Stop me if you have heard this one before. Cal State Fullerton has advanced to the College World Series. The Titans, taking two of three versus rival Long Beach State in the Super Regional, punched their ticket to Omaha for the 18th time with a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Despite coming into this series taking five of six versus the Titans in the regular season, the Dirtbags could not generate enough offense in the long run to pull out the win. They were only able to score a single run over the last 25 innings of their season.
The first game of the series was a rerun of the regular season with LBSU using a great pitching effort to pull out a 3-0 win. #2 starter Darren McCaughan went seven innings and gave up only two hits while striking out seven in the win. They jumped on Titans #1 starter Connor Seabold to the tune of three runs in the opening stanza for the entirety of the scoring in the game. After building a 3-0 lead, the Dirtbags let the pitching staff take it away for a 1-0 lead in the best of three series.
With their backs against the wall, Fullerton had the tall task of facing top Dirtbags starter Dave Smith in the second game. Instead of the low scoring game that everyone expected, the Titans pounced on the star pitcher to the tune of nine runs in only three innings of action. Every starter except Taylor Bryant got at least one base hit in the win, with catcher Chris Hudgins going 3-5 with four RBI from the eight spot. By the time the game mercifully came to a close, it was a 12-0 win for Fullerton and a 1-1 tie in the series.
Meeting again on Sunday in a do or die matchup, the crowd was treated with another classic pitcher’s duel between Colton Eastman and John Sheaks.
Both starters were in control for the first three innings before the Titans finally had a little success. Sheaks lost control early in the inning and hit the first two batters to put two men on with no outs. After a groundout moved the runners to second and third, Hank LoForte stepped to the plate.
The sophomore, batting .253 on the year, connected with a base hit that scored both runners to give the Titans a 2-0 lead after four innings.
Long Beach State was finally able to break a scoreless streak that reached 22 innings with a run in the sixth inning. A base hit by Jarren Duran, a stolen base, and a sacrifice set up a great scoring shot. Instead of needing a hit to earn the run, the Dirtbags got on the board with a passed ball that inexplicably bounced off of the catcher’s glove to the backstop to pull LBSU within one run at 2-1.
The Dirtbags had chances in both the eighth and ninth innings versus close Brett Conine, but were unable to cross the plate. The final out of the game came on a strikeout with the tying run only 90 feet from home, sitting on third base.
It was a tough end to a magical season for the Dirtbags, but that is another story for another day.
In the end, the Titans found a way to play their best baseball of the season exactly when they needed it. Timely hitting and excellent pitching allowed them to sweep the Stanford regional and take two of three versus Long Beach State to head back to the College World Series for the second time in three years under head coach Rick Vanderhook.
The fun of Omaha will be a bit muted as the Titans get the first crack at #1 national seed Oregon State in the opening round. We will talk a bit more about the matchup, but we have a Forgotten in the College World Series, so let’s just sit back and enjoy it for a bit.
Congrats to the Cal State Fullerton Titans on heading to the College World Series yet again.