Feb. 24, 2008

Around the Bases

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Around the Bases

Espinosa especially good as No. 17 LBSU nips No. 6 Rice

By Abbey Mastracco


LONG BEACH, Calif. — The Dirtbags’ timing could not have been more perfect.


J.P. Padron took a big hack at Long Beach State closer Bryan Shaw’s nasty ball, as catcher Travis Howell framed it perfectly. Just as home plate umpire Larry Randall called strike three for the third out, it started to rain. Shaw recorded the save, as LBSU defeated Rice, as well as the elements, for the second game in a row, Saturday at Blair Field.


Once again, it was Danny Espinosa who came up big for the Dirtbags for the second game in a row, hitting just a triple away from the cycle and scoring all three of the No. 17 Dirtbags (2-0) runs in their 3-2 victory over No. 6 Rice (0-2).


“I think our guys are just scrappin’,” said LBSU head coach Mike Weathers. “They’re doing what they’ve got to do to win right now against really good pitching.”


Cole St. Clair, a local product out of Foothill High School in Santa Ana, faced off on the mound against the Dirtbags Saturday. The preseason All-American pick was a recent seventh-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians. St. Clair earned a no decision in his third career start, as he was recently converted from a closer.


“We’ve never seen the guy, he’s a local guy, but he’s always been hurt,” Weathers said. “But he’s a preseason guy, he’s got all the scouts here, so you know you’re in for a tough day.”


On a pre-determined pitch count, St. Clair surrendered four hits over four innings, giving up two runs (one earned) and striking out three.


The Dirtbags got going early. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Danny Espinosa got aboard with a stand-up double through the right field gap. Shane Peterson reached base on an error, sending Espinosa home to make the score 1-0. Espinosa added a run in the third with a leadoff home run.


The Owls came back in the fourth, cutting the lead in half, and tying in the top of the fourth when Jared Gayhart hit an RBI single to right and catcher Kip Masuda narrowly missed laying the tag down on J.P. Padron.


The Dirtbags retaliated, scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth. Espinosa reached with a leadoff single, and with one out Lohman drove him home on a single to right.


Espinosa, the Dirtbags’ star shortstop, clinched the win for LBSU Friday night against the Owls as well, with a walk-off hit to drive in Zach Barger for the win. Espinosa, who struggled playing for Team USA over the summer, has yet to struggle back in Long Beach, and has been the Dirtbags’ biggest producer in the series so far.


“I hope I can come through when the situation calls for it,” Espinosa said. “I know I’m not the only guy who can do it, anybody in this lineup can do it. But hopefully when the situation calls like I said, I’ll be the guy who can come through.”


Also coming through for the Dirtbags was freshman Devin Lohman. Lohman earned a start at second base Saturday and made the most of it by going 1 for 2 with an RBI, a sacrifice bunt and was hit by a pitch. Lohman started in the DH spot Friday night in the LBSU’s 10-inning shutout over Rice, and went 2-for-4 and reached base on error.


“Every opportunity you get you’ve got to take advantage of,” Lohman said. “I just go out and have fun pretty much.”


Weathers feels these big games are valuable to Lohman as a true freshman, as he is being groomed to take over at short for Espinosa next season.


“For a young kid he really takes good at-bats,” Weathers said. “He’s got an inside desire in him to do well, he really hates to fail.


Nick Vincent pitched for the win for LBSU, while Chris Kelley received the loss.


Diego Seastrunk and J.P. Padron led the way for the Owls. Seastrunk went 2 for 4 and Padron hit 3 for 4 off the bench. Both scored Rice’s only runs.


Weather permitting (and Weathers permitting, no pun intended) the series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. at Blair Field.