RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- The Titans were a play away from winning the game on multiple occasions, but they just couldn't get over the hump, dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker at UC Riverside in the Big West opener, Friday night at the Riverside Sports Complex.
The ninth inning was about as crazy as they get, as JT McLellan got things going for Fullerton, coming through with a huge pinch hit single up the middle with one out. Boston Romero then followed that up with a pinch hit single down the right field line, advancing Jake Pavletich all the way to third base after he came in to pinch run for McLellan.
Tristan Hildebrandt then laid down a safety squeeze, but Pavletich was caught between third base and home plate and was tagged out. However, heads up base running by Romero and Hildebrandt gave the Titans runners at second and third base with two outs, giving Fullerton still a chance to tie or win it with Scott Hurst at the dish, who went 3-of-5 with an RBI on the night.
Hurst put a charge into one, but it ended up being a fly out to left field to end the game.
Connor Seabold (2-4) took another tough loss, going 6.0 innings, surrendering just three runs off seven hits and recording seven strikeouts in what was his team-leading fifth quality start of the season.
Hurst led the Titans offensively with three knocks. Hank LoForte had a great game off the bench in the designated hitter spot, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Hunter Cullen also went 2-of-3 with a run scored, while Timmy Richards extended his on-base streak to 17 straight games and his hit streak to seven, going 1-of-4 on the night.
For Fullerton (15-10, 0-1 Big West), the loss marks just their first conference opening defeat since 2009 and extends its losing streak to five straight games.
The Titans struck first, as Cullen led off the third inning with a single to second base, then Hurst came up with a clutch two-out double down the left field line to put Fullerton in front 1-0.
The Highlanders (12-9, 1-0 Big West) responded with a three spot in the bottom half of the inning to make it a 3-1 UCR advantage.
Fullerton chipped away in the fifth, as LoForte led off the frame with a single through the right side, Cullen then reached on an infield knock to put runners at first and second with no one out. Niko Pacheco then with two outs put together a good at bat, eventually reaching on a fielding error after hustling down the line to force a bad throw, scoring LoForte from third base to make it just a 3-2 game.
But in the end Fullerton couldn't quite find its way back, as the Titans outhit UCR 10-8, but left eight runners on base on the evening.
The Titans look to bounce back and even the series tomorrow at 6 pm PT out at the Riverside Sports Complex.
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