No. 25 Long Beach State hung around all day Sunday, pulling off a thrilling 6-2 come-from-behind victory over No. 6 Mississippi State at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
“What I’m most proud of is that they could come back after getting shell shocked [Saturday],” Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela said. “They came back with energy in an early game, out of their routine, and played the way they did today.”
Long Beach (8-3) has won five of its last six games against ranked opponents and haven’t lost a series this season.
Dirtbags freshman LHP Luis Ramirez recorded 12 strikeouts in his start last weekend, but the Bulldogs (7-4) put the ball in play against him early Sunday, loading the bases and scoring twice in the first inning.
“I knew my teammates were gonna back me up after those runs,” Ramirez said, “so I just locked in.”
Ramirez made the correct in-game adjustments, staying cool under pressure. With runners at the corners, he collaborated with redshirt senior catcher Cole Joy for a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play to end the sixth inning, screaming to the crowd as he walked off the mound.
“[My slider] worked out pretty good with runners on third base,” Ramirez said. “They were chasing it.”
Ramirez (2-0) pitched seven innings allowing two runs, none of them after the first. He struck out four and walked three with seven hits allowed, while earning the win.
“He’s the best true freshman in the nation,” Dirtbags redshirt freshman center fielder Connor Kokx said.
Ramirez’s performance kept the deficit manageable. Meanwhile, the Dirtbags offense awoke from its slumber. After being shutout Saturday, Long Beach had four players with multiple hits Sunday.
Kokx started the comeback in the third inning, lining an RBI single to right to cut the Bulldog lead to 2-1 and extend his hitting streak to six-games. He leads the team with a .500 batting average and had five hits in the series.
“I’m just trying not to do too much,” Kokx said. “I’m just trying to get fastballs.”
The Dirtbags made a lineup adjustment to the batting order Sunday, looking for more offensive production. Redshirt senior first baseman Jacob Hughey, batting .105, had started nine games this year, but Valenzuela replaced him with sophomore designated hitter Chase Luttrell, batting .462.
“[Associate head coach Bryan peters] does the lineup,” Valenzueala said. “He has a good feel.”
The change removed a soft spot at the top of the batting order, allowing Long Beach to string hits together and claw back into the game. With the score tied, Kokx and Luttrell launched back-to-back doubles in the fifth inning, giving the Dirtbags a 4-2 lead and waking up the fans.
Redshirt sophomore first baseman Leonard Jones provided insurance in the seventh inning, launching his team-leading second home run of the year over the left field wall for one of his three hits on the day.
“We feel amazing out here doing what we do,” Jones said. “We’re here to play.”
The Dirtbags will travel to Tony Gwynn Stadium to play San Diego State Tuesday, March 3 at 6 p.m.