Cal State Fullerton kept its hopes alive Saturday for a seventh regional softball championship and berth in the NCAA World Series, and it did so with an unusual source of motivation.
The Titans had been humiliated, 9-0, by host Cal State Northridge in a game stopped after five innings because of the eight-run mercy rule. The loss sent Fullerton into the losers' bracket and a do-or-die situation.
The Titans (34-28), ranked 20th in the country, then upset No. 10 Washington for the second day in a row to advance to today's 12:30 p.m. final against Northridge. The Titans must win twice to reach the World Series, and it won't be easy. The Matadors (48-7) have won 13 in a row and are 22-2 at home.
Fullerton's 4-0 victory over Washington on Saturday came after the Huskies (44-21) had ousted Maine, 10-0, in a game also halted by the mercy rule.
"We all wanted to just crush the ball and get our anger and frustration out," said Titan first baseman Rose Garces, who staked Fullerton to a 2-0 lead with a run-scoring double in the first. "We got creamed (by Northridge). We just decided we were going to take it out on the next team we played."
Garces had one of four doubles for the Titans and the game's only RBI when she hit an opposite-field line drive off the base of the fence in left-center to score Traci Fischer from second.
The first run of the inning came when Jstone Vines hit a ground ball through the legs of Husky first baseman Michelle Cash, took second on a passed ball and came home on a single to left by Fischer and a fielding error by left fielder Shelley Brown.
Fullerton added two runs in the second with singles by Monica Bagalayos (two for three) and Laurie LoForti and two more errors by Washington, which finished with four. All four Fullerton runs were unearned.
Freshman pitcher Trinity Johnson, in the most important game of her young career, threw a six-hitter, striking out eight and walking one for Fullerton.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I don't worry about what a team has done before," said Johnson (14-11), who began the game with a 2.12 earned-run average. "My defense saved me a few times. That was nice."
But Johnson, who has five screws in her throwing hand from a 1993 car accident, stopped Washington's biggest threat herself. With runners at first and second and one out in the third, she struck out Jennifer Cline and Michelle Church. Johnson wasn't aware that Cline had two home runs (including a grand slam) and seven RBIs against Maine.