The Dirtbags received a rude welcome to the 2019 season this weekend at the hands of No. 3 Florida, which swept Long Beach in a three-game series.
Long Beach State had its work cut out in the opening series, having to face one of its toughest opponents of the year. Moreover, the Dirtbags is plagued by injuries, which forced it to field an inexperienced roster against more developed SEC players.
“Their freshman are different than our freshman” Dirtbags head coach Troy Buckley said to the Gators’ broadcast Sunday.
The Dirtbags scored five runs in the series while allowing 16. They dropped Friday’s game 8-2 followed by a 5-2 loss on Saturday. The getaway game was a 3-1 victory for the Gators.
Saturday’s game could have been an upset victory for Long Beach State, but junior starting pitcher Zak Baayoun allowed four runs in the second inning, three of them earned, forcing the offense to fight an uphill battle. Baayoun was tagged with the loss.
The Dirtbags hit well with the bases empty as first baseman Dominic Campeau and shortstop Santino Rivera each had two hits. Additionally, sophomore catcher Chris Jimenez reached base three times. However, the Dirtbags failed to hit with runners on base all weekend. It left seven runners on base Saturday, often due to strikeouts.
The Dirtbags got its first lead of the season Sunday when right fielder Aidan Malm drove a slider over the left field fence. The solo shot was also the first home run of the season for Long Beach.
Florida answered back with two runs in the third inning against left hander Alfredo Ruiz, who made his Dirtbags debut Sunday. In a mirror-image of the offense, Ruiz pitched with poise and confidence with the bases empty, but struggled to find the strike zone with runners in scoring position.
Neither of the Gators’ third inning runs were accounted for by hits. After a hit batter loaded the bases, Ruiz walked in a run resulting in a 1-1 score. The true freshman then induced a two-hopper hit too hard for third baseman Tanner Carlson to handle. Carlson, a freshman, was charged with the error and Florida took a lead that it would not relinquish.
The Dirtbags had runners on second base in the fifth and sixth innings, but failed to bring them home.
The Dirtbags home opener is 6 p.m. Tuesday against San Diego at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.