The Dirtbags (11-35, 5-10 Big West) embarked on their final road trip of the season Tuesday, looking to extend their win streak against the top ranked team in the country. A valiant effort fell short as the Dirtbags lost to UCLA (38-8, 16-5 Pac 12) 2-1 in 12 innings.
The loss is of little consequence as it does not impact the Big West standings. The Dirtbags remain seven and a half games back of #13 UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly with nine conference games left to play.
The Dirtbags had a chance to take the lead in the top of the first when their first two batters reached base. Two popups sandwiched between a fielder’s choice ended the threat.
UCLA took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning. After a leadoff double, Dirtbags’ senior starting pitcher John Sheaks threw a wild pitch advancing the runner to third. A groundout scored the run.
Sheaks recovered and threw a career-high-tying seven innings with two strikeouts and a walk. He allowed one run on four hits. Sheaks ended his outing by retiring eight consecutive batters.
UCLA made the same pitching mistakes in the top of the second as Sheaks did the previous half inning. Dirtbags’ junior left fielder Aiden malm led off with a double. A wild pitch advanced him to third and he came home on a groundout by sophomore third baseman Santino Rivera which tied the game, 1-1.
Sheaks was relieved in the eighth inning by freshman LHP Alfredo Ruiz who has become a formidable bullpen weapon for the Dirtbags. He kept UCLA at bay into extra innings. He has not allowed a run in his last 15 and two-thirds innings pitched.
In the 11th, Dirtbags’ RBI leader Jacob Hughey stepped to the plate with runners at first and second and one out. The junior grounded into a double play ending the inning.
Ruiz was replaced by junior RHP Tyler Gums (1-4) who allowed a leadoff triple in the bottom of the 11th all but ending the hopes of an upset. However, Gums recovered with a strikeout and two flyouts to keep the game tied.
Gums got back into trouble, however, by allowing a single and a double to lead off the 12th. UCLA scored the winning run on a passed ball from senior catcher Antonio Torres, who was playing in just his fourth game this season.
Long Beach returns to conference play 3 p.m. Friday at UC Santa Barbara.