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COLLEGE WORLD SERIES NOTEBOOK : The Citadel Missing Key Player in Lineup

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Chal Port, The Citadel coach for 26 seasons, bumped into Larry Cochell in a hotel elevator Sunday, he had a little proposition for the Cal State Fullerton coach.

“Can I borrow one of your shortstops?” Port asked. “I’ll trade you for an outfielder.”

Cochell, whose four starting infielders all played shortstop in high school, laughed off Port’s comment. But it actually would have been a pretty good deal for the Titans.

When The Citadel (45-13) and Fullerton (36-22) play today at 1:10 p.m. PDT in a College World Series elimination game, the Bulldogs will be without shortstop Phillip Tobin, who dislocated his shoulder in Saturday’s 8-2 loss to Louisiana State.

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The Titans will be without left fielder Rich Gonzales, who sprained his neck in a collision with the outfield fence in Fullerton’s 14-4 loss to Oklahoma State Saturday.

Tobin, who bats sixth in The Citadel lineup, is hitting .301 with 28 RBIs. Gonzales, who bats third, is the Titans’ leading hitter with a .386 average, five home runs and 42 RBIs.

It seems Fullerton is getting the short end of this exchange.

“We’re going to miss Rich’s bat,” Cochell said. “We’re going to have to be more aggressive offensively, maybe hit-and-run more often. We have to make them make the plays.”

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First-strike capabilities: The Citadel players may lead a fairly regimented existence at their Charleston, S.C. military academy, but on the baseball field, Bulldog players act as if they are a bunch of GI’s on a two-day pass.

“Watching their last game on TV, they look like a bunch of free swingers,” Titan third baseman Phil Nevin said. “They don’t bunt much, and they like to swing at the first pitch.”

It will be up to Fullerton left-hander Huck Flener to turn the strike zone into a demilitarized zone. For the Titans to be successful, Cochell says Flener has to get his curveball and changeup over on the first pitch.

“They’re a very aggressive team and they swing the bats well,” Cochell said of the Bulldogs, who had 12 hits against Louisiana State. “But if Flener pitches the way he is capable of pitching, he’ll do fine. He has to stay ahead on the counts and then pitch to where we know they’re vulnerable.”

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Despite Fullerton’s sub-par game against Oklahoma State, in which the Titans made three errors and got poor pitching, Cochell says Fullerton will come back strong today.

“Those weren’t the Titans who got us here,” Cochell said. “But we had a good practice today (Sunday) and I’ll be very surprised if we don’t play well Monday.”

Star-struck: Nevin said the Titans, seemingly unfazed by hostile crowds during the NCAA regional at Austin, Tex., were somewhat in awe of their surroundings in Omaha.

Everywhere the players have gone, Nevin said, they have been besieged by autograph-hunting kids--in their hotel, at Rosenblatt Stadium, and even at practice Sunday at an Omaha park.

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“We were on a field next to a Little League field, and they stopped the game and all ran over,” Nevin said. “This is big-time to them.

“When you come here, the team that gets that stuff out of their minds the fastest will play up to their capabilities. We didn’t in the first game and we were a little tight.”

Jewel Plummer Who? And they said the NCAA moves slow. In the Fullerton section of the world series program, the NCAA, notorious for its protracted investigations, lists Dr. Milton A. Gordon as the Titans’ school president.

The publication even has a mug shot of Gordon, which might be of interest to Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb, Cal State Fullerton president. Gordon won’t actually replace the retiring Cobb until August.

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