Baseball, Men's Sports, Sports

Dirtbags win with defense, without Buckley

The Dirtbags clinched their first series win of the season with a 3-2 victory over visiting Valparaiso that featured the ejection of head coach Troy Buckley.

Long Beach State (4-3) got above .500 for the first time this season thanks to a stellar defensive performance by shortstop Michael Hill and a bounce-back outing by starting pitcher Landon Hunt.

For the second consecutive game, the Dirtbags loaded the bases in the first inning. Designated hitter Ino Patron once again came through in the clutch, as he laced a double down the left field line, brining in leadoff hitter Colby Brenner and second baseman Jeff McNeil. Right fielder Richard Prigatano ended the scoring for the inning with a sacrifice fly to right that brought in third baseman Juan Avila. The Beach wouldn’t get another run across against the Crusaders (1-4).

Hunt, who entered the game with a 14.54 ERA after having a rough outing at Vanderbilt last weekend, got into trouble early but managed to work out of it. Good defense allowed him to get out of a first-and-third jam in the first and a bases-loaded jam in the second.

The senior southpaw would settle down, however, and pitch three more scoreless innings until the sixth. It was then that he gave up a one-run double to designated hitter Andrew Bynum, who isn’t seven feet tall and doesn’t play professional basketball.

Hunt was immediately relieved by freshman Logan Lombana, who got out of the inning without allowing further damage thanks to a heads-up play by Hill, the shortstop. Hill fielded a ground ball up the middle, but he had no chance to get the hitter at first. Instead he caught Bynum trying to score and got the assist on a play at the plate.

“I actually expected to make the out at first,” Hill said, echoing the thoughts of his brother David Hill, who witnessed the action from the bullpen.

“I thought he was going to go to first,” David Hill said. “I’m his brother; I guess I should know better.”

Even more drama started to cook up in the bottom of the sixth. The inning got off to good start for the Dirtbags, as Patron walked and Prigatano followed with a single to right. After a strikeout by first baseman Jeff Yamaguchi, some confusion began to set in.

Pinch hitter Zack Belanger hit a soft popup over the pitcher’s head. The Valpo defense let the ball fall, however, and Patron was stranded between second and third after expecting an infield fly rule to be called. The second base umpire eventually called the infield fly, calling out Belanger, but also called out Patron, who was tagged out following the late call.

Understandably frustrated, Buckley stormed out of the dugout and argued at length with the umpires. After a fair amount of yelling and gesticulating, Buckley was ejected.

“He had a bad attitude at the beginning of it,” Buckley said of the umpire. “I think he was covering up for not being very vocal [with the infield fly call].”

Buckley missed the rest of the game, but the Dirtbags got along just fine without him. David Hill entered in the top of the seventh and threw a perfect seventh and perfect eighth, notching three strikeouts along the way.

In the ninth inning, David Hill struck out the first batter before giving up a solo home run to Bynum. He settled down to record the final two outs, however, and earned the nine-out save.

Buckley said that the long-term plan is for David Hill to start, but the freshman will keep the relief role for now.

“He’s got a good arm, and we’re trying to throw him in more meaningful innings,” he said. “Long-term he needs to start, but he’s got enough stuff to close.”

Hunt earned the win for the Dirtbags while giving up one earned run on five hits in 5.2 innings pitched. He cut his ERA in half to 7.20 with the performance.

“[Hunt] pitched down and mixed his pitches,” Buckley said of the senior, whose fastball usually travels in the 84-86 range. “His margin for error isn’t as great as someone who throws 90.”

LBSU will go for the sweep tomorrow at noon. Jon Maciel is projected to pitch against Valpo, which will counter with Chris DeGoo.

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