LONG BEACH, Calif. — Jeff McNeil singled home the tying run in the sixth inning and put Long Beach State ahead with an RBI single in a three-run eighth inning as the Dirtbags defeated Wichita State 4-1 Friday night at Blair Field. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for Long Beach State.
Long Beach’s offense has struggled recently, scoring only eight runs and averaging less than five hits during its losing streak, but the Dirtbags knocked 11 hits on Friday. McNeil led the way with four singles and Michael Hill added two hits, including a two-run triple.
Starting pitcher Shane Carle shut down the Shockers attack, allowing only three hits in seven innings, but he didn’t factor in the decision. Instead, Josh Frye got the win with a scoreless eighth inning. Jon Maciel picked up the save despite needing a strikeout and groundout to end a bases loaded threat.
The Game Changer:
After Josh Frye followed up Shane Carle’s seven strong innings with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, pinch hitter Zack Rivera got the eighth inning rally started with a single through the middle with the assistance of a super hop off the grass that bounced over the outstretched dive of Tanner Dearman. A walk put runners on first and second for Jeff McNeil, who head coach Troy Buckley said has recently had a number of good at bats go unrewarded.
That wasn’t the case Friday night. On a 1-1 pitch, McNeil got out in front of an off-speed offering and rolled over the pitch. Already playing closer up the middle with the double play potential, Dearman didn’t have a shot after he failed to get a good jump on the ball off the bat. The ball found its way through the right side and into the outfield. Attempting to quickly come up with the ball and fire home, right fielder Michael Mucha overran the ball and McNeil was able to move up to second base, putting a pair of runners in scoring position for the team’s top hitter this season, Michael Hill.
Hill ripped the first pitch he saw down the line in right field and hustled all the way around to third for a two-run triple that provided two insurance runs that kept the Long Beach faithful from having to hyperventilate through the ninth inning when Wichita State loaded the bases with one out before beginning of the season Friday night starter/newly appointed closer Jon Maciel closed it out with a strikeout and a weak grounder to second base.
Best Defensive Play: In baseball, the ball always finds you, especially when you are a late inning substitution. With the bases loaded in the ninth inning, outfielder Josh Guerra, who entered the game as a pinch hitter a half inning prior, and Alex DeGoti, a defensive replacement at second base, would be tested.
Batting left-handed Erik Harbutz shot a Jon Maciel fastball the other way. Guerra got a good jump on the low, hard liner and was able to make the catch in front of his chest as he slid to his knees. If Guerra would have misread the ball or if a little more slice would have tailed the ball away from him, all three runners likely would have scored. The ball would have rolled to the wall and the centerfielder would have had to chase it down and fire it in. Harbutz would then have been in scoring position with the winning run.
After Guerra’s catch kept Harbutz from clearing the bases, DeGoti was tested on a slow chopper that Maciel missed as he came off the mound. He scooped it up and flicked it under his left arm to Jeff Yamaguchi, beating Garrett Bayliff by half a step to end the game.
Best Pitch/Pitcher: Head coach Troy Buckley said after the game he didn’t think starting pitcher Shane Carle had his best stuff. If that’s the case, Carle has no-hit potential if he ever has his best stuff. He dominated a strong Wichita State lineup that entered with six starters batting above .300, compared to Long Beach’s one. Carle allowed only three hits and an unearned run while striking out seven batters.
The transfer from Cabrillo Community College was up to 91 mph with his fastball early, settling in between 87-89. His slider wasn’t as hard-breaking or forceful as Troy Buckley would have liked to have seen, but the Shockers couldn’t hit the 76-78 mph pitch. Carle also mixed in a 79-81 mph changeup to keep Wichita State off-balance.
Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley talks about Shane Carle’s strong outing, Jeff McNeil’s quality at bats, Jon Maciel’s conversion to closer and the offense finally having some opportunities:
- Casey Gillaspie – 1-for-2, 2 BB
- Cale Elam – 6 IP, 8 H, ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Long Beach State
- Shane Carle – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, BB, 7 K
- Josh Frye – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Win
- Jeff McNeil – 4-for-5, R, 2 RBI (incl. GWRBI)
- Michael Hill – 2-for-5, 3B, 2 RBI, SB
The Bottom Line:
It doesn’t take a lot of offense from the Dirtbags, but they have to have someone step up and produce. Middle infielders Jeff McNeil and Michael Hill appear to be two guys that are going to set the table at the top of the lineup. Both had strong at bats, working Wichita State’s pitchers and not chasing balls out of the zone.
Now there needs to be a couple of guys behind them step up. Ino Patron (.243) and Jeff Yamaguchi (.273) have to produce more. Despite being in the heart of the lineup for the majority of the season, they have only eight RBI combined. Richard Prigatano has had a better start than his freshman campaign, but the Dirtbags need him to live up to the top prospect billing he had coming out of high school. He struck out two more times Friday to give him 20 in 72 at bats this year.
If Long Beach State could somehow scrap together five runs per game, they would win a lot of games because of how much Troy Buckley is able to get out of his pitchers. Already this season, the Dirtbags have dropped five games where they’ve allowed four runs or fewer.
Wichita State has to show it can hit strong pitching as the Shockers were 11-5 entering the series, but had yet to face a staff as strong as Long Beach’s, according to coach Gene Stephenson. It will be interesting to see how they perform the rest of the series.
Also check out the 21-shot photo gallery from Tuesday night’s game Friday night’s series opener.