In his 11 seasons as the head coach of Cal State Fullerton’s renowned baseball team, George Horton led the Titans to six College World Series appearances, including a National Championship in 2004.
Among the many who took notice of Horton’s success was the University of Oregon, who lured him north with a guaranteed annual salary of $400,000 after the 2007 season.
Oregon, which has many of its sports teams sponsored by Nike, was in the process of rebuilding its baseball program at that time. The sporting goods juggernaut announced that it would finance a brand-new, $20 million stadium and a “significant travel budget,” according to the Orange County Register.
Now in his fifth season, Horton has transformed the Oregon Ducks into a Division I championship contender. Last year at the helm, Horton guided Oregon to a 46-19 record, finishing third in the Pac-10 conference.
Horton and his Ducks (7-1) fly south to take on Rick Vanderhook’s undefeated Titans (8-0) in a three-game showdown at Goodwin Field beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. The teams also play Saturday at 6 p.m. (Senior Night) and Sunday at noon. Both teams are ranked nationally; the Ducks sit at No. 14 while the Titans occupy the No. 17 spot.
The Titans have equaled their best start in school history by winning each of their first eight games. The 2003 team, which also started 8-0, also managed to compile a 15-1 record through 16 games. That squad belonged to Horton.
CSUF is coming off a three-game sweep at No. 22 TCU that saw the Titans outscore the Horned Frogs by a 20-4 margin. Oregon also has an impressive road sweep this year: a four-game, season-opening dousing of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Since then, the Ducks have won three of four, including a 3-1 win Tuesday at home against the University of Portland.
This three-game series will be the only meeting of the regular season between the Titans and Ducks, barring any postseason play. The teams met only once in 2012—in the NCAA Division I Regional Tournament, at Oregon—with the fifth-ranked Ducks pulling out a 7-5 win. Horton also faced the fourth-ranked Titans in the 2010 season opener, winning 7-3.
Rick Vanderhook, who is now in his second season as Titan head coach, has the chance to match a very special feat that was originally achieved by Horton himself.
When the 2004 Titans swept the University of Texas in the College World Series, Horton defeated his old boss—former CSUF head coach Augie Garrido. Horton was an assistant to Garrido, and assumed the reins when Garrido departed for Texas following the 1996 season.
Now, with the Ducks joining the Titans as perennial contenders, there is a possibility that Vanderhook will face off against his old boss with a title on the line. Vanderhook spent 21 years as an assistant coach at CSUF before his promotion, including all 11 seasons that Horton was Titan head coach.
General admission tickets start at $8 and can be purchased at the Athletics Ticket Office (657-278-2783) or online at FullertonTitans.com.