FULLERTON, Calif. – Trailing North Carolina 5-3 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Cal State Fullerton scored three runs in the frame to rally and earn a walk-off win over UNC on a single to left field by sophomore shortstop Shianne Brannan as the Titans defeated the Tar Heels 6-5 on the final day of the Judi Garman Classic.
"That was huge. It was unbelievable," Cal State Fullerton head coach Kelly Ford said about the come-from-behind, walk-off win. "Coming off of a 1-4 record last week (at the Mary Nutter Classic), turning around and going 4-1 this weekend was huge. I'm so proud of this team. They were so determined. It was unbelievable. We got out of a jam in the seventh inning and it was just unreal. It really shows what this team is capable of."
Cal State Fullerton (13-7) allowed two runs in the top of the first as North Carolina (9-10) took an early 2-0 lead on three walks, a single and a sacrifice fly. Senior right-hander Desiree Ybarra got the start for the Titans and struggled early in the game, surrendering the pair of runs in the first before making way for Cerissa Rivera.
Down by two, the Titans showed their resiliency and evened the score in the bottom of the frame on a two-run homer off the bat of Alexis Gonzalez. The home run marked her third of the season and made it a brand new ballgame heading into the second inning.
In the Titans' half of the second, they added another run on an error by the UNC shortstop which gave Cal State Fullerton its first lead of the game.
Rivera did a solid job in the circle as she matched North Carolina's starter, Kendra Lynch (7-7), and kept the game close. In the fourth, however, Rivera gave up a solo home run to Tracy Chandless as the Tar Heels evened the score again (3-3).
Three batters later, Christina Washington (1-0) came on in relief of Rivera and got the final two outs of the inning.
Washington and Lynch were a good match up as they battled each other for the remainder of the game.
Heading into the seventh inning tied 3-all, Washington surrendered what looked to be the game-winning solo homer by Kristen Brown.
Following the home run by Brown, the Tar Heels loaded the bases with one out and Leah Murray sent a sacrifice fly to leftfield, scoring the second run of the inning and to give North Carolina a 5-3 lead over Cal State Fullerton.
Down to their last three outs, the Titans would not go away quietly as they mounted a comeback with four consecutive base hits, the final of which was an RBI-single by Sarah Moore which scored Samantha Vandiver to cut the Tar Heels' lead to one (5-4).
A line out to shortstop put the Titans' rally on pause, but did not stop it completely as Courtney Rodriguez followed and grounded out to second but drove in Taukeiaho to tie the game.
With Adele Leuma, who pinch ran for Gonzalez, on third and Moore at second, Brannan came up and drilled a single to leftfield to score Leuma and win the game for the Titans in dramatic fashion.
Brannan finished the game batting 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, while Gonzalez also had a big night at the plate going 2-for- 3 with a home run, two RBIs and a run. Taukeiaho finished the game 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
Washington earned her first win of the year after pitching the final 3.2 innings of work and allowing two runs on one hit, with four walks and a strikeout.
Lynch suffered the loss as she tossed 6.2 innings while surrendering six runs, five of which were earned, on 12 hits. She struck out five and walked one.
North Carolina left 12 runners on base in the game as Cal State Fullerton did a good job of getting out of jams.
Cal State Fullerton returns to action Tuesday, March 8 at 6 p.m., when they host No. 12 Florida State at Anderson Family Field. Live stats, video and audio will be available on FullertonTitans.com.