Photos Courtesy of David Cohen.
It’s hard to overlook J.D. Davis on the ballfield. The sophomore is an imposing 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.
However, on the Cal State Fullerton roster, Davis is just another cog in the machine. He contributes on the mound, but Davis isn’t one of the three lights out weekend rotation starting pitchers. While he is a two-way player, he isn’t an All-American stud likely to go in the first or second round of the MLB Draft this year. And though he has home run power, he didn’t hit back-to-back walk-off homers this year.
Instead, Davis is just another key run producer in the middle of the lineup for a top five team primed to make a run at Omaha. On Thursday afternoon, Davis made his contribution in a big way, leading No. 3 Fullerton (46-8, 21-4) to a 5-2 win in the opener of the final Big West series of the season at Cal State Northridge’s Matador Field.
Davis crushed a two-run homer in the third inning to put the Titans ahead for good and he finished off the game with a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning for his third save of the season.
Koby Gauna got the start for Fullerton as typical opening game starter Thomas Eshelman was rested with the Titans having already locked up the Big West title last weekend. Gauna made the most of the opportunity, going seven strong innings for the win.
Northridge (31-24, 15-10) scored two runs in the second inning when Ryan Raslowsky laid down a squeeze bunt that Matt Chapman threw away, allowing Chester Pak to score as well. After allowing a walk later in the inning, Gauna retired the next 14 batters and faced the minimum over the final 5 1/3 innings.
Matadors’ starter Jerry Keel, who has been one of the top Big West pitchers all season, didn’t fare as well. Keel had one of his worst outings of the season. He didn’t make it out of the third inning, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings pitched.
Michael Lorenzen singled home a run in the first inning and chased Keel in the third inning with a double that followed a Chapman sacrifice fly and Davis’ homer. The Titans added a fifth run an inning later on a Carlos Lopez RBI groundout, but that would be all of the scoring.
Brycen Rutherford was great out of the bullpen for Northridge. He pitched the final 6 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits and no walks.
Richy Pedroza finished with three hits and two runs scored for Fullerton. Lopez and Lorenzen each had two hits and an RBI while Pak was the only Matador to record multiple hits.
The teams will continue the Big West series at Matador Field Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. PST. Justin Garza will start for Cal State Fullerton, though he is expected to have a short outing to rest in preparation for the NCAA Tournament, which begins next weekend. Calvin Copping will start for Cal State Northridge.
Check out the 13-photo gallery shot by David Cohen of BHE Photos of the action in Friday’s series opener: