Walks, missed opportunities plague Dirtbags in close loss to Trojans

Long Beach State Athletics

Nick Sabo (49) pitches in a road game last season. In his first road start this year, Sabo allowed two runs in 2.2 innings pitched at USC.

Jason Clark and Jason Clark

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LOS ANGELES – In a game that was much less of a pitcher’s duel than the score suggests, the Long Beach State baseball team suffered a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Southern California at Dedeaux Field on Tuesday night.

The Dirtbags (5-4) walked five USC batters and hit three, while giving up eight hits in a game that was defined by poor play and missed opportunities by both teams.

“I think we didn’t play very well,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said. “We didn’t pitch well, and we didn’t take very good at-bats … We let some things get to us that we shouldn’t let get to us.”

It was clear it wouldn’t be starting pitcher Nick Sabo’s night early, as he allowed singles to the first three Trojan batters.

USC (5-3) scored the first run of the game on an RBI groundout, but Sabo limited the damage to just the one run thanks to an out at the plate that was assisted by a good throw from center fielder Colby Brenner.

The Dirtbags evened the game in the top of the second when designated hitter Ino Patron tripled down the left field line and drove in third baseman Juan Avila. However, LBSU would never get closer to a victory.

The tie would be broken soon enough, as USC first baseman Dante Flores hit a towering solo home run over the right field wall in the third inning. The ball didn’t just clear the 10-foot wall. It sailed into the neighboring parking structure and received a massive applause from the home crowd.

Sabo’s night ended before he could make it through three full innings, as right-handed pitcher Ryan Millison was brought in from the bullpen one batter later. Sabo gave up four hits, three walks and two earned runs while striking out one in his short outing.

“[Sabo] was a little tentative,” Buckley said. “It started off in the beginning, and he never turned the corner or had an answer.”

The Trojans put the game out of reach in the bottom of the seventh. The inning started off well for the Dirtbags, as Millison got the first two batters to fly out, but he allowed two singles and two walks to the next four Trojans. USC went ahead 3-1, prompting Millison to be replaced by Nick Rosetta. However, Rosetta hit his first batter, faced and allowed the Trojans to score again.

The Dirtbags stopped the bleeding with a popout to end the inning, but not before USC had taken a 4-1 lead.

That lead would prove to be insurmountable, as LBSU came up empty despite putting two runners on base in the ninth.

Sabo took the loss while USC starting pitcher Brent Wheatley earned his first win of the season. Trojans reliever Sean Adler got the save after displaying a brutal sweeping curveball that struck out two Dirtbags in the ninth.

“You’re not going to win games when you give up [as many walks] as we did,” Buckley said. “I’d rather a team beat us and hit the ball all over the field than by us compounding things and walking people.”

The Dirtbags will have a few days to improve their act, as their next series will come on Friday against Seattle. The first game is set for 6 p.m. at Blair Field.

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