Even with a valiant pitching effort from redshirt senior Kelsey Kessler, the Cal State Fullerton softball team could not score any runs against the Michigan Wolverines and lost its second consecutive game in the Judi Garman Classic, 2-0.
“We competed at a much better level today. It was a whole different vibe out there on the field,” said Head Coach Kelly Ford. “I think Michigan’s experience took over.”
Kessler threw a complete game for the Titans, going seven innings, striking out five and throwing 113 pitches while only surrendering two runs to a double-digit win Michigan team. The right-handed pitcher took the loss but lowered her earned run average to 2.15.
“They’re just [Michigan] a very skilled offensive team and she did fantastic against them,” Ford said about Kessler’s performance. “She’s so composed out there that I think it calms everybody else.”
Kessler started the game for the Titans and managed to get out of a bases loaded two out threat by striking out Wolverine Tera Blanco to end the top of the first inning.
In their half of the first inning, the Titans went quietly against the starting pitcher Blanco, stranding Lexi Gonzalez at first base to end the inning keeping the score at 0-0.
In her second inning of work, Kessler set the Wolverines down 1-2-3, striking out two batters in the process. Titan pitcher and utility player Trish Parks started at first base Friday night and opened up the bottom of the second with a line drive single into left field and advanced to second on a passed ball.
Parks advanced to third base on a Kylie Padilla groundball to third but was stranded in scoring position after Titan third baseman Emily Randall struck out to end the inning, keeping the game scoreless after two innings.
The Wolverines were set down in order by Kessler in the fourth after nice defensive plays by both Parks and shortstop Shianne Brannan. The Titans started off the bottom of the fourth with an Irieanna Siofele single through the right side of the infield and Parks walk to put runners on first and second with no outs against Blanco. But once again Fullerton could not capitalize with runners on base against Blanco, keeping the game scoreless.
Michigan finally struck in the fifth against Kessler with a Faith Canfield two-run home run to left field to break the tie, giving the Wolverines a 2-0 lead over the Titans.
“If we’re being honest, I did terrible,” Kessler said. “I had defense behind which was great, they really helped. Sammy [Samantha Vandiver] in left looked phenomenal on several plays but I guess it’s finding a way to get through the lineup when you don’t have your best stuff.”
After Vandiver reached on a two out walk for CSUF in the fifth, Blanco was taken out for reliever Megan Betsa, who struck out Gonzalez to end any thought of a Titan rally.
Kessler was sent out for a sixth inning of work and kept the Wolverines from adding to their lead, striking out pinch hitter Amanda Vargas and getting help from a sliding Vandiver catch in left field foul territory.
The Titans sent out their 7-8-9 hitters to try and rally in their last at-bats in the seventh against the strike throwing Betsa but were not able to muster anything. Betsa struck out Padilla for out number one but walked pinch hitter Kenzie Grimes, giving the Titans a baserunner with one out.
Freshman Arianna Burns pinch hit for Ariana Williams but struck out swinging leaving the Titans with only one more out. With the Titans down to their last strike, right-fielder Delynn Rippy struck out swinging against Betsa giving the Wolverines a closely contested 2-0 win.
“Tonight was a great experience for us to prepare us for going into conference play,” Ford said. “We got another great opportunity to get better tomorrow.”
The 8-10 Titans will look to end their three game losing streak Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against the UCLA Bruins in game three of the Judi Garman Classic at Anderson Family Field.