Offense comes alive against San Diego

After spotting the visiting University of San Diego (4-5) three runs in the first inning of Tuesday night's game, No. 18 Cal State Fullerton (3-4) answered by scoring a combined seven runs of their own in the second and third innings, getting back on the winning track with a 11-4 victory over the Toreros.

In his first start of the season, junior left-hander Kevin Rath (1-0) earned his first win by rebounding nicely after a shaky defensive first inning, going four innings and surrendering only four hits.

“Kevin handled (the first inning) extremely well,” Head Coach Dave Serrano said. “Kevin is never going to be perfect, but he’s got good enough stuff that he gets himself out of jams. He set the tone tremendously after the first inning.”

In the top of the first, the Toreros capitalized on two uncharacteristic Titan errors – a throwing error by Rath and a fielding error by sophomore first baseman Nick Ramirez – to score three of their four runs.

“(The first inning) was kind of a carry over from what’s been going on; creating our own mess, them putting a three spot on the board,” Serrano said. “It would’ve been easy for this team, with everything going on, to say ‘Oh, here we go again,’ but we responded to it with one in the bottom half, and to come back and score five was huge.”

After scoring a run in the bottom half of the first, the Titans’ offense exploded for five runs on three hits and three walks in the second inning.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that we can put that up at anytime,” Rath said. “I can just come out and throw strikes … the offense putting up those runs is a big confidence booster.”

The outburst started on a one-out walk to freshman right fielder Ivory Thomas which was then followed by a wild pickoff throw to first, advancing Thomas to third. After a hit batsman, junior center fielder Gary Brown knocked in the second Titan run of the game with an RBI single to left-center.

A walk to junior third baseman Corey Jones loaded the bases for the cleanup hitter, Ramirez. A balk by San Diego righty AJ Griffin (1-2) advanced all runners and scored junior shortstop Christian Colon from third which tied the game at three.

Following the balk by Griffin, Ramirez and redshirt freshman Carlos Lopez hit back-to-back RBI singles, padding CSUF’s first lead of the night to 5-3.

Senior catcher Billy Marcoe knocked in the fifth run of the inning with an RBI fielder’s choice.

“Things were clicking,” Brown said. “We were using the walks and our runners on base and taking advantage of the errors and it payed off and turned into a big inning.”

With two outs in the bottom of the third, Brown followed a hit batsman with his first home of the season, a towering two-run shot over the elevated center field wall, giving the Titans an insurmountable 8-1 lead.

“I got a pitch up and got aggressive with it,” Brown said. “He supplied the power and my barrel did the rest. I got lucky.”

The Titans tacked on two more runs in the bottom half of the sixth and added another run in the seventh which increased their lead to 11-4.

Marcoe and Brown had three RBIs a piece while the 3-4-5 batters for the Titans (Jones, Ramirez and Lopez) went a combined 5-10 with six runs and four RBIs.

Junior righty Daniel Renken, sophomore southpaw David Hurlbut, senior righty Kyle Mertins, sophomore righty Derrick Dingeman and freshman righty Dylan Floro combined to hold the Toreros to three hits and one run in five inning of relief.

“We’re still a team that’s trying to find our niche as an offensive team,” Serrano said. “I’m proud of how we handled tonight and took advantage of every opportunity that was given to us.”