Goodwin Field served as a reminder of the past and a glimpse into the future, as current Titans beat the Alumni team in the annual CSUF baseball Alumni game with a bases-loaded walk-off single by first baseman AJ Curtis.
As past Titans took the field, former head coach and member of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, Augie Garrido’s No. 16 graced their backs. The sentiment for Garrido stretched to the patches worn by current players with his picture and number on them.
The camaraderie built on the field was elevated through the competition when the Titans were down by one run after three innings.
“One of them came up and said ‘You guys got to compete,’ and that’s the overall message here. When you think Titan baseball, you hear grinders, but at the end of the day if we don’t compete, we don’t win, so we competed at the end,” said third baseman Hank LoForte.
Shortstop Sahid Valenzuela and catcher Daniel Cope scored in the bottom of the fourth on a double that started the offensive charge from the Titans. With the game tied at one, first baseman Jacob Pavletich hit a sacrifice fly to plate the runner on third.
Within an instant, the Titans took a 2-1 lead against the Alumni squad in the bottom half of the fourth. It was a back-and-forth battle between the Titans and Alumni when outfielder Jackson Lyon flew out to right field to extend the Titans’ lead by another run.
“Every time we come out here, we just try to compete because we know they’re out here trying to beat us so we’re out here trying to compete,” Valenzuela said.
The scoring continued by the Titans with LoForte bringing home the fourth run, as it seemed to seal their victory in the sixth inning.
But the Alumni responded in the eighth when Hunter Cullen scorched a solo home run over the right-field to bring the past Titans within two. The Alumni eventually tied up the game in the top of the ninth, pushing the Titans to the possibility of a walk-off win.
Valenzuela’s biggest hit of the game came at the ideal time for the Titans, as he started the home-half of the ninth by ripping a triple down the right-field foul line. He later scored the winning run off of Curtis’ bases-loaded single to center.
“We need to compete for all nine instead of waiting seven innings to do it,” LoForte said.
Before speaking with former teammates and giving out autographs to fans, the postgame celebrations started with opposing teams lining up to give each other a celebratory embrace. The sight of familiar faces across the field was bittersweet for current players like LoForte.
“It’s bittersweet because I miss playing on the field with (Scott Hurst), but it’s also cool because I’m going to be on that side one day,” LoForte said.
Approaching two years since he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 2017 MLB amateur draft, Hurst has kept in touch with his former teammates, and the CSUF baseball alumni game provided an opportunity to see his family.
“It’s really fun getting to see all the guys and all the other old friends you don’t see for a majority of the year,” Hurst said. “We’re gone for eight months out of the year, so it’s just really refreshing to come back and see everyone and just relax for a little bit.”
Major leaguers Michael Lorenzen (Cincinnati Reds) and J.D. Davis (New York Mets) not only contributed on the field with the bat and glove, but they also offered insight into the dedication it takes to succeed in the majors.
“They talk to us about what it’s like for them in the big leagues, and they’re always out here trying to help us improve our game,” Valenzuela said.
Prior to the home opener against the University of Washington, CSUF baseball will participate in the first annual MLB4 tournament at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Arizona.
CSUF will play against Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia and Texas Christian University starting Feb. 15 as MLB will showcase four of the top baseball programs in the United States.