March 23, 2008

Around the Bases

Around the Bases
Dirtbags rally and roll to sweep of Bruins

By Abbey Mastracco


LONG BEACH, Calif. — UCLA is a school rich with pride and tradition. It’s evident in everything from the prestigious reputation of the school, to the immensely successful athletic program, and right down to the school’s fight song “Sons of Westwood.”


However, Long Beach State has a tradition too, and that tradition is baseball. The Dirtbags have a reputation of scraping and grinding and pulling out all the stops to get a win, no matter who they face. And this tradition was all but obvious at Blair Field Saturday afternoon, as the No. 6 Dirtbags (16-3) completed the sweep of the No. 16 Bruins (10-8) by taking both games of a doubleheader 3-2 and 10-3.


In front of a crowd of 1,962, the Dirtbags pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory to take the first game of the afternoon. Dirtbag starter Jake Thompson was roughed up early on, and Bruin starter Charles Brewer was dominant. Thompson gave up an earned run in the second, and Adam Wilk gave up an unearned run in the eight, while Brewer was holding the Dirtbags scoreless through eight. But the innings began to wear on Brewer in the ninth.


Devin Lohman took a single off Brewer to lead off the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Brewer gave up another single to Jonathan Jones. With runners on the corners, the struggling T.J. Mittelstaedt came up to bat. Mittelstaedt sat back and waited until he got the fastball he knew was coming, turned on it, and crushed it for a two-RBI triple to tie the game. Danny Espinosa was then intentionally walked and Jason Corder struck out.


Justin Uribe then came over from center field to take the mound, facing Shane Peterson. Peterson chopped a ball to third baseman Jermaine Curtis who bobbled it, and threw down to first just seconds too late as Shane Peterson beat the tag, allowing Mittelstaedt to easily score from third for the win.


“I was looking for a fastball,” Mittelstaedt said. “I stayed off the plate and he gave it to me. I stopped at second and looked over to see if it was gone and I kept going.”


“We had five opportunities until the last one,” said Dirtbag head coach Mike Weathers. “We didn’t do the job with runners in scoring position. We didn’t do it today until we needed it.”


The Bruins, visibly demoralized, headed back to their dugout to prepare for the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.


But the Dirtbags were still fired up from their win, and the momentum carried over. Vance Worley took the mound for Long Beach, and quickly retired the first eight batters he faced. Worley’s control was spot-on, while Gavin Brooks’ struggles were early and often.


The Dirtbags jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, while barely hitting. Brooks issued nine free passes over five innings, five walks and four hit batters. The Dirtbags took six earned and one unearned off Brooks on only five hits.


Three Bruin pitchers combined for 11 walks on the night.


“[Brewer] did a really good job of keeping us off balance,” Weathers said. “Tonight, they walked 11 guys and hit four, we could kind of sit back and take a lot of pitches and I thought we did a good job with that.”


Worley hit a few bumps in the road, but never lost composure, as he gave up two earned runs and one walk and was two strikeouts away from his career-high of 11 in his first career complete game.


“The team is great about giving me runs back,” Worley said, admitting that he can’t take all of the credit for the win. “If I give up a run, they just get on base the next inning and give another one back.”


Worley picked up his third win on the season, while Brooks fell to 1-1.