LOS ANGELES — Coming off its first two losses, No. 10 Cal State Fullerton showed a sense of urgency early and often against USC Wednesday night at Dedeaux Field. The Titans (11-2) scored eight runs in the first two innings enroute to an 11-4 win.
A makeshift USC lineup, decimated by injuries, struggled to put together hits against Fullerton starter Koby Gauna, who picked up his second win of the season. Gauna allowed only three hits and no walks in five scoreless innings before the game turned into a playing-time scrimmage where everyone got an opportunity.
The Titans had no such trouble against Trojans starter Brent Wheatley. They scored three runs in the first inning and added five more in the second inning, chasing Wheatley (7 runs, 6 earned runs on 7 hits) after only an inning and a third.
The Game Changer:
Fullerton got out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Richy Pedroza reached on a throwing error and came around to score on a Carlos Lopez double. Lopez and Chad Wallach would score on Anthony Hutting and Michael Lorenzen RBI singles. However, a 3-0 first inning deficit isn’t insurmountable, especially in a mid-week game.
But the Game Changer was in the second inning when Fullerton was able to tack on five more runs, highlighted by a pair of very different two-run base hits. Wallach scored two with a slow chopper up the middle that was made possible because USC, down 4-0, had brought in the infield. Lorenzen’s two-run triple needed no such fortune. He laced a ball into the right-centerfield gap allowing Hutting and Wallach to score from first and second.
Suddenly, the game went from a still manageable 4-0 to 8-0 in a matter of a handful of pitches. (Not to be outdone by Lorenzen, Hutting later cranked a two-run homer to right field. Both finished 3 for 3 with an extra-base hit and three RBI.)
Best Defensive Play: The rest of his Trojan teammates may not have, but Kevin Swick came to play. The junior third baseman had three hits, including two doubles, and walked, reaching base in his first four plate appearances. But he also made the play of the night, diving into the 5-6 hole to his left and stealing a base hit on a hard grounder by Richy Pedroza. Swick made the stop and then sprang to his feet. With his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, Swick fired across the diamond to get the Titans’ speedy leadoff hitter by a full step.
Best Pitch/Pitcher: Koby Gauna needed only 57 pitches (42 srikes) to get through five innings Wednesday night. He struck out five and allowed three hits, though he only had to face one batter over the minimum. Chad Wallach threw out a runner and Gauna induced a groundball double play to eliminate two of USC’s three baserunners in the first five innings.
Gauna could have easily lost focus or stiffened up on a chilly night at Dedeaux Field following the Fullerton offensive outburst in the first couple of innings. Instead, he stayed locked in and pitched the minimum five innings required of a starter to earn the win without USC even sniffing a legitimate threat. With Gauna and J.D. Davis as mid-week starters/bullpen swingmen, the Titans have the pitching depth that can be a difference maker in a Regional or in the College World Series.
Titans head coach Rick Vanderhook talks about he team’s emotional week following pitcher Nick Hurtado’s death. Vanderhook also discusses the upcoming weekend against Texas A&M and how he’s ready to face the SEC:
USC third baseman Kevin Swick discusses the team loss despite his strong game. He also talks about the Trojans recent rash of injuries:
Fullerton preseason All-American Michael Lorenzen talks about getting off to a quick start and the emotions of former teammate Nick Hurtado’s death:
Cal State Fullerton
- Koby Gauna – 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 K, Win
- Anthony Hutting - 3-for-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI
- Michael Lorenzen - 3-for-3, 3B, 3 RBI
- Chad Wallach – 2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI
- Kevin Swick – 3-for-4, 2 2B, BB
- Timmy Robinson - 2-for-4, 2 R
- Marc Huberman – 2 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K
The Bottom Line:
Dealing with the loss of a teammate is a very emotional time and having dealt with a death as a freshman in college, I know how volatile the emotional process can be for 18-22 year olds immediately following such an event. It’s hard for me to hold Fullerton’s back-to-back losses against them, but the way the Titans responded Wednesday night says a lot about the mental and physical ability of this team.
This was just the type of game Fullerton needed before another tough non-conference weekend series. The big lead early allowed coach Rick Vanderhook an opportunity to rest some of his veteran players and get some at bats and innings for the youngsters. Veterans like Chad Wallach, Richy Pedroza and Michael Lorenzen, who had played nearly every inning in the last four games spanning five days, got some time off before completing Fullerton’s eight-games-in-ten-days schedule.
USC obviously didn’t play its best game, but for a program looking for a revival, it’s hard to compete against top 10 competition when you are struggling to find enough warm bodies to fill out a lineup. The Trojans were missing their starting catcher Garrett Stubbs (concussion), starting first baseman Dante Flores (hamate), starting second baseman Adam Landecker (hamstring) and were without the services of one of their key long-relief bullpen arms, Nigel Nootbaar, because he was thrust into duty on Saturday when Wyatt Strahan was scratched from his regularly scheduled start due to shoulder stiffness.
The Trojans are already without the services of reserve outfielder Omar Cotto Lozada as he recovers from hamate bone surgery. J.R. Aguirre was supposed to join Connor Sullivan in the outfield as replacements for Timmy Robinson and Turner Clouse, who have struggled to open the season, but Aguirre also had to be scratched on Wednesday.
One positive of the injuries is the early playing time freshmen like Blake Lacey and Reggie Southall have got at second base and A.J. Ramirez at first base. The scratch of Aguirre could possibly have got Robinson back on track as well. The bulky left fielder USC has high expectations for, went 2 for 4 with hard-hit grounders through the 5-6 hole and the 3-4 hole in back-to-back at bats after he had started the season 2 for 26.
Also check out the 15-shot photo gallery from Sunday.