Long Beach State leads Texas in decisive game
Dirtbags are ahead 2-1 through seven innings. The winner plays Cal State Fullerton.
A back-and-forth series that could have been described as wild took a literal turn in that direction during a winner-take-all game in the NCAA baseball regional between Long Beach State and Texas.
Wild pitches contributed to the game’s first three runs Monday night at Blair Field, with the top-seeded Dirtbags benefiting from two that provided a 2-1 lead over the second-seeded Longhorns through seven innings of a game that ended too late for this edition of The Times.
The winner of the third meeting between the teams in as many days would advance to play Cal State Fullerton in a super regional later this week at a site to be determined. Long Beach State was seeking its first superregional appearance since 2004.
The Dirtbags were fortunate just to be holding a late lead.
With his team facing a jam with runners on second and third base and only one out in the sixth inning, Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley summoned freshman reliever Zak Baayoun. Smart move. The lefthander struck out sluggers Kacy Clemens and Bret Boswell to end the inning and preserve the Dirtbags’ lead.
Hurt by two wild pitches in the game’s early going, Texas was helped by one in the fifth inning that cut the Longhorns’ deficit to 2-1. Boswell led off with a single to right-center, stole second with nobody out, advanced to third base on a groundout and came home when Long Beach State reliever Connor Riley threw a wild pitch with two out.
Long Beach State scored the game’s first run in the first inning thanks to a series of mistakes by the Longhorns. Leadoff hitter Jarren Duran singled to leftcenter and took second base when Texas center fielder Zane Gurwitz could not come up with the ball cleanly. Duran advanced to third base on a wild pitch and came home when Texas catcher Michael McCann’s throw to third base skipped into left field.
Another Texas mistake contributed to the Dirtbags’ second run. After Lucas Tancas doubled leading off the third inning, Ramsey Romano chased a third strike but was able to take first base because of a wild pitch that also allowed Tancas to take third base. With Brock Lundquist at the plate, Romano got caught in a rundown that allowed Tancas to race home and extend Long Beach State’s lead to 2-0.
Dirtbags fans got a bit cheeky with Texas’ Kody and Kacy Clemens, chanting “Who’s your daddy?” when they batted in the fourth inning in reference to their father, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.
Neither Kody nor Kacy could make the fans regret their taunts, both hitting fly balls that went for outs.
When Kody stepped to the plate in the sixth inning, fans chanted “Steroids!,” a not-so-subtle allusion to his father having been accused of using anabolic steroids by the Mitchell Report. (Roger Clemens has denied using performance-enhancing drugs.) Kody was caught looking at strike three by Long Beach State reliever Eli Villalobos.
Long Beach starting right-hander Dave Smith, pitching on only two days’ rest, looked even stronger than he did in the regional opener when he pitched a complete-game shutout against San Diego State. Smith was perfect through the first three innings, pumping his arm after retiring a ninth consecutive hitter.
His only blemish in four scoreless innings was a leadoff single in the fourth inning.
Texas starting pitcher Nick Kennedy, making his first appearance in the regional, was not nearly as sharp as his Dirtbags counterpart, giving up four hits and two runs in only 22⁄3 innings.
The teams had split their first two meetings in the regional.
RYAN REYNOLDS, left, of Texas is unable to tag Long Beach State’s Jarren Duran out at third base in the first inning at Blair Field. Duran would soon score the Dirtbags’ first run.