FULLERTON, Calif. — On Cal State Fullerton’s Senior Day, it was nearly junior Matt Orloff who was the hero. With two outs in the ninth inning and the tying run on third base, Orloff rocketed a ball down the third base line that was headed into the left field corner for extra bases.
But UC Riverside third baseman Alex Rubanowitz pivoted with his right foot, pushed off with his left and made a full-extension dive and watched the ball bounce into his glove less than a foot inside the foul line. Rubanowitz sprang to his feet. With his back foot toeing the chalk some five feet behind third base, he fired a strike across the diamond that popped into first baseman Vince Gonzalez’s glove just before Orloff’s foot plodded onto the base.
It was an unpleasant end to Senior Day at Goodwin Field for the Titans (33-18, 15-6). But it was a fitting finish to a tense 1-0 pitcher’s duel between Sunday starters Dylan Stuart and Grahamm Wiest.
Both pitchers went the distance. Stuart scattered six hits and pitched around a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning when he issued his only two base on balls of the game. Wiest took the tough luck loss despite striking out seven and allowing only three hits.
But Riverside (21-28, 9-12) made those hits count, getting two in the seventh inning. After failing to bunt a ball toward third base with Fullerton’s infield playing him in a pull shift, left-handed hitting Kyle Boudreau lined a long single into the right-centerfield gap. Nick Vilter moved Boudreau into scoring position with an excellent sacrifice bunt to third base.
Rubanowitz didn’t just supply the defense. He followed Vilter with a double just inside the first base line. Fullerton’s Carlos Lopez wasn’t able to produce the diving stop Rubanowitz would later. Boudreau came around to score from second without a throw.
It was all the run support Stuart needed. He improved to 7-6 on the season with his 126-pitch shutout. He faced only two batters over the minimum through the first 7 2/3 innings. With two out in the eighth, Derek Legg collected his second single. He advanced to third following Stuart’s back-to-back walks, but the sophomore southpaw was able to wriggle free, getting Greg Velazquez to fly out to right field.
Legg was the only player with multiple hits. Vilter finished 0-for-1 but reached base twice — once by walk and once on a hit by pitch. Vince Gonzalez was twice hit by pitches for Riverside while Fullerton’s Richy Pedroza (1-for-3, BB) was the only other Titan on base multiple times.
With the loss, Fullerton’s lead over Long Beach State in the Big West Conference fell to only one game. The Titans now have to win next weekend’s showdown series between the two rivals to take the conference outright. If Long Beach State wins two of three, the teams would be co-champions but the Dirtbags would earn the automatic NCAA bid due to the head-to-head conference play tiebreaker.
Check out the 26-shot photo gallery from Sunday evening’s Cal State Fullerton/UC Riverside matchup below: