After taking game one of the three-game conference series with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, No. 8 Cal State Fullerton baseball fell in the final two games, being outscored 21-10.
Fullerton won the first contest 7-4 Friday night in a comeback victory in which the Titans scored two runs in the fourth, seventh and ninth innings.
Game two was full of ups and downs as the Titans trailed 9-3 heading into the fifth inning. CSUF posted three runs in the fifth to cut the Mustangs’ lead to a manageable three runs. However, Cal Poly answered back with a run of its own in the fifth and three more runs in the sixth inning to take a commanding 13-6 victory.
CSUF lost the third game of the series in disappointing fashion yet again, falling 8-4. The Titans put together back-to-back home runs in the top of the fourth inning, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Mustangs’ early six-run lead.
Single inning struggles
The Titans’ pitching staff has struggled to keep opponents from posting crooked numbers in single innings throughout the season. In its three-game nonconference series against Long Beach State, Fullerton gave up 15 runs in five innings.
The trend continued against San Diego last week when the Titans gave up eight runs in the first two innings of play.
CSUF didn’t end the scattered showers of runs over the weekend against Cal Poly. In game one against the Mustangs, Fullerton gave up all four runs in the bottom of the third inning. Game two was much of the same as the Titans’ pitchers surrendered 13 runs over five innings, with six coming in the third.
Game three saw an onslaught of runs in a single inning for the fourth consecutive game. The Titans gave up five runs in bottom of the second inning, putting them in an early hole that they couldn’t dig out of.
Top of order consistency
Lead off hitter Scott Hurst has raised his averages at the plate throughout the season and continued his success over the weekend against Cal Poly.
In game one, Hurst went 2-4 while drawing one walk and racking up two runs. Hurst put up similar stats in the Titans’ second game of the series, going 2-4 at the plate and recording one run and one RBI.
Hurst has been key for the Titans in the leadoff spot, with a .383 on-base percentage on the year, and a .450 OBP in April. In addition to his OBP, Hurst is also showing off his ability at the plate with a .307 batting average.
Hurst has only gotten better as the season gets into the thick of Big West play, posting a .345 batting average in April.
Following up Hurst in the No. 2 spot is freshman phenom Sahid Valenzuela, who burst onto the scene for the Titans in late February.
With Valenzuela producing for Fullerton on a consistent basis, Head Coach Rick Vanderhook made the decision to move Dillon Persinger to first base to get Valenzuela in the day-to-day rotation.
In game one against the Mustangs, Valenzuela went 3-5 with one run and an RBI single down the left field line that scored Hank LoForte in the top of the seventh inning. This sequence tied the game at four before the Titans went on to pull off the comeback.
Valenzuela leads the Titans at the plate with a .370 batting average, which also ranks second in the Big West.
Like Hurst, Valenzuela has improved his play throughout the season. The freshman started off the season hitting .222 in February and is now hitting .455 with a .475 on-base percentage through 13 games in April.
Titans tinker pitching rotation
With typical Saturday starter Colton Eastman still out with tendinitis in his throwing elbow, the Titans decided to change up the rotation of the starting pitcher. Vanderhook and pitching coach Blake Hawksworth kept the same pitchers on the mound but switched the order around.
Gavin Velasquez, who had been filling in for Eastman, moved to Sunday with southpaw John Gavin moving to the Saturday starting position. The switch didn’t go so well for Fullerton.
Gavin had his worst start of the season, lasting three innings on the mound while giving up eight hits, a season-high seven earned runs and walking two batters.
Velasquez didn’t fare much better in his first Sunday start of the season. In game three of the series, Velasquez pitched three innings, giving up five hits and six earned runs while walking three.
Right-hander Connor Seabold stayed in his Friday spot and had a strong start in game one against the Mustangs. He tossed seven innings and gave up 11 hits and four earned runs while striking out six batters. Seabold now leads the Big West with 69 strikeouts.