LONG BEACH, Calif. --- Colton Eastman was heroic and Hank LoForte was clutch, as Cal State Fullerton hung on to defeat Big West rival Long Beach State, 2-1 to clinch the Long Beach Super Regional Championship and the Titans' 18th trip to the College World Series, Sunday afternoon at Blair Field.
For the Titans (39-22), they'll be making second trip to Omaha in the last three seasons, while it marks the first time they've come back to win a Super Regional after losing the first game.
Eastman (2-0) was nearly unhittable on the mound, as he tossed a season-high 7.0 innings, allowing just one hit and zero earned runs while striking out eight. Eastman put together this performance after earning the win in Fullerton's regional clinching victory at Stanford last Saturday. Eastman had a no-hitter going through five innings.
Closer Brett Conine came in and finished the deal, getting the biggest six outs of the season and earning his 15th save of the season, pitching 2.0 shutout innings while scattering three hits and striking out three, including the final batter of the game to seal up the series.
LoForte picked up one hit on the day, but it was the biggest knock of his career, as he blasted a one-out single to right center in the fourth inning to score Sahid Valenzuela and Dillon Persinger to put the Titans up 2-0. Valenzuela started the inning by getting plunked on a 1-1 pitch, while Persinger was also hit a batter later to put the runners on first and second with no one out. Senior Timmy Richards then executed a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt to move the runners up before LoForte came through with the big hit.
Scott Hurst was the only other Titan to record on the day.
This one was a pitcher's duel the entire way, as both teams were held scoreless through the first three innings, before the Titans struck for their two runs in the fourth.
Long Beach State (42-20-1) answered back with a run in the sixth, as Jarren Durran scored on a passed ball after leading off the inning with a single through the right side. However Eastman and the defense limited the damage to just the one run.
Drama then ensued in the ninth inning, as Conine surrendered a leadoff double to Brock Lundquist, but was then nails after that, recording a ground out, a pop up and then the swinging strike out of David Banuelos to clinch the game and start the dog pile.
The Titans will play Oregon State on Saturday in the opening round of the College World Series. Time still to be announced.
Head Coach Rick Vanderhook
On the atmosphere
Today was probably the most energetic college baseball game in the history of Southern California.
On Eastman, LoForte and Richards
I thought Colton (Eastman) was unbelievable, Hank (LoForte) came up with a big hit at a big time and I think Timmy Richards the old man of the team kind of kept the glue together, because they could have crumbled. If you are weak minded there were plenty of times to crumble in that game and I don't think we did and I credit Timmy with that.
I thought they kept their composure. We grind, I grind, I am a grinder, you can ask any of these guys.
On the decision to bring Conine in for relief of Eastman
Once he got through the seventh I went over and talked to Colton and said 'how much do you have left in the tank? It's you, It's Brett, what do you got?' and he looked and me and said 'Brett.' Once we got to the eighth why not go with the best guy.
On Eastman telling him to go with Conine
These guys believe in each other... We gave up four runs this weekend and I think we gave up four runs last weekend, that's pretty good. You're talking six games, eight runs. Everybody does their part.
On having to play Long Beach State in Super Regional play
The West Coast is still the most powerful place to play baseball for me and it sucks that we only get two Big West teams and we get stuck playing each other because it would have been super fun playing in Omaha. Us and Long Beach teeing it up in Omaha, that would be epic.
Sophomore Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Colton Eastman
On going to Omaha
If you would have told me back when I got hurt we were going to Omaha, I don't know what I would have said. I'm back and I did whatever I could to help our team go so I'm ecstatic.
On his emotion after getting the final out in the seventh
It was kind of like, you can have the Big West title, I'll take Omaha.
On telling Vanderhook to go with Brett Conine
Hooky came up to me and said 'do you want it?' I took me a couple minutes to answer but I thought the right choice was going with Brett (Conine).
Sophomore Designated Hitter Hank LoForte
On his at bat that scored the winning runs
It was really loud. The first part was to block that out and I knew there were runners on second and third and they don't throw many fastballs, so he threw that first one in so I was sitting on the next one and then I got inside of it and that was my approach."
I think it's my biggest accomplishment in my career actually. I mean we're going to Omaha, I've never been to Omaha.
On how big those two runs were
Two is amazing, especially Colton on the mound. That's all you really need with him, he's a great pitcher. It was a team effort today and we all came together and got a win.
Senior Shortstop Timmy Richards
On winning game three at Blair Field
They got us twice this year. They swept us once and took two out of three at our place and that's always devastating for us, this is a huge rivalry for us. To come here for a Super Regional and take our two of three like we knew we could, nothing feels better than winning on Blair Field, that was amazing.
On why he came back to Cal State Fullerton for his senior season
To go to Omaha!
On what the win means to him
"This is huge, no better way to do it than to beat them at their field and get to go to Omaha one last time and finish my career here. Long Beach State and Fullerton in a Super Regional at Blair, that's how you kind of leave your mark here at Cal State Fullerton.
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