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Dirtbags win home opener, start season 2-1

Baseball fans swarmed to Blair Field Saturday afternoon to watch the Dirtbags’ home opener, which was the second game of a three-game series between No. 30 Long Beach State and No. 25 USC. The Dirtbags sent their fans home happy, winning 5-3.

In the season opener, on Friday night at Dedeaux Field at USC, the Trojans won 2-1. The two teams went back to Dedeaux Field Sunday, and with help from Danny Espinosa’s 3-run home run in the top of the seventh inning, LBSU (2-1) took the game 5-1.

On Saturday, a rather young Dirtbags baseball team was greeted by a large crowd of 2,297. The pitcher to start for the Dirtbags was junior transfer Manny McElroy and the Trojans sent freshman Brian Boxberger to the mound.

The intensity of the game started immediately in the first inning for the Dirtbags, despite falling behind 1-0 in the top half of the inning.

Sophomore Shane Peterson singled on a throwing error and then junior right fielder Jason Corder hit a 2-run homerun to left field to give the Dirtbags the early 2-1 lead.

The lead didn’t last for very long, though, as the Trojans’ Hector Estrella started off the next inning with a shot over the wall in left field to even the score at 2-2.

The Dirtbags regained the lead in the bottom of the second inning as junior Jason Tweedy beat out a throw to first base for a single. Senior standout second baseman Matt Cline reached base on a Trojan fielding error and then was driven in by T.J. Mittelstaedt’s triple down the right field line to give the Dirtbags the 4-2 lead heading into the third inning.

For the next few innings, the game became a pitching duel. Dirtbags pitcher Manny McElroy cooled the bats of USC as he struck out three batters in the next four innings to keep the 4-2 lead headed into the bottom of the sixth. In the bottom half of the inning, the Dirtbags scraped together a couple of hits, provided by Jason Tweedy and Robert Perry, to take a 5-2 lead.

McElroy was given a standing ovation by the crowd as he exited the game in the top of the seventh inning after pitching 6.1 innings and giving up two runs, five hits allowed, one walk and striking out three in his Dirtbag debut.

This paved the way for relief pitchers Adam Wilk and closer Bryan Shaw who each struck out a batter to preserve the win for the Dirtbags. McElroy recorded the win and closer Bryan Shaw collected his first save of the season.

Head coach Mike Weathers said he was pleased with his team’s performance. He thought pitcher McElroy had’a strong and lengthy outing. Weathers said Corder’s homerun and Perry’s clutch RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to extend the lead to three runs were the major factors that contributed to the win.

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