No. 5 ... Somewhere In Middle America

June 13, 2006

Fullerton, Calif. - A team with a suspect rotation in February has pitched its way to Omaha where, for the 14th time in the program's 32-year Div. I history, the Cal State Fullerton baseball team will compete in the College World Series.

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The hitting and fielding have performed as expected for an experienced roster with 10 players who were members of the Titans' national championship team in 2004. But the pitching has been remarkably consistent. The staff has the best earned run average (2.57) in the nation and allowed more than 10 runs in a 3-game SERIES only three times all year.

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For the first time since the championship season of 1995, the Titans arrive in Omaha unbeaten in NCAA play. Fullerton rolled through a Regional and a Super Regional at Goodwin Field, winning five games by a combined score of 41-8 to run its current winning streak to 12 games in a row. Since losing twice at Rice on March 3 & 4, the Titans are 39-7 and haven't lost consecutive games.

The offense is typically Titan -- get guys on, get guys over and get them home in a variety of ways. The lineup is productive Nos. 1 thru 9 and doesn't rely on one slugger ala Tim Wallach, Phil Nevin or Mark Kotsay. Defensively, the Titans are strong not just up the middle, but all nine do their part to give the pitching and offense a chance to work.

The Titans have a guy who can grind it out every game of the weekend on the hill. Each of the three starters has at least 12 wins and an ERA under 3.00. The staff allowed just 6 total runs in the three Regional victories and only 2 runs in the Super Regional. All-American closer Vinnie Pestano was lost to an arm injury on May 10, but Ryan Paul and Cory Arbiso have combined for four saves in five opportunities since then.

REMEMBERING OMAHA:

2004 Jason Windsor was a dominant CWS Outstanding Player, pitching 21 innings for 2 wins and a save. He allowed only 2 runs and 11 hits while striking out 29 batters. He shut out South Carolina, 2-0, in the opener and then pitched the final 3 innings of a 4-0 win over the Gamecocks in the bracket deciding game. He then beat Texas, 3-2, with a complete-game 5-hitter to complete a 2-0 sweep in the championship series. Johnny Bench Award-winning catcher Kurt Suzuki had only three hits in the World Series but the third one was the game winner in the title game, capping a 3-run seventh inning that erased a 2-0 deficit. Future major leaguers: None (yet).

2003 Stanford again proved the nemesis, beating the Titans twice after Fullerton had beaten LSU and the Cardinal to go 2-0 in the bracket. Carlos Quentin hit two home runs to back John Hudgins' 5-hitter for a 5-3 Cardinal win. Fullerton reliever Chad Cordero, who would be in the major leagues with Washington before the end of the summer, surrendered a game-tying 2-run home run to Jonny Ash (his first HR of the year) in the seventh inning and Danny Putnam hit a 2-run homer off Darric Merrell in the tenth for a 7-5 Stanford win. Future major leaguers: Shane Costa, Chad Cordero, Wes Littleton.

2001 Fullerton overcame a raucous pro-Nebraska crowd to win the opening game but lost two tough games to Stanford around a rout of Tulane. Jon Smith beat the Cornhuskers, 5-4, with a save by Chad Cordero. After starters Kirk Saarloos and Stanford's Mike Gosling left a 1-1 deadlock, the Cardinal got to Cordero in the tenth for a 5-2 victory. Fullerton's Mike Rouse just missed a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. David Bacani hit two home runs in an 11-2 rout of the Green Wave but the Titans managed only 4 hits in a season-ending 4-1 loss to Stanford and Jeremy Guthrie, who recorded 20 of his 21 outs by way of strikeout or ground ball. Future major leaguers: Shane Costa, Mike Rouse, Chad Cordero, Kirk Saarloos, Wes Littleton.

1999 Fullerton's first trip to Omaha in four years and first under Coach George Horton fizzled when a potent offense was limited to a .220 batting average. Stanford knocked the Titans into the losers' bracket with a 9-2 rout. Matt Sorensen (8.1 IP) and Kirk Saarloos beat Texas A&M, 4-2, before Florida State sent the Titans home with a share of fifth place. Future major leaguers: Reed Johnson, Adam Johnson, Kirk Saarloos.

1995 What might have been the best collegiate team ever continued a late-season scorching of all opposition. The Titans became the No. 1 seed to win it all, taking all 4 games by a combined score of 39-11 to finish the year with an 18-game winning streak and 57-9 record. CWS MVP Mark Kotsay saved a nervous 6-5 win over Stanford before his bat (.563 with 3 HR and 10 RBI) fueled a spree of 11's -- 11-1 and 11-0 wins over Tennessee and 11-5 over rival Southern California. Future major leaguers: Mark Kotsay, Jeremy Giambi, Mike Lamb.

1994 Future major leaguers Brad Rigby and Nomar Garciaparra of Georgia Tech kept the Titans out of the championship game. Rigby outpitched Mike Parisi, 2-0, in the opener and then Garciaparra hit a 12th-inning home run for a 6-5 win that sent Fullerton home. In between, the Titans routed LSU (20-6) and Florida State (10-3) as Kotsay (.462, 1 HR and 8 RBI) launched his All-College World Series career. Future major leaguers: Mark Kotsay, Dante Powell, Jeremy Giambi, Bret Hemphill.

1992 Behind Baseball America's player of the year, professional baseball's No. 1 draft and the eventual CWS MVP, Phil Nevin, the Titans reached the title game against Pepperdine after a 5-game battle with the state of Florida. The Titans went 2-0 against Florida State and 2-1 against Miami only to lose in CBS' first television coverage, 3-2. Light-hitting shortstop Erik Ekdahl hit his first home run of the year and second baseman Steve Rodriguez prevented the tying run from scoring with a brilliant defensive play to spoil Coach Augie Garrido's first return visit. Future major leaguers: Phil Nevin, Steve Sisco, Dante Powell, Bret Hemphill, Dan Naulty.

1990 This second appearance for Coach Larry Cochell will be remembered for two rare occurrences. Against Oklahoma State in the opener, left fielder Rich Gonzales made a brilliant catch as he ran into the metal left-field wall. But the collision knocked him unconscious and it was ruled an inside-the-park 3-run home run because he did not have "control" of the baseball in his motionless glove. Gonzales was carried from the field on a stretcher and the stunned Titans were defeated, 14-4. Gonzales missed the elimination game loss to The Citadel, 8-7 in 12 innings, which saw its catcher move to the mound to snuff a Titan rally. Future major leaguers: Phil Nevin, Steve Sisco, Frank Charles, Huck Flener.

1988 A late-season run carried the Titans through their first 6-team regional win at Mississippi State and they won their first two games in Omaha for first-year Coach Larry Cochell behind complete-game victories from Longo Garcia and Mark Beck over Miami and Stanford. But neither could win the second time out as the Cardinal fought back with a pair of victories that carried them to defense of their 1987 title. Jim Osborn hit .400 with 2 home runs to pace Fullerton's offense and he made the All-CWS team. Future major leaguers: Huck Flener, Brent Mayne.

1984 In a series dominated by hitters such as Pete Incaviglia, Barry Bonds and Barry Larkin, the Titans pitched their way to their second national championship. Four different Titans started with 5-foot-7 lefthander Eddie Delzer getting the call in the title game against Texas. He allowed only one run and two hits through seven innings before leg cramps knocked him out in the eighth in favor of Scott Wright, who would log his NCAA record 22nd save to secure the 3-1 victory. Fullerton had to beat Miami (13-5), Arizona State (6-1) and Oklahoma State (10-2) after splitting its first two games with Michigan (8-4) and Texas (4-6). Outfielder John Fishel was the series MVP after hitting .520. Future major leaguers: John Fishel, Jose Mota, Shane Turner, Greg Mathews.

1982 The Titans left their offense in Tempe, where they had become the first team to beat Arizona State in a regional on its home field. Fullerton became the first and only team to fail to score in Omaha, getting blanked by Wichita State and Bryan Oelkers, 7-0, and Maine and Joe Johnson, 6-0. Future major leaguers: John Fishel, Shane Turner, Jeff Robinson, Bill Moore.

1979 Just as they had done in the regional in Fresno, the Titans lost their first game but came back to win the title. The first men's Div. I championship in school history was primarily credited to pitcher Dave Weatherman, who beat Arkansas, 2-1, with a complete game a day after getting knocked out of the box in the opening inning against Pepperdine. In the pre-closer era, starter Tony Hudson earned the CWS MVP Trophy for his brilliant relief work, recording three saves. Future major leaguers: Tim Wallach, Andre David, John Christensen.

1975 After ending USC's string of national championships with an improbable regional victory at Dedeaux Field, the Titans made little impact in their first trip to Omaha. They were eliminated before two teams had even played, dropping a 5-3 game to Arizona State and an 11-10 slugfest to Oklahoma. But the fortunes of college baseball in Southern California had been changed and three decades later, the Titans are making their 14th appearance in Omaha. Future major leaguers: Dan Boone.