FULLERTON, Calif. — Coach George Horton’s squads have always been known for their pitching, strong defense, putting pressure on the defense and the ability to take advantage of other teams’ mistakes. On Friday night at Goodwin Field, it was the school that he formerly coached that did all those things to Horton’s Oregon team.
Thomas Eshelman pitched his first collegiate complete game and improved to 3-0 as Cal State Fullerton’s Friday night ace as the No. 17 Titans (9-0) knocked off No. 14 Oregon by a score of 8-2 despite only six hits.
Eshelman was lights out, allowing only four hits and two runs in the nine-inning, 95-pitch effort. Senior Anthony Hutting led the offensive support for the freshman. Hutting singled home a run in the fourth inning to tie the game and hit an inside-the-park home run two innings later. Fullerton scored seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings — three runs on one hit in the fifth inning and four unearned runs in the sixth.
The Game Changer:
The Ducks and Titans traded runs in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Cal State Fullerton took control. But the game changer wasn’t a big hit (though Hutting had two of those) and it wasn’t the two wild pitches and passed ball that scored all three Fullerton runs in the inning. The game changer occurred before the runs scored.
Chad Wallach led off the inning with a single. With the game tied, Clay Williamson came up in a bunt situation. On the first pitch, Willamson was given a green light and fouled a pitch off. Attempting to bunt on the next pitch, Williamson pulled the bat back and watched an outside pitch be called a strike. The sophomore outfielder was now down 0-2 and wouldn’t be risking a foul bunt strikeout to try to advance the runner.
Instead of a sacrifice, Williamson was eventually able to move the runner by getting himself on base. He grinded out a nine- or ten-pitch at bat, fouling off close pitches and laying off some nasty sliders in the dirt from Oregon starter Jake Reed. Finally, with the count 3-2, Williamson took a pitch up and out of the zone to draw a walk.
Keegan Dale sacrificed both runners over and a pair of wild pitches scored both Wallach and Williamson. Richy Pedroza, who also was walked by Reed, also scored in the inning without a hit to give the Titans a 4-1 lead that Eshelman would not surrender.
Best Defensive Play: Both teams were pretty solid with the exception being an error by second baseman Aaron Payne, who had a ball go under his glove and right between his legs with two outs in the sixth inning. Fullerton scored four unearned runs in the inning as a result. But while the defense was solid, there was no jaw-dropping Web Gems on display.
The Fullerton outfield was particularly strong, especially with the speedy duo of Michael Lorenzen and Williamson roaming two-thirds of the grass. Williamson made the catch of the night with a running snag of a liner heading toward the warning track in the second inning to keep the game hitless.
Best Pitch: Thomas Eshelman’s entire repertoire. The fearless frosh mixed his pitches well keeping Oregon off-balance throughout the night. According to Eshelman, the scouting report was that Oregon took a lot of fastballs so the Titans stuck with a steady diet of fastball/changeup that had the Oregon players struggling to put together a rally.
“We tried to keep getting one more inning and then one more inning, but towards the eighth and the ninth, he came in and said I’m going,” head coach Rick Vanderhook said. “His pitch count was good, so it was like, ‘Go. You want to do it. Show us you can do it.'”
Eshelman did exactly that retiring nine of the final ten batters in the four-hit, complete game.
Fullerton freshman Thomas Eshelman talks about allowing his first earned run of the season, his faith in his teammates and his first collegiate complete game:
Titans head coach Rick Vanderhook talks about the strike-throwing Eshelman and his poise and then touches on the importance of winning on Friday night in a big series:
Cal State Fullerton senior outfielder Anthony Hutting talks about his inside-the-park home run and the importance of winning on Friday nights:
- Ryon Healy – 2-for-4, 2B, RBI
- Darrell Hunter - 2.1 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K
Cal State Fullerton
- Thomas Eshelman – 9 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
- Anthony Hutting – 2-for-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, HBP
- Richy Pedroza – 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB
- Clay Williamson - 1-for-3, 2 R, 2 BB
The Bottom Line:
The Titans continue to get great starting pitching (Eshelman now has a 0.87 ERA after allowing his first two earned runs of his career) and even when the starters give up a run or two, they know the offense has their back. In Fullerton’s four home games, the opposition has plated runs in six innings. All six times the Titans have answered in the home half of the inning with at least one score.
Cal State Fullerton has also yet to trail at the end of an inning this season. You can’t lose if you never trail.
Fullerton is off to a great start to the weekend. As Vanderhook said, there’s a reason your best pitcher is out on the mound on Friday nights. But Oregon will fight back in the final two games. George Horton-coached teams don’t cower.
The Ducks definitely didn’t play their best game. The three-run inning when none of the runs scored on hits was very typical of what Horton’s squads do to people (such as the Ducks’ 6-1 win on two hits against Loyola Marymount last weekend), not what is done to them. Expect the Ducks to come roaring back in the final two games of the series.
Also check out the 15-shot photo gallery from Sunday.