SAN LUIS OBISPO - Cal State Fullerton managed just four hits and committed three costly errors as they dropped their series opener against No. 3 Cal Poly 8-0 Thursday night at Baggett Stadium.
The Titans (18-14, 3-4) dropped their third consecutive game while the Mustangs (32-5, 9-1) picked up their eighth straight win.
The Titans fell behind in the first inning after reigning Big West Conference Player of the Week Mark Mathias fisted a double over third to begin the ballgame. Garza got the next two outs but Brian Mundell lined a single up the middle to plate Mathias and give the Mustangs the 1-0 lead.
The Titans tried to answer back in the fourth inning as they got back-to-back hits from Tyler Stieb and Matt Chapman. But with J.D. Davis up to bat, Stieb was back-picked by Imhof at second for the second out of the inning. A few pitches later, Chapman took off for second on Imhof's first move and was picked off to end the Titans threat.
Chapman finished the game 1-for-4 while Stieb was 1-for-2 before being lifted in the fifth inning.
The pickoffs proved to be costly as the wheels came off for the Titans in the bottom half of the inning. The Mustangs capitalized on three errors by Cal State Fullerton to plate six runs in the frame. Zack Zehner led off with a single and then Ryan Drobny reached on an error in center field. The runners each advanced 90 feet when Jared Deacon's attempted pickoff throw to second bounced into shallow center on the ensuing at bat and then catcher Chris Hoo cashed them in with a two-run single.
Mathias then had an infield single and Jordan Ellis walked to load the bases and bring Nick Torres to the plate. The Mustangs right fielder laced a single to right and then the ball got past Titans outfielder Tyler Stieb and rolled all the way to the wall. All three runners on base scored along with Torres on the three-base error to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead.
That was all Mustangs starter Matt Imhof needed as he allowed the Titans just two hits in six and 1/3 innings pitched. He walked four and struck out nine to earn his eighth victory of the year.
For the Titans, A.J. Kennedy and Timmy Richards each had a hit to round out the team's offensive output on the night. Tanner Pinkston drew a walk in the seventh inning to reach base in his 16th consecutive game.
Justin Garza took the loss in his first start since March 8 at Baylor, going three and 1/3 innings and allowing seven runs, just four earned, on nine hits. He walked one and struck out two as he suffered just the second loss of his Titans career.
The teams return for game two Friday night as Thomas Eshelman takes the mound for the Titans while the Mustangs will trot out Slater Lee.
Notes: The six-run fourth-inning by the Mustangs was the biggest inning by a Titans opponent this season… The Mustangs had 16 hits on Thursday, the most by a Titans opponent this season. Washington State had 15 hits against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 15, the second game of the season…Keegan Dale's six game hitting streak was snapped…Thursday was the first time the Titans were shutout in conference for the first time since April 14 of last year against UC Santa Barbara.