Fullerton wins in Coach Rick Vanderhook's return from suspension

Fullerton wins in Coach Rick Vanderhook's return from suspension
Cal State Fullerton Coach Rick Vanderhook watches the team run through drills. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Rick Vanderhook was happy to be back in the dugout on Friday night.

Cal State Fullerton’s baseball coach had been on paid administrative leave for the last month. But he was reinstated last week and in his first game back guided his team to a 9-1 victory over Big West Conference-leading UC Irvine at Anteater Ballpark.

"It's better than being at home listening to it on the Internet, that's for sure," Vanderhook said after his team improved to 26-22 overall and 9-10 in the Big West. UC Irvine dropped to 35-17 overall and 15-4 in the Big West.

Fullerton scored five runs during the fourth inning en route to handing Anteater starter Andrew Morales his first loss in two seasons at Irvine.


Morales, who lost only one game in two seasons at Rio Hondo College, was 10-0 for Irvine in 2013 and 9-0 before Friday's game.

Fullerton outfielder J.D. Davis drove in four runs and starter Thomas Eshelman (7-3) gave up one run in seven innings.

Fullerton announced on April 17 that Vanderhook had been placed on leave because of unspecified "allegations that it is obligated to review."

Last week the school announced that Vanderhook would return for the Irvine series, saying in a release that school officials had concluded an investigation "concerning improper, unprofessional communication with student-athletes" by Vanderhook.

The Orange County Register, citing two people connected to the team who requested anonymity, reported that a secret recording of Vanderhook lashing out at the team had been turned in to the athletic department. Vanderhook also had told that the Titans were "a soft group" and that the team had "no accountability."

In announcing Vanderhook's reinstatement, Athletic Director James Donovan said in a statement that Vanderhook "received appropriate counsel regarding his conduct."

In his own statement, Vanderhook said, "Players and coaches alike are accountable for their actions on and off the field. I regret my behavior in this instance, and its impact on the program and on the university."

On Friday, after the victory over Irvine, Vanderhook would not comment on the situation.

He said he would have preferred an earlier return, "but this is what we have and this is where we're going and it's a good start."