Los Angeles - Pinch-hitter Arianna Burns' seventh inning, leg-single brought home the game-winning run as Cal State Fullerton (35-22) narrowly edged San Jose State (37-19), 1-0, to advance to Championship Sunday at the Los Angeles NCAA Softball Regional Saturday night.
Fullerton (2-1) will take on UCLA (2-0) at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. UCLA needs just one victory to advance to the Super Regional. The Titans will need two.
Coming off of a 16-hit, 10-run effort needed to beat Lehigh in the first elimination game of the day, the Titans mustered just 4 hits through the first six innings of the nightcap against the Spartans.
Burns' soft hit ball to the glove side of the Spartans' third baseman was just enough to give her the edge getting down the line to beat the throw. Zoe Richard, who singled to lead off the inning scored on the play to give the Titans the only run they would need. Burns' single was the last of three for the Titans in the final inning.
Titan starting pitcher Cerissa Rivera was stellar on the mound tossing 3.1 innings of three-hit ball. Two of the three hits came in the top of the fourth inning when she was lifted for Sydney Golden. Golden (7-6) was even better, going the final 3.2 innings, allowing just one hit while fanning four Spartans to earn the victory.
Katelyn Linford (24-8) suffered the loss in relief. She allowed the one run on three hits over the final 1.2 innings. Starter Colette Riggs was solid in a 4-hit, 5.1-inning effort.
Both Richard and Shianne Brannan recorded a pair of hits in the night game to lead the Titans. Brittany Abacherli had two of the Spartans' four hits.
In the first game of the day for Fullerton, the Titans and Mountain Hawks of Lehigh duked it out for three hours, combining for 18 runs and 31 hits. Fullerton ended up the victors by a score of 10-8, sending Lehigh (36-20) back to Bethlehem, Penn., 0-2 in the Regional.
Trailing 8-6 heading into the sixth inning, the Titans rallied for four runs to regain the lead. Brannan doubled high off the top of the centerfield wall to bring home Richard, who singled and stole second leading off the inning. A walk and a hit batter later, Sydney Colenzo connected for a single that tied the game at 8-8.
Ariana Williams' fourth hit of the game was her biggest of the day, as two runs came across on her ball that was shot down the left field line. Megan Estacio and Randall both scored the go-ahead runs.
It was a see-saw battle the entire way. Fullerton struck first scoring two times off Lehigh starter Christine Campbell in the first. But the Mountain Hawks fought right back plating five off of starter Kelsey Kessler in just 2/3 of an inning. Lehigh sent 10 players to the plate in the frame, 8 of them coming with two outs. They collected six consecutive singles and seven players in a row reached base safely. After three runs on five straight hits, Kessler was lifted for Golden. And she was greeted by a two-run single by Brianna Gerhardt that made it 5-2.
Fullerton roared right back in the top of the second and tied the game. The big swing that inning came from Delynn Rippy, who belted her second career home run to right field, a two run shot off of Campbell.
Golden pitched two innings in relief and held the Hawks to two runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Kessler (20-8) then returned to the game and pitched the final 4.1 innings and secured her 20th victory of the season. It wasn't easy, but she got through the rest of the game allowing just one run on five hits. Both Titan pitchers combined for seven walks in the first game.
Emily Sorem (11-9) was touched for the loss. She gave up five runs on 8 hits over the final 3.1 innings.
Williams was a season-high 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and two runs scored and Rippy was 3-for-5 with two RBI and 3 runs scored to lead the way for the Titans. Colenzo, Randall and Richard had two hits apiece in the 16-hit attack.
Five Lehigh hitters collected two hits on the evening.
NOTES: Fullerton improved to 3-0 all-time against Lehigh and 32-11 all-time against San Jose State… This Regional was the first postseason meeting with Lehigh and San Jose State for Cal State Fullerton… This is the second straight year the Titans will go into play on Sunday vs. UCLA at the Los Angeles Regional.