A historic performance on the mound and a late-game comeback saw No. 17 Long Beach State defeat Xavier 8-4 in a back-and-forth affair at Blair Field Friday.
“Wins are very hard to come by, so I’m not discrediting this win,” Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela said, “but we have to play a lot better.”
Dirtbags (9-4) junior RHP Adam Seminaris dismantled the Musketeers’ (4-8) batting order, breezing through the first eight batters he faced. He pitched with a relaxed swagger, working quickly and making his outing look easy.
“My changeup was a little iffy tonight,” Seminaris said. “But it all worked out and we got a dub, so that’s all that matters.”
Seminaris struck out a career-high 14 batters, becoming the first Dirtbags pitcher to accomplish that feat since Jered Weaver struck out 17 on May 7, 2004. He is also the first Dirtbags pitcher with 10 or more strikeouts in three consecutive starts since Kyle Friedrichs in February 2015.
“This year is all about winning ball games for me,” Seminaris said. “Stats are cool, but I want to win.”
The Dirtbags’ ace briefly lost command in the fifth inning when Xavier sophomore right fielder Luke Franzoni roped a two-RBI single into left field, tying the game 2-2. The crowd fell eerily silent, stunned to see the Dirtbags relinquish the lead.
“I was frustrated with myself because I wasn’t putting the pitches where I wanted them,” Seminaris said. “That sprung a second wind in me.”
Seminaris pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, one walk and was given a no decision.
The Dirtbags’ offense attacked early, but also squandered opportunities. Long Beach loaded the bases in each of the first three innings, but generated only two runs during those chances. The Dirtbags grounded into three double-plays, leaving six runners on base through five innings.
“We played an awful baseball game tonight,” Valenzuela said.
Stranding runners has become a bad habit of late for Long Beach, who left 10 runners on base during the upset by San Diego State on Tuesday.
Dirtbags redshirt senior third baseman Calvin Estrada rekindled the offense in the seventh inning, blasting his second double of the night over the head of the left fielder, then advancing to third on a throwing error. Sophomore designated hitter Chase Luttrell popped a sacrifice fly into right, sending a runner home and regaining a 3-2 lead.
Luttrell had a career-high three RBIs Friday.
“I haven’t always been in the starting lineup,” Luttrell said. “But I feel like I just have to capitalize when I can and that’s how I’m gonna find my way in.”
Xavier came back against Dirtbags’ redshirt junior right-handed reliever Matt Fields however, as redshirt freshman right fielder Garrett Shultz looped a two-RBI double for a 4-3 Xavier lead, once again deflating the crowd.
Long Beach refused to go down, and kept the crowd invested in the game with another gritty inning. After consecutive singles to tie the game, senior second baseman Riki DeSa laid down a bunt and junior pinch runner Jesse Lopez beat the play at home as part of a five-run inning for Long Beach.
“Hopefully we learned our lesson tonight,” Valenzuela said.
No. 17 Long Beach State will host Xavier in the second game of the series at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field March 7 at 3 p.m.