Long Beach off to a good start
Dirtbags get three in the first and hold off Titans. McCaughan goes strong seven.
Dirtbags score three runs in the first inning and hold off Cal State Fullerton 3-0 in super regional opener.
When the final out was made, Chris Rivera pumped his fist and let out a yell as he turned toward the Cal State Fullerton dugout.
It was the exclamation point on a postseason clash that delivered as promised, with outstanding pitching, spiked with late drama and edginess.
Rivera provided the last ingredient when he closed out a 3-0 win for Long Beach State in Game 1 of the NCAA super regional Friday at Blair Field.
It was the topping for the Dirtbags, who rode seven scoreless innings by starter Darren McCaughan and a three-run first inning, plus Rivera’s wild-ride save, to get the first win in the bestof-three series that continues Saturday. The winner of this series advances to the College World Series.
McCaughan was perfect through four innings and gave up two hits in possibly his last start at the packed house, which featured Titans’ orange on one side, Dirtbags’ black-and-white on the other and the blond locks of McCaughan on the mound.
“I think the fans are huge,” McCaughan said. “You kind of build off them, but at the same time you don’t really make the game bigger than it is. You kind of let the fans do that. They get all fired up. It’s a great atmosphere, and you just kind of feed off that.”
McCaughan’s work was nearly undone when Fullerton loaded the bases with one out in the ninth on closer Rivera, who then struck out Hunter Cullen and Chris Hudgins to end the game.
“Nothing’s going to be easy, especially at this time of the year, and especially going through those guys,” Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley said. “They’re always going to make a push. They’re always going to make a run, and they did in the ninth and Riv found a way to wiggle his way out of it.”
Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook seemed to refer to Rivera when asked if his starter, Connor Seabold, was too amped up at the start.
“You should wait till the end and you get amped up and pop off and show somebody up like their guy did at the end of the game, but we didn’t get that opportunity. And if we do, I’m sure our guys will do the same thing,” Vanderhook said.
Vanderhook began his postgame remarks with frustration over balls and strikes calls and said he needed to review the game before he commented further.
Taylor Bryant’s two doubles were Long Beach State used its trademark smallball game to start the scoring.
Daniel Jackson’s sacrifice bunt moved Jarren Duran to second base. Lucas Tancas singled, followed by a double just inside the leftfield line by Ramsey Romano, and Luke Rasmussen doubled to right for a 3-0 lead.
Seabold needed 38 pitches to get through the first inning, nine of which were spent on a leadoff walk of Duran.
“I thought it was a good start to the game,” Duran said. “Make him throw a lot of pitches. It let them know that we’re here to battle.”
The Dirtbags also made Seabold work deep counts and fought off pitches around the zone. Buckley liked the approach, even though it produced only three runs.
That small margin of error was another given between the rivals, playing each other for the first time with a trip to Omaha on the line.
Vanderhook had seen this movie before from Long Beach State’s offense.
“When they get it going, they put the pedal to the metal,” he said. “That’s how they score.”
LONG BEACH STATE’S Jarren Duran, left, is greeted by teammates after scoring the first run of the game in the first inning on a single by Lucas Tancas. The Dirtbags would add two more runs in the inning.
LUKE RAMUSSEN BEATS the throw to Timmy Richards for an RBI double in the first inning.