View Original Notice ? Long Beach State baseball stifles UC Irvine to end 10-game losing streak

LONG BEACH — As happy as Long Beach State baseball coach Eric Valenzuela was Friday night at Blair Field, he made sure to tell everyone his team has been playing good baseball for more than one night.

The Dirtbags beat UC Irvine, 6-2, to snap a 10-game losing streak and give the team a shot of momentum in an odd and unpredictable season. The preseason favorite to win the Big West Conference crown, the Dirtbags (16-24 overall, 6-10 Big West) opened the season 12-8 and then went into a slide.

Jonathan Carlos pitched 3-2/3 taut innings in his second college start, then turned the ball over to Jack Noble (3-1/3 innings) and Matt Field (two), who combined for hitless relief. The trio struck out 15 Anteaters and handed UCI (23-16, 9-7) a setback in its pursuit of a postseason appearance.

Little ball got Long Beach two early runs, then the hosts bounced back after UCI tied the score in the fourth. Sebastian Murillo doubled in the fifth and scored on a Jonathan Long single, then Connor Burns slugged a two-run home run over the center field fence in the sixth. Chase Luttrell added a solo home run in the seventh.

What has vexed Valenzuela most is that on paper his team still looks like the one that received seven first-place votes from the league’s 11 coaches in that preseason poll. LBSU ranks second in the Big West in fielding percentage, third in pitching and a strong mid-pack sixth in hitting.

One obstacle is an injury to Friday night starter Luis Ramirez, which has limited his usage to guard further strain on a sore shoulder. The bullpen has its ace in Devereaux Harrison, but the rest of the relief corps has been inconsistent.

“We’re also a young team, but we’re not using that as an excuse,” Valenzuela said. “I talk to the team and tell them I like the squad as much as ever. It’s just been an odd season where we’ve lost tough games.”

Eight losses have been by one run. The offense, which set a single-game record with a 28-run explosion against Cal Poly, has also been held to three runs or less in 19 games.

The offense cratered especially badly the past three weeks during a 10-game losing streak, scoring 18 runs total in eight of those losses.

Applying the Pythagorean theory to the team’s stats, Long Beach has played to a .533 winning percentage, or a 21-18 record.

“So much of it is timing, not getting the hit when we need it, having a bad inning on the mound,” he said.

“The guys know how I feel about them and how much I think they’re a better team than we’ve shown. We need to play the rest of the season with that in mind.

“It would have been so easy for the team to hang its head and to start complaining with each other. It’s been nothing like that. They’ve played good baseball.”

Eddie Saldivar got things started for LBSU in the first inning when he singled, then Sebastian Murillo and Rocco Peppi laid down perfect bunt singles to fill the bases.

Luttrell followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right for a 1-0 lead. In the third, Peppi doubled and scored on a wild pitch.

UCI, coming off a big midweek win against No. 14 UCLA, drew eight walks but managed only two hits – its lowest output since a 2018 loss to UC Riverside. Caden Kendle walked twice and had one of the hits.

Nick Pinto (1-4) allowed nine hits in 4-2/3 innings.