The Cal State Fullerton Titans avoided the sweep this afternoon at Sunken Diamond with a 6-3 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. The Titans hitters roughed up Stanford starting pitcher Mark Jecmen for four runs in the first two innings while the trio of Fullerton pitchers in Darric Merrell, Jordan DeJong, and Chad Cordero combined to give up only three runs and eight hits.
The true freshman Jecmen got the ball to start today and was touched up for two runs right out of the gate in the first inning. Titan leadoff hitter Mike Munoz began the game with a hard hit single and after Jecmen retired #2 hitter Chris Stringfellow on a pop-up, Shane Costa belted a double to deep right center scoring Munoz and making the score 1-0. The next hitter, Kyle Boyer, followed up Costa's big hit with a single down the right field line scoring Costa and increasing the lead to 2-0. Jecmen got out of the first without any further damage and appeared to be starting to get into a groove when he retired the first two hitters in the top of the second. But four consecutive Titan hitters reached base on three singles and a walk and just like that it was 4-0 and Jecmen's day was done.
The Cardinal got on the board in the bottom of the third inning off Titan starter Darric Merrell as Arik VanZandt led things off with a single to left. Chris O'Riordan was then hit by the pitch and after both runners were balked to second and third, Sam Fuld grounded out to second scoring Hall and cutting the lead to 4-1. But in the theme of the afternoon for Stanford, the Cardinal were unable to come up with any clutch hitting as Ryan Garko and Jason Cooper were set down without the second run coming across to score.
Carlos Quentin led off the bottom of the fourth inning and promptly smoked a deep home run to left field, his second bomb of the weekend. Brian Hall then reached second base when Merrell threw a ball away and then advanced to third when Merrell threw a ball into center field on an attempted pick-off play. But despite having a runner on third and none out, Stanford could not bring home the run as Scott Dragicevich and Andy Topham both struck out and after a VanZandt walk, O'Riordan grounded out to end the threat.
Meanwhile, John Hudgins who relieved Jecmen in the second inning was dominating the Titan hitters. He put up zeros in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings while allowing only two singles in the process. But the Stanford hitters could not muster much offense against Merrell as they squandered the runner at third, none out situation in the fourth and then had runners at the corners and one out in the fifth, but were unable to put across any runs. Finally in the sixth, Stanford broke through as Dragicevich doubled, moved to third on a Topham single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by VanZandt. That was the end of the day for Merrell as he turned the ball over to the bullpen who went on to shut down the Cardinal hitters over the final three frames.
With the score 4-3, Fullerton added two insurance runs in the seventh inning off Hudgins and Dan Rich. After Hudgins walked the leadoff hitter, he was pulled in favor of Rich who went on to give up a double, sacrifice fly, and a single and all of a sudden the lead was pushed back up to three runs at 6-3. J.D. Willcox came on and put out the fire and then put up zeros in the eighth and ninth innings, but by that time it was too late. Jordan DeJong who after retiring the final two batters in the sixth inning, set down the Stanford hitters 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth innings, and then All-American closer Chad Cordero came on in the ninth to slam the door shut.
Offensively for Stanford, Jason Cooper (2-for-4), Scott Dragicevich (2-for-4), Andy Topham (2-for-4), and Carlos Quentin (1-for-4, HR) had good days. Jecmen picked up the loss while the outing from Hudgins may make Coach Marquess give a serious thought to starting him next Sunday.
Game Notes :
* Stanford continued their domination at home as they won their 16th consecutive regular season three-game series at Sunken Diamond. The last time they dropped a series at home was back in April of 1999 to USC.
* After the first weekend of play the top Cardinal hitters statistically are Jason Cooper (.583, 7-for-12), Ryan Garko (.500, 6-for-12), and Scott Dragicevich (.500, 6-for-12).
* John Hudgins picked up right where he left off at the end of last season as the sophomore righthander threw 4 1/3 innings of relief today, yielding only two hits and one run while walking only one and striking out three.
* Stanford went only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position today.
Fullerton 2 2 0 0 0
0 2 0 0 - 6
Stanford 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 - 3 8 2
Stanford will head out east next weekend as they will take on the 6th ranked Florida State Seminoles in a three-game series.
** My "Super Sixteen" rankings will be updated after next weekend after more teams have started their season.