Long Beach State junior Clayton Andrews, a talent on both the mound and as a position player, has won Big West Conference player and pitcher of the week for the Dirtbags this season. On Tuesday against No. 17 UCLA, fellow junior Jacob Hughey got in on the “two-way” action after throwing six innings and driving in three to lead the Dirtbags to a 5-2 victory at Blair Field.
“I’m just trying to play like Clayton Andrews,” Hughey said after the impressive performance.
Hughey has mostly served as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Dirtbags lately, but took to the mound because of how thin the pitching staff has been spread this season.
“It helped the team out as far as saving arms,” Hughey said. “It saves some of our guys for a conference series this weekend and I was just happy I could help the team.”
LBSU (13-20) was quick to forget its recent offensive struggles after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Junior Brooks Stotler worked a 1-out walk against Bruins’ starter Jack Ralston and was driven in on a triple by Jarren Duran in the next at bat. Duran used his above average speed to reach third base on the play with one out. That allowed Hughey to bring him home his first RBI of the night with a groundout.
“Those two runs in the first were huge,” Buckley said. “The at bats were much better today, against a tough team no less.”
Long Beach added another run to its lead on a RBI single from freshman Santino Rivera. UCLA was forced to go to the bullpen with one out in the second calling on sophomore left-hander Nick Scheidler.
UCLA (19-9) got a spark from its hottest hitter, sophomore second baseman Chase Strumpf, who launched a 2-run home run over the wall in left field in the top of the third. Strumpf was dubbed Pac-12 player of the week on Monday after hitting .667 (8-for-12) with eight runs scored, eight RBIs and two home runs.
The blast didn’t phase Hughey who went on to throw six innings and not allow another run in his first start of the season. The junior lefty struck out seven and has done all the Dirtbags’ have asked of him.
“He was a little unsettled in the first couple of innings,” Buckley said. “Next thing you know he’s got six innings which is great because we don’t have a lot of [pitchers] right now.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Hughey added two more runs to the Long Beach lead on a two-out single with the bases loaded to bring his RBI total to three.
“I’m just going up there with confidence and the mentality to just keep things simple up there,” he said.
Juniors Eli Villalobos and Chris Rivera went on to pitch the last three innings of the game, to keep the Bruin offense off the scoreboard and secure the win for Hughey (1-0). Rivera got a strikeout in the top of the ninth to help earn his ninth save of the season.
Duran finished the game 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored in the third spot of the Dirtbags’ lineup.
The win comes on the tail of a poor weekend against UC Irvine, which the Dirtbags lost two out of three games to.
“We’re not going to quit there’s no doubt about that,” Buckley said. “But we’re also trying to continue to teach the game to this group that needs instruction and guidance.”
Long Beach now looks ahead to another Big West Conference series against Cal State Northridge April 13-15 at Matador Field.