FULLERTON, Calif. — No. 4 Cal State Fullerton defeated rival Long Beach State, 3-2, behind freshman starter Thomas Eshelman Friday night at Goodwin Field. Eshelman picked up his eighth win of the season, going seven strong innings, including wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out the side.
In the fifth inning of a 2-1 game, Colton Vaughn led off with a triple that got hung up in the right field corner. Eshelman struck out Colby Brenner but hit Jeff McNeil. After McNeil advanced to second on a wild pitch, Eshelman showed his maturity pitching with an open base.
He attacked Jeff Yamaguchi early in the count getting a 1-2 count. Yamaguchi then spoiled a pair of pitches with foul balls. With two runners on and first base unoccupied, Eshelman was going for the strikeout. He tried to get Yamaguchi to strikeout on a breaking ball in the dirt. Instead of the K, Eshelman threw three consecutive balls, something that’s happened only a handful of times this season. Yamaguchi walked to load the bases for Juan Avila and Ino Patron — two of Long Beach’s hottest hitters.
But they were not hot on this night as Eshleman struck them both out to end the threat and rob the Dirtbags (21-22, 9-7) of a huge opportunity to swipe the momentum. Austin Kingsolver followed with a leadoff home run high off the netting behind the right field fence to put Fullerton (37-7, 13-3) up 3-1.
Long Beach State trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the seventh inning as Vaughn led off with a double and scored after a sacrifice bunt and a Jeff McNeil sacrifice fly. That proved to be the Dirtbags final baserunner as Eshelman finished off the seventh inning. Relievers Koby Gauna and Michael Lorenzen each pitched 1-2-3 spotless innings to close the game out. Lorenzen collected his 14th save of the season.
Lorenzen also drove in Fullerton’s first run of the game. With runners on the corner, he hit a hard chopper toward the hole on the left side, bringing home the run.
The Dirtbags tied the game 1-1 in the third inning. Vaughn led off with a single and eventually came home on a RBI single by Yamaguchi. But the Titans immediately answered back.
Carlos Lopez lined a double into the left-centerfield gap for Fullerton’s first hit off Long Beach starter Shane Carle. Zack Rivera got full extension on a diving attempt but came up short. He didn’t have much time to catch his breath as J.D. Davis hit a screaming liner to nearly the same exact spot. Rivera tried to make a sliding catch this time, but the ball bounced by him for a double.
Lopez was the only Titan with multiple hits as he later doubled inside third base. Vaughn finished with three hits and both of Long Beach’s runs while Rivera also had a multi-hit game.
Carle took a tough-luck loss to fall to 2-8. He grinded through 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs (two earned). He did walk five batters. Eshelman allowed seven hits and struck out six in his seven innings.
Check out the 16-shot photo gallery from Friday night’s rivalry game at Goodwin Field: