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NCAA South II Regional Baseball : Fullerton Faces Pitching-Thin Southern in Opener

Times Staff Writer

Cal State Fullerton’s pitchers may be a little concerned about Southern University’s baseball team, the Titans’ opponent in the first round of the NCAA South II Regional tonight at the University of New Orleans.

But, Fullerton hitters aren’t likely to quiver at the chance to hit against the Jaguars, who have a 6.70 team earned-run average this season.

Southern, of Baton Rouge, La., won the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship mainly because of its hitting. The Jaguars (30-20), who have a .353 team batting average, are led by Adell Davenport (.407, 19 home runs, 69 RBIs); Ken Clarke (.458, 7 home runs, 43 RBIs); and Brian Cornelius (.420, 4 home runs, 56 RBIs).

“From what I hear about Fullerton we obviously may be in trouble,” said Roger Cador, Southern coach. “We’ll have to play perfect baseball and hope they don’t play their best game.

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“We have some players who can hit the ball, but I’m not going to wake up tomorrow morning and find a pitcher.”

Cador will start reliever Alan Ratliff (2-2, 4.07 ERA), who had 10 saves this season, against Longo Garcia (10-3, 4.11 ERA). Game time is 5:30 p.m. PDT.

“He’s been a real stopper out of the pen,” Cador said of Ratliff. “I just wanted to at least give him a chance.”

Fullerton (42-15) is led by designated hitter Andy Mota (team-leading .389 average), outfielder Greg Mannion (.315, 9 home runs, 45 RBIs); outfielder Mark Baca (.375, 36 stolen bases); and second baseman Mark Ross (.274, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs).

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But unlike Southern, the Titans have pitching. Larry Casian (10-1, 2.67 ERA), Mike Harkey (9-2, 2.93 ERA) and Garcia led Fullerton to the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championship.

Fullerton, ranked second in the nation by Baseball America, is top-seeded in the six-team, double-elimination tournament. Southern is seeded sixth.

The winner of the regional advances to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., which begins May 29.

“Being the top-seeded team means you have a real responsibility to play good baseball,” said Augie Garrido, Fullerton coach. “The quality of Louisiana baseball is outstanding. . . . We understand that seeding is part of the tournament process, but we also understand that it is not something that is part of the outcome.”


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