In an injury-plagued season in which little has gone right for Long Beach State, head coach Troy Buckley had three things go his way in the Dirtbags’ 13-2 barrage of Tulane Friday. His starting pitcher went seven scoreless innings, his offense tallied 15 hits and he got the opening game of the weekend series in before rain drenched Blair Field after changing the start time to 5 p.m.
“The best thing today, the weather was right on,” Buckley said with a proud smile.
The Dirtbags were able to jump on Tulane (8-11) early thanks to three hits and an error in the top of the first. Freshman catcher Chris Jimenez hit a hard single through the hole on the right side of the infield to score Jarren Duran, who lead off the inning with a stand-up double. Junior center fielder Clayton Andrews scampered home for the Dirtbags on a run down play involving Jimenez between first and second base on an attempted steal. Three hits and an error resulted in a second straight first inning.
“I thought the first inning was really good for us and I thought we took advantage of some free opportunities,” Buckley said.
In the second, the Dirtbags piled on four more runs against Tulane starter Kaleb Roper. Freshman shortstop Santino Rivera entered hitting a feeble .111, but raised that a tick on a RBI single with one out. Long Beach loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice and an error by Tulane sophomore second baseman Jonathon Artigues and Roper hit two batters to allow two more runs to the plate. Four runs in the inning pushed the Dirtbags’ lead to 6-0.
Long Beach senior left fielder Tristan Mercadel made the catch of the game in the top of the fifth inning on a deep fly ball. In a full sprint, he leapt to make the back-hand catch and shortly after crashed into the wall but held on to the baseball.
LBSU (7-11) starter Zak Baayoun gave up 11 earned runs and 16 hits over 11 innings in his last two starts against two of the nation’s top-25 teams (No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 10 Texas A&M). He returned to form against Tulane (8-11), holding them scoreless over his seven innings of work and struck out 10 batters.
“Zak, coming off his last two starts which were not very good, had better numbers tonight,” Buckley said. “I think he still has some work to do as far as backing pitches up and putting pitches together.”
In his seven frames against Tulane, Baayoun held the inning’s leadoff hitters to a 1-for-6 night, including one walk, preventing the Green Wave from mounting any threat.
“The main focus for me tonight was getting ahead early,” Baayoun said. “I wanted to fill up the strike zone and get the leadoff guy out and that made the difference for me.”
It was the Dirtbags second consecutive strong seven inning effort as Baayoun followed the lead of freshman Adam Seminaris who held Washington State scoreless in their last game on March 13. Long Beach looks to carry its momentum on the mound by sending out Andrews for the start in game two.
“Our pitching staff is just going to go out and put up zeros,” Baayoun said. “We’re good. Our guys have good stuff and they know how to get hitters out.”
The Dirtbags’ offense equaled their run total in the bottom of the sixth inning and pushed the lead to 12-0. Jimenez picked up one of his game-high three RBIs with a sac fly, and he currently leads the team with 13 as the lineups three-hole hitter. Andrews finished the game 4-for-6 with three runs scored and an RBI to his credit.
The Green Wave showed some sign of life in the top of the eighth when sophomore third baseman Kody Hoese and freshman left fielder David Bedgood picked up RBI base hits.
The rain just began to fall as redshirt sophomore Jacob Hughey got the first out in the top of the ninth. He promptly struck out the next two batters to seal the victory and the Long Beach players went into a frenzy to tarp the field.
Junior pitcher Tyler Radcliffe was struck in the right hand by a foul that entered the dugout during the game and was taken to get X-Rays later. Buckley has ruled him out from the pitching plans this weekend as a result. Radcliffe has started game three for the Dirtbags in their last two series. Information on the potential injury will be updated.
Weather permitting, game two is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Blair Field.