit through six innings and trailed for most of the game, but scored two in the seventh and two in the eight to nab a 4-1 victory.

The Dirtbags win their third series of the young season in improving to 7-1-1, and will look to close out another series sweep on Sunday at noon.

“It’s a remarkable case of, this team has something, right?” asked Dirtbags manager Bryan Peters. “I love the fact that we can get better as we go throughout the game. And seemingly we play better when our backs are against the wall. It’s an uncommon trait because let’s be honest, the majority of us normal people cave when the pressure is on, and our team seems to play the best.”

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Dirtbags starter Kellan Montgomery was excellent, yielding five hits and one run through six innings of work, striking out seven. The Panthers took the lead in the top of the first on a Justin Hausser RBI single, which scored Gabe Roessler (who reached on an HBP). The Milwaukee lead would last them two thirds of the game, but prove to be the only run they scored all game as Montgomery hunkered down.

Peters credited Montgomery for accepting a mid-game adjustment. 

“They had been on his slider cutter,” he said. “After three innings in we figured out every hard hit ball they had was on that. He’s a great pitcher, he has four pitches, that’s what makes him a starting pitcher. So he went to his curveball and that was what we needed. He can do whatever the other team can’t hit. That was a big-time performance by him.”

Montgomery gave way to Grant Cherry who pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth and closer Mike Villani who was lights out in the ninth with two strikeouts to earn his second save of the season. Montgomery said the gameplan shift was easy to manage for him.

“I begin with just trusting my coaches and trusting myself and my team,” he said. “Letting them themselves out rather than trying to do everything myself. It really just comes down to that trust thing.”

Adrian Montilva was excellent on the mound for the Panthers and at one point retired 10 in a row, but his defense let him down in the bottom of the seventh. Kyle Ashworth singled up the middle to start the inning, and then the Panthers’ rightfielder dropped a ball hit by Connor Charpiot and then a Jack Hammond popup to second was dropped as well, scoring Ashworth. A hard-hit sac fly by Adrian Lopez scored Charpiot to give the Dirtbags a 2-1 lead.

They added some (earned) insurance in the eighth with Montilva out of the game, as Charpiot singled through the right side to drive in Ashworth and Jack Collins. Then Villani slammed the door in the top of the ninth and let the hardy crowd of 1,700+ celebrate another Dirtbags win.

The ‘Bags committed one error on a dropped popup but otherwise played great defense, including a diving play by Ty Borgogno at third that got the crowd (and the team) fired up.

“I thought that play  seemed to shift the momentum when it seemed like they were just having their way with us,” said Peters. “You never know when things like that can shift a baseball game. When he made that play it seemed like I just felt it in the dugout like, ‘Okay, momentum is on our side, here we go.’”

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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.