FULLERTON, Calif. - Thomas Eshelman flirted with his third consecutive complete game and three players recorded multi-hit games as Cal State Fullerton defeated first-place UC Irvine 7-2 in a Big West Conference contest Friday night at Goodwin Field.
Eshelman picked up his fourth win of the season for the Titans (21-19, 7-3) as he held the Anteaters (23-15, 10-3) scoreless for eight innings. Eshelman struck out 13 batters including 10 through the first five innings and seven of his total strikeouts were looking. He gave up six hits, two of them in the ninth. Both of his earned runs also came in the ninth inning before Willie Kuhl and Tyler Peitzmeier combined for the last three outs of the game.
Offensively, Josh Vargas led the way as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and one RBI. Timmy Richards tallied his first career three-hit game as he went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Jerrod Bravo was 2-for-4 with a run scored and reached base for the 21st consecutive game he's played.
Elliot Surrey took the loss for the Anteaters as the left-hander surrendered six runs, five earned, on nine hits in five and 2/3 innings of work. He walked one and struck out four.
The Titans took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning after Vargas doubled to right and then took third after Cameron Bishop mishandled the ball in right field. Josh Estill lifted a flyball to left field in the ensuing at-bat and Vargas came home on the sacrifice fly to put Fullerton on the board first.
The Titans padded the lead in the fifth inning thanks to some two-out hitting. After Richards led off the frame with a single, Surrey retired the next two batters, one of them a sacrifice bunt by A.J. Kennedy to move Richards into scoring position. Dustin Vaught fisted a single just over the first baseman to plate Richards and make it 2-0 for the Titans. Vaught advanced to second on a wild pitch and then Vargas followed with his second double of the game to score Vaught and make it 3-0. Estill then capped off the inning with another double to right-center and the Titans went up 4-0 and never looked back.
With the victory, the Titans are now one-and-a-half games back of the Anteaters in the Big West Conference standings and even with Irvine in the loss column. Both teams return to the field Saturday night with Justin Garza taking the hill for the Titans while right-hander Matt Esparza goes for the Anteaters. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Notes: Eshelman recorded his third double-digit strikeout performance of the season and the first since he set a new career high with 14 strikeouts against then No. 5 Texas Tech on March 6… Vargas recorded his fourth straight multi-hit game and second consecutive three-hit game on Friday. He is 10-for-16 in those four games with three doubles and two RBIs. Vargas has also taken the lead in the conference with a .373 overall batting average and is also hitting .485 in conference games after Friday… Tyler Stieb's 10-game hitting streak came to an end on Friday… The Titans have now defeated the Anteaters in nine straight games. Prior to Friday, the last seven wins were comeback victories.