The Cal State Fullerton Titans put together a good display of hitting, pitching and defense this afternoon at Goodwin Field and came away with an impressive 15-3 victory over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, completing the sweep of their three game Big West Conference series. Freshman Tyler Pill raised his record to 8-1.
Pill faced off with UCSB right-hander Mike Ford, who was the Gauchos' Friday starter last season and had pitched a good game against the Titans until faltering in the late innings. After a scoreless top of the first, the Titans put pressure on Ford in their half of the inning. A walk by Christian Colon and a single by Josh Fellhauer placed runners on the corners with one out for cleanup hitter and resident RBI machine Jared Clark. On the first pitch, Clark lofted a high fly ball drifting deep towards the wall in right-centerfield, which seemed a cinch to carry out of the reach of CF Brian Gump. "Run, Gump, run!" Gump closed perfectly on the ball and made an excellent catch and relay throw back to the infield. Colon tagged and easily scored, but Felly had already rounded second and had to retouch the bag on his way back to first. The Gauchos executed the relay well and he was doubled off first, but the sacrifice fly had given the Titans a 1-0 lead.
The Titans scored a classic small ball run in the second without benefit of a hit: Khris Davis led off with a HBP, went to second on a balk and came around to score on groundouts by Jeff Newman and Billy Marcoe.
Ford and Pill matched zeros in the third and fourth innings. After a scoreless fifth inning, Fullerton came to the plate leading by a slim 2-0 advantage and had just one hit in the game. But by the time the inning was over, Ford needed to be bailed out. Jeff Newman walked to open the stanza, followed by a sharp groundball single into leftfield by Billy Marcoe. Joe Scott's sacrifice put two runners in scoring position: Joey Siddons scored both ducks when his grounder up the middle eluded SS Shane Carlson. The Ford seemed to be out of gas, but erstwhile skipper Bob Brontsema stuck with him. Ford subsequently hit Colon with a pitch and then walked Gary Brown and Fellhauer, the latter scoring the third run of the inning and bringing Clark to the plate with the bases loaded. Reliever Jesse Meaux used one of his nine lives, as Clark smoked a hot shot down the third-base line. 3B Ryan Cavan stuck his glove out and made a great backhand stop: he tagged the bag and threw to first to complete the double-play, limiting the damage to just a 5-0 deficit.
The Titans put the game out of reach in the last of the sixth with a seven run rally. Khris Davis led off with a HBP again, stole second, and advanced on an error and an RBI single by Marcoe. A single by Joey Siddons, an RBI single by Colon and a Gary Brown HBP loaded the bases for Fellhauer, who hit a line drive quite reminiscent of last night's walk-off hit. This one went for a three-run double - and an extra base on an error. Clark's sacrifice fly made it 12-0.
Pill showed his first hint of being mortal in a while in the seventh inning: he gave up a walk, a hit batter and a three-run homer to Steve Cook (his first of the year.) Pill's teammates got the runs back right away, though: Marcoe was hit by a pitch, Siddons singled and Colon launched a towering home run to leftfield.
Kyle Mertins and Ryan Ackland finished up with a scoreless inning each.
So what did we learn today?
First of all, if you read this morning's Los Angeles Times, you may have seen T.J. Simers' wonderful article about 81-year-old Tommy Lasorda being "tireless" as he travels all over the globe supporting our military troops. Tommy is more than a great baseball man; he is a great American. But tireless? The camera doesn't lie.
It was nice to see the Titans convert twelve hits into fifteen runs today. They were aided by four walks, five hit batters and a balk. Fellhauer and Siddons led the way with three hits each, while Fellhauer and Colon each had four RBI.
Last week at UC Davis, Pill was supported by outstanding infield defense. Today, it was his outfield that made several sensational plays. Newman, Fellhauer and Brown each used their speed, quick jumps and good closing skills to make some great catches. The Gauchos hit several balls that had "extra bases" written all over them - they ended up as flyouts in the scorebook.
After all the emotion of last night's game, today's action was quite civil and friendly - even nine hit batsmen could not encroach the bliss of this beautiful sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at the old ballyard.
Coach Sergio Brown was back in action and there were no further histrionics with Phil Benson (pictured left) and Larry Randall (pictured right), last night's chief instigators. One thing that still confuses me: why did Randall wear a chest protector to umpire third base today?
The Titans play two midweek games (Tuesday and Wednesday) against the Arizona Wildcats before heading up the coast to take on the dangerous Cal Poly SLO Mustangs next weekend. That should be a classic series and a great test of just how firmly the Titans have righted their ship.