FULLERTON – Former high school teammates Gerrit Cole and Daniel Renken, both standouts at nearby Orange Lutheran, took the mound as opponents on Friday night.
Renken, who graduated a year before Cole, outmatched his counterpart in the hyped pitcher’s duel to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 6-3 victory over UCLA in front of a season-high 3,335 at Goodwin Field.
Renken, the No. 5 Titans’ sophomore ace, dominated the Bruins (25-25) right from start. He retired the first 14 batters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the seventh frame. Renken nearly tossed a complete game, but failed to obtain the last out.
Cole, on the other hand, labored through his outing. The hard-throwing freshman lacked control in the early going, walking Christian Colon to lead off the first inning. After retiring two batters, Cole nearly escaped unscathed, but senior Jared Clark blooped a single just over UCLA third baseman Casey Haerther’s outstretched glove to score Colon from third. Right fielder Khris Davis continued the two-out rally with a towering home run to deep center field, giving Cal State Fullerton the early 3-0 lead.
The Titans (37-13) tagged Cole for a pair of two-out runs in the second inning to extend their lead to 5-0.
The comfortable five-run edge was more than enough for Renken, who had his no-hit bid broken up by senior first baseman Cody Decker with two outs in the seventh inning. Renken tossed 8.2 innings and allowed six hits to earn his eight win of the season.
Cole, who left the game in the sixth after throwing 102 pitches, allowed six runs (four earned), six hits, and four walks in 5.2 innings pitched. He lost his sixth game of the year.
The first five runs Cole surrendered came with two outs, which turned out to be costly for a Bruin offense that found its stroke late in the game.
Down 6-0, UCLA rallied for a run in the eighth inning and scored two more in the ninth. The Bruins trailed by three runs and no longer had Renken to worry about as pinch-hitter Gabe Cohen stepped into the batter’s box representing the tying run.
Cohen, though, struck out looking at a slow breaking ball from Nick Ramirez to strand two runners and end the game.
The Bruins, who desperately need a series victory against a noteworthy opponent to improve their already slim postseason chances, have work to do at home following the loss in the series-opener. The split-series shifts to Jackie Robinson Stadium Saturday night.
UCLA will look to freshman right-hander Trevor Bauer (8-3, 2.68 ERA) for yet another strong performance, while Cal State Fullerton will counter with a freshman right-hander Noe Ramirez (6-1, 2.91 ERA).
The final of the three-game set will come Sunday afternoon, as Bruin junior right-hander Charles Brewer (3-5, 3.96 ERA) will oppose freshman right-hander Tyler Pill (8-2, 3.61 ERA).