FULLERTON, Calif. - Cal State Fullerton jumped out to a four-run lead and their pitching staff made it stand up as the Titans scored a 4-2 Big West Conference victory over Cal State Northridge Thursday night at Goodwin Field.
The Titans (30-22, 12-10) won their fifth consecutive game while the Matadors (18-36, 6-16) dropped their fourth straight and have lost eight of their last nine Big West contests. The win was also the 30th of the season for Fullerton, marking the 40th straight season the Titans have reached the 30-win mark. They locked up their 40th consecutive winning season on May 17 with a win over UC Irvine.
Thomas Eshelman was excellent on the mound once again for the Titans, going seven innings and allowing two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out four, retiring 13 consecutive hitters at one point.
Koby Gauna pitched the final two frames, allowing one hit and striking out five of the six outs he recorded to pick up his fifth save of the season.
J.D. Davis came into Thursday's game on fire, going 17-for-30 in the last seven games and riding a nine-game hitting streak. He continued to swing a hot bat as he laced an RBI single to left field in the third inning to put the Titans up 1-0.
Davis finished the night 2-for-5 with a triple, extending his hitting streak to a season-best 10 games. He had a separate nine-game hitting streak earlier in the season.
In the following inning, the Titans added to their lead, loading the bases with two outs. With Clay Williamson up, Matadors pitcher Bryce Rutherford attempted a pick-off play to second but no one was covering the bag. The throw went into center field and Austin Diemer strolled in from third base to make it 2-0 Titans.
The error would prove to be a moot point, however, as Williamson and Keegan Dale followed with two-out RBI singles and the Titans took a 4-0 lead after four innings. Williamson went 1-for-5 on the night and reached base safely for the 25th consecutive game. Dale finished the night 1-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 19 straight games.
Rutherford would take the loss for the Matadors, going five and 2/3 innings and allowing four runs on nine hits. He walked three and struck out six.
The Matadors finally got to Eshelman in the sixth inning as they opened the frame with a pair of singles and then Eshelman hit Brett Balkan to load the bases with no one out. Chester Pak got the visitors on the board as he grounded into a fielder's choice, driving in Ranny Lowe to make it 4-1 Titans. Nick Murphy then singled to left to plate Ryan Raslowsky to cut the Titans lead in half.
But Eshelman limited the damage in the inning as he got Nick Blaser to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. The Matadors would get just one more hit and one more runner to second base in the last three innings.
Murphy led the Matadors offensively, going 2-for-4 on the night. Chester Pak also went 2-for-4 while Raslowsky and Ranny Lowe each collected a hit to round out the visitors six-hit output on Thursday.
The teams will return to the field Friday for the second game of the series as Justin Garza takes the mound for the Titans while the Matadors counter with left-hander Jerry Keel.
Notes: Taylor Bryant was 1-for-3 with two runs scored for the Titans on Thursday night… The Titans have now beaten the Matadors four straight times dating back to last season's three-game sweep at Matador Field… Matt Chapman was 2-for-4 for the Titans, extending his hitting streak to six games, matching his best streak of the season. It was also his 19th multi-hit game… Tanner Pinkston got the start at first base for the Titans for the first time since May 10 against UC Riverside. He went 2-for-4 and stole his fourth base of the year.