The Long Beach State Dirtbags came out on the losing side of a pitching duel against Sacramento State during the team’s home opener, with a final score of 1-0 in extra innings.
“This is a long season,” said head coach Eric Valenzuela. “It’s good for us to go through games like this and see how we react [tomorrow].”
Reigning Big West pitcher of the week, Luis Ramirez took the mound for the Dirtbags, and for the second time, he dominated opposing batters. The right-handed sophomore pitched seven innings, striking out seven, and scattering six hits.
Ramirez ran into trouble late in his outing in the top of the sixth and seventh. He let two runners on in both innings, creating jams for himself. However, he was able to bunker down and keep the game scoreless.
“[Ramirez] did a good job of mixing his pitches again,” Valenzuela said. “[Luis] had to make big pitches and I thought he competed his butt off and gave us seven good ones.”
While Ramirez took care of Sacramento’s offense, the Dirtbags were stuck trying to figure out The Hornet’s starter, Eli Saul. Saul matched Ramirez almost pitch for pitch and ended up pitching 7.2 innings, striking out nine and only allowing four hits.
“[Saul] mixed a lot of his pitches and kept us off balance a little bit, and that made his fastball look a little bit harder,” Valenzuela said. “We just didn’t get the leadoff guy on at all, and we didn’t get those big hits when needed.”
Dirtbags reliever, Ethan Clough took over for the ninth inning and immediately found himself in trouble. The Hornets managed to put runners on second and third with one out.
Clough responded to the jam he put himself in as he struck out the next two batters to give the Dirtbags an opportunity to walk it off.
However, even with the team’s No. 2-4 hitters up in the bottom of the ninth, the Dirtbags were unable to get a run across, forcing the game to extra innings.
Dirtbags reliever Dalton Ponce took the ball in the top of the tenth, but Sacramento State right fielder Cesar Valero crushed a leadoff home run to deep left field. This put the Hornets up 1-0, silencing most of the 3,000 fans in attendance at Blair Field.
The Dirtbags went down in the bottom of the tenth to drop the series opener.
“[The atmosphere] was electric, this is the best it has been since I’ve been here,” Valenzuela said. “I’m sorry we didn’t get the dub for it.”
The Dirtbags and Hornets will play again on Saturday at Blair Field, with the first pitch set for 3 p.m. Marques Johnson will start for the Dirtbags with Jack Noble likely coming in as the bulk reliever.
“I think tomorrow is an important day to see how will respond to this,” Valenzuela said. “When you get punched in the face on a Friday with your guy on the mound, let’s see how you react to it.”