Dirtbags freshman RHP Luis Ramirez treated Long Beach fans to a historic performance on the mound Saturday, as the Dirtbags came from behind to defeat No. 17 Wake Forest 7-3.
“[Ramirez] was throwing all four pitches for strikes,” Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “We had them guessing and confused all day long.”
Ramirez made his second career start for the Dirtbags (4-2), facing the formidable task of taming one of the most potent offenses in college baseball. He struggled to find the strike zone early, but settled into a rhythm and dismantled the Deacons’ (3-3) lineup late.
“I struggled in the first two innings,” Ramirez said. “I just told myself I need to step up my game and execute my pitches.”
Ramirez allowed one earned run on three hits and no walks. His 12 strikeouts leads the pitching staff for the most in a start this season.
“We made an adjustment in the middle of the game,” Valenzuela said. “We started utilizing the changeup more, both to lefties and righties.”
After Ramirez committed an error on a throw to first base, Wake Forest made him pay, jumping on him for two runs in the first.
The Dirtbags fielding has been inconsistent this season, committing 11 errors in six games.
Ramirez’s early struggles led to Deacons’ junior designated hitter Shane Muntz blasting his first homer of the season to deep center to lead off the second inning, establishing a 3-1 Wake Forest lead.
“It was [supposed] to be an outside corner fastball,” Ramirez said. “I left it in and up, and he took advantage.”
The homer sucked the energy out of the crowd, leaving the Dirtbags in search of a spark.
Ramirez pulled the fans back into the game, retiring 17 batters in a row after the Muntz homer, including striking out five consecutive hitters between the fourth and sixth innings.
“He could have easily just folded,” Valenzuela said. “He didn’t. He got stronger and I’m proud of him.”
The last time Dirtbags pitching struck out five consecutive batters was March 5, 2016 against Nebraska.
“It feels pretty good [to know that],” Ramirez said. “I didn’t notice that I struck out five consecutive.”
Ramirez’s dominance almost overshadowed the offensive prowess the Dirtbags displayed in the latter half of the game. The Dirtbags bats have exploded for 17 hits in the first two games of the series.
Dirtbags redshirt senior right fielder Calvin Estrada earned the first applause of the game, roping a game-tying two-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning for his second hit of the day.
Wake Forest fell apart defensively in the seventh inning. Dirtbags freshman left fielder Alex Pimentel laid down a bunt-single that was kicked further away by multiple Deacon defenders, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Dirtbags redshirt freshman outfielder Connor Kokx provided insurance later in the inning, launching an RBI double to left as the Dirtbags cruised to an easy victory.
“It was a big growing up day,” Valenzuela said.
Long Beach will look for the series sweep against No. 17 Wake Forest Sunday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.