After a foul ball violently entered the Long Beach State dugout in the series opener against Tulane, junior pitcher Tyler Radcliffe had to be taken to get X-rays on his right hand when he was struck by the ball. Slated to start game two, head coach Troy Buckley ruled him out as Long Beach awaited results.
“It just got me,” Radcliffe said. “I have the worst luck it seems like.”
Radcliffe’s medical history includes multiple knee surgeries that have caused him to sit out most of his career as a Dirtbag. Luckily, the tests came back negative.
Buckley re-announced him as the starter for Sunday’s rubber match against Tulane (9-12), and watched the Long Beach Wilson graduate throw seven scoreless innings to set up Long Beach’s (8-12) 1-0 victory at Blair Field. The win clinched the Dirtbags’ first series win of 2018.
“He was able to pay catch [Saturday] and then how about that [performance] today?” Buckley said. “That part is really cool. For him to even go and to go and be that effective and throw seven was great.”
Radcliffe allowed only one hit in the outing, a line drive from Tulane sophomore third baseman Kody Hoese with two outs in the top of the first inning. After the hit, he went on to hold the Green Wave lineup to an 0-for-18 day against him.
“It gives me confidence going deep into games,” Radcliffe said. “I haven’t been as healthy so I’m not into games very deep but days like today help.”
Tulane starter Keagan Gillies did his part in keeping the visitors in a position to win the game as well, throwing 6 ⅔ innings while giving up five hits and the lone run of the ballgame. The impressive start was wasted on a day when his offense was 1-for-27 overall and stranded six base runners. They reached base on six free opportunites (four walks and two hit batters), four of which surrendered by Radcliffe throughout the game.
“You definitely don’t want to give those up, but when you do you just have to make the pitches after that,” Radcliffe said.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, junior right fielder Brooks Stotler reached on a two-out base hit and stole two bases to advance to third. Senior designated hitter Laine Huffman came through with a line drive to center on the eighth pitch of the at-bat against Gillies. Stotler, who was 2-for-3 with a walk, scored to complete the two-out rally and gave Long Beach the edge.
“I thought we we’re going to put up some more runs because we left some meat on the bone there,” Stotler said. “But Huffman had a great at-bat and we were able to get the one we needed.”
Junior pitcher Eli Villalobos entered the game in the top of the eighth for Long Beach but walked two batters. He gave way to junior closer Chris Rivera with one out, who struck out the next two Tulane hitters to end the threat.
“I’m always looking to pick my team up,” Rivera said. “Especially in spots when we’ve been working so hard all weekend to come out with a series win.”
Rivera went on to record the final three outs in the ninth for his fifth save of the season. He’s yet to blow a save opportunity and has 12 strikeouts over 7 ⅔ innings.
“Overall it was a big step for us to win a series for the first time all year,” Buckley said. “We played a tight, clean game.”
The Dirtbags came out with a dominating 13-2 win to open the series Friday after sophomore starter Zak Baayoun (3-2, 3.62 ERA) threw seven scoreless frames and stuck out 10 batters for the second time this season. Long Beach tallied 15 hits in the win.
Tulane responded in game two by coming out on top in a 12-6 slugfest. Three Green Wave hitters had multiple RBIs in a game filled with offense.
Over the weekend, Stotler was 3-for-9 with two runs, one RBI and three walks as the four-hitter in the lineup. Junior center fielder Clayton Andrews was 5-for-14 with three runs scored. Junior second baseman Jarren Duran finished the series 5-for-12 with 2 RBIs and scored five runs against Tulane.
After a brutal non-conference schedule that has left Long Beach four games under .500, it has gained some momentum heading into the annual non-conference series against Cal State Fullerton (7-10).
“I love playing Fullerton before conference opens,” Buckley said. “We’re in a different place because of the injuries this season, but the momentum of winning a series going into that is huge. It will be another barometer test for us of where we need to go in order to play winning baseball.”
The series is set for March 23-25 at Goodwin Field. Before the Dirtbags and the Titans go another round, Long Beach will travel to Los Angeles for a mid-week game against Loyola Marymount (9-10).