It took 12 innings to decide the winner of the Long Beach Regional winner’s bracket game between No.7 Long Beach State and Texas. The Dirtbags could not find a way to win in the exciting late frames and were topped by the Longhorns 5-3.
Texas (39-22) answered all three leads that LBSU (38-18-1) took with solo home runs that set up the drama of extra innings.
“Well that was some reality TV,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said. “There was a lot of highs and a lot of lows and it was a very competitive baseball game.”
Both teams battled all night to remain undefeated and make it to the NCAA Regional Championship on Sunday. Texas now takes the driver’s seat in the tournament and will have to be beaten twice by the winner of tomorrow’s elimination game between LBSU and San Diego State (42-20).
“That is by far the best ball game I’ve ever been a part of,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “Both teams really laid it on the line.”
The Dirtbags’ junior ace pitcher Darren McCaughan took the mound a night after his teammate, senior Dave Smith, shut out SDSU in the regional opener. The home run ball has hurt McCaughan this season and the Longhorns tacked on two more to his regular season total of 10.
Junior second baseman Bret Boswell crushed two solo home runs in the game, both after McCaughan had been given a lead by the Dirtbags’ offense.
“They beat me on two balls up in the zone that were hanging,” McCaughan said. “They’re a good hitting team so you’re not going to get away with mistakes like that.”
Boswell’s second of the two came in the top of the seventh inning with his team down 2-1 after a solo home run from LBSU’s junior right fielder Brock Lundquist.
LBSU would answer by scoring their second run of the game scored by way of a first and third steal situation in the bottom of the seventh inning. Texas junior catcher Michael Cantu’s pick off throw hit LBSU junior third baseman Ramsey Romano’s leg as he dove back for the bag. Romano was able to scamper home and give the home team a 3-2 lead.
In the very next inning, Texas center fielder Zane Gurwitz sent another Texas solo home run over the left field wall that once again tied the game.
“We had some pretty clutch hits today when it mattered,” Boswell said. “The team is meshing really well right now and we’re just rolling.”
The game would remain deadlocked through the ninth inning after LBSU senior pinch hitter Alex Muzzi was robbed of a game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth. Texas sophomore left fielder Patrick Mathias dove for a hard line drive and made the catch, stunning the crowd of 2,867.
LBSU went on to make some aggressive baserunning decisions in the bottom of the tenth, neither of which worked for the Dirtbags. Junior designated hitter Luke Rasmussen was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning but was thrown out at third base after trying to advance on a failed pick off attempt.
The most exciting play of the game came with two outs after Jarren Duran smoked a line drive into left field that got past Texas’ Austin Todd. The ball rolled all the way to the wall as Durran flew around the bases, every LBSU fan screaming at the top of their lungs.
Todd threw the ball to the infield as Duran hit the third base bag and headed for home. Texas third baseman Ryan Reynolds barehanded the throw and made a strong relay throw, cutting down Duran at the plate and denying the Dirtbags a sensational walk off win.
“I didn’t have a problem with either one,” Buckley said.
Texas would finally outlast LBSU in the top of the 12th inning after loading the bases against sophomore closer Chris Rivera. Junior designated hitter got one of the few hanging sliders Rivera threw and knocked a base hit into left field that plated two Longhorns.
The first lead the No.2 seed Texas team took in the game would not be relinquished as sophomore closer Beau Ridgeway picked up his second save in the tournament.
With the loss, LBSU will need to win three consecutive games to advance to the Super Regional. The first will be against SDSU Sunday at 1 p.m. and then two in a potential rematch against the Longhorns.
“We’ve been here before,” senior first baseman Daniel Jackson said. “It’s the same situation as last year in Coral Gables so we’re looking forward to taking care of SDSU tomorrow first and then going from there.”
Neither LBSU or SDSU have named a starting pitcher but the Dirtbags will likely decide between junior John Sheaks (7-3, 3.97 ERA) or sophomore Tyler Radcliffe (1-0, 3.50 ERA).