May 11, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - Eric Johnson hit a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to score Paul Politi, giving the UC Davis baseball team a 6-5 series-opening victory over Long Beach State on Friday at Dobbins Stadium in Davis.
The Aggies improve to 19-26 overall and 7-9 in the Big West while the Dirtbags, currently in second place in the conference standings, drop to 24-22 and 11-5 in league action.
Johnson capped off a 3-for-4 performance with the RBI base hit, sending a 1-2 pitch from Kyle Friedrichs into the gap in right center field. He also doubled, was hit by a pitch and drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The win came after three hours and 47 minutes as both teams played in 90-degree heat.
"We've preached being relentless all year along and now they're starting to show it," said head coach Matt Vaughn. "We're turning a corner here and they're making it happen on their own. They get it. It happened at Reno this past week. We didn't give up. We put together two or three great at bats, then a fourth and a fifth. It's contagious. A guy gets a hit, then the next guy gets one and they're starting to learn that. It's a fun thing to watch."
Long Beach State responded with a run in the top of the second, then took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third when Juan Avila singled, then Brennan Metzger doubled to send Avila to third. Jeff McNeil's sacrifice fly brought home Avila to give the Dirtbags the lead.
It was a short-lived advantage however as Nick Lynch stepped up in the third inning, sending the first pitch he received from LBSU pitcher Matt Anderson over the left field wall. It was Lynch's fourth home run of the season and his third in the last four games.
Neither team would score over the next three innings as both Anderson and Aggie starter Anthony Kupbens held their opponents. Kupbens retired six straight after giving up the third-inning run, then walked Ino Patron and allowed a bunt single to Avila. He forced Metzger to hit a fly ball into center, but both runners advanced on a passed ball. Kupbens, however, got out of the jam by forcing McNeil to fly out to center to end the inning.
Anderson limited the Aggies to just two hits over three innings as Long Beach State took a 3-2 lead with a run in the seventh. Patron doubled down the right field line, moved to third on a bunt single by Avila, his second of the day, then scored on Metzger's base hit.
Again, UC Davis responded in the bottom half of the frame as pinch hitter Austin Logan drew a walk, then pinch runner Ryan Allgrove moved to second on a wild pitch by Dirtbag reliever Matt Johnson. Tino Lipson's base hit allowed Allgrove to score from second base, tying the game 3-3.
Johnson gave the Aggies a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth after Kevin Barker reached first base on a throwing error by Dirtbag shortstop Matt Duffy and Johnson doubled him home from first.
Harry Stanwyck entered the game in the top of the ninth, relieving Chris Levy, but gave up two runs to Long Beach State. The Dirtbags took a 5-4 lead after Stanwyck walked Patron then gave up back-to-back base hits to Avila and Metzger. Pinch runner Chaz Meadows scored on Metzger's base hit, then Avila gave Long Beach State the lead after scoring on a sacrifice bunt by McNeil.
Popkins was hit by a 3-2 pitch with one out in the ninth to set up Johnson's heroics. After Lynch popped up to short for the second out of the inning, Politi singled into right field to move Popkins to second then Barker's team-leading 13th double of the season brought home Popkins to tie the game at 5-5.
Johnson then stepped in and hit the 1-2 pitch into right center field to score Politi and seal the Aggie win.
Barker was 2-for-3 on the day with two RBI while Lynch and Lipson each went 2-for-5. Politi's ninth-inning single extended his team-leading 13-game hitting streak.
The Aggies and the Dirtbags continue the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Dobbins Stadium.