The biggest concern No. 7 Long Beach State had to deal with at the start of its season was pitching depth. Besides junior ace Darren McCaughan, the Dirtbags didn’t even have a set three-man weekend rotation for the first month of the 2017 campaign.
One by one, guys started to step up and fill in roles that have been vital to the success the club has had in this thrilling season. The most recent; redshirt sophomore relief pitcher Tyler Radcliffe.
That is the name head coach Troy Buckley called upon to pitch the biggest game of the season for LBSU (40-18-1). After recovering from two surgeries to repair the ACL in his left knee, Radcliffe made his first career start for the Dirtbags on Sunday night.
He and his team faced elimination from the NCAA Regional against Texas (39-23) yet the 6-foot right hander threw five quality innings to set up the foundation of a 4-3 victory.
“It felt amazing getting my first college start on this field,” Radcliffe said. “Going through my injuries kind of made it an emotional day for me but I’m glad we were able to get the win.”
Radcliffe pitched for the neighboring Long Beach Wilson High School and played his home games at Blair Field before he became a Dirtbag.
Today, he was able to put all of that aside and just pitch again on a night his team and community needed him most.
“We knew if we were to fall into the losers bracket, he was going to have to start a game for us,” Buckley said. “For what he’s been through…if there was anyway to get him on the roster, we we’re doing it. He’s really a special kid.”
Radcliffe held LBSU’s 2-0 lead into the fifth inning against a very good Texas team that hit three home runs in Saturday’s matchup. He left after the fifth inning having only surrendered five hits, two runs and struck out a career-high seven batters.
“I got ahead of a lot of batters and was able to use my changeup well,” Radcliffe said.
“He was just hitting his spots,” Texas senior center fielder Zane Gurwitz said. “He pitched in and pitched out pretty well.”
Radcliffe wasn’t the only hero of the game for LBSU. Sophomore second baseman Jarren Duran carried the offense with two clutch RBI singles, both giving the Dirtbags the lead at the time.
The second of the two came in the top of the eighth inning with two outs in a 3-3 game. A sharp line drive landed in the outfield safely allowing the game winning run to score.
Duran is now 7-for-16 with six RBIs and two runs scored in the Long Beach Regional and has proven to be the catalyst of the offense.
The Dirtbags would get the last out against Texas in the form of a strikeout from senior relief pitcher Josh Advocate that capped off the second win-or-go-home victory of the day. LBSU had defeated San Diego State (42-22) earlier and has now earned the chance to win the regional out of the losers bracket.
On Monday, it will be a rematch, ending the loser’s season and sending the winner to the Super Regional. First pitch of the championship game between LBSU and Texas is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Blair Field and can be seen on ESPN 2.
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