Originally published on www.csfbaseball.com
GAME 51: TITANS 6, UCLA 5 (10 innings)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The Cal State Fullerton Titans were firing on all cylinders last night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, leading the UCLA Bruins by a 5-0 score before a two-out seventh inning rally capped by a Cody Decker grand slam tied the score. However, the confident and resilient Titans took the Bruins' best shot and eked out a ten-inning 6-5 win in a game that featured power, speed, defense and pitching - both good and bad.
It was a battle between freshmen pitching sensations Noe Ramirez and UCLA's Trevor Bauer, who entered college a year ahead of his high school class. Both represented themselves well and had streaks of brilliance: Noe early in the game and Bauer later.
After a scoreless first inning (one hit for each team, with the UCLA inning ending on a "strike'em out, throw'em out" double-play), the Titans got on the board on the strength of a walk to Khris Davis and a home run to left-centerfield by Dustin Garneau. Bauer allowed a single to Joey Siddons and a walk to Christian Colon, but escaped further damage by retiring Gary Brown.
Noe allowed a second-inning single to Gabe Cohen, but escaped danger when Garneau threw the runner out at second attempting a steal. Could the first two innings have been any better for Garneau: two caught-stealings and a two-run homer?
It looked like it would be a short night for Bauer when Josh Fellhauer led off the third inning with a home run to rightfield, giving the Titans a 3-0 lead.
Noe was breezing along until a double and a single put Bruins runners on the corners with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. But Justin Uribe hit a sharp grounder that 1B Jared Clark backhanded nicely and fired to Colon to start a potential inning-ending double-play. Noe got a late jump covering first, which caused Colon to have to delay his throw slightly, but the shortstop's cannon arm allowed him to get the ball to first in time to complete the 3-6-1 double-play.
It really looked like a short night for Bauer in the fifth inning when he gave up two more runs and fell behind, 5-0. Colon got the inning started with a double, went to third on a sacrifice by Brown and scored on Felly's groundout. Clark then launched one of his classic tape-measure home runs to leftfield.
Noe gave up an infield single and a walk with two out in the bottom of the fifth, but once again came up with the big pitch and got the final out on an easy grounder to Clark.
Bauer seemed to get relaxed: "It's already 5-0, so what have I got to lose?" From the sixth inning on, the tentative pitcher was gone and a confident pitcher with excellent stuff had taken his place. Garneau got a hit and stole third-base in the sixth inning, but Bauer allowed no hits in his final 3 2/3 innings of work.
The bottom of the seventh began innocently enough, as Noe retired the first two hitters with ease, bringing up the #8 hitter: single to centerfield. Up came the #9 hitter - Tyler Rahmatulla - who had earlier doubled and walked. Noe didn't get a close call on a 2-2 pitch and ended up walking him to bring up the top of the order. No problem, right? Wrong.
A hit batsman loaded the bases and a single to left-field made it 5-1: coach Rick Vanderhook took no chances running on LF Brown's arm trailing by four and his team's leading home run coming to the plate. That was all for Noe on this night: Michael Morrison was summoned from the bullpen to face the ever-dangerous Cody Decker. After Mikey Mo took his warm-ups and Decker went through his pre-pitch rituals, the battle began.
It was a very brief battle: Decker launched the second pitch from Morrison deep to centerfield for a game-tying grand slam. The Bruins' dugout and fans went berserk. Morrison did avoid an even worse inning by striking out slugger Casey Haerther to end the inning.
After an easy 1-2-3 eighth inning for Bauer against the Titans, Morrison got ahead of Uribe, but he fought off a 1-2 pitch and punched the ball down the rightfield line for a double: it might have been possible for a triple, but you know that cardinal rule about never making the first or third out at third-base, especially late in the game when it is the possible go-ahead run. Exit Morrion, enter Travis Kelly. Rather than bunting the runner to third, UCLA Coach John "The Sheriff" Savage had Marc Navarro swing away and he did the job perfectly: a groundball to second-base that put the go-ahead (and potential winning) run just ninety feet from home.
Fellhauer led the offense with two hits and three RBI (including the game-winning sacrifice fly). Colon's two doubles were both huge. Garneau had two hits and was brilliant (as usual) behind the plate.