It was a rough weekend for Long Beach State, who had two very disappointing endings. Outside of the Dirtbags’ struggles against rival Cal State Fullerton, it was a very successful weekend in Southern California as SoCal squads won five of the seven other series that were played.
We provided you with live updates on Twitter (@SoCal_CBDaily) throughout the weekend, but here’s a recap of all the weekend action:
League play started up and there were two West Coast Conference series that had a flare for the dramatic with walk-off finishes, so we’ll start there:
#8 Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State — When two rivals get together, even if it is a non-conference series betwixt two conference rivals, all bets are off as anything can happen. After Fullerton dominated the Friday night contest, 6-0, thanks to a 7-inning, 62-pitch, one-hit effort from Thomas Eshelman, the soft Long Beach State lineup came alive to score five runs against Titans freshman stud Justin Garza — the worst outing of Garza’s young career. Ino Patron led the way for the Dirtbags, reaching base four times and collecting four RBI. Jake Stassi was strong for seven innings, but when he turned things over to the bullpen, things fell apart. Fullerton scored five runs in the eighth inning, including runs on a bases-loaded walk and bases-loaded hit by pitch, to take a 6-5 lead and eventually pull out an 8-6 victory.
In Sunday’s finale, Grahamm Wiest had his best start of the season, allowing one run in eight innings while striking out a career-high nine. But Long Beach was able to put runners on second and third against closer Michael Lorenzen and appeared to have tied the game on a one-out sacrifice fly from Eric Hutting. However, an appeal to third base resulted in a game-ending out as the umpires said Michael Hill left third base early when tagging. The baserunning gaffe gave Lorenzen his second save of the series to go along with a 4-for-10 weekend at the plate that included a homer and a double in the first game. One thing did go against the Titans as Matt Chapman sprained an ankle and is expected out for more than a month.
San Diego at Gonzaga — San Diego went on the road to the Pacific Northwest with a chance to solidify itself as the team to beat in the West Coast Conference. Instead the Toreros only solidified our concerns with this team. The defense was atrocious committing nine errors and the starting pitching struggled. Even ace Michael Wagner was roughed up for six runs in the first inning on Friday night before settling in. However, against Marco Gonzales, one of the premier two-way players in the country, it was too big of a cushion to overcome.
San Diego dropped the series, losing 6-1 and 8-1 in the first two games. The Toreros did show their resolve salvaging a win in a crazy, back-and-forth 10-9 series finale that featured seven lead changes, nine errors and 39 players participating. Kris Bryant, who was “held in check” for a 4-11, 2 R, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 3 BB weekend had a three-run double in the seventh, but it was his teammates that picked him up in the ninth inning, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs after he flew out to leadoff the inning.
Pitcher of the Week:
Willie Kuhl (Cal State Fullerton) — It can be hard for a reliever to have enough of an impact in a week to overshadow the strong starting pitching performances that happen each week, but Willie Kuhl did that with a pair of great long relief appearances. Kuhl pitched a career-high 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday against Nebraska after starter Koby Gauna struggled. Kuhl allowed three hits and an unearned run while striking out a career-high eight.
That got his name on the Pitcher of the Week watch list heading into the weekend, but it was his three hitless innings in Fullerton’s come-from-behind win Saturday that helped him win the award. Kuhl kept the Titans in the game and was rewarded with his first win of the season when Fullerton rallied for seven runs in the final two innings. The 6-foot-3 right-handed sophomore now sports an 11.81 K per 9 after four more strikeouts against rival Long Beach.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Eshelman (Fullerton), Jake Stassi (Long Beach), Trevor Megill (LMU), Nick Vander Tuig (UCLA), Grahamm Wiest (Fullerton), John Salas (Northridge).
Player of the Week:
Austin Davidson (Pepperdine) — Even though he is only a sophomore, Austin Davidson is one of Pepperdine’s most experienced hitters. By now, he should know that hitting the ball deep to straight away center is typically a fruitless endeavor at Eddy D. Field Stadium. But it wasn’t on Sunday when Davidson roped a two-run shot out to dead center to top off his strong weekend.
Davidson crushed the ball all weekend, finishing 10-for-14 with seven runs, five doubles, the home run, three RBI and a walk as the Waves swept Santa Clara to move into first place in the West Coast Conference standings.
Honorable Mention: Michael Lorenzen (Fullerton), Kris Bryant (San Diego), Ino Patron (Long Beach State), James Roberts (USC), Ryan Muno (San Diego State), Kyle Ferramola (Northridge)
Caught in ‘The Rundown’
Pepperdine vs. Santa Clara — After needing a pair of close victories (4-3, 7-5) in a doubleheader Saturday, Pepperdine went for the kill shot early on Sunday. The Waves scored eight runs in the second inning…and then added another eight-run frame the very next inning on their way to a 19-4 win. Chris Amezquita propelled the offense from the leadoff spot. He reached base seven times on the weekend and knocked two doubles and two home runs, but the biggest star was Player of the Week Austin Davidson: 10-14, 7 R, 5 2B, HR, 3 RBI.
Cal State Northridge vs. Utah Valley — After scoring four runs late to bust open the first game, Northridge scratched and clawed for three more wins, winning by four total runs, to sweep the four-game set with Utah Valley. Jerry Keel (6 IP, 5 H, ER), Calvin Copping (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER) and Bryce Rutherford (5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) each delivered strong starts for the Matadors, but it was John Salas that really shined. Salas pitched a career-high eight innings, allowing only five hits and no runs as he picked up his first win for Northridge.
The Matadors got a significant boost to the lineup when pitcher Kyle Ferramola was inserted into the designated hitter role. Ferramola delivered two hits in the Frida matchup, including a two-run triple. He followed that with his first two career home runs in the second game Saturday despite hitting only one home run during his high school career. Not to be outdone, Miles Williams blasted his second home run of the series on Sunday after he cleared the batter’s eye in centerfield for a three-run shot Friday.
San Diego State vs. UNLV — It took a pair of last at bat wins, including a walk-off hit by pitch by Jake Romasnki on Sunday, but the Aztecs took the series win over visiting UNLV and sit tied with New Mexico atop the Mountain West standings after two conference weekends. The starting pitching was strong again, allowing five earned runs in a combined 20 2/3 innings. Ryan Muno returned to the lineup since being injured opening weekend and had an immediate impact with two doubles in the series opener. He reached base nine times in the series.
#11 UCLA vs. Cal – Cal scored four runs in the seventh inning Friday night to beat Bruins ace Adam Plutko, but the Bruins bounced back with a pair of close-until-the-end wins to take the series. Pat Valaika had six hits and six RBI in the series and Eric Filia responded after not being in Saturday’s starting lineup. Filia reached base in five of his final seven plate appearances and knocked three extra-base hits after pinch hitting late Saturday. Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson both pitched seven innings and allowed only one earned run combined.
Loyola Marymount at St. Mary’s — If it wasn’t for an offensive outage on Sunday, the Lions would have swept St. Mary’s. LMU’s starting pitching was lights out. Even though his innings without allowing an earned run streak ended at 42 (after an inherited runner scored against a reliever), Colin Welmon improved to 4-1, going 7 2/3 innings. Trevor Megill followed with seven strong, in which he allowed three hits and no earned runs. Aaron Griffin allowed only four hits and one earned run, but took the complete game loss in Sunday’s 2-0 finale.
USC at Washington – With a brief respite from ranked teams on the schedule, the Trojans really needed to pick up a win in Sunday’s rubber match at Washington. But once again, the bullpen’s training wheels had a screw loose and that resulted in a painful crash. Trailing 3-2, Nigel Nootbaar entered in the sixth inning needing to shutdown the Huskies and give the offense a chance. Instead, he recorded only one out and was charged with five runs and the offense could never recover. Despite 25 hits (8 for extra bases) and 15 free passes, the Trojans managed only nine runs in the series. USC couldn’t get the clutch hits, stranding 28 runners in the series. One bright spot was another strong outing from Bobby Wheatley, who picked up the win with eight innings of two-run ball on Friday.