No. 6 Mississippi State silenced the packed Blair Field crowd Saturday, routing No. 25 Long Beach State 9-0, to end the Dirtbags’ five-game winning streak and even the series.
“It was two good pitchers going at each other,” Dirtbags (7-3) head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “It was gonna [come down to] the first offense to make something happen, and that was them.”
Saturday featured a matchup between two of the best young pitchers in the nation. Dirtbags’ sophomore LHP Alfredo Ruiz had twirled seven shutout innings in both starts coming into the game. Meanwhile, Bulldogs’ (7-3) freshman LHP Christian McCloud came into the game with 18 strikeouts and a 2-0 record in two starts this season.
The two went toe-to-toe, each registering three strikeouts and allowing just one hit through the first three innings. Ruiz trusted his fastball, while McCloud used off-speed pitches late in counts to catch Long Beach hitters swinging early.
“Knowing that me and [McCloud] are going back and forth, it’s fun going out there.” Ruiz said.
Ruiz received help from his defense early. Dirtbags sophomore second baseman Kaden Hogan made an impression in his first start of the season, diving right and throwing across his body to save a run in the first inning, and dropping to a knee to field a scorching two-hopper to end the fourth.
The Dirtbags offense, though, was silenced by McCloud who held Long Beach to just one hit through five innings. The Dirtbags threatened to rally in the fifth, but left a runner stranded at third as McCloud shut the door.
“[McCloud] won that one,” Ruiz said.
The Bulldogs offense finally got to Ruiz the next inning. Right after a 2-RBI triple, junior second baseman Justin Foscue launched his second homer of the year to the groans of the packed crowd for a 4-0 Mississippi State lead.
“They got those two back-to-back hits and then from there, I just left everything up in the middle of the plate,” Ruiz said. “They did their job.”
No. 25 Long Beach State will host No. 6 Mississippi State in the decisive game three of the series Sunday, March 1, at 11 a.m. at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.