For five innings no one could have guessed that Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton came in each averaging more than 10 runs a game.
After nine innings, no one could have guessed that Northridge had defeated Fullerton only two weeks ago by hitting four home runs.
The Matadors managed only six singles in a 5-1 loss Wednesday before 751 at Titan Field. It was the second loss in a row for 18th-ranked Northridge (7-3-1) and the fifth victory in a row for the 10th-ranked Titans (6-2).
Jason Cole (2-1) kept Northridge even through five innings by allowing three hits and no walks. But Fullerton scored four runs in the sixth, the key blow a three-run home run by Scott Seal on the second pitch by left-hander Carey Novits.
It was the first and only batter faced this season by Novits, a junior transfer from Citrus College.
“You want to find out how he’ll do under pressure,” said Northridge Coach Mike Batesole, who couldn’t use experienced Nathan Rice because the senior left-hander has a pulled muscle in his rib cage.
Northridge generated nothing remotely resembling a rally until the ninth. Andy Wilson and Adam Kennedy singled to open the inning, and a ground ball by Clark Parker retired Kennedy at second and enabled Wilson to score.
Third baseman Mike Lamb made a diving catch of a foul popup by Jose Miranda and ended the game by throwing out Parker attempting to advance to second.
Parker tagging up with his team four runs behind was one of three Matador baserunning mistakes.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Hurd was thrown out by right fielder Seal after rounding first too far on a leadoff single in the fifth, and Kennedy was thrown out trying to go from first to third on a groundout by Parker in the third.
“They were aggressive mistakes, so I’m OK with that,” Batesole said. “Not smart, but aggressive.”
Fullerton’s pitchers could be described as brilliant and aggressive. They faced three over the minimum, walking none and inducing three double plays.
John Alkire--who came in with an earned-run average of 27.00, having given up 17 hits in five innings--allowed two singles in three innings.
Mike Garner faced six batters in the next two innings despite giving up singles to Hurd and Brian Wagner to open the fifth. Wagner was erased by a double play.
Mike Greenlee (2-0) retired six in a row and handed closer Brandon Duckworth a five-run cushion.
“That’s a different level of pitching than we’ve had,” said Fullerton Coach George Horton, who used four pitchers to keep his staff fresh for this weekend’s series against No. 1-ranked Florida State.
First baseman and cleanup hitter Casey Cheshier did not play for the first time this season. Cheshier has three home runs and 12 runs batted in, but is batting .250. Freshmen Matt Pitstick and Adrian Mendoza played first and freshman outfielder Terrmel Sledge, who entered the game batting .412, batted cleanup. Hurd, who came in batting .243, also did not start. “There will be a lot of changes through March,” Batesole said. “That’s been our plan all along. A lot of guys deserve a chance to play.”