Cal State Fullerton is back in the College World Series.
Reaching that goal seemed improbable at times, difficult and pressure-filled, but the Titans made it happen with never-say-die baseball Monday in the NCAA Midwest I regional.
Fullerton beat top-seeded Oklahoma State, the host team, 6-5, in the 10th inning when relief pitcher Rob Gaiko, facing his first batter, hit pinch-hitter Robert Matos with the bases loaded, forcing in Jeff Ferguson with the winning run. And when that happened, the Fullerton players’ pent-up emotion bubbled over on the field into joyous hugging and celebration.
It was stunning climax to a hard-fought game and gave the Titans their second World Series trip in three years and fourth in the last seven. Fullerton has won eight regional championship in 16 tries. The Titans had battled back by beating Memphis State, 12-5, earlier in the day after losing to Oklahoma State Sunday night.
“We talked a lot about the fact that we were going to have a lot of championship-level performances today, and I think all that happened,” Coach Augie Garrido said. “We overcame a lot of things in this game. . . . The kids put everything into it they had.”
In the 10th, Ferguson walked with one out, stole second and advanced to third when Oklahoma State reserve catcher Carl Grinstead overthrew second. Bret Hemphill and Tony Miranda were intentionally walked, bringing Matos to the plate, batting for third baseman Steve Rath.
The Titans (45-14) almost won the game in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing, 5-4, they quickly got two runners aboard when Sal Mancuso was safe on an error and Adam Millan singled.
Two pinch runners, Miranda and Tony Fetchel, advanced on Jeremy Giambi’s sacrifice bunt. Jim Betzsold was called out on strikes before D.C. Olsen was walked intentionally. That brought Brian King to the plate and he singled to center, scoring Miranda. Fetchel, however, was thrown out trying to score on the play.
“I was really relaxed because when I went to the plate the umpire asked me if I was ready to hit, and I thought that was sort of funny,” King said. “I think it helped me.”
King was in lineup only because Dante Powell had pulled a hamstring muscle in the eighth and had to leave the game. “We didn’t want to take any chances with him,” Garrido said. Powell, however, said he was confident that he would be ready for the World Series, which begins Friday.
The Titans used five pitchers. Chad Rolish started and gave up five hits in 3 2/3 innings, while Mike Parisi, Dan Ricabal, Matt Wagner and Ted Silva all had relief stints of no more than 2 1/3 innings. Silva was the winner, getting all three outs in the Oklahoma State 10th. Greg Dean, who pitched five innings in relief, was the loser.
“This was a very emotional game on both sides,” Oklahoma State Coach Gary Ward said. “We’re very disappointed. It was tough to lose one like this at home.”
There were plenty of fireworks early in the game, too.
The Titans took a 1-0 lead in the first when Ferguson homered with two out.
The Cowboys tied the score, 1-1, in the third when Rolish hit Sean Hugo with a pitch with the bases loaded. Rolish ended the inning by striking out Thad Chaddrick.
The Titans regained the lead at 2-1 on another bases-empty home run, this one Hemphill’s fifth of the season, in the bottom of the inning.
Oklahoma State got that run back in the top of the fourth, but again the Titans escaped with the bases loaded when Parisi relieved Rolish and got Prodanov to pop up.
But Parisi, who had pitched 7 2/3 innings Saturday in getting the victory against Texas Christian, ran into trouble quickly in the fifth, giving up two runs on a balk and a wild pitch.
Ricabal, who pitched the last five innings of the afternoon game, replaced Parisi and got the final out.
The Titans tied the score, 4-4, with two runs in the sixth.
The Cowboys took a 5-4 lead in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Lopez.
The Titans advanced to the championship game with a 12-5 victory over Memphis State.
Powell turned in a sparkling performance, going six for six with three runs scored, two runs batted in and three stolen bases. Powell hit his ninth home run of the season.
“We threw everything at him, including the kitchen sink and still couldn’t get him out,” Memphis Coach Jeff Hopkins said.
Antone Williamson singled home the winning run in the 10th inning after Arizona State (43-16) got two home runs from tournament MVP Todd Cady in a 5-4 victory over Tennessee in the Mideast Regional title at Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee (52-14) forced extra innings when Todd Helton hit a grand slam with two out in the eighth.
Jay Payton drove in four runs and Nomar Garciaparra accounted for three more as Georgia Tech beat Washington, 18-7, to win the NCAA Midwest II Regional at Wichita, Kan. Washington had beaten Georgia Tech, 12-9 in 14 innings, earlier in the day to set up the championship game.
The top-seeded Yellow Jackets (47-16) scored six runs on five hits in the first inning of the night game and added two more runs in the second for an 8-1 lead. Washington starter Derek Carpenter (10-2) got only one out as he faced seven batters, and the Huskies (46-18) committed six errors.
Damon Minor and Rich Hills each drove in two runs to carry Oklahoma to a 6-3 victory over Texas at Austin, Tex.