The Dirtbags recent offensive struggles finally proved costly Sunday, as No. 17 Long Beach State fell to Xavier 2-1 in an 11-inning nail-biter at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
“That was our worst loss of the year by far,” Dirtbags head coach Eric Valenzuela said.
The Dirtbags’ (10-5) run production slowed this week, but still managed to win the series against Xavier (5-9) for their fourth consecutive series victory.
“We’ve started well,” redshirt senior right fielder Calvin Estrada said, “but there’s an expectation we have to maintain and when we don’t it’s disappointing.”
As he has in most of his starts this season, Dirtbags freshman RHP Luis Ramirez grew into the game after struggling early.
Ramirez (2-0) walked three batters through two-and-a-third innings, but bounced back nicely, retiring six batters in a row between the fifth and seventh innings.
“I was using a lot of two-seam [fastballs] on the lefty hitters,” Ramirez said. “I was throwing my slider in there too.”
Ramirez earned his third quality start of the season, going a career-high eight innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks while striking out eight Musketeers. He induced a double play to end the eighth inning, earning resounding cheers from the fans behind the Long Beach dugout.
“I got no run support,” Ramirez said. “But it’s OK, I did my job.”
Pitching continued to impress in the ninth inning, with freshman right-handed closer Devereaux Harrison working his way out of a two-on-nobody-out jam to keep the game tied at 1-1.
The Dirtbags offense, which mustered just three hits Saturday, failed to match the pitching performance and continued to struggle Sunday, leaving five runners stranded in scoring position through five innings.
“We have a lot of guys trying to do too much,” Valenzuela said.
Long Beach, however, stepped up defensively to fill the void.
Estrada kept the game scoreless in the third inning with a web-gem, sliding on the run for a run-saving catch, ending the inning. Dirtbags sophomore shortstop Tyler Porter kept the game tied 1-1 corralling a two hopper in the fourth inning and firing home for the out.
“Anything down the line is gonna come back to you a little bit, so you take a little bit deeper read,” Estrada said.
The clutch plays were a welcome change of pace for the Dirtbags, which committed six errors on the weekend.
Long Beach was never able to capitalize offensively, as it was shut down by Xavier freshman LHP Jack Lynch, who pitched five innings of two-hit relief.
After a solo home run by Xavier freshman right fielder Garrett Shultz, the Musketeers took a 2-1 lead in the 11th and Long Beach ended the game by stranding yet another runner in scoring position.
“We’ve gotta come out and play better than we did the last day,” Estrada said. “We didn’t do that today, and that’s why we lost.”
Long Beach State will travel to Turchin Field in New Orleans, Louisiana to take on No. 23 Tulane in a three-game away-series beginning Friday, March 13 at 4:30 p.m.