FULLERTON, Calif. — Rain was pouring down, drenching everything at Goodwin Field Friday night.
Cal State Fullerton’s players were doing the dreaded task of putting the tarp on the field. Yet, there was nothing but smiles on the Titans’ faces.
After a rough two weeks that featured a pair of Big West series losses, a 16-inning loss at Fresno State on Wednesday and their head coach being under an administrative investigation, the Titans finally had something to smile about.
For 21.1 straight innings, Cal State Fullerton (19-17, 4-6) had been held scoreless. But with two outs and a pair of runners on base, Tanner Pinkston grounded one up the middle and Jared Deacon raced home from second base to give the Titans a 1-0 win over Hawai’i (15-23, 3-10) in 10 innings.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak, which was tied for the program’s worst at the Division I level. It also allowed the dugout to breathe a sigh of relief at having finally “got the monkey off our back” as assistant coach Mike Kirby, who is filling the head coach role while head coach Rick Vanderhook is on paid administrative leave, said:
Thomas Eshelman did yeoman’s work on the mound for Fullerton, going the distance — all 10 innings — to get the six-hit, shutout victory. The right-handed sophomore got into trouble only once, but made some great pitches to escape.
In the ninth inning, Hawai’i got back-to-back singles after Eshelman had retired 18 of the previous 19 hitters. With runners on the corners, he fell behind Hawai’i three-hole hitter Jordan Richartz 3-0, but battled back to strike him out on an outside fastball. Eshelman then got Marc Flores to fly out to deep right-centerfield to end the inning and the Rainbow Warriors’ biggest threat.
Thomas Eshelman talks about giving his team a chance to win, even if it means going 10 innings. He also discusses this game being a “big momentum swing” and the possibility it could vault the team in the right direction:
Despite Eshelman escaping in the ninth inning. the Titans could do nothing against Hawai’i starter Matt Cooper, who allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out 11 Fullerton hitters through nine innings. New pitcher Juliene Jones didn’t have the same dominance of the Titan lineup in extra innings.
Jared Deacon lofted a fly that dropped less than a foot inside the left field line for a perfectly placed single. Pinch hitter David Olmedo-Barrera followed with a lined shot that short-hopped the shortstop, allowing everyone to be safe.
After a flyout for the second out, Tanner Pinkston came to the dish. With two outs, the middle infield spaced out rather than playing at double-play depth. That was all Pinkston needed as he bounced one up the middle. Deacon hustled home from second base with the winning run.
Here’s the big lefty talking about the win and his walk-off hit:
CBD photographer Shotgun Spratling provides his top photos from the game: