Long Beach– No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (15-7) clinched its first three-game series loss of the season after giving up eight unanswered runs to rivals Long Beach State (12-9) in a 8-5 blowout loss at Blair Field Saturday. It was their second straight defeat after losing to the Dirtbags Friday.
The Titans struck first, recording three runs in the top of the third inning. Dillon Persinger drove in catcher Chris Hudgins from third base on a sacrifice fly to left field to put CSUF on the board. One batter later Timmy Richards blasted a two-run home run over the left field wall to add to the Titans early lead.
Fullerton appeared to be in good shape heading into the bottom of the fifth inning with a 3-0 lead, but the Dirtbags were able to answer with a four run inning, starting off with a solo home run by the leadoff batter David Banuelos.
Following Banuelos’ home run, Laine Huffman singled left center field. Second baseman Jarren Duran stepped to the plate and rocketed a pitch to left field for an RBI triple that brought home Huffman from first.
Left Fielder Tristan Hildebrandt should have been able to make a play on the ball, but took a few missteps forward, which allowed the ball to get over his head and Huffman to round the bases.
Pitching coach Blake Hawksworth decided to go to the bullpen after the triple by Duran, bringing Maxwell Gibbs in relief of Gavin Velasquez. However, Gibbs couldn’t stave off the hot bats of Long Beach, immediately giving up the tying run on a ball that was hit right to him, but that he was unable to find after knocking it out of the air.
Two batters later, Lucas Tancas hit a RBI double to left field to give Long Beach the 4-3 lead that they never looked back from.
Long Beach continued its hot play at the plate in the sixth inning as they put up another four runs on the Titans. Banuelos once again homered over the left field wall, this time a two-run shot to give the Dirtbags a 6-3 lead.
Later in the inning Tancas recorded his third hit of the afternoon with a two RBI shot down the left field line to bring home Duran and Huffman, giving Long Beach a 8-3 lead while racking up his third RBI of the contest.
Four runs is tied for the most runs given up by the Titans in a single inning all season, and the Dirtbags put up four runs in back-to-back innings. In addition, eight runs and 15 hits are the most given up by Fullerton in a game this season.
“We got to limit the big inning. We’ve given up runs in four innings but we’ve given up 14 runs in four innings. You can’t give up big innings, it just doesn’t work,” said Head Coach Rick Vanderhook.
The Titans tried to muster a comeback late in the game. Hudgins was able to drive in designated hitter Nico Pacheco from third on a groundout to third base to cut Fullerton’s deficit to 8-4 in the top of the seventh.
CSUF’s big chance to attempt a comeback came in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs. Titans leading hitter Taylor Bryant stepped in the box but was unable to get anything going as he struck out for the second time of the afternoon.
One batter later Pacheco drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to make the score 8-5 but recorded the second out of the inning in the process. Sahid Valenzuela made solid contact with the ball before ultimately lining out to center field, ending the Titans’ best opportunity to rally.
“We only got two hits after the third inning so it’s tough to score. We set the table but we didn’t get any good swings we didn’t get any runs,” Vanderhook said.
The Titans return to the diamond for the third and final game of the series against Long Beach Sunday at 1 p.m.