CJ Stubbs, USC’s best hitter, stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the 10th inning. The Dirtbags had battled from four runs down to force the game to extras, but as Stubbs slid into third base for a triple, it became clear that none of that would matter. The Dirtbags fell to USC 8-5 in 10 innings.
“We showed some fight, it’s tough to lose in extras,” junior right fielder Calvin Estrada said.
In the second inning, Dirtbags’ (3-20) sophomore RHP Matt Fields walked in a run with the third of three consecutive walks. Buckley pulled Fields from the game, replacing him with junior LHP Zak Baayoun.
“He got a little into placing the ball instead of just throwing the ball,” head coach Troy Buckley said. “The walks were a little bit problematic,”
Baayoun gave up a two-run double to the first batter he faced, giving USC (9-14) a 3-0 lead. A sacrifice fly made it 4-0 USC through the top of the second.
The Dirtbags scored a run in the third and put two runners on base with two out in the fourth. Senior center fielder Brooks Stotler hit a bases-clearing triple over the center fielder to pull the Dirtbags within one run. It was Stotler’s fifth hit in two games. Estrada made it a 4-4 game with a single into left to score Stotler.
“I think certainly the tide is changing,” Buckley said.
The Dirtbags still needed strength out of the bullpen. Sophomore LHP Alfredo Ruiz entered in the fifth inning for the Dirtbags and promptly loaded the bases with nobody out.
Ruiz struck out the next batter. The following at bat ended in a line drive caught by second baseman Tyler Porter who threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
The Dirtbags used nine pitchers through nine innings. Collectively they threw nine walks.
Avila committed a throwing error attempting to pick off a runner at first. The runner advanced to second base with nobody out. USC capitalized with the sacrifice fly to take the ninth inning lead.
Long Beach would get to USC closer Chris Clarke, however. Estrada collected his third hit of the day and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Porter singled through the left side to bring Estrada home and tie the game after nine innings.
“I’ve been working in the cage to get back within myself and just drive balls to the right side,” Estrada said.
A bunt single in the 10th inning put USC runners at first and second with two out for Blake Sabol, who was hit by the pitch. Junior reliever Raul Rizzo (0-1) allowed the go ahead triple to Stubbs as USC took their third lead of the night. They would not relinquish it.
The Dirtbags begin an eight-game road trip, their longest of the season, 6 p.m. Friday at UC Berkeley.