FULLERTON– No. 8 Cal State Fullerton baseball has three nonconference games remaining on its schedule and will get its first chance to finish that slate strong when facing the University of San Diego for the third time this season in Lake Elsinore Tuesday.
The Titans have trampled the Toreros by a combined score of 21-4 in their previous two matchups and will send pitcher Joe Wills to the mound for a third run at the USD starting lineup.
Wills has pitched 10.2 innings against San Diego this season, surrendering 10 hits and four earned runs. Head Coach Rick Vanderhook is hoping Wills can give the Titans enough under unique circumstances
“Not a lot of guys in college pitch against the same team three times in one year, but we’ll go out and let him get his innings in,” Vanderhook said. “Hopefully, the other guys come in and do good and we can score one more run than them.”
Outscoring the Toreros hasn’t been a problem for the Titans in their last two matchups due to the contributions of San Diego natives Chris Hudgins, Daniel Cope, Zach Weller and Zach Weisz.
Those four have combined for eight hits, eight runs and eight RBIs in the Titans’ previous two games against San Diego.
Leading the way for San Diego in hitting is Hun Mercado-Hood, who has posted a team-high batting average of .368, with a slugging percentage of .699.
The Titans will take the field at 6 p.m. in Lake Elsinore before heading to San Luis Obispo to take on Cal Poly for a three-game series starting Friday at 6 p.m at Bob Janssen Field.
Vanderhook said outfielder Ruben Cardenas (lower back) and shortstop Timmy Richards (groin) will both miss the Titans’ game against San Diego, but he said that both are expected to play in the Titans’ weekend series against Cal Poly.
Right-handed pitcher Colton Eastman—who has been battling an elbow injury—is a longer way from returning, although Vanderhook said he’s making progress.
“It’s week-to-week. It’s weeks away, but it’s not weeks away from getting on the mound,” Vanderhook said. “We got to get him on the mound quite a few times before he’ll get in a game.”
The Titans are 2-1 in Eastman’s three appearances (two starts) this season after winning the Louisville Slugger Freshman Pitcher of the Year award last year, but he has not played since February.
Bryant Freese contributed to this report.