Ti­tans get to pack for trip to Omaha

They earn a spot in Col­lege World Se­ries af­ter los­ing first game of su­per re­gional.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Zupke

The long his­tory of Blair Field has fea­tured lots of high stakes, last-out mo­ments, but per­haps no emo­tional swing was heav­ier than Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Si­lence fell on one side of the ven­er­a­ble sta­dium while frenzy con­sumed the other when Cal State Fuller­ton’s Brett Co­nine struck out David Banue­los for a 2-1 win against Long Beach State that sent the Ti­tans to the Col­lege World Se­ries.

Elec­tric at­mos­phere. Taut drama. Mas­ter­ful pitch­ing and clutch de­fense. Game 3 of an NCAA su­per re­gional ful­filled its prom­ise and packed it with big­ger mean­ing.

“That’s what it’s sup­posed to be like,” Fuller­ton coach Rick Van­der­hook said. “South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is

not like that, at all, and I think to­day was prob­a­bly the most en­er­getic col­lege base­ball game in the his­tory of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that I’ve ever seen in my ca­reer here so far.”

Right-han­der Colton East­man took a no-hit­ter into the sixth in­ning and Co­nine made a six-out save to give the Ti­tans a matchup with No.1 na­tional seed Ore­gon State in Omaha.

Fuller­ton won with two hits. The game win­ner was a two-run sin­gle by Hank LoForte in the fourth in­ning, and Co­nine nav­i­gated eighth and ninth in­nings in which the Dirt­bags put run­ners on third base, only to see the fi­nal snap­shot a Ti­tans dog­pile near their dugout.

“This is huge,” short­stop Timmy Richards said. “There’s no bet­ter way than to do it than to beat them at the field [and] get to go to Omaha one last time.”

East­man won a re­gional-clinch­ing game for the sec­ond straight week in his long­est out­ing of the sea­son at 106 pitches. He didn’t think he would see Omaha when he in­jured his el­bow this sea­son, nor did he care that Long Beach State had won five of six games against Fuller­ton in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“You can have the Big West, but I’ll take Omaha,” East­man said when asked about the mean­ing of his cel­e­bra­tion upon get­ting his last out.

Dirt­bags starter John Sheaks gave up no hits in the first three in­nings to match East­man, and LoForte’s sin­gle was the first hit of the game.

“I think it’s prob­a­bly my big­gest ac­com­plish­ment in my ca­reer,” LoForte said.

It would have been a feat for Long Beach State to reach its first Col­lege World Se­ries since 1998. It man­aged four runs and stranded 28 run­ners in the three-game se­ries.

The Dirt­bags ended a score­less streak at 22 in­nings, from the sec­ond in­ning of Game 1 to the sixth in­ning Sun­day, when a passed ball by Chris Hud­gins al­lowed Jar­ren Du­ran to score.

That was all their scor­ing. Richards made a high­light throw on Laine Huff­man’s grounder to deep short for the first out of the eighth.

Coach Troy Buck­ley said the Dirt­bags chased fast­balls up and took strikes on the outer half of the plate.

“The strike­outs have been a prob­lem for us, it’s just the strike­outs that we had when run­ners were in scor­ing po­si­tion,” Buck­ley said. “You don’t make them play catch. And their de­fense was fan­tas­tic. Their out­field, boy, it looked like there was six guys out there at times.”

Buck­ley and Van­der­hook were frus­trated that the two best Big West teams were forced to play each other to get to the fi­nal eight.

The im­me­di­ate frus­tra­tion for the Dirt­bags, though, was ev­i­dent in Du­ran’s face, smeared with eye black. Asked what it felt like to see the Ti­tans cel­e­brate on their field, Du­ran said, “I can’t say that.”

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

TI­TANS Brett Co­nine, left, Dil­lon Persinger and Chris Hud­gins cel­e­brate.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

CAL STATE FULLER­TON play­ers form a dog­pile af­ter beat­ing Long Beach State 2-1 at Blair Field to win the third and fi­nal game of a su­per re­gional and ad­vance to the Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha.

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