Cal State Fullerton baseball jumps to No. 5 in the country

In Sports
(Bailey Carpenter / Daily Titan)

Coming off its first three-game series sweep of the season, Cal State Fullerton baseball (14-5) jumped two spots in the Baseball America Top-25 rankings to No. 5. The team will take its talent on the road for a matchup with San Diego Tuesday.

The Titans have won 10 of their last 11 games and are riding a seven-game win streak heading into their matchup with the Toreros.

“I’m proud of the way our team has battled and grinded,” said Head Coach Rick Vanderhook. “We’re just going to have to keep playing good baseball.”

Fullerton’s hot start to the season hasn’t come against weak opponents. Nine of the Titans’ 14 wins came against teams that made regionals in last year’s College World Series. Fullerton is also 3-1 against top-25 ranked teams.

In addition to the team’s strong performance over the past two weeks, left-handed pitcher John Gavin was named Big West Pitcher of the Week after giving up two hits, no runs and striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings in Sunday’s 1-0 win over New Mexico.

The Toreros are 13-4 on the season with several victories against high-caliber programs including single games against Oregon, UC Irvine, UCLA and USC. San Diego also began the season with a win over Vanderbilt, but lost the series. The Toreros’ two series wins have come against Tulane and Portland.

“San Diego is always a tough place for us to play,” Vanderhook said. “They’re nationally ranked and they won’t be backing down from anyone.”

The Toreros are ranked No. 23 by D1 Baseball, which ranks Fullerton at No. 6. San Diego is not ranked by Baseball America.

Senior first baseman Roman Garcia leads San Diego at the plate with a .333 batting average and six home runs, tied for first in the West Coast Conference. Garcia’s 13 RBIs rank second on the team to junior catcher Riley Adams’ 15 in 61 at-bats.

In the opposite dugout, Fullerton is led by redshirt junior third baseman Taylor Bryant, who is posting a .383 batting average, ranked fifth in the Big West. Bryant also leads the team with 14 RBIs. No other Titans have hit double digit RBIs.

Neither team is crushing its opponents at the plate. Fullerton is posting a .246 batting average compared to San Diego’s .248.

CSUF has been earning many of its victories behind its seasoned pitching staff. In 2016, the Titans boasted the best ERA in college baseball at 2.22. So far this season, Fullerton has improved on that mark with a 2.05 ERA, ranking third in the nation.

The Titans pitching staff is anchored by the junior southpaw Gavin, who is 3-0 in his three starts this season with a 1.65 ERA and 29 strikeouts, ranking third and fifth in the Big West, respectively.

The probable starter for the Titans Tuesday night will be first-year transfer Joe Wills, a righty with a 3.60 ERA and two wins on the season.

San Diego will likely send Miles Sandum to the mound to slow down the Titan bats. Sandum has struggled to keep runners from crossing the plate in his four appearances, giving up 16 hits and 10 earned runs in 13.1 innings.

Tuesday night’s game against San Diego at Fowler Park will be the first of an eight-game road swing for the Titans before returning home to Goodwin Field to play UC Davis on April 7.

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