LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The Long Beach State Dirtbags three-game series with No. 16 Indiana came to a fitting ending on Sunday as Cameron Pongs' pinch hit single in the ninth lifted the Dirtbags to a 2-1 win and a series win. All three games were decided in the ninth inning or later and were all decided by one run.
Pitching again took center stage through most of the game until Pongs heroic hit capped a ninth inning rally. His game-winning single was the fourth single of the inning for the Dirtbags, who had the bases loaded with two outs when Pongs came to the plate.
The rally started with a scary play when Michael Hill’s line drive up the middle caught Indiana pitcher Jake Kelzer flush on the leg. Hill ended up on first as the caromed away but Kelzer wasn’t able to continue on the mound. He was able to walk off the field under his own power.
Brian Korte came in to pitch and gave up a pinch hit single to Zack Rivera that put runners on first and second with one out. After facing just the one batter, Scott Effross took over on the mound as he had in the previous three games and Zack Belanger immediately came through with a line drive that dropped just in front of the left fielder for a base hit to load the bases.
Indiana again made a quick defensive substitution and put him with the drawn in infielders for a five-man infield. The shift worked well for the Hoosiers as Colby Brenner hit a grounder to the right side but the fifth infielder was there to make a diving play and cut Hill down at home for the second out.
That brought up Pongs, who looked at the first pitch but drove the next one into right center for the game winner. It was the second walk-off win for the Dirtbags in the series and came a day after falling in the 11th.
Pongs would not have had the opportunity to deliver the game-winning hit had it not been for more shutdown pitching on both sides. Jason Alexander was near perfect through seven innings, scattering three hits. With Daniel Jackson catching the only two Indiana base runners trying to steal, Alexander had faced the minimum through five innings.
On the other side, Christian Morris limited the Dirtbags to just one run on six hits to keep Indian in the game. He struck out three before giving way to his bullpen.
Ino Patron, Richard Prigatano and Michael Hill all hit singles to start the fourth inning and Nolan Meadows hit the sacrifice fly to give the Dirtbags the initial lead. They were only able to scratch out the one run in the inning but it looked to be enough for a cruising Alexander.
However, the Hoosiers strung together three singles to start the eighth to tie the game. The first single was another line drive that went off Alexander’s shoulder, resulting in a single for Will Nolden. After surrendering another single, Alexander exited to a huge ovation and gave way to Ty Provencher.
Scott Donley promptly lined a single up the middle to bring home Nolden and tie the game at 1-1. Provencher would retire the next two batters and give up a harmless single in the ninth to earn his fourth win of the season. Kelzer was tagged with the loss.