FULLERTON, Calif. - For the third time in the last four games, the Cal State Fullerton pitching staff recorded a shutout victory as the Titans blanked UC Riverside 6-0 in a critical Big West Conference contest Saturday night at Goodwin Field.
The Titans (25-21, 8-9) were involved in their fifth shutout in the last six games, winning their third game during that stretch. The Highlanders (21-24, 9-8) were held scoreless for just the third time this season and the first time since they lost 8-0 at UC Irvine on Mar. 28.
Sophomore Justin Garza shut down the Highlanders offense on Saturday night. The Ontrario, Calif. native went eight innings and scattered six hits. He did walk a season-high three batters but offset the free passes with six strikeouts.
Koby Gauna came in to pitch in the ninth to seal the shutout, allowing one hit but then getting the game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Garza had to work hard to preserve the shutout early on as Joe Chavez and Devyn Bolasky led off the game with back-to-back singles. That brought up Francisco Tellez, the Highlanders top run producer this season as he came into the game with a team-high 38 RBIs. But Garza got him to popout to second for the first out and the runners could not advance.
With Nick Vilter at the plate, Chavez stole third to get into prime scoring position for the Highlanders with one out, but Garza struck Vilter out swinging to record the second out and then got out of the jam by getting David Andriese to flyout to left. The Highlanders would get just one more runner to third base for the rest of the game.
Offensively, the Titans hammered out nine hits led by outfielders J.D. Davis and Austin Diemer. Davis was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored while Diemer was 2-for-3, also recording a double and a run scored.
Clay Williamson extended his hitting streak to 10 games and put the Titans out in front in the third inning with a single up the middle. Diemer, who led off with a double down the right field line, came around to score and Timmy Richards went first-to-third after getting aboard with a walk. Keegan Dale then followed with a perfect squeeze bunt to the first-base side to bring in Richards and the Titans were up 2-0.
Williamson would finish the night 1-for-3 with an RBI and has reached base safely in 19 consecutive games. Dale would get a bunt-single in the sixth inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He went 1-for-3 on the night to go along with a walk.
The Titans nursed the two-run lead until the bottom of the eighth when Jared Deacon led off the frame with a double. Taylor Bryant, who came in as a defensive replacement in the seventh, attempted to sacrifice the runner over to third but his bunt came down in front of the plate and Highlanders catcher Matthew Ellis pounced on it and threw to third to attempt to nail his counterpart. But the throw was short and got behind third baseman Cody Hough, allowing Diemer to score. The Titans would go on to pile on four runs in the inning to put the game away.
The Titans will attempt to avoid their first series loss to the Highlanders since 2012 on Sunday as Grahamm Wiest takes the hill for the home team while left-hander Ben Doucette goes for the Highlanders. In honor of Mother's Day, there will be a pregame ceremony on the field recognizing the team moms for both sides. In addition, mothers attending the game will receive a carnation while supplies last.
Notes: Davis is now 6-for-8 through the first two games of the series against the Highlanders with two doubles and two runs scored… Garza is now 16-3 in his career with the Titans and has never lost when the Titans have scored runs for him. All three losses have come by way of a shutout… The Titans recorded their seventh shutout of the season on Saturday night after recording 10 last season… The Titans scored four runs in an inning for the 11th time this season and for the first time since the first inning against Fresno State on Apr. 30.