Long Beach State Aims For IdentityColumns
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Long Beach State entered this weekend’s series at UC Santa Barbara as the No. 11-ranked team in the nation, according to the RPI. Today, it certainly looked the part.
After suffering a 3-2 loss on Friday afternoon in the lidlifter to this series, the Dirtbags came from behind with a vengeance, posting a commanding 9-3 win on Saturday.
The only thing that seemed to go wrong for the Dirtbags was head coach Troy Buckley getting the heave-ho from the game before the first pitch was even thrown. I didn’t see exactly what happened but suddenly Buckley and home plate umpire Angel Campos just looked like they were talking normally, in regular tones but a second later Buckley wrapped up his lineup card and walked away from the huddle, and was never seen again during the game.
Anyway, head coach-less or not, this looked more like the team that took down then-No. 7 Cal State Fullerton in three straight games last weekend at Blair Field. The Gauchos jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and looked to be sitting pretty with starting pitcher Kyle Nelson keeping the Dirtbags completely boxed-up through the first four innings.
You guys might remember Nelson as the All-American closer that shined in the postseason a year ago, including some stellar innings in the Super Regionals and College World Series. He started off great, giving up two hits through the first four innings and facing just three over the minimum. But in the fifth inning, David Banuelos, who had a 4-for-5 day at the dish, blooped a single just over the infield. He came around to score the game-tying run off Brock Lundquist’s RBI single a couple batters later.
Then, with two down and runners at second and third, the at-bat of Lucas Tancas changed the game for good. With the infield slightly shifted toward left, Tancas hit an odd-bouncer up the middle, which handcuffed Gaucho second baseman Colton Burns. The ball bounced off the heel of his glove and allowed both runners on the base paths to score. Had Burns fielded the ball cleanly, it would’ve been a routine out to end the inning. Instead, the Beach took a 3-1 lead at that point and never looked back.
They would go on to score in each of the remaining four innings, with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings and two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings. They knocked out Nelson after five innings, getting just four hits and two earned runs off him. The four relievers that followed were the bigger problem, as they would give up seven hits and five earned runs to turn this game into a laugher.
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