Long Beach State Dirtbags lose 2-1 to UCLA in extra innings
Long Beach State can’t take advantage of runners in scoring position in loss to UCLA.
April 18, 2017
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Los Angeles — In a game where runs came at a premium, UCLA’s freshman Chase Strumpf hit a walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the 11th to give the Bruins a 2-1 win over Long Beach State Tuesday night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
The Dirtbags have now lost back-to-back games after winning seven straight from April 1-14.
“Our [offense] lost the game for us and [UCLA’s] won the game,” head coach troy Buckley said. “When you pitch as well as we did, you need to find a way to win these games.”
LBSU’s offense wasn’t able to take advantage of scoring opportunities going 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
The question heading into Tuesday’s game was if junior starting pitcher AJ Jones would have any rust to shake off after not pitching for two weeks. Jones’ last start came April 4 and he has had to sit back and watch the Dirtbags’ weekend rotation pitch up until Tuesday night.
“I was just wanting to go out there competing and looking to be consistent,” Jones said. “ I knew if I went back to what I had been doing all year I would be alright.”
The first four innings featured little offense from either team, as both starters looked sharp to begin the game. Jones was very effective in keeping the ball on the ground and his defense converted the weak contact into outs all night. Jones finished with a total of 10 ground ball outs.
Jones finished the game only allowing three hits, one earned run and struck out two, keeping his team in the game. He exited after the sixth inning in a 1-1 ballgame.
“We talked about living down in zone as the game plan coming into tonight,” Jones said. “We were all able to execute pretty well today.”
LBSU (22-13, 7-2) had an opportunity to score in the second inning after a leadoff double from senior first baseman Daniel Jackson, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. It was then that head coach Troy Buckley put on the safety squeeze bunt play with junior center fielder Joey Sanchez up to bat. The play was unsuccessful after UCLA pitcher Justin Hooper made a great play on a bad bunt and flipped the ball to the catcher to get Jackson out at the plate.
“[Sanchez] has to be able to do those things,” Buckley said. “Guys need to know who they are and he needs to be able to execute that better.”
The Dirtbags would piece together the first run of the game in the top of the fifth inning after junior shortstop Laine Huffman was hit by a pitch with one out. Sophomore second baseman Jarren Duran dropped down a bunt single with two outs to force a UCLA throwing error, allowing Huffman to score easily from first base.
UCLA (17-16) answered in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run from freshman right fielder Michael Toglia. His third home run of the season tied the game at one and was the first ball hit hard off of Jones until that point in the game.
“It wasn’t my best pitch of the night and credit to him — he put a good swing on it,” Jones said. “That’s what happens at this level. Guys can really make you pay for a mistake.”
The Dirtbags’ defense played air-tight against UCLA, a recurring theme in the last few weeks. LBSU has only made two errors in its last four games, a very important stat for a team whose pitchers look to make their opponents put the ball in play rather than go for strikeouts.
David Banuelos showed off his arm strength behind the plate throwing out two would-be base stealers in the game.
Jackson led the Dirtbags at the plate, going 3 for 4 with two doubles.
LBSU looks ahead to a weekend series at UC Irvine, April 21-23, to improve on its 7-2 conference record. Junior ace pitcher Darren McCaughan (4-2, 2.88 ERA) will try to get the Dirtbags back on track Friday night.