“That’s the best pitching staff we’ve faced,” coach Mike Weathers said. “I thought we played well. It was a 4-2 game in the seventh inning (of game two, an eventual 11-3 loss. For the third weekend, we found a way to battle against a ranked team, and that speaks highly of the team. “We’re a young squad. For a lot of guys, this was their first time on an airplane or a major road trip. Our young pitchers did a real fine job, and if we catch a few balls, Omar (Arif) allows just one hit (Sunday).” The Dirtbags arrived home from their trip to Houston without a series win over No. 6 Rice but still feeling good about the way they played against a ranked team with perhaps the best pitching staff in the nation. Long Beach State, which hosts UCLA tonight at 6:30 at Blair Field, scored just eight runs in the series but won game one in extra innings and had the game-tying run thrown out at the plate in the finale Sunday. Weathers will start freshman Adam Wilk tonight against UCLA (6-4). It will be the Dirtbags’ (5-4, with one game suspended) 11th straight game against a ranked opponent to open the season. Per usual on early weekday games, the Dirtbags will likely convene a large committee of pitchers tonight. Cal comes in for two games Friday (6:30 p.m.) and Saturday (2 p.m.), and the Dirtbags then have the following weekend off. That will give them time to firm up a replacement in the rotation for Manny McElroy, who is out with a tear in his rib cage. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!