Cal State Fullerton's pitchers, the big question mark for the Titans in 1996 after winning the College World Series last year, completed one of their most successful weeks of the season Sunday at Titan Field.
Starter Matt Wise and reliever Luis Estrella each gave up three hits and one run over eight innings, and Mark Kotsay retired the side in order in the ninth, helping the Titans roll past Loyola Marymount, 13-2. It was Fullerton's 22nd victory in 24 games and seventh in a row. Last year's team was 21-3 at this stage.
Fullerton pitchers had given up only two runs, one of them earned, in the three victories over Brigham Young.
The top-ranked Titans made it look easy Sunday, with another big day on offense in front of 1,056, including their No. 1 celebrity fan, actor-director Kevin Costner.
Third baseman Tony Martinez drove in four runs and scored three, going three for four with his fourth homer of the season. Kotsay blasted his 11th homer of the year, stole three bases and scored four runs in a game in which he walked twice. First baseman C.J. Ankrum drove in three runs, and catcher Brian Loyd had four hits, including two doubles, in five at-bats.
"It was a good job on both sides, offensively and defensively," Titan Coach Augie Garrido said. Fullerton had 13 hits and no errors.
The offense has been consistent throughout the season, except in the losses to Stanford and Pepperdine, but the pitching has had its ups and downs.
"It was a drastic turnaround this week for the pitching and the defense, which struggled last week at Pacific," associate head coach George Horton said. The Titans gave up 20 runs in three games at Pacific, but won all three. "We pitched well this week," Horton said. "We got more aggressive as a staff, and the defense helped."
Horton didn't think Wise had one of his better outings, although he improved his record to 2-0 and gave up only one run in five innings. He walked three and struck out six. "He was up high in the strike zone, and didn't hit his spots the way we want him to," Horton said.
Estrella came in to start the sixth and the Lions got a run off him in the seventh, when Jason Cassanego's homered. The Titans scored once in the first on Jeremy Giambi's RBI single, and once in the second when Loyd doubled, advanced on Scott Seal's hit and scored on a fielder's choice.
Four more runs scored in the third. Ankrum singled in the first run, then Loyd's double and Martinez's single gave the Titans two more runs. Jerome Alviso's double brought in the final run of the inning.
Fullerton added another run in the sixth when Martinez singled and eventually scored on Skip Kiil's sacrifice fly. Ankrum's two-run single and Martinez's two-run homer, his fourth of the season, highlighted a five-run Titan seventh. Kotsay homered to lead off the eighth.
Garrido was happy Loyd had a big day at the plate after a slow start this season. He was hitting .275 before Sunday's game. "Brian's been on it the last couple of weeks, and now they're starting to fall for him," Garrido said. "His numbers are going to take care of themselves." Alviso played shortstop because Jack Jones was out with a strained hamstring. It was only the second game Jones has missed during his three years as a regular. Jones said he expects to be back in the lineup later this week.