It can’t always be a picture perfect game just because it’s a home opener.
The Long Beach State Dirtbags dropped their second game of the season to the 24th-ranked University of Southern California Trojans, 4-0, at Blair Field on Saturday night.
This despite being in front of 3,342 fans — the largest crowd in Long Beach State baseball history.
The Dirtbags (0-2) ran into trouble in the top of the eighth when the Trojans (2-0) erupted for four runs.
LBSU starting pitcher Jake Thompson had a solid outing up to that point, going seven innings while allowing three hits and striking out five for a no-decision.
“It’s what I’ve been working on over the fall,” Thompson said of his poised pitch style in the game. “It felt really natural and really smooth. I felt like pitch location was easy and my pitches felt good.”
But he was replaced at the start of the eighth inning by Manny McElroy (0-1), who was wild with his pitches and walked both batters he faced.
Catcher Robert Stock gave the Trojans a commanding 4-0 lead after he slapped a two-run single off of Dirtbags reliever Dustin Rasco later in the inning.
Stock went 3-for-4 on the evening with two RBIs.
USC was already up two after back-to-back RBI singles from Hector Rabago and Mike O’Neill earlier in the inning.
Despite the loss, Dirtbags head coach Mike Weathers saw the positives that came out of the game — in particular Thompson’s pitching.
“He pitched outstanding … he just continues to play under a real calmness,” Weathers said. “He pitches better when he doesn’t try to overthrow or throw hard.”
LBSU tried to ignite a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth after a one-out single by first baseman Taylor Krick but were unable to capitalize.
The Dirtbags had a chance the inning prior by playing small-ball.
Shortstop Devin Lohman led off the inning with a walk and a couple of batters later designated hitter Matt Avery was hit by the pitch. But USC got out of the inning unharmed.
USC starter Kevin Couture (1-0) recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts. His performance came after teammate Brad Boxberger struck out a career-high 11 on Friday.
LBSU has been fanned a combined 25 times in the first two games of the season and has just seven hits.
“We haven’t shown any sort of offense at all yet, but worse than that we’re just not putting the ball in play,” Weathers said. “Another double-digit strikeout night; we’re just not putting together any at-bats.”
But fans did get to see some luminous defensive plays by the Dirtbags, including right fielder Jordan Casas chasing down a deep fly ball before smashing into the wall.
Casas had a respectable game offensively, going 1-for-3 while stealing two bases.
On a side note, the ceremonial first pitch was supposed to be thrown out by movie star Sandra Bullock. But because of travelling difficulties, she was unable to make it to the game.
The series wraps up tomorrow at USC’s Dedeaux Field. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.