Cal State Fullerton has a golden opportunity to snap a streak of losing five-straight College World Series games and their last three CWS openers. The Titans will resume the rain-postponed matchup at noon PDT on Monday with defending national champion Vanderbilt, leading 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"It's unfortunate that we got delayed, but I've been to Omaha plenty of times and weather is just something you have to deal with sometimes," Fullerton Coach Rick Vanderhook said. "We were playing really well and we just have to come back and continue to do the same in the morning."
The Titans will have to do it without ace Thomas Eshelman, who almost assuredly will be unavailable Monday when the game resumes, after throwing 89 pitches through 5 2/3 innings.
Vanderhook was not willing to name who will take over on the mound when play resumes with Zander Wiel batting with a 3-and-2 count, a runner on third base and two outs. But the Titans have options.
They could choose to use a right-handed reliever such as senior Willie Kuhl or sophomores Miles Chambers or Chad Hockin against the right-handed-swinging Wiel. They could even use starters John Gavin or Connor Seabold. But Fullerton's best bet may be to turn the ball over to senior closer Tyler Peitzmeier for a potential 10-out save.
Facing Carson Fulmer, one of the best pitchers in college baseball, the bottom of the Fullerton lineup wasn't expected to have an impact offensively. A.J. Kennedy and Taylor Bryant were supposed to be defensive gems, but automatic outs. Each began the CWS batting below .200.
Instead, their production pushed the Titans to a 3-0 lead. The trio of Timmy Richards, Kennedy and Bryant were two for three with three runs scored and one run batted in when the game was suspended.
Bryant put the Titans ahead, 1-0, when he hit a hanging two-strike curveball for a single to drive in Richards, who walked to lead off the inning.
Richards walked his next at-bat and Kennedy doubled down the left-field line. Richards scored on a wild pitch and Kennedy scored on a Josh Vargas single.
That appeared as if it was going to be enough for Eshelman, the Houston Astros' second-round draft pick. He struck out eight batters and gave up four hits. He lowered his earned-run average to 1.51 and pushed his career totals to 319 strikeouts and only 18 walks in 3761/3 innings.