Dirtbags fall to UCLA in Strufing’s debut

Long Beach State ends up on the wrong end of a pitching battle and loses 2-1.

Alex Campos, Assistant Sports Editor

The last time Ryan Strufing took the hill for the Dirtbags, he nearly threw a complete game against Cal State Fullerton to get the Dirtbags into a winner-take-all season finale for the Big West Championship.

That was on May 26, 2012. The junior southpaw from Colorado missed the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery and was slated to be the Opening Day starter this season, but he had a setback with his elbow.

However, Strufing finally took the mound on Tuesday in the Dirtbags’ 2-1 loss at defending champion UCLA (15-8).

The Dirtbags (11-12) gave Strufing a lead before he even took the hill. Colby Brenner started the game off with a single and a steal, but was caught trying to score on a double steal after a Garrett Hampson single. Hampson was then driven in on a Richard Prigatano single to give the Dirtbags a 1-0 lead.

Strufing only threw two innings against the Bruins, but did pitch effectively in his first outing in nearly two years. He gave up one run and three hits in the game, all of which came with two outs. The lone run he surrendered was a two-out double after hitting a batter with a pitch. He threw 40 pitches in total (27 for strikes) and struck out three batters.

Cody Marshall, who has started all but one Tuesday game for the Dirtbags this season, entered in the third and immediately loaded the bases. The Bruins took a 2-1 lead on a groundout, but Marshall got out of the inning without any more damage done.

The whole Dirtbags pitching staff had a good showing at UCLA. Marshall only allowed the one run in three innings, and Cameron Pongs, Ty Provencher and Kyle Friedrichs kept the Bruins off the board.

The Bruins were not going to go down easily. UCLA came into the game with a 2.55 team ERA, which is 25th in the country. Starting pitcher Grant Dyer had a very solid six innings of work, giving up the one run on five hits. They turned to All-American closer David Berg to get the four out save.

Richard Prigatano led off the ninth inning with a single off Berg. Michael Hill laid a sacrifice bunt down, but a Bruin error allowed Hill to reach first safely. After another sacrifice bunt, and a strike out, Berg got Alex Bishop to ground out to third to end the game.

Tuesday’s game marked the seventh time in the last eight games that the game has been decided by a single run. It was also the second straight loss for the Dirtbags where they had the potential game-tying run on base.

Conference play begins over the weekend with a three-game series at Cal State Northridge. Friday’s game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.