EUGENE, Ore. – In a battle of top-10 teams, it was No. 5 Cal State Fullerton who came out swinging as they used a five-run fifth inning to power past No. 9 Oregon 9-2 Friday night at PK Park.
The Titans (5-3) pounded out 14 hits and got an outstanding start from Thomas Eshelman to take the series opener against the Ducks, handing the hosts their first loss of the year.
The sophomore right-hander had his longest outing of the year for the Titans, going eight strong innings of two-hit baseball. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and allowed just three base runners on the night. Eshelman struck out seven and walked one, his first walk since the NCAA Super-Regionals against UCLA on June 8 last season and just the fourth free pass he's allowed in his career. Eshelman issued his first walk of 2014 after 21 innings. Last season, Eshelman's first walk came in his ninth start of the year after tossing 63 innings without a free pass.
The Titans got to Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe in the third inning. Keegan Dale started things off by lacing a one-out single to right and then Austin Diemer followed with a beautiful bunt-single down the third base line. Tanner Pinkston came up and hit a chopper to first for a potential double-play ball, but A.J. Balta's throw hit Diemer in the back and bounced away from shortstop Kevin Minjares, allowing Dale to come all the way around to score and give the Titans a 1-0 edge.
One inning later, the Titans blew the game wide open as they erupted for five runs on four hits. Jared Deacon got it started by drawing a one-out walk and then Jake Jefferies smacked a single to left. Dale then placed a perfect bunt down the third base line to load the bases for Diemer. The Titans made it 2-0 when Thorpe's pitch got past catcher Josh Graham to allow Deacon to score from third. Diemer then followed with a cue-shot single to the right side of the mound that scored Jefferies. Matt Chapman then came up and capped the inning as he blasted his second home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Titans a commanding 6-0 lead.
Chapman finished the game 2-for-4 with a double to go along with his homer and three RBIs. Dale was 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored, Diemer was 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI and J.D. Davis was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Eshelman did the rest for the Titans, shutting down an Oregon offense that had scored 58 runs through their first eight games and a Ducks team that was off to its best start since the 1963 season.
The Ducks scored two runs in the ninth inning after recording a walk and consecutive doubles off Titans reliever Miles Chambers. Prior to that hiccup, Chambers got the first two men he faced in the ninth; making it nine straight batters the red-shirt freshman had retired in a row to start his Titans career.
Both teams return to the diamond Saturday afternoon as Justin Garza takes the hill for the Titans while the Ducks will look to even the series with lefty Matt Krook on the mound.
Notes: Prior to first pitch, current Ducks and former Titans head coach George Horton was presented with the three jerseys of the team's he has coached en route to 900 wins. Horton won 490 games at the helm of the Titans from 1997-2007… The Ducks were 20-12 against ranked teams at PK Park prior to Friday night's loss to the Titans… The Titans are now 3-3 all-time against Oregon, winning three of the last four meetings… Fullerton stole three bases on the night against Ducks pitchers… David Olmedo-Barrera and Timmy Richards each had pinch-hit singles for the Titans.