FULLERTON, Calif. – In the longest game in No. 3 Cal State Fullerton's 39-year NCAA Division I baseball history, it was San Francisco's Brendan Hendriks who put the visiting Dons up for good with a home run in the 19th inning to score a 6-5 victory over the Titans Friday night at Goodwin Field.
Hendriks launched a home run to right field off Titans (2-3) reliever Willie Kuhl to break a 5-5 tie that had been in effect since the top of the sixth inning. It was Hendriks' first home run of the season for the Dons (3-2) and his first hit of the game. He had been 0-for-7 when he came up to hit in the 19th.
Kuhl was tagged with his first loss of the season after going three innings in relief. He came on after Koby Gauna put forth another spectacular appearance for the Titans after entering the game in the eighth inning.
The junior right-hander set a new career high with nine innings pitched and eight strikeouts. His previous high in innings pitched came at Cal State Bakersfield on Feb. 17 of last season when he tossed seven and two-thirds while his previous high in strikeouts came last week when he pitched four and two-thirds innings of relief against Washington State and fanned seven hitters.
In 13.2 innings pitched this year, Gauna has a 1.32 ERA and 15 strikeouts with just two walks.
Friday night's game had its share of milestones for both teams. It was the game in Dons history and their pitching staff combined to record 21 strikeouts, also a new record. For the Titans, Matt Chapman and J.D. Davis set new individual records for at-bats in a game with eight apiece. The team's 62 at-bats were also a record.
The 19-inning game was the longest in Titans history, surpassing the previous record of 16 which happened on three separate occasions, the last on March 28, 2008; a 7-6 against UC Riverside at Goodwin Field.
Tanner Pinkston smacked a single to lead off the eighth inning, but that turned out to be the last base hit of the game for the hosts. Despite that, the Titans had almost had the game won in the 13th inning.
Senior Greg Velazquez got on to lead off the inning after he was hit by a pitch. Austin Diemer followed with a walk to put the winning run in scoring position. A.J. Kennedy attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but Dons first baseman Zack Turner charged the bunt and wheeled around to make a perfect throw to get the lead runner Velazquez. Jake Jefferies then hit into a fielder's choice to erase Kennedy and the Titans had men at the corners with two outs.
That's when Dons pitcher Houston Hibberd appeared to throw a wild pitch as he faced freshman Tyler Stieb, bringing in Diemer with the apparent game-winning run. But the home plate umpire ruled the pitch hit Stieb and awarded the Titans left fielder first base and forced Diemer to return to third. Freshman Taylor Bryant then ran the count full but struck out on a high fastball and the Dons escaped the inning.
Hibberd went seven and a third innings of relief for the Dons to earn his first victory of the season. He allowed no hits, walked one and struck out six.
Abe Bobb drew the start for the Dons and went seven innings and allowed five earned runs but also set a new career high with 10 strikeouts.
The Titans got on the board first way back in the bottom of the third inning when Stieb laced a one-out single through the left side of the infield. The freshman left fielder then swiped second and advanced to third on catcher Ryan Matranga's throwing error. Bryant walked to give Chapman a two-on, one out situation. The Titans third baseman then roped a double down the left field line to bring in both Stieb and Bryant, giving the hosts a 2-0 lead. A couple of batters later, Tanner Pinkston came through with a two-out single to left to bring Chapman in and expand the lead to 3-0.
The Dons answered in the fourth inning when Nico Giarratano got on with a one-out single. Bradley Zimmer then followed with a mammoth two-run home run off Titans starter Thomas Eshelman into the trees overlooking right field to cut the Titans lead to 3-2. The home run off Eshelman was the second the sophomore right-hander has surrendered in his career and the first since Feb. 15 against USC, his first career start.
The Titans got those two runs back in the bottom half of the frame thanks to some two-out hitting. Clay Williamson had led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third by Jared Deacon. After shortstop Timmy Richards struck out, Stieb stroked a single to left to bring in Williamson.
But the Dons locked the game up at 5-5 in the top of the sixth thanks again to Zimmer. Matt Sinatro and Giarratano reached on back-to-back one-out singles and then Zimmer got to Eshelman again, this time blasting a bases clearing triple to right center to make it 5-4 and then Zack Turner's sacrifice fly on the ensuing at-bat drew the Dons even.
Zimmer finished the game 2-for-7 with four RBIs and a run scored.
Eshelman's final line was very uncharacteristic as the sophomore surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, both career highs. He did record five strikeouts, pushing his season total to 13.
The two teams will return to Goodwin Field on Saturday night with sophomore Justin Garza taking the bump for the Titans while the Dons counter with lefty Christian Cecilio.
Notes: This was the first ever meeting between San Francisco and Cal State Fullerton in the Titans 39-year history playing NCAA Div. I Baseball… Bryant finally recorded his first official at-bat in the seventh inning, grounding out to third. In five previous plate appearances he drew a walk including three times to start Friday's game… Titans pitchers did not allow a walk until the top of the 15th inning… Both teams combined to strike out 36 times…The Dons did not make any substitutions for any of their position players for the entire game.