April 13, 2008

Around the Bases

CBI Live
Turnaround in Long Beach

By Abbey Mastracco



LONG BEACH, Calif. — Walking into Blair Field Saturday, people were starting to whisper about the New York Mets, drawing comparisons of their infamous late-season collapse down the stretch last season to No. 19 Long Beach State’s current skid in which the Dirtbags had lost 10 of their past 11.


But the losing streak came to a halt with pair of two-out triples in the bottom of the seventh by T.J. Mittelstaedt and Danny Espinosa, two Dirtbags who had been severely struggling, that lifted Long Beach (2-3, 19-13) over Big West rival No. 6 UC Irvine (4-4, 22-6) 5-1.


“This is the start of the turnaround, right here,” said Long Beach centerfielder Jonathan Jones. “This is how we play baseball, this is what we do.”


“I was real proud of them,” said Long Beach head coach Mike Weathers. A stark contrast from his comments after last weekend’s series loss to UC Riverside in which he said, “This is a pretty bad team right now.”


“I thought we were competing, we were talking a lot, we were trying to get things going and I thought it paid off,” Weathers said. “I think they’ve been going through a really rough time and they’ve been hanging in there together. They’re grinding through it the best they can.”


Mittlestaedt ripped one to the right center warning track to drive in Jones for the tie and more than made up for the Dirtbags’ fourth inning base-running blunders by sliding into home to score the lead run. Shane Peterson squeezed out an infield single and Mittelstaedt advanced home on the throw to grab the lead.


Jason Corder continued the two-out rally by reaching base on error, and Espinosa came up big in the clutch with a two-RBI triple to the same spot.


An unlikely pitchers’ duel ensued as Bryce Stowell and the struggling Vance Worley, coming off a near career-worst outing in Riverside one week ago, both remained scoreless until the seventh inning when Dillon Bell was driven in by Ollie Linton on a two-out single. But the Dirtbags gave Worley the run support he needed as he cruised through the final two innings, retiring five of six for his second complete-game win of the season.


“I thought Vance just did a heck of a job staying in there,” Weathers said.


Worley gave up one run on eight hits, striking out three and walking one. Last weekend in Riverside, Worley was blown up on the hill, taking the loss as he gave up five earned on 12 hits, giving the right-hander something to prove coming into Saturday’s game.


“I kind of let it build off of last weekend’s game,” Worley said. “I just knew that I couldn’t go out there and have that same outing again.”


While Stowell looked like the more dominant pitcher, striking out a career-high nine on the day, Worley showed his ability to get himself out of a tough inning, as the Anteaters stranded six with Worley on the hill.


Stowell earned a no-decision in the contest, going six innings (he faced one batter but did not complete the at-bat in the seventh) of three-hit ball, surrendering one earned run and walking six.


Bell recorded the only multi-hit game for the Anteaters, going 3 for 4 and scoring their lone run.


Espinosa paced the Dirtbags, going 2 for 3 with his game-winning two-RBI triple. Jones finished 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run.


The two teams are now even in their Big West Conference series at one apiece. The series concludes Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Blair Field. The game will be broadcast on the CBS College Sports Network.