With the Mountain West and West Coast Conference tournaments starting up Wednesday and Thursday and crucial weekend series to wrap up the regular season for the Big West and Pac-12, very few midweek games were on the slate this week.
But one game presented a pair of college baseball traditional powers squaring off in a huge bubble battle as the history-rich programs of USC and Cal State Fullerton played with RPI rankings on the line.
The game started in favor of one squad, but made a drastic turn with the assistance of a player nicknamed “Bubbles.”
Find out who came out ahead between the Trojans and Titans and hear the calls from a dramatic final inning in Riverside that featured a pair of home runs. Also, check out photo galleries from all three midweek games.
Cal State Fullerton 15, USC 3
Under Rick Vanderhook, Cal State Fullerton has chosen to celebrate Senior Day in the final midweek game at Goodwin Field rather than during a conference series. In theory, this allows the Titans the opportunity to start seniors that may not be in the normal rotation of players used.
On Tuesday, the Titans (29-22) chose to start senior right-hander Christian Coronado, who had faced only one batter in the last two seasons. Coronado erased the first two men quickly, but then allowed three runs on three hits before having to be replaced by Phil Bickford.
But on Senior Day, you are supposed to rally around your seniors and play for them. The Titans did just that, quickly getting Coronado off the hook. Fullerton batted around, scoring five runs and chasing starter Brent Wheatley after only two outs.
That was just the start of a 17-3 onslaught. The Titans plopped three runs on in the third inning before dumping another seven atop the Trojans in the fourth inning. They added two more in the sixth for good measure.
Senior Keegan Dale talks about the Senior Day victory and how the Titans are playing better baseball, adding, “It feels good to be a Titan again.”
After chasing Coronado, USC managed just five hits the final 8.1 innings. Phil Bickford allowed only one hit in 4.1 innings to pick up his sixth win.
All nine Fullerton starters recorded a hit and a run while seven of the nine Titans also drove in at least one run.
J.D. “Bubbles” Davis stayed on fire, leading the way with a 4-for-4, two-double effort that also included two runs and three RBI. Davis is now 17-for-30 in the last seven games. He is averaging two to three hits, a run, a double and an RBI each game.
Davis talked about his hot streak and his nickname after the game, as well as the protection in the lineup that Matt Chapman creates:
Keegan Dale finished 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs and four RBI. He extended his hit streak to 18 games. Clay Williamson reached three times, scoring three runs, and has now reached base in 24 straight games.
But the Titans’ hottest hitter might just be senior Jared Deacon. He lined a pair of opposite-field singles, scored twice and walked once. Deacon is now 7-for-12 with two walks in the four games since Rick Vanderhook has returned to the Titan dugout.
Fullerton finishes the regular season with a three-game set against Cal State Northridge (18-35, 6-15) at Goodwin Field. The Titans need to sweep the bottom-tier Big West squad in order to have a shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
Head coach Rick Vanderhook talked about the Titans’ offensive approach and what the Titans need to do this weekend:
USC may be in a similar situation, potentially needing a sweep in its final home series this weekend. The Trojans face a much more daunting opponent, however, as they host No. 1 Oregon State (41-9, 22-5).
Here are CBD photographer David Cohen’s top photos from the game:
UC Riverside 8, Grand Canyon 6
Grand Canyon scored three runs in the second inning to take a lead, but UC Riverside (25-26) quickly responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Joe Chavez knocked an RBI double and came around to score on a Devyn Bolasky triple to give the Highlanders back the 4-3 advantage.
Riverside tacked a run on in the fourth inning when Cody Hough knocked a solo homer. The Highlanders appeared to be cruising to a 5-3 victory as the teams traded zeros throughout the middle and late innings. But then this happened in the top of the ninth inning:
Chad De La Guerra blasted a three-run homer to put the Antelopes ahead 6-5. Grand Canyon turned the ball over to Jorge Perez and his team-high three saves. The Highlanders did not go quietly though.
Cody Hough led off with a double and advanced to third on Alex Rubanowitz’s sacrifice-turned-base-hit bunt. But Hough was cut down at home on a ball to third base, leaving Riverside with two men on and one out for the line-drive hitting Bolasky.
(Both of those calls from UC Riverside radio voice and CBD friend, Ghizal Hasan.)
De La Guerra was 2-for-5 with three RBI, finishing with a .373 batting average for the season to go along with 12 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 49 RBI. Josh Meyer reached four times for the ‘Lopes.
Chavez finished 2-for-3 with three runs and an RBI. Hough was 2-for-3 with a double and a homer while Bolasky was the man of the night with a double, a homer and four RBI.
CBD photographer Mark Alexander was on hand for the dramatic ninth inning. Here’s his top photos from the Riverside Sports Complex:
USC 6, Grand Canyon 3
After having the weekend off due to finals, USC set up its rotation to get its two most consistent starters, Wyatt Strahan and Brent Wheatley, a pair of starts in the final week.
Strahan (6-4) did his part on Monday night, pitching 7.2 solid innings (7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) to lead the Trojans to a 6-3 victory. The offense scored a pair of runs in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
Here’s head coach Dan Hubbs talking about the decision to use Strahan and Br. Wheatley twice as well as what he thinks of the Trojans’ postseason chances following Monday’s 6-3 win:
Dante Flores doubled home a run and scored on a wild pitch in the second inning, but had to leave in the fourth inning after getting hit by a pitch that split open the ring finger on his left hand and required four stitches.
After Flores’ hit by pitch put two runners on, the Trojans used three consecutive sacrifices (sac bunt that was muffed, sac fly, safety squeeze bunt) to plate two runs.
The Antelopes manufactured a run in the sixth inning when Paul Panaccione singled, stole second and came around to score on a pair of groundouts. But USC quickly answered with the knockout punch when Kevin Swick ripped a two-run single in the bottom half of the inning.
Grand Canyon manufactured another run in the eighth inning, but didn’t get another runner on base. Kyle Davis locked down his eighth save with two strikeouts in the ninth inning.
Chad De La Guerra and Brandon Smith both were 2-for-3 for the ‘Lopes while Timmy Robinson and Frankie Rios both scored two runs for USC. Swick was the only Trojan with multiple hits.
CBD photographer Shotgun Spratling was on hand. Here are his top photos from the game: