FULLERTON, Calif. – The Titans didn't pick up a hit in the bottom of the 11th, but they didn't need to. Jared Deacon received ball four from Nebraska's Josh Roeder with the bases loaded, as No. 8 Fullerton defeated the Huskers 8-7 on Tuesday night at Goodwin Field.
The game had been knotted at 7-7 since the top of the eighth, and the teams combined to leave five runners stranded from that moment until the bottom of the 11th.
Roeder (0-1), the sixth Nebraska (6-12) pitcher to take the mound, drilled Austin Kingsolver to lead off the bottom of the 11th before walking J.D. Davis. Kingsolver stole third and Davis moved to second on Matt Chapman's pinch-hit groundout to put runners on second and third with one out. The Huskers then intentionally walked Michael Lorenzen, loading the bases with one away for Carlos Lopez, but Lopez could not end the game, instead popping up in the infield.
Roeder and Deacon then battled to a full count, before the Titans' (17-3) starting catcher was issued ball four.
Deacon finished the game with a 2-for-4 effort, while also scoring a run. Batting in the second spot of the lineup, Kingsolver hit 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Davis batted 3-for-4 with a run scored. Lorenzen drove in three runs on a 3-for-4 night, while Keegan Dale batted 2-for-3 with a RBI and run scored.
Cal State Fullerton senior Michael Lopez (1-0) earned his first win in a Titan uniform, and he needed just one pitch to do it.
With a runner at first and two outs in the top of the 11th, Lopez entered the game in relief of Tyler Peitzmeier. Michael Lopez delivered a strike in his first offer to the plate, and Deacon was able to quickly respond and throw out Rich Sanguinetti in his attempt to steal second.
The Titans, now 17-3, are off to their best start since 2003.
Cal State Fullerton had to work for behind from the start of the game as Nebraska took a 4-0 lead in the second inning, scoring four runs on five hits and two errors. Two base hits and a bunt single loaded the bases with no outs, and Nebraska's Taylor Fish pushed the Huskers first run across on a groundout.
The inning continued as Richy Pedroza's fielding error kept the Titans from recording their second out while Josh Scheffert scored. A bunt moved runners over to second and third before Pat Kelly's infield chopper scored Blake Headley, but another throwing error – Fullerton's third miscue of the game – also permitted Bryan Peters to score from left field as the Huskers claimed a 4-0 lead. Only two of the runs scored in the inning were earned.
Fullerton committed a season-high five errors in the game.
The Titans matched the Huskers with a four-run frame of their own in the third to even the score. Fullerton did all of its damage with two outs as the Titans had runners on second and third with two away before scoring. Kingsolver lifted a drive to left center to drive in Austin Diemer and Dale as the Titans cut Nebraska's lead in half. Kingsolver was able to move to second on the throw home, and to third on a passed ball before Nebraska starter Luke Bublitz loaded the bases by walking Tanner Pinkston and Davis. Bublitz faced one more batter before exiting the game, surrendering a two-out, two-run single to Lorenzen that evened the score.
In four innings of action, Fullerton starter Koby Gauna allowed six runs – only three earned – on 10 hits in four innings of work.
Five pitchers appeared in relief of Bublitz. The right-hander tossed two and 2/3 innings allowing four runs on five hits and two walks.
Right-hander Willie Kuhl pitched a season-high four and 2/3 innings in relief for the Titans, recording a new season-high eight strikeouts, which also matched a career high for the sophomore. Kuhl surrendered one unearned runs on three hits while issuing just one walk.
In the fourth, Nebraska took a slim 5-4 lead manufacturing a run as Sanguinetti reached on an one-out single, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout before scoring courtesy of Michael Pritchard's RBI single knocked back up the middle.
Fullerton responded to retake the lead, 6-5, with a two-run effort in the bottom of the fourth. Caleb Hawkins, pitching in relief of Bublitz, issued a leadoff walk to Deacon, and he moved to second on a wild pitch. Diemer singled to keep the inning alive and put runners on the corners for Dale. The second baseman hit a deep fly ball into foul territory giving Deacon enough time to score from third on the sac fly. Diemer moved to second on the play, and scored the go-ahead run when Pedroza roped a single back up the middle.
Nebraska evened the game at 6-6 in the sixth thanks to a fourth Titan error. Chad Christensen led off the inning with a single and moved two bases as Kuhl's throw on an errant pickoff attempt that traveled wide of first. He scored unearned on a Blake Headley's sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Fullerton went ahead 7-6 when with the bases loaded, Michael Hoppes drilled Lorenzen, forcing Kingsolver home from third.
In the eighth, once again, the game pulled even as Austin Darby led off the frame with a single and moved to third after stealing second compounded by a throwing error before scoring courtesy of Josh Scheffert's knock into left field.
The Titans and Huskers will play the finale of a four-game season series at 6 p.m., Wednesday at Goodwin Field.
Notes: Tanner Pinkston made his first career start at first base…J.D. Davis, who has made 17 starts in 2013, got the nod at third base for the first time this season…Fullerton's four runs in the third marked the fifth time the Titans have scored at least four runs in an inning in 2013…the four runs the Titans allowed in the second matched the most runs Fullerton had allowed in a single frame in 2013…Fullerton's five errors were a new season high and the most for the Titans since committing six vs. Fresno State on Feb. 10, 2002…Willie Kuhl pitched a season-high four and 2/3 innings and totaled a season high eight strikeouts which matched his career best… Fullerton's 17-3 start is its best since the 2003 club started the year with the same mark…Fullerton played its first extra-inning game of the season…Fullerton's four-run deficit was the biggest deficit the Titans have overcome in 2013.