The Dirtbags’ (8-8) bats fell silent Sunday afternoon as they dropped the series finale against Cal Poly (16-12) at home in Bohl Diamond at Blair Field.
During Sunday’s 5-1 loss, about three dozen of the players’ family members scattered the usually empty blue bleachers, marking the first weekend fans were permitted to a game since March 8 of last year.
The team promised more information next week about the possibility of more fans returning to the stadium, something head coach Eric Valenzuela is excited about.
“It’s nice to have people in the stands, we’ve been looking forward to having crowds back,” Valenzuela said. “My family was here, and for the [players] to have their family in the stands is special.”
The Dirtbags’ offense was staggered all day in front of the home crowd. Long Beach State got seven hits, though the team was never able to string any runs together. The only scoring for Long Beach was a sacrifice fly by Chase Luttrell in the bottom of the third.
“[Cal Poly] threw a lot of strikes today and pounded the zone,” Valenzuela said. “We drew no walks today and they had nine. They struckout ten of us, we only struck out five of them. I told my team that [Cal Poly] deserved to win the game.”
It was a bullpen day for Long Beach State, spearheaded by Jack Noble who started the game. Noble didn’t get very many swings and misses in his short outing. The sophomore right-handed pitcher only went 2.1 innings, allowing three runs on two hits.
The quartet of Basilio Pacheco, Ethan Clough, Jack Simpson and Jonathan Carlos combined to pitch 4.2 scoreless innings to get the Dirtbags to the eighth inning down only 3-1. Carlos gave up two runners in the eighth and was relieved by Marques Johnson. The freshman reliever faltered, however, and allowed the two runners to score, putting the Mustangs up by the final score of 5-1.
“Noble was really good last week, but I could tell from the very start of the game that he wasn’t himself,” Valenzuela said. “Our bullpen battled all day. I thought they held that lead really well until the eighth, but they gave us a chance to win. We just have to perform from an offensive standpoint.”
Facing a bye week, Long Beach is not scheduled to play again until April 23 versus UC Santa Barbara. Venezuela said the team is looking to put together a non-conference series against an opponent in the meantime, which he hopes the team can travel for.
“We missed so much time last fall, and we weren’t able to bond as a team and do team building exercises,” Valenzuela said. “Road trips for us are nice for us now. All the guys get together and bond in the hotel rooms, it’s a unique experience.”