The odds were against Fullerton College from the outset Sunday in the Southern California Regional baseball playoffs.
The Hornets were playing Riverside, which already had beaten Fullerton four times in five games this season. Riverside was also playing at home.
Fullerton, faced with having to win two games to advance, never got a chance at the second as Riverside won the first, 4-3, holding off a ninth-inning Fullerton rally to earn a berth in the state tournament this weekend at UC Irvine.
Fullerton trailed, 4-2, to start the ninth, and Riverside starter David Anderlik retired the first two batters.
Jim Vlcek then walked and Kevin Monson doubled to the fence in left field to score Vlcek.
But the game ended when Crosby Spencer flied out to left field. Anderlik (3-1) pitched a six-hitter for the victory, which added to an impressive turnaround for Riverside under first-year Coach Dennis Rogers.
Rogers, who was the pitching coach at Cal State Fullerton for two seasons, took over a program that was 7-29-1 in 1989.
Riverside (32-15) finished fourth in the Orange Empire Conference this season, but advanced past conference champion Rancho Santiago and third-place finisher Fullerton in the regional at Riverside.
Golden West, the second-place team, was defeated by Los Angeles Harbor, 4-3, at Cerritos College in another regional game Sunday.
“Dennis (Rogers) did a great job over here,” Fullerton Coach Nick Fuscardo said. “They owned us this year.”
Fullerton (28-16) can look back to offensive failures in the sixth and seventh innings as the primary reason for the loss. In each inning, the Hornets had runners on second and third with no outs.
But they got only one run in the sixth, tying the score, 2-2.
In the sixth, Benny Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and went to third on a double by Willy Speakman. Fullerton had its RBI leaders, Gary Mota and Jim Short, coming up.
But Mota struck out, and Short grounded out, the run scoring on the play. Tom Wilson bounced out to third, ending the inning.
In the seventh, Jeff Manship tripled to right. Vlcek was hit by a pitch and stole second, but Monson lined hard to third for the first out. Spencer followed with a sharp grounder that went off the glove of Riverside third baseman Curt Callicott, but the ball bounced to shortstop Ray Cervantes, who threw to first to get Spencer. Rodriguez grounded out to end the inning.
“We had some opportunities but we didn’t do anything with them,” Fuscardo said. “We only got one run out of that mess.”
Riverside broke the tie with two runs in the seventh. Randy Curtis walked and went to third on a single by Larry Stahlhoefer, who then stole second. Fullerton starter Brian Behnke was replaced by reliever Jim Burchit. Behnke (2-1) took the loss.
Fuscardo ordered an intentional walk to Randy Graves, Riverside’s best hitter, but Callicott followed with a two-run single.
“We figured Graves would hurt us so we didn’t want to pitch to him,” Fuscardo said. “But the next guy gets a high fastball and beats us anyway. “