The Dirtbags (11-34, 5-10 Big West) came into Sunday’s game against Riverside (16-29, 5-10 Big West) with a chance for their first series sweep of the year. Long Beach not only achieved the sweep, they did so in a 3-1 victory led by a freshman.
The win also marks the first three-game win streak for Long Beach this year.
“This weekend we really put it together and put 27 solid innings together,” co-interim head coach Dan Ricabal said.
Dirtbags’ junior RHP Zak Baayoun (3-7) got into trouble when he walked the leadoff batter, but freshman shortstop Kaden Hogan bailed him out. Hogan charged a chip-shot and made a diving catch then popped up and threw to first to double off the lead runner.
Hogan initiated another double play in the fourth inning when he fielded a 110 mph grounder.
“Since I started playing infield in about my sophomore or junior year [of high school] I’ve always just believed that if the ball hits my glove I gotta catch it,” Hogan said.
The first-inning play awakened the home crowd and gave the Dirtbags an opportunity to build early momentum. Sophomore catcher Chris Jimenez capitalized with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. The Dirtbags’ nullified their own momentum by failing to score Jimenez.
Long Beach stranded 12 runners in the second game of the series and five runners through the first three innings Sunday.
Hogan bunted and hustled to force a bad throw in the fourth inning which left runners at first and third with one out. A suicide squeeze failed, erasing the runner at third, but Long Beach scored on a bases loaded walk. Senior second baseman Laine Huffman legged out an infield single giving the Dirtbags a 2-0 lead after four.
“We definitely focused on winning each pitch at a time,” Hogan said
The Dirtbags began to increase their offensive efficiency after the Huffan single. They led off the fifth inning with two singles. Hogan pulled a one-out single into left scoring the 3-0 run. He had two hits with runners in scoring position.
Baayoun went a season-long seven and two thirds innings and received a standing ovation when he was relieved. He allowed one run on four hits, both season lows. He threw a season-high five strikeouts.
“It’s been about his confidence all year long,” Ricabal said.
Long Beach begins a seven game road trip 6 p.m. Tuesday at UCLA.