In the final matchup of the season against Long Beach State, two big innings would be more than enough for No. 4 Cal State Fullerton to defeat the Dirtbags 9-4 in a Big West Conference game Sunday afternoon at Goodwin Field.
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, the Titans (39-7, 15-3 Big West) got some help in the form of erratic pitching and a poor defense by Long Beach (21-24, 9-9 Big West). Two errors and a walk loaded the bases for junior Michael Lorenzen, who proceeded to draw a walk of his own, allowing Austin Kingsolver to score from third, tying the game at two.
A pitching change for the Dirtbags would prove to be costly as Ty Provencher, who replaced reliever Nick Sabo (2-3), threw his first pitch in the dirt, resulting in a passed ball that brought senior Carlos Lopez in to score, giving the Titans their first lead of the game at 3-2. Two pitches later, Titan senior Anthony Hutting capped off the inning with a two run single to right field to extend the lead to 5-2.
Hutting led the Titans offense, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
In the sixth inning, Lopez put the game out of reach as he connected on a fastball, sending it over the wall in right center for a three run home run, putting Cal State Fullerton up 8-2.
Lopez, who just missed hitting a home run in his previous at bat in the fifth inning, talked about the feeling of his key home run, his second of the season.
“I thought the first one was over for sure. Maybe the wind caught it, I don’t know,” said Lopez, a candidate for the NCAA’s Senior CLASS Award. “The second one I knew was gone right away.”
For the Titans, they were led on the mound by starter Grahamm Wiest (8-2), who threw seven strong innings, allowing four hits and three runs while striking out six. He explained what was working for him against the Dirtbags after the game.
“Establishing the fastball early, then being able to throw my changeup and slider, that’s a key to my success,” the sophomore right-hander said.
With an offense that collected seven hits on the day and has showed the potential to put runs on the board quickly, the sophomore right-hander noted the offensive attack is a big help to the pitchers.
“It makes it easy,” said Wiest. “It makes it so you can get ahead of batters and just throw normal.”
The victory completed the season sweep over Long Beach State. The Titans went 6-0 against their Big West rival this year, scoring 30 runs and allowing 14 during the season series. This was the 16th sweep in the series history for Cal State Fullerton, who has not lost a series to the Dirtbags since 2008.
It has been a fantastic season for the Titans, but Head Coach Rick Vanderhook knows his squad still has room to improve.
“Scoring runs is the biggest thing for us,” said the second-year Titan coach. “We’ve been winning games two to one, three to two, and our pitchers can’t do that all the time, especially with some freshmen pitchers. You have to take the pressure off of them.”
The Titans will now hit the road for a three game weekend series at Big West foe UC Riverside (18-25, 7-11) that will start Friday evening at 6 p.m.
With nine games left in Big West Conference play, Cal State Fullerton is in sole posession of first place, holding a one game lead over Cal State Northridge, who the Titans will visit to end the season in late May.
For more information on the baseball team and their remaining regular season schedule, visit FullertonTitans.com.
By Johnny Navarette