The LBSU Dirtbags attempted a comeback after freeing themselves from Jared Horns death grip on their offense but were immediately stomped back to the losing column behind the Golden Bears six-run inning.
Bullpen veteran Jared Horn started the game up for the Bears in the first inning. He was being worked into the rotation slowly after suffering from appendicitis at the start of the season.
”The coaches were trying to build me up, pitch count and inning count. this was the first day where they had to trust me a little longer,” Jared Horn said.
Jared Horn dominated Long Beach early in the game, not allowing them to get into any rhythm offensively. Plainly stated, he was on another level despite it not really showing in the stat box.
When he wasn’t striking out his opponents, he was tempting them into hitting his tricky pitches into the ground or in the air.
”I watched the game yesterday and was reading their swings. They seem to ambush fastballs early in the count. They like to swing the bat a lot, and I was just trying to keep it low and in the zone and have them get themselves out,” said Horn. “It seemed to work out.”
The Bears did a tremendous job defensively to keep the infield clean of any Dirtbag footprints in the early innings. Between Horn’s meticulous pitches and the ironclad teamwork of the defense, the Dirtbags couldn’t get anywhere close to second base.
The pitching was so good in fact, there was an unspoken rumbling amongst the ample crowd of Bears fans in the stadium seating they were in witness of a perfect game or at the least a no-hitter unfolding in front of them.
It wasn’t until the top of the fifth when LBSU registered their first hit of the game to kill that previous notion.
Long Beach’s offense laid dormant for much of the game until it awoke an inning later in the sixth. The lead-off Dirtbag batter got under one of Horn’s pitches and took it to left field for a double. To make matters worse, the next batter up took a ball to the thigh and walked to first.
The Dirtbags remembered how to hit again, and it spelled trouble for the Bears slim lead. Both runners were later driven in on a two-RBI single sent to Connor Mack in left field to put LBSU on the board 3-2.
The score became close in a flash, only one run separated the teams from a tie.
They tried to bring home another run, but catcher Korey Lee wasn’t having any of it. The fastball movement from the outfield to infield put Lee directly between the Long Beach runner and home plate. He tagged out the unfortunate player trying to score by standing still like a brick wall resulting in a collision.
In the ensuing inning, Darren Baker and Garrett Nielsen worked together to stack the lead with a double and sac fly, putting Cal up by one more run 4-2.
Horn’s stellar day was over after throwing six full innings. He did more than what could have expected from him, and he headed to the dugout after a successful outing.
Horn only appeared in three games for nine total innings before his stellar performance against Long Beach. In his career-best game, he struck out three and forced Long Beach into a combined 14 ground outs and fly outs. His ERA of the game was on par with his season ERA, only 2.0.
Horn’s replacement, Sean Sullivan almost completely erased his career day. At the top of the seventh in crunch time, he gave up back-to-back singles and then walked another two, giving away a run to Long Beach.
Sullivan was still in a pickle with three runners on base and a one-score lead of 4-3. Long Beach opened Sullivan’s pickle jar and ate it all. The Dirtbags scored two runs off a single to left field to go up improbably 5-4.
For the first time in the series, Cal did not have a lead over LBSU.
The Dirtbags comeback reminded the Golden Bears who they were, power hitters with an attacking mindset. In the bottom of the seventh, they didn’t just put their foot on the gas pedal, they put a cinder block on it.
The scoring frenzy started off with two home runs. Center fielder Cameron Eden and Lee both hit solo homers to inch Cal past Long Beach 6-5.
That’s when their hypothetical gas pedal had reached max acceleration. Cal scored three more runs on three straight plays.
Garrett Nielsen recorded his second RBI hit of the game by driving home Max Flower to make the game 7-5.
Mack brought home two runners with a beautiful ball that dropped inches away from the left foul line and rolled away from the left fielder padding their lead to 9-5.
The last of the damage was from Selma, a player who has really come on in this series. He singled and batted in Mack from second to put a cherry on top of a six-run inning.
Any hope, dreams or fantasies the Dirtbags had of claiming a victory in this series were severely crushed in a disheartening fashion. The Bears clutch six runs would prove to hold as they went on to take back-to-back games from Long Beach.