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Long Beach State Dirtbags’ pitching falters in loss

LBSU sees seven-game winning streak end at the hands of Cal State Northridge.

Starting+pitcher+Dave+Smith+pitched+5+2%2F3+innings+while+allowing+three+runs+on+nine+hits.
Starting pitcher Dave Smith pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on nine hits.

Starting pitcher Dave Smith pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on nine hits.

Jose De Castro

Jose De Castro

Starting pitcher Dave Smith pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on nine hits.

Luke Ramirez, Assistant Sports Editor

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It had been seven games since the No.12 Long Beach State Dirtbags trailed an opponent, but that all changed in game three of their Big West Conference series against Cal State Northridge.

Four lead changes in Saturday’s ball game at Blair Field provided excitement for the home crowd of 1,547 during LBSU’s 8-5 loss.

CSUN (17-20, 4-5) snapped the Dirtbags’ seven game win streak, 11-game home win streak and evaded the fourth sweep in four series when LBSU (22-12, 7-2) has hosted this season. The Dirtbags could not finish an inning in the game three loss as CSUN scored all eight runs with two outs.

“All their runs were scored with two outs so we didn’t make any pitches,” head coach Troy Buckley said. “I didn’t think anybody was very good on the mound and there was a lot of mistakes today that you just can’t do.”

Junior Dave Smith started for LBSU but did not look as sharp as he has over the last three weeks, allowing three earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings on the mound. His counterpart, junior Andrew Weston, pitched well enough to win against the Dirtbags.

“I have to credit to the guy we faced on the mound today,” senior first baseman Daniel Jackson said. “He pitched well today and competed a little bit better than us.”

Jackson was one of the few to have success against Weston on Saturday, going 2 for 4 with two runs scored and an RBI.

“Today, I finally started swinging at pitches in my zone instead of trying to cover the whole plate,” Jackson said. “I stayed behind the ball a little bit and it worked out for me today.”

Weston (8 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 3 Ks) worked very quickly on the mound, and was kept in the game by his relentless offense that induced two blown leads by the Dirtbags’ pitching.

In the top of the sixth inning with two outs and a 2-1 lead, Smith gave up back-to-back doubles that put CSUN in the lead. The tying run scored on senior catcher Dylan Alexander’s RBI double that was part of his 4 for 5 day at the plate, driving in three runs.

That wouldn’t be the only pitching blunder as freshman Connor Riley gave up a go-ahead 2-run home run that squandered the Dirtbags’ 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning. Junior first baseman Albee Weiss couldn’t have picked a more clutch time to deliver his seventh home run of the season and CSUN went ahead 5-4.

Sophomore center fielder Garrett Nelson performed well over the weekend going 3 for 6 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth that put the Dirtbags in front 4-3.

“It felt good to be out there and have the coaches give me another opportunity to be on the field,” Nelson said. “I’m just going to continue to try to be a team guy, do what’s asked of me, and take advantage of my opportunities.”

Nelson hasn’t seen much playing time this season, but could be a good option for a left-handed bat in that spot and platoon with sophomore Domenic Colacchio as well.

“I thought [Nelson] played really good,” Buckley said. “He’s staying behind the ball better, he has a better feel for the barrel and he had some really good at-bats. We know he can play defense, so that’s not an issue.”

LBSU set themselves up to sweep CSUN with a dominant pitching performance from junior ace Darren McCaughan on Thursday and more solid pitching from Friday night’s starter John Sheaks.

McCaughan retired the last 17 CSUN batters he faced in his complete game that he only allowed two earned runs in. Junior shortstop Laine Huffman was 2 for 2 with a solo home run and a triple in the Dirtbags’ 6-2 game one win and lead the offense from the no. 9 spot in the order.

On Friday night, Sheaks threw seven shutout innings before handing the ball over to senior reliever Josh Advocate, who came in a struck out four of the eight batters he faced and recorded his fourth save of the season. Junior catcher David Banuelos powered LBSU past CSUN with his fifth home run of the year, a towering fly ball that sailed over the second fence in left field.

LBSU is now in second place in the Big West Conference with a winning percentage of .778. The Dirtbags trail Cal State Fullerton (23-11, 5-1), who played USC over the weekend, with a .833 winning percentage.
LBSU will be back on the road to face UCLA in a mid-week game on Tuesday. Junior AJ Jones is the probable starter and hasn’t seen any action on the mound since his winning performance against USC on April 4.

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1250 Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90840 -- LA-4 201  --  (562) 985-8000.
Long Beach State Dirtbags’ pitching falters in loss