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Smith, offense dominate the Aztecs 6-0

The LBSU starter threw his first shutout against SDSU in the NCAA Regional opener.

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Junior center David Banuelos greets junior designated hitter Luke Rasmussen in the bottom of the 6th inning of Regionals Friday night at Blair Field. The Dirtbags will now face Texas after defeating the San Diego State 6-0.

Junior center David Banuelos greets junior designated hitter Luke Rasmussen in the bottom of the 6th inning of Regionals Friday night at Blair Field. The Dirtbags will now face Texas after defeating the San Diego State 6-0.

Jose De Castro

Jose De Castro

Junior center David Banuelos greets junior designated hitter Luke Rasmussen in the bottom of the 6th inning of Regionals Friday night at Blair Field. The Dirtbags will now face Texas after defeating the San Diego State 6-0.

Luke Ramirez, Assistant Sports Editor

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To the shock of many, head coach Troy Buckley and the rest of the No. 7 Long Beach State coaching staff decided to rest their junior ace pitcher Darren McCaughan on the day the Dirtbags were to open the NCAA Regional against San Diego State.

Senior starting pitcher Dave Smith took the mound on Friday night at Blair Field and made Buckley and company look genius after throwing his first career complete game shutout in LBSU’s 6-0 win.

“I thought Darren could use another day and it was a good matchup for Dave with [SDSU] being pretty right handed,” Buckley said. “He has a chance to move the ball left and right with his sinker and his slider and it worked out great for us.”

Smith masterfully navigated his way through the Aztec’s (41-20) lineup on a night that saw Blair Field packed with 2,283 fans.

“I’m mostly stoked that we won,” Smith said. “I was able to go deep and save the bullpen for the rest of the regional.”

The Dirtbags’ starter kept SDSU off balance all night and executed the plan of attack perfectly.

“He gave us fits and did a great of pitching inside with his fastball, sinking it and throwing his slider away,” SDSU head coach Mark Martinez said. “Our guys looked like they were trying to cover everything and that’s tough with a plus plus pitcher on the mound.”

The LBSU (38-17-1) offense put the pressure on early after sophomore Jarren Duran reached on an infield hit to start the bottom of the first. Senior first baseman Daniel Jackson bunted him to second, got another infield base hit from junior left fielder Lucas Tancas and then executed a double steal attempt with one out. The crowd was very pleased with the aggressive first inning.

“We’ve been waiting nine years and so has Long Beach,” Tancas said. “We wanted to give that crowd a reason to explode and really fed off of that energy.”

That brought LBSU’s leading hitter and run producer in junior third baseman Ramsey Romano who hit a ground ball to the second baseman that allowed Duran to score the first run of the game.

Not satisfied, the Dirtbags went on to score two more in the bottom of the first inning after tallying three straight base hits with two outs in the inning. Junior right fielder Brock Lundquist drove in Tancas with a line drive into left field.

Lundquist scored as well after juniors David Banuelos and Luke Rasmussen both hit line drives in front of the left fielder and LBSU jumped out to a 3-0 advantage.

The hitting continued in the bottom of the second when Tancas picked up his second of the night that was good for an RBI. Through the first two innings, the Dirtbags collected six hits and enjoyed a very quick 4-0 lead.

LBSU went hitless for the next three innings against SDSU senior starting pitcher Brett Seeburger. The veteran showed poise on the mound after being knocked around by the potent Dirtbags’ offense in the first two frames.

“They definitely gave me fits in the first two innings,” Seeburger said. “I wasn’t locating very well and they were hitting the pitches they were supposed to hit.”

“I went out and said, ‘Okay, I’m not giving up another run,’ and from there I started to locate better and got into a better rhythm.”

LBSU’s struggles would end after they loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth against Seeburger. On a 2-2 hanging breaking ball, Duran poked a line drive into shallow left field that brought home two more runs and deflated the Aztecs.

“I was just trying to get a pitch to take to the left side of the field,” Duran said. “I was talking with [hitting coach Greg Beregeron] earlier and he said I was too early on everything so I just wanted to let it get deep and do what I do best; hit the ball to the left side of the field.”

The final blow from the Dirtbags ended the SDSU left hander’s night after allowing six earned runs on nine hits, but struck out five.

Smith did not let up one bit against the Aztecs in the final three innings. With the help of two double plays from the defense in the last three innings, he was able to put the finishing touch on a great performance.

Smith only allowed five hits in the game and struck out one Aztec batter.

“The night belongs to Dave,” Buckley said. “He was fantastic. It was a great opportunity for him to get us started and he did it for us like he’s been doing it all year.”

SDSU will play UCLA (30-26) in an elimination game tomorrow at 1 p.m after the Bruins lost to No.2 seed Texas (38-22) 3-2 in the tournament opener prior to the Dirtbags’ Friday evening game.

“We bounce back pretty well,” SDSU junior second baseman Alan Trejo said. “Our message stays the same, ‘Every day is opening day,’ and we’re going to bring the same attitude.”

LBSU takes on the Longhorns in the winner’s bracket game tonight at 7. McCaughan (8-2, 2.66 ERA) will face Texas junior right hander Morgan Cooper (6-3, 2.32 ERA).

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