It felt like déjà vu Saturday afternoon at Blair Field.
For the second Saturday in a row Jake Thompson was masterful, making quick work of an opponent and sending Long Beach State to another series win by beating UC Riverside, 2-1, for its seventh straight victory.
While both were firsts last time out against UNLV, the repeat performance is turning into a great trend for the Dirtbags (14-12, 2-0 Big West Conference).
Thompson (2-4) won his second straight start, scattering eight hits and yielding just one unearned run in 8 2/3 innings against the Highlanders (17-8, 1-4 Big West).
“He allowed his team to finally get him a couple of runs but he was really good today,” head coach Mike Weathers said. “It’s unfortunate he couldn’t finish.”
After eight shutout innings a week ago, Thompson went even further coming within one out of a shutout before his defense let him down.
In the two starts he has given up just nine hits while walking none and striking out five.
When asked if last week’s success had anything to do with this week’s, Thompson’s response was simple. “Yeah, definitely,” he said.
“I was trying to build off of what I did last week,” he added. “Starting to figure things out. I’m competing a little more, not giving up if I throw back to back balls or get to 3-0 counts.
“Just going after them, changing the mental game a little bit. Being a little more intense, I have always been a little more relaxed. Just trying to step up the intensity a little bit and it’s helping a lot.”
UCR got a runner past second for the first time with two outs in the top of the ninth.
With two down and nobody on, Ryan Goetz hit a ball in the hole at shortstop and Devin Lohman fired the ball over Taylor Krick’s head at first. Goetz was awarded second and went to third when Rylan Sandoval pulled Krick off the base at first for another error after he fielded a routine grounder off the bat of Tony Nix.
Goetz scored and Nix went to third when Robert Brantly drove a single to right to cut the Dirtbags lead to one and chase Thompson.
But closer Charlie Ruiz retired pinch-hitter Michael Nesbitt to preserve the win and earn his sixth save.
The Dirtbags took the lead for good in the fourth. Brennan Metzger singled with one out and went to third on a beautifully executed hit-and-run. With Metzger running and the second baseman moving to cover the bag, Krick hit a line drive into right.
Kellen Hoime’s groundout scored Metzger and Krick came in to score when Jonathan Jones ripped a low liner past a diving third baseman and into deep left field for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead.
“I just thought our guys did a good job,” Weathers said. “[We] pressured again, we just didn’t capitalize early. But I thought we did a good job until that last inning.”
Metzger was 3-for-3 to lead the LBSU attack, while Jones and clean-up hitter TJ Mittlestaedt were both 2-for-4.
“He has really been a pleasant surprise,” Weathers said of Metzger. “He was one of those freshman who was scared to death early but got some opportunities and every time I put him in there he seems to have done it and he has really captured a position right now.”
Now that Metzger has earned himself a spot, he doesn’t plan on giving it up.
“I’ve just been out here everyday working hard in practice,” he said. “Giving my best effort in the games and just trying to give coach a reason to keep me in the lineup.”
LBSU had three more steals to give them 65 on the season. They have almost tripled their opponents in terms of steals on the season (65-22) and are currently ninth in the nation in that category.
Matt Andriese (2-1) took the loss, giving up two LBSU runs and eight hits in six innings of work.
The Dirtbags go for the sweep Sunday afternoon at Blair Field with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Andrew Gagnon (2-2, 5.58 ERA) will take the mound for the Dirtbags while the left-hander Matt Montgomery (2-1, 2.66 ERA) will pitch for UCR.
For more Dirtbags coverage, visit Tucker Savoye’s blog.