The Cal State Fullerton softball team lost to UC Riverside, 6-0, Sunday at Anderson Family Field.
The loss marked the Titans’ first series loss of the season. CSUF went into the Sunday afternoon match with the series still hanging in the balance after splitting the doubleheader on Saturday.
Head Coach Kelly Ford gave the ball to Jasmine Antunez to start the rubber match for the Titans (24-16-1, 5-4 Big West). Antunez made her 20th start of the season and entered the game with a team-high 97 innings pitched and almost six strikeouts per game.
Antunez struck out senior center fielder Dionne Anderson to open the game. She then gave up her team-high 11th home run to freshman first baseman Karina Romero.
“They were a really aggressive team and we just didn’t make our adjustments soon enough,” senior catcher Ariel Tsuchiyama said.
Antunez ran into trouble again in the second inning when she allowed a leadoff single and a walk to start the inning. Junior shortstop Kris DeAnda hit an RBI double to give the Highlanders a 2-0 lead.
Junior Alyssa Raza started in the circle for the Highlanders (21-21, 2-7 Big West). Raza leads the Highlanders in innings pitched (143) and earned run average (3.18) while also leading the Big West Conference with 27 starts. She continued her excellent season on Sunday.
Raza scattered five hits in her sixth scoreless outing of the season while recording her first complete game shutout.
“She just placed it well. She figured out real quick where our weakness was and kept exposing it,” Ford said. “She did such a good job of sticking to her plan and exposing that weakness.”
The Titans were making solid contact off Raza but they could not find holes in the Highlander defense.
“Their outfield was ridiculous. They were throwing money throws at every opportunity, taking every potential hit away with just playing great defense,” Ford said. “Hats off to them. They put together a great series.”
“We just couldn’t catch a break,” Tsuchiyama said. “Every solid hit that we thought we had, they dove and caught it.”
Tsuchiyama got one of the Titans’ five hits Sunday. She extended her hitting streak to a career-high nine games. She had five hits in 11 at bats in the series and recorded a double in all three games.
“I’ve just been trying to simplify things a lot,” Tsuchiyama said. “Hitting behind Missy (Taukeiaho) isn’t an easy task but I’ve just been trying to keep it simple and do what I can.”
Ford pulled Antunez after just two innings and gave the ball to freshman Christina Washington. Washington coasted through her first two innings in relief but her defense let her down in the top of the fifth inning.
Anderson singled and stole second base on the ensuing pitch. Romero then reached first on a fielding error by sophomore third baseman Missy Taukeiaho. Anderson’s stolen base was her 37th of the season, good for tops in the Big West.
The Highlanders remained aggressive on the basepaths and executed a double steal, moving two runners into scoring position. Sophomore designated player Ashley Ercolano singled to drive in a run and freshman second baseman Haley Harris hit a sacrifice fly to extend the Highlander lead to 4-0.
Sophomore catcher Natalie Sanchez hit a double to drive in Ercolano to extend the lead to 5-0. Ford brought in sophomore Monique Wesley to finish the frame. Washington allowed three runs in her outing but only one was earned.
Wesley allowed a sixth inning home run to freshman right fielder Sommer Wilson that ended the scoring for the game.
“It lights a little fire under our butts. We might have had a little bit too much confidence. I think it really humbles us and now we have to get to work and figure out what we’re going to fix,” Tsuchiyama said.
The Titans hope to bounce back against Long Beach State in a three-game series starting Wednesday.
For more information on the CSUF softball team and all Titan Athletics, go to FullertonTitans.com.