SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After four hours was not enough for No. 18 Cal State Fullerton and No. 22 UC Santa Barbara to decide a victor in their opening game on Friday, the two teams returned to the field on Saturday and split a pair of games decided by a combined three runs.
GAME ONE: CAL STATE FULLERTON 11, UC SANTA BARBARA 9 F/11
With the first game suspended after 10 innings due to darkness on Friday, the two teams returned to the field on Saturday and J.D. Davis blasted a two-run double in the top of the 11th inning to break a 9-9 tie. Davis would make it hold up on the mound, getting the Gauchos (20-8, 2-5) in order to close out the game and give the Titans (18-11, 3-1) the Big West Conference victory.
Davis was 2-for-4 at the plate and reached base five times as he drew two walks and was hit by a pitch. He also earned his second victory on the mound, going two scoreless innings in relief.
Every Titans starter collected at least one base hit as the team pounded out a season-high 18 en route to the victory. Jared Deacon had his first multi-hit game of the season, going 3-for-5 to tie his career high. Greg Velazquez was 3-for-7 while Tanner Pinkston and Clay Williamson each went 3-for-6 with an RBI.
The teams went back and forth through the first five innings, trading the lead three times. Williamson led off the game with a single up the middle and then stole second base to immediately get into scoring position for the Titans. Pinkston had a tough-luck groundout to short, moving Williamson over and then Matt Chapman cashed him in with a groundout to short.
Davis and Velazquez followed up with back-to-back singles and then Davis came around to score when Gauchos shortstop Ryan Clark had the ball bounce off his glove and into the outfield for an error.
But the Gauchos, boasting an offense ranked No. 14 in the nation with a collective .307 batting average, answered right away with three runs on four hits in their half of the first.
The Titans would not be outdone, answering right back with two runs in the second inning to retake the lead. Jared Deacon, Williamson and Pinkston laced three straight singles with one out to plate a run and then Chapman lined a sacrifice fly to right to bring in Williamson with the go-ahead run, putting the Titans up 4-3.
The Gauchos put up another three-spot to retake the lead in the fourth inning, but the Titans answered again with four runs in their half of the fifth inning to take a 9-6 lead but the Gauchos got one back in their half of the fifth and tacked on runs in the seventh and eighth to tie the score.
Robby Nesovic paced the Gauchos offense, going 3-for-5 before being pulled for a pinch runner.
Justin Garza also made his first career appearance for the Titans out of the bullpen, going two innings and allowing one run on one hit and walked a batter. It was his first action since March 8th at Baylor.
GAME TWO: UC SANTA BARBARA 3, CAL STATE FULLERTON 2
Joey Epperson's walk-off single off reliever Koby Gauna helped the Gauchos (21-8, 3-5) pull even in the series, securing the comeback victory Gauchos.
For the Titans (18-12, 3-2), Grahamm Wiest was outstanding on the mound, surrendering two runs, just one earned, on seven hits in eight innings of work, striking out four without issuing a walk in a no-decision.
Domenic Mazza got the victory for the Gauchos, pitching five and 2/3 innings of excellent relief. He held the Titans to just one hit and struck out five.
The Titans jumped on the board first with a run in the third inning after Pinkston sliced a base hit to left, allowing Keegan Dale to score from third base.
But the Gauchos capitalized on a Titans error in the bottom half of the frame as Cameron Newell reached on an error by second baseman Jake Jefferies. Newell was sacrificed into scoring position and then, with two outs, Peter Maris snuck a single up the middle past a diving Jefferies to tie the game.
The Titans would answer right back in the fourth inning as Jefferies, Austin Diemer and Dale collected consecutive hits with one out to load the bases against Gauchos starter Shane Bieber. Deacon drew an RBI walk to give the Titans the lead but then Mazza came in to pitch in relief and erased Williamson with a strikeout and then got Pinkston to foul out to end the threat.
That proved to be crucial as the Titans managed just one hit and two base runners in the final five innings against Mazza.
The score stayed 2-1 until the sixth when Andrew Calica's RBI groundout plated Maris to tie the game. Maris finished the game with a team-high three hits to go along with an RBI and a run scored.
The score was tied until the bottom of the ninth when Newell led off the frame with a single off Gauna. Jackson Morrow then pulled off a successful sacrifice bunt despite having two strikes to bring up Epperson, who lined a 2-1 offering from Gauna up the middle to secure the victory.
Epperson finished the game 2-for-5, both hits coming in his last two at bats after he struck out his first two times up against Wiest. Newell was 1-for-4 on the day, scoring two of the Gauchos' three runs.
Both teams will return to the diamond on Sunday to settle the series with Phil Bickford taking the mound for the Titans while Kenny Chapman draws the start for the Gauchos.
Notes: The Titans 18 hits in the opening game of the series were the most this season, the previous high coming on opening night when the Titans had 17 hits against Washington State… Deacon had three hits for the fifth time in his career in game one, the last time coming on Mar. 24, 2013 against Long Beach State… The Titans are now 4-1 against ranked teams this season after splitting the two games on Saturday… Pinkston had his team-high 11th multi-hit game of the season in the opener against the Gauchos… The Titans have lost three games courtesy of a walk-off hit this season, the last coming on Mar. 29 at Wichita State… Davis' game-winning RBI in the first game tied him for the team lead with Chapman, who both have four game-winning RBIs this year.