The No.7 Long Beach State Dirtbags sat on the grass in front of the home dugout at Blair Field after their 2-1 series sweeping win against Hawai’i long after the home crowd of 2,030 had filed out of the stadium.
With eyes fixed on the big screen in right center field, they watched and waited for CSU Northridge to wrap up their victory against Cal State Fullerton — meaning the Dirtbags would win the 2017 Big West Conference championship.
CSUN recorded the final out on a fly ball and the LBSU players went into a frenzy, sprinting to center field before dog piling in celebration.
“It’s a huge deal to win a championship,” head coach Troy Buckley said. “It’s hard to do and this team should really enjoy it.”
In 2017, LBSU has already won 35 games, has six series sweeps, 11 weekend series victories and now one Big West Conference championship. Many thought that the Big West title would be decided in the last regular season series against CSUF, but the Dirtbags were able to clinch the conference feat a week early.
“I’m extremely proud and blessed for these guys,” Buckley said. “They grinded. I know we have some talent but no road is easy to get here.
LBSU came flying out of the gates in game three against Hawai’i, scoring two runs in the top of the first against opposing starting pitcher Jackson Reese. Juniors Ramsey Romano and Brock Lundquist both had RBI singles in the inning to take the early lead.
Senior LBSU starter Dave Smith cruised through his first six innings on the mound for the Dirtbags (35-16-1, 18-3 Big West), needing only 63 pitches in that span. The only blemish in his quality start was a solo home run in the top of the seventh by Hawai’i (26-22, 8-13 Big West) right fielder Adam Fogel.
“[Smith] was fantastic,” Buckley said. “For him to do what he did today was huge. He’s a guy that keeps the ball down and says, ‘I’m not going to beat myself, you’re going to have to beat me.’”
The home run made the score, 2-1, where it would stand after junior relief pitcher Chris Rivera notched his tenth save of the season. The final out came via strikeout and started the Dirtbags celebration.
It was the Dirtbags final regular season home game, which meant that Smith and the team’s seniors were honored on the field prior to the start of the game.
‘It was a good feeling to do all that before the game,” Smith said. “To have my family out on the field with me and getting to pitch in front of the fans at Blair for maybe the last time was special.”
Smith once again proved to be a stalwart on the mount in Sunday games this season. His final line was; 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 Ks.
“When they announced the score of the Fullerton game, it gave me chills when I was warming up,” Smith said. “I knew this game would be important but to hear that we could do this today was crazy.”
Next week, LBSU heads to Fullerton for a three game series against the Titans (33-19, 14-7 Big West). Even though the series will have no importance in deciding the Big West, fans should prepare for another classic rivalry series.