George Horton's eyes said it all on Monday. They appeared emotionally exhausted under the brim of his Fullerton baseball, having watched his team survive two elimination games a day earlier.
The expectations for the favored defending national champs to win their fourth-straight regional tournament and the added stress of doing it from the losers bracket for the second year in a row would make anyone lose sleep.
With two outs in the eighth inning, the Titans leading 6-2 and the Arizona Wildcats threatening with runners in scoring position and one of their best hitters at the plate, Horton's eyes shifted towards the infield.
"Wes [Roemer] said he still felt strong and wanted the ball. He kept telling me all game ‘its my game coach, its my game coach,'" Horton said of his starting pitcher.
But this time his stare was not meant for the freshman he entrusted the ball and the Titan's season to on two days rest. It was directed towards Roemer's teammates- Horton's trusted middle-infield.
The look Horton got back from shortstop Blake Davis validated his decision to leave Roemer in. The freshman responded by striking out the Wildcat's Jeff Van Houten looking with a sweeping curveball to get out of the inning.
"He probably threw the best sequence to Van Houten in a big spot and that kid's a great hitter." Horton said. "We've had a tough time getting him out. Wes just cut him up."
Roemer exited after giving up two singles to lead off the ninth inning to a standing ovation from the 3654 fans at Goodwin Field. They stayed standing for Titan center fielder Bobby Andrews' diving catch at the wall that turned a potential double into a sacrifice fly.
"We can't let one play beat us. That catch shouldn't make or break us." said Arizona starting pitcher John Meloan of Andrew's catch. "We had 27 outs, and we had to take advantage early in the game."
Vinnie Pestano struck out the final Wildcat batter for his 13th save, giving Fullerton a 6-3 victory to advance to the Super Regionals against Arizona State next week at Goodwin Field.
Roemer, who had a strong outing in a 19-0 win over Harvard on Friday, went eight innings against Arizona, scattering eight hits and striking out five for the win.
"Tonight's game was about Wes pounding the strike zone on three days rest," Horton said of his freshman, who was honored as the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after the game.
The Titans took the lead in the second when Danny Dorn, who led off with the inning with a double, scored two batters later off of Andrew's first of two singles on the day.
Fullerton broke the game open in the third against Meloan, scoring five runs in an inning where Arizona committed three errors.
"I wasn't 100 percent, but I wouldn't want anyone else out there pitching in my place," said Meloan, who was also pitching on three days rest and lasted 2 2/3 innings. "I'm not going to make any excuses. The bottom line is I just didn't get it done."
The Titan getting it done most consistently with the bat was Dorn, who on the weekend went eight for sixteen with 9 RBIs.
The Titan leftfielder went three-for-four with seven RBI and two homeruns in Friday's game against Harvard, which the Titans won 19-0 in front of a crowd of 3604.
The offensive explosion in the opener appeared to leave the Titan bats with little left for Saturday night's game against the Wildcats, the first of three in as many days.
Fullerton jumped out to the early lead when Davis and Justin Turner singled to open up the third inning and Davis scored from second on an Arizona wild pitch and throwing error.
The Wildcats tied the game in the fifth when catcher Nick Hundley took Fullerton starter Ricky Romero's second pitch of the inning over the left-center wall and took a 3-1 lead off an RBI-double and one of two costly Titan errors in the game.
Jordan Brown's three-run home run an inning later off Romero gave Arizona a 6-1 lead and chased the Fullerton ace after six innings.
The Titans scored runs in both the sixth and eighth innings and made a final push in the ninth when catcher John Wilhite doubled to right center with the bases loaded to bring in two runs and make the score 6-5.
But with the bases loaded and no outs, Fullerton failed to bring another run across the plate off of Arizona reliever Melancon.
The Titans stranded 17 runners in the game, 12 of them in scoring position.
The loss put the Titans into both the loser's bracket and the visitor's dugout for a Sunday afternoon game against Missouri, where the Titans trailed 6-5 going into the ninth inning.
It set the stage for Sergio Pedroza's two-run homerun in the top half of the inning to put the Titans up 7-6 and his diving catch along the right-field line in the bottom half with the bases loaded to save the game and keep the Titans alive for a rematch.