Dirtbags’ (10-34, 4-10 Big West Conference) closer Dylan Spacke’s strikeout in the ninth inning gave the Dirtbags two straight wins for the first time this year. They won game two and the series against UC Riverside (16-28, 5-9 Big West Conference) 6-4 Saturday.
“The game has been testing us,” co-interim head coach Dan Ricabal said. “But when the game is testing you, that’s when no attention to detail is too small.”
Dirtbags’ junior starting pitcher Nick Avila (0-3) put in five gritty innings of work Saturday. He got into and out of jams. He induced grounders in the early innings, effectively nullifying Riverside’s power, but the Highlanders beat him the third time through the order.
Avila, a no decision, increased his strikeout rate with five strikeouts in this game. He allowed three runs on seven hits. He walked two, struck out five and hit a batter.
“He made some pitches when he had to,” Ricabal said.
Riverside’s power hitters Dean Miller and Connor Cannon each scorched singles in the third to tie the game producing a 1-1 score.
A stolen base and two more singles in the fifth inning put the Highlanders ahead 3-1 and knocked Avila out of the game.
“His fastball command was probably the worst it’s been in two or three starts,” Ricabal said.
Junior right fielder Jake Vander Wal earned the first of his two RBIs in the bottom of the fifth with a sacrifice fly, making it 3-2 and moving a runner to third. Sophomore shortstop Santino Rivera came through with a two-out single tying the game again, 3-3.
Long Beach took their first lead courtesy of a soft flare into right by senior second baseman Laine Huffman in the seventh inning. Huffman had a career-high-tying four hits. The Dirtbags led 5-3 after a sacrifice fly.
“We’ve made an emphasis on just finding a way to put the ball in play,” Huffman said. “I think that’s been big for us.”
Vander Wal came up big again in the eighth with a hit down the left field line that brought in an insurance run and made the score 6-4.
The Dirtbags close the series against UCR 1 p.m. Sunday on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.