FULLERTON, Calif. - No. 23 Cal State Fullerton managed just one run on Tuesday night, falling to visiting USC 2-1 at Goodwin Field.
Blake Quinn tossed six scoreless innings for the Titans (33-20) but the Trojans (26-27) plated two runs off the Titans bullpen to squeak out the victory.
Senior Josh Vargas went 2-for-4 for the Titans, driving in the team's only run in the fifth. Fellow seniors Jerrod Bravo, Dakota Wix, and Tyler Stieb all picked up hits while sophomore Chris Hudgins had a hit in his first start at catcher after missing nearly six weeks with an injured finger.
The Titans took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning after Wix, Hudgins and Stieb got three straight singles to load the bases with no one out. Josh Vargas grounded out to short to score Wix to break the scoreless tie. But Trojans starter Marrick Crouse struck out Tristan Hildebrandt for the second out and then, after walking Timmy Richards to load the bases, the right-hander got Dalton Blaser to ground out to first base to end the threat.
The missed opportunity proved costly as the Trojans took the lead in the seventh as reliever Maxwell Gibbs walked Jeremy Martinez to lead of the frame and then Corey Dempster singled. With one out, Frankie Rios singled to left off new pitcher Miles Chambers and Martinez came around to try and score. The throw from Vargas reached the plate but Chris Hudgins was ruled to be blocking the plate, allowing the run to score and tie the game.
With two outs, Brandon Perez stepped up and smacked a 1-0 pitch through the left side, plating Dempster and giving the Trojans the lead, 2-1.
Reliever C.J. Stubbs did the rest allowing just one hit in three innings of work to pick up the victory. The Titans had just two base runners against Stubbs, none of them reaching second base. Trojans closer Jeff Paschke came in to pitch the ninth and allowed a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Ruben Cardenas, but then got Stieb to fly out to center field to end the game.
The Titans will conclude the regular season with a three-game series at Long Beach State beginning Thursday night at 6 p.m. Fullerton leads the Dirtbags by one game in the conference standings. A win at Blair Field will clinch at least a share of the conference title while two wins would clinch the title outright for the Titans.
Notes: Fullerton finishes the 2016 regular season with a 23-10 record at Goodwin Field… Richards' seven-game hitting streak came to an end on Tuesday night… The Trojans swept both games from the Titans this season, marking their first season-sweep of Fullerton since 2008. It was the eighth time overall the Titans have lost both non-conference games to the Trojans in a season. Fullerton is now 50-41-1 all-time against USC… The Titans honored seniors Vargas, Wix, Blaser, Bravo, Stieb, Tanner Pinkston, Shane Stillwagon and student managers Kyle Murray and Jesus Ramos in a pregame ceremony.