FULLERTON, Calif. – The 2018 Cal State Fullerton softball season may have ended, but despite the outcome, it was still a magical season that nobody will forget.
The team started off on the right foot collecting three wins in the Titan Classic to open the season with wins over Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Loyola Marymount. The win over Rutgers saw freshman Taylor Dockins make her collegiate debut throwing six scoreless innings only allowing three hits and picking up her first career win.
The following weekend was a rough one as the Titans traveled to San Diego State for the Campbell/Cartier Tournament and lost all five of their contests, three of which were via run-rule. However, they would bounce back in a big way as they came back to Anderson Family Field to host the Toreros of USD. Dockins would go on to throw the 57th no-hitter in program history and first since 2013 in an 8-0 victory..
Next, came the Mary Nutter Classic which was four games in two days for the Titans. Starting on Saturday, sophomore Sophie Frost threw her first career complete game shutout, holding LIU Brooklyn to just five hits in seven innings. Dockins followed that game with a complete game gem of her own, out-dueling Mississippi State in a 4-1 victory. Unfortunately, Fullerton would lose both games on Sunday falling to a pair of Top 25 teams in Cal and ASU.
With the start of March came the Judi Garman Classic and once again, the rain would play spoiler cancelling two of Fullerton's five scheduled games. Going 2-1 for the weekend, the tournament was capped off by sophomore Emily Randall's two-out, two-RBI double to give the Titans a walk-off victory over Michigan State on the anniversary of her father's passing.
The Titans kept that momentum rolling with a dominant win over the Spartans again in a midweek rematch before starting the co-hosted tournament with Long Beach. With five games scheduled, the Titans would split it going 2-2 with the fifth game being cancelled due to rain. Fullerton's two wins came as a shutout against Boston U and an eighth-inning walk-off against SDSU.
The next week was tough for the Titans starting with a pair of losses in a midweek double-header leading into the Easton Invitational. In the Easton, the Titans won their first game and that was all, making them 1-6 for the week. However, they would bounce back with a double-header sweep of CSU Bakersfield the following Tuesday with game two ending in walk-off fashion yet again as freshman Sam Kennedy blasted her first career home run to end it in six innings.
That left one series before conference play started and it was the same LMU team they beat on opening weekend. Unfortunately, the Titans would lose the series 2-1 leaving them with a 17-22 record and in the lower half of the standings as conference games were about to begin.
But of course, conference play is basically a fresh start and the Titans took full advantage of that. Starting with "No One Fights Alone" night in recognition of Dockins' fight against cancer on Friday, Fullerton would come away with a victory thanks to a complete game from the freshman only allowing one run in her seven innings of work. The Saturday double-header was an offensive showcase though as the Titans outscored UC Santa Barbara 22-6 picking up a pair of run-rule victories for their first sweep of the season. Game one ended with a grand slam off the bat of Julia Valenzuela as Fullerton won 14-6 in six innings and game two ended with a three-run home run from Irieanna Siofele to give the Titans an 8-0 victory in five innings.
Next on the conference schedule, CSUN on the road. The Titans went in and dominated the Matadors outscoring them 17-5 in three games and resulting in a second consecutive sweep in Big West play. That made Fullerton 6-0 and tied for the top spot in the standings setting up a showdown the following weekend against rival Long Beach.
The 49ers went into the weekend ranked number 22 in the nation and were seen as the clear favorites to run away with the conference. The Titans had a different plan though. After dropping the first game of the series 11-2, Fullerton bounced back to win both games on Saturday. In game one, they beat the Big West Pitcher of the Year Cielo Meza who had yet to lose in Big West play at that point. In game two, the 49ers jumped out to an early five-run lead but the Titans battled back scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie it. Long Beach would get their lead back up to two runs going into the final frame and Fullerton answered with three in the bottom of the seventh giving the Titans another walk-off victory, their third straight series win, and sole possession of first place.
Moving on, CSF would head to Hawai'i for the next series and came away with yet another sweep including a dominant 11-1 five-inning win in the series finale. For the weekend, Bryanna Ybarra dominated the Rainbow Wahine hitting .750 with a double and two home runs, giving her a 1.625 slugging percentage. The weekend performance earned the senior her first career Player of the Week award. The sweep put the Titans at 11-1 in Big West play with a two-game lead as they headed back home to face UC Davis.
The Aggies didn't make it easy for Fullerton as the Titans had to win the first two games by two runs and one run respectively. Regardless, it was another series win and looking for their fourth sweep of the season. Once again, it was a battle as Davis took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh with the Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year in Brooke Yanez in the circle. Fullerton pulled off a miraculous comeback plating SIX runs in the bottom half of the seventh capped off by an absolute monster three-run, pinch hit home run from senior Mikaela Francis. The Titans came out of the weekend with a three-game lead in the Big West standings.
Taking a break from conference action, the Titans faced UCLA, ranked No. 2 at the time, in a midweek matchup. The Bruins came away with a 5-3 win, but the Titans surprised everyone by competing as much as they did. Fullerton would have their chance at revenge later on, but for now, they had a conference schedule to wrap up.
Hitting the road, Fullerton traveled up to Cal Poly where they would go on to take yet another series victory with a pair of shutouts in Saturday's double-header but falling victim to a shutout in the series finale. That set up the final weekend with a chance to clinch the Big West crown.
Needing one win against UC Riverside to guarantee at least a share of the title, the Titans fell in game one to the Highlanders as the offense struggled to come alive. It wasn't over yet though as they came back for the Saturday double-header still having a chance to clinch. Meanwhile, up in Northridge, Long Beach lost to CSUN, meaning one victory for the Titans and the trophy was all theirs. They did so in dominant fashion as they would pull off an 8-0 five-inning victory. And just for good measure, they would go on to win game two with an eighth inning walk-off. The Titans came out of senior day completing the three-peat and clinching a spot in their 28th NCAA Regional.
After finding out, they were heading back to Westwood, Calif. for the third straight year, the Titans were ready to turn heads at UCLA in the postseason. Starting with No. 22 Texas State, Fullerton already made noise as they were seen as the clear underdog but came away with a 2-1 victory anyway. Brooke Clemetson was the hero on the offensive side going 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Trish Parks dominated in the circle only allowing the one run in a complete game win. That sent them to the winner's side of the bracket against the Bruins the next day.
UCLA was given the No. 3 overall ranking heading into the postseason and were expected to dominate the entire weekend. Fullerton wasn't going to have any of that though as they upset the host Bruins with a nine-inning walk-off victory clinching their spot in the Regional Final. The top of the lineup did the damage yet again as Clemetson went 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored, while Sammie Vandiver went 1-4 with an RBI and brought in the game-winning run after UCLA made an error in on a Bruin error in the bottom of the ninth.
The Titans had two chances to beat the Bruins on "Championship Sunday" but unfortunately couldn't defeat the USA Player of the Year Rachel Garcia. After getting shutout in game one, Fullerton battled in game two but their seventh inning rally came up short and that would end their season.
It's worth noting that in Fullerton's four postseason games, Parks threw 26.1 of a possible 29 innings starting every game in the circle. She sported a 2.66 ERA only allowing just 10 runs on 26 hits while striking out 10. The Regional also created one of the most inspirational moments in softball as Dockins made her postseason debut after being out of the circle for a month and a half striking out the PAC-12 Freshman of the Year and All-American Aaliyah Jordan to end the sixth inning.
Cal State Fullerton finished the year 35-25 overall and 18-3 in conference. They finished tied for 17th as they were one of just two teams to force a Regional game seven.
Notes and Stats:
· For the first time since the team won four straight titles from 2000-03, the Titans brought home their third consecutive Big West Championship.
· The Titans went 18-3 in conference which is the best mark for the program since they went 20-1 in 2003.
· Fullerton pulled off 11 walk-off victories, three of which were home-runs.
· The team finished the year ranked number two in the country with 36 double plays.
· For the third consecutive year, Head Coach Kelly Ford took home the Big West Coach of the Year award making her the first coach in conference history to win three-straight awards.
· Along with Ford's Coach of the Year, there were nine Titans earning Big West recognition. Deshea Hill, Zoe Richard, Ari Williams, and Bryanna Ybarra earned First Team selections. Sophie Frost, Trish Parks, Julia Valenzuela, and Sammie Vandiver earned Second Team Selections. Brooke Clemetson earned an Honorable Mention and Hill also earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team.
· Hill and Valenzuela were also named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Third Team.
· Throughout the season, Fullerton had five Big West Player of the Week awards. Taylor Dockins (2/26) and Trish Parks (5/14) earned Pitcher of the Week awards while Deshea Hill (3/12 and 4/9) and Bryanna Ybarra (4/23) earned Field Player of the Week awards.
· Ari Williams set the all-time stolen base record with her 60th steal this season; she finished the year sitting at 71 for her career and still has one more year to play.
· Brooke Clemetson broke the single-season stolen base record with her 29th steal this season; she finished the year with 35 making her the only Titan to ever accumulate 30+ steals.
· More history was made this season early on when freshman Taylor Dockins threw the 57th no-hitter in Titan history and first since 2013.
· Clemetson's 47 runs scored are tied for eighth most in a single-season while her 40 walks are tied for fourth most.
· Williams stole 22 bags this year which is tied for sixth most in a single-season and making her the only Titan to ever have 20+ steals three separate times.
· Zoe Richard's 500 fielding chances are ninth most in single-season history and her 469 putouts ranks eighth most.
· Shianne Brannan had 160 fielding assists this season, which is good for fifth most in a single season and she finishes her career with 525 career assists, second most in program history.
· Sammie Vandiver finishes her career in the record books as well, ranking sixth all-time with a .350 batting average as well as fourth all-time with 135 runs scored and 246 total hits.
· Along with breaking the single-season stolen base record, Clemetson finishes her career with 66 stolen bases which is good for second most all-time behind Williams.
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