Great pitching leads to a Dirtbags sweep in Malibu
Long Beach State baseball beats Pepperdine, GCU.
March 20, 2017
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Ernie Banks, a Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, once said, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame… let’s play two!” That’s exactly what the Long Beach State Dirtbags did on Saturday at Eddy D Field Stadium on the beautiful campus of Pepperdine University.
With the Pacific Ocean in view just over the wall in left-center field, the Dirtbags (10-8) swept their doubleheader against Pepperdine (8-8) and Grand Canyon University (5-11).
Game one against the Pepperdine Waves was a classic pitchers’ duel where runs came at a premium. LBSU started junior pitcher Darren McCaughan (2-1) against the Pepperdine Waves in game one who had his best outing of 2017, throwing a complete game while only one run and two hits. McCaughan retired the last 21 Waves hitters in a row, ironically on his 21st birthday.
“I was just trying to take it one batter at a time today,” McCaughan said. “That was my plan on the mound and it worked out.”
McCaughan had his sinking fastball working to perfection from the first inning to the ninth. He was able to get ahead and stay ahead in the count against the Waves and get a lot of weak contact on a day the Dirtbags played clean defense.
“I wanted to pound them with fastballs and then drop a slider in there once in awhile,” McCaughan said.
The Dirtbags’ ace finished with seven strikeouts, not a high amount for McCaughan, but was still very effective against the Waves lineup. Despite a season high pitch count of 117, head coach Troy Buckley had no intentions of removing McCaughan from the game.
“He became more pitch efficient as the game went on, and that’s something we like to see from him,” said Buckley. “He pitched down in the strike zone all day and I thought he was great.”
Pepperdine starter Max Gamboa took the tough luck loss only giving up two runs against the LBSU offense. In the top of the eighth inning with the score 1-1, junior third baseman Ramsey Romano delivered a clutch hit with two strikes and two outs that gave McCaughan a one run lead.
“Romano has continued to give the team competitive at bats,” Buckley said. “He’s a guy that loves to be at the plate in those big spots.”
That would be all the run support he needed after cruising through the last seven innings without allowing a baserunner. The won their first game against the Waves 2-1.
Game two featured the Dirtbags’ junior Saturday starter, John Sheaks, against junior left handed pitcher Jake Repavich and the GCU Antelopes. Sheaks threw well in game two and had his curveball working particularly well, striking out four opposing batters and only allowing one run over 4.0 innings.
The lone run against Sheaks would be the only offense against Dirtbags pitching thanks to five scoreless innings from the bullpen. Sophomore Eli VIllalobos (2-0) picked up the win after throwing 3.0 innings and striking out two. Junior Chris Rivera added a zero to the scoreboard in the eighth and senior Josh Advocate wrapped up the game in ninth.
“Villalobos was huge. It would nice for him to step up and be a go-to guy,” Buckley said. “I thought all three guys that came out of the pen did a good job of keeping the ball down.”
Offensively, the Dirtbags pulled ahead in the top of the seventh inning, scoring three runs on three hits.
With a 4-1 lead in the top of the eighth, LBSU blew the game open with a five run inning. The Dirtbags strung together five straight hits in the inning which was a great sign for the offense that has been known for struggling to score late in the game.
LBSU completed the sweep in game two with a 9-1 win over GCU.
Junior left field Lucas Tancas was 3 for 5 with an RBI and junior catcher David Banuelos drove in three runs despite an 0 for 4 at the plate.
LBSU travels to San Diego State on Tuesday for a mid-week matchup with the Aztecs before the non-conference series against Cal State Fullerton March 24-26.