Coming off its eighth consecutive win with a 9-2 blowout victory over San Diego, No. 5 Cal State Fullerton baseball (15-5) heads to Long Beach for a three-game nonconference weekend series against the rival 49ers.
The Titans have won 11 of their last 12 games with the last defeat coming at the hands of Gonzaga in a 1-0 loss on March 10.
Fullerton’s bats have been inconsistent throughout the season but have woken up recently. The Titans have improved from a .220 average in February to a .263 average thus far in March.
In Tuesday night’s thumping of the Toreros, CSUF put up nine runs on 10 hits, including home runs from senior outfielder Hunter Cullen and freshman infielder Zach Weller.
“It was a good win for us. This San Diego team is a good one, we put together some great at-bats tonight,” said Head Coach Rick Vanderhook in a text message after the game.
Weller, who is a graduate of Coronado High School in the San Diego area, had a homecoming party in just his third appearance of the season with three RBIs in two at-bats for the Titans.
“It feels great. It wasn’t too long ago where I played on this field. My last high school game was here,” Weller told Cal State Fullerton Sports Media Tuesday. “I’ve had good mojo so I was really comfortable and I was really glad I got the start here, just good memories here.”
While the Titan bats have come alive as of late, the pitching staff has shown its dominance throughout the season. Fullerton’s pitching finished 2016 with the lowest ERA in the country at 2.22 and have improved upon that mark this season with a 2.05 ERA, ranking third in the nation.
Junior southpaw John Gavin has been an anchor for the Titans on the mound. In his four starts, he has recorded a 3-0 record with a 1.65 ERA and 29 strikeouts. In his last outing, Gavin pitched eight scoreless innings while giving up two hits and striking out a career-high 14 batters.
Following his performance, Gavin was named Big West Pitcher of the Week. One day later, he received an even higher—and unexpected—honor as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named him the National Pitcher of the Week.
“I was feeling, I don’t really know, my girlfriend was the one who told me at coffee, I had zero clue,” Gavin said to the Daily Titan in a phone interview. “I actually didn’t have any idea I was Big West Pitcher of the Week until someone had told me. It was just kind of a weird feeling, I didn’t really know what to do.”
Gavin and the rest of the pitching staff will now have to prepare to take on Big West foe Long Beach State (10-9), which has won four of its last five games.
Fullerton split the home-and-home series with Long Beach last season, dropping two of three games at home in the first nonconference series before avenging the losses by winning two of the three on the road in the conference series.
The two sides have faced similar opponents this year in San Diego State and Arizona State. Fullerton lost to SDSU 5-4 in the fourth game of the season and defeated Arizona State in a two-game mid-week matchup with a combined score of 23-8.
Long Beach lost both of its matchups with the Aztecs in a combined score of 18-7 and were swept by Arizona State 3-0.
The first game of the series against the 49ers is Friday night at 6 p.m. with junior Connor Seabold slated to pitch. Sophomore righty Gavin Velasquez is the projected starter for Saturday afternoon’s game with Colton Eastman out one more week with tendinitis in his throwing arm. Gavin rounds out the group in his typical Sunday starter position.
While it is a nonconference series, the atmosphere won’t be anything less than a typical rivalry game.
“I’m really excited … it is a huge weekend. It is not your average nonconference weekend,” Gavin said. “There’s going to be a lot of energy, there’s going to be a little bit of heckling from each side, but it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think we’re ready for the challenge.”