While most Titan fans have their attention turned to the baseball team, an impressive showing at the Easton Tournament by the Cal State Fullerton softball team gave baseball a run for king of the diamond at CSUF.
The Titan softball team went 5-0 in the season-opening tournament that they hosted and upset No. 2 Oklahoma on Friday night. Their 5-0 record extends the team’s winning ways dating back to last season where they won 12 of their last 15 games. This is also the first time the team has started 5-0 since the 2000 season.
Second-year Head Coach Kelly Ford credits a full team effort for their undefeated record in the tournament.
“Our pitching has been outstanding. Pitching combined with the offense, timely hitting. The hitting has been contagious,” Ford said.
At the plate, the Titans were led by sophomore third baseman and CSUF newcomer Missy Taukeiaho. The transfer from University of Washington batted .615 in the tournament (8-13) while belting two home runs and driving in eight runs. The Rancho Cucamonga native also scored six runs and drew three walks in the tournament in addition to playing stellar defense at the hot corner.
In the circle, three Titan pitchers picked up wins during the tournament, including sophomore Jasmine Antunez (2-0), freshman Christina Washington (2-0) and junior Desiree Ybarra (1-0).
The depth of the team at every position allowed Ford to rest some players at the end of games. Getting quick runs was key for the Titans as they scored at least one run in the first inning in four of the five games.
The Titans opened the tournament and their season Friday afternoon against Loyola Marymount. Antunez, the reigning Big West Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year, started for the Titans and didn’t allow a run in her three innings of work on her way to her first win of the season.
The offense caught fire early and often, scoring one in the first and then four runs in both the second and third innings off of 12 hits. The Titans mercy ruled the Lions at 9-0 by playing small ball and running the bases well.
The highly anticipated nightcap against No. 2 Oklahoma was a different story for Fullerton. Long balls were the theme of this game. Antunez once again got the starting nod and quickly gave up a home run to Sooners second baseman Georgia Casey in the first inning. It looked like it was going to be a long night for the CSUF pitching staff but Antunez settled down and retired the next 10 batters she faced.
“I knew it was only the first inning, and so I knew we had a long way to go and I just relied on my defense and offense to help me out,” Antunez said.
Ybarra leveled the game at one in the second inning by turning the first pitch she saw into a line drive blast, which crept over the right-center field wall. Taukeiaho followed in the next frame by crushing a ball towards the scoreboard over the left field fence with a runner on to give the Titans a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Antunez struck out eight in her five innings and then handed pitching duties to Ybarra who didn’t allow a hit in the final two innings to complete the upset and record her first save of the year.
“I wasn’t shocked with this, this was a fantastic win. Their practice has been intense, productive and it’s been mission driven. To see it all come together today was just magical, they deserve it,” Ford said.
The Saturday morning game against Santa Clara was reminiscent of the victory over Loyola Marymount for the Titans. The game ended in a mercy at 8-0 after five innings.
Washington got her first start and shutout the Broncos over her four innings and struck out three. Senior Leesa Harris went 2-for-2 at the plate and the speedy outfielder earned a triple off a hit down the right-field line. Sophomore Monique Wesley came in to pitch in the fifth and slammed the door shut.
Antunez was back in the circle Saturday night against Pittsburgh. She couldn’t fool any Panther bats as she gave up four runs in the first, three of which were earned runs.
The Titans quickly clawed back into the game by scoring two runs of their own in the first, including a solo shot to left field by Taukeiaho. The third base umpire initially ruled it a foul ball, but after a discussion with the other umpires the call was changed to a home run.
“I always wanted to hit the crap out of the ball,” Taukeiaho said. “I had to just be patient and she threw me the one pitch I wanted. I said ‘I want that low and in or low and out’ and I got it.”
Ford called on Ybarra to pitch in the second inning and she shut down the Panthers over the next six innings, giving up only two hits the rest of the way. The Titans tied the game in the fourth with timely singles by Taukeiaho and sophomore first baseman Melissa Sechrest with runners in scoring position.
CSUF took its first lead in the sixth when Taukeiaho forced a run by means of a walk with the bases loaded. With the bases still loaded, senior catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama singled to right field to bring home two more runs. With a three-run cushion, Ybarra made quick work of the Panthers with a 1-2-3 inning to close it out and hand Pittsburgh their first loss of the season.
George Washington was the only team standing in the way of an undefeated Easton Tournament for CSUF. The Titans flexed their muscles once again, scoring four runs in the first with the help of a three-run home run from junior first baseman Eliza Crawford that towered over the right-field wall. Crawford was 1-for-12 in the first four games of the season and was losing confidence before the home run.
“I was mentally in the dump. (My teammates) helped me by saying to just stick with it at practice and the hits will come and it worked,” Crawford said.
Washington struck out four in her five innings of work and has yet to give up an earned run in her nine innings. CSUF tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning off of a sacrifice fly by Tsuchiyama and an error. A passed ball in the next inning scored the seventh run for the Titans. The Colonials avoided being mercied in the fifth inning, but Crawford smashed her second home run of the game to left field in the sixth inning to seal the 9-0 win.
The Titans will next face University of San Diego at home on Wednesday before heading down to San Diego State on Thursday to compete in the SDSU Tournament.
For more information on the CSUF softball team and all Titan Athletics, go to FullertonTitans.com.