The Cal State Fullerton baseball team’s second trip to New Orleans in less than a year was one of purpose, at least for Mike Ross, Keith Kaub and Longo Garcia.
All three had forgettable experiences last May in the South Regional II of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. playoffs at the University of New Orleans. The Titans were eliminated after two losses to teams from Louisiana.
“We wanted some revenge on those Louisiana teams,” Ross said. “We wanted to prove something to them.”
And this time, the Titans were not left wanting.
Fullerton swept through the Busch Challenge II in the Superdome last weekend, defeating Louisiana State, New Orleans and Tulane by a combined score of 29-9.
It was quite a different performance from last year’s regional, in which the Titans lost to Southern, then beat Tulane and Louisiana Tech before being eliminated by LSU. Fullerton gave up four unearned runs in the final and lost, 7-3.
“We sat in the dugout for about 30 minutes after losing that last game,” Kaub said. “We knew we were the better team. And I think the other teams knew that, too.”
Kaub, the Titans’ first baseman, and Ross, the second baseman, were determined not to let it happen again.
Kaub, who had just three hits during the regional last May, reached base in 11 of his 16 plate appearances this time, with 6 hits, 5 walks, 6 runs scored and 5 runs batted in. Kaub, the tournament’s most valuable player, also hit a three-run homer into the second deck.
Ross, who had just one hit during the regional, went 5 for 15 with a home run and was named to the all-tournament team.
“It was nice to go down there and show how well we can play,” Ross said. “We beat three good teams, and none of the games were close.”
Although Garcia, a right-hander, did not make the all-tournament team, he did feel vindicated.
Kaub and Ross had bad experiences in the regional last year, but for Garcia, it was a nightmare.
Not only did Garcia lose both games, but in the final, he committed two balks and an error with the bases loaded. The error allowed LSU to score three unearned runs, and one of the balks set up the go-ahead run.
So for Garcia, beating LSU, 7-2, last Friday in the first game was a special victory.
“It didn’t mean as much to the team as a regional game, but meant a lot to me,” Garcia said. “The LSU fans were really loud. That got me pumped up. When we beat them, they started showing us a little more respect.”
Still, the LSU fans wouldn’t let Fullerton forget about last year.
“They kept yelling, ‘Why can’t you do it when it counts?’ and ‘Regional, regional,’ and other stuff about last year,” Garcia said. “I would love to go back there this year for the regionals to prove it again. But after what we did this weekend, I don’t know if the Louisiana schools want us back.”
Garcia wasn’t taking any chances against LSU, as he asked Coach Larry Cochell to make a slight change--in uniforms.
Before the tournament, Garcia asked Cochell if the Titans could wear their white home uniforms instead of the gray road jerseys against LSU. The reason?
“I’m very superstitious,” he said.
Last season, Garcia had a 10-5 record but was 1-4 wearing gray.
This year, Garcia is 1-0 in the gray uniform, but he had a comfortable margin to work with. Fullerton beat Arizona, 22-5, on Feb. 12.
“I really pitched bad in that game,” Garcia said.
Fullerton normally wears gray, then white, then gray on three-game trips, but in an effort to give Garcia an edge, the team reversed the order.
Fullerton (23-9 overall, 2-1 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.) will play its conference home opener against UC Santa Barbara tonight. Garcia (7-1) will pitch the first of three games, all starting at 7 p.m.
Being the home team, Fullerton will wear white.
The three-game sweep in Louisiana boosted Fullerton in the polls. It is ranked sixth by Baseball America and eighth by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
Last week, Collegiate Baseball ranked the Titans 12th and Baseball America ranked them 15th.
The Titan football team has lost its third assistant coach in less than a month, as defensive line coach Dave Tipton has accepted a similar position at Oregon State.
Two weeks ago, secondary coach Steve Hall resigned for personal reasons, and last week assistant offensive line coach Jim Chaney quit to accept a position at Western Michigan.
“I went to Hawaii for 9-10 days and came back to find three coaches gone,” Coach Gene Murphy said. “I’m afraid to go to the bathroom now.”
With three coaching positions to fill, Murphy has pushed back the opening of a spring practice by a week. The Titans will begin workouts on April 11.
The departure of Tipton, Hall and Chaney breaks up a staff that had remained virtually intact since 1983. Until recently, Murphy had lost only one assistant coach, when defensive coordinator Bob Burt left after the 1984 season to accept the head coaching position at Cal State Northridge.