Ti­tans’ sea­son ends in Omaha

Walks doom Fuller­ton, which is un­able to pro­tect a lead at World Se­ries.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Zach Helfand

Rick Van­der­hook’s strat­egy was al­ready in mo­tion as he jit­tered in the dugout, un­able to stand still. His de­ci­sion would ei­ther pro­long Fuller­ton’s sea­son, or end it.

In the sev­enth in­ning of a Col­lege World Se­ries elim­i­na­tion game Mon­day, Fuller­ton led Florida State by one run. There were run­ners on sec­ond and third and no outs. Re­liever Blake Work­man jogged in. The Semi­noles’ No. 3 hit­ter, Jackson Lueck, waited. He was Florida State’s best hit­ter, bat­ting .320 with nine home runs.

So Van­der­hook or­dered Work­man to walk him.

In­ten­tion­ally load­ing the bases was ag­gres­sive: It put trust on Work­man — and tremen­dous pres­sure. And so as the count ran full on the sub­se­quent bat­ter, Van­der­hook paced. He chomped, hard, on his chew­ing gum. He laughed ner­vously.

Work­man threw ball four, and the score was tied. Van­der­hook ar­gued, earned an um­pire’s warn­ing, walked up the tun­nel and back. Work­man went to a full count on the next hit­ter, and walked him, too.

The walks would be Fuller­ton’s un­do­ing. The Semi­noles never sur­ren­dered the lead. They won 6-4 and sur­vived to play another day. The Ti­tans couldn’t pro­tect another Col­lege World Se­ries lead — once again pow­ered by short­stop Timmy Richards — and their sea­son ended.

Fuller­ton is al­ways a con­tender to make it to Omaha, but this sea­son’s team was not a fa­vorite. The Ti­tans failed to win the cham­pi­onship of the Big West Con­fer­ence for only the sec­ond time in seven years. But they blitzed through the NCAA tour­na­ment, dis­patch­ing Pac-12 Con­fer­ence power Stan­ford in a re­gional and then ri­val Long Beach State, the Big West cham­pion, in a su­per re­gional.

The Ti­tans have now lost nine World Se­ries games in a row, span­ning to 2006. Van­der­hook is 0-4.

“I knew how dif­fi­cult it was to get here,” Van­der­hook said. “But it’s even more dif­fi­cult to get here and win.”

He added: “Nine in a row. Well, I can say at least we’re here to lose nine in a row.”

Fuller­ton starter John Gavin lasted only 31⁄3 in­nings and walked four, but he lim­ited Florida State’s po­tent of­fense to two runs, one earned.

Mean­while, Fuller­ton man­aged only one hit and the Semi­noles led 3-1 by the sixth in­ning, when the bounce of a base­ball changed the game. Florida State cen­ter fielder J.C. Flow­ers ran in for a low line drive with two outs and a run­ner on. He dived. His glove plucked the ball inches from the grass. But his col­li­sion with the ground rat­tled the ball loose, scor­ing a run and ex­tend­ing the in­ning.

The next bat­ter, Richards, now rep­re­sented the go-ahead run. He spied a break­ing ball hang­ing high and over the plate. He swung hard enough that his back­swing thumped the back of his uni­form be­tween the num­bers. The ball easily cleared the wall in left field.

On Satur­day, Richards had hit a three-run home run in the first in­ning against Oregon State to boost the Ti­tans to an early lead. Now, his two-run home run had given Fuller­ton new life, and the lead.

“You get three runs. You get up,” first base­man Dillon Persinger said, adding that the Ti­tans “wanted a shut­down in­ning to get the mo­men­tum on our side.”

How­ever, it was not the last time an er­rant bounce in the out­field swung for­tunes in this par­tic­u­lar game.

In the next in­ning, with a run­ner on, Fuller­ton left fielder Chris Prescott tracked a ball headed to­ward the fence, leaped and snared the ball in his glove. But as he smacked off the wall, the ball bounced free.

It put two run­ners on in the sev­enth in­ning, and Van­der­hook went to the bullpen. Then he set­tled on his strat­egy.

Van­der­hook’s de­ci­sion was con­sis­tent with the pro­gram he runs. The team prides it­self on be­ing ag­gres­sive. His pitch­ers pride them­selves on com­mand.

“We didn’t throw strikes again,” Van­der­hook said. “We didn’t do it for the last cou­ple of days. A lot of pitches. We def­i­nitely got to know the field here at TD Amer­i­trade [Park] be­cause the last two games I think these guys stood out in ev­ery inch of their po­si­tion for longer than any­body in the his­tory of the two games that we played.”

The 3-2 ball that tied the score was a curve­ball.

“I said go ahead, throw a 3-2 ham­mer,” Van­der­hook said. “Be­cause if he throws it for a strike, strike three.”

But the ball got away, and so did the game.

Nati Harnik As­so­ci­ated Press

GAVIN VE­LASQUEZ (42) and Con­nor Se­abold com­fort each other af­ter Fuller­ton’s loss.

Matt Miller As­so­ci­ated Press

FLORIDA STATE’S Cal Raleigh, left, is safe at home af­ter avoid­ing the tag by Cal State Fuller­ton catcher Chris Hud­gins in fourth in­ning.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.