It was a big difference from two weeks ago.
When Cal State Fullerton played at Cal State Northridge in the season opener, the Matadors pounded four home runs, and the Titans made three errors.
Wednesday, the Titans drilled two homers and came up with some sparkling plays on defense in a 5-1 victory over the Matadors at Titan Field. It was Fullerton’s fifth consecutive victory.
Possibly the best news of all for Coach George Horton: Four pitchers limited Northridge to six hits, and all were singles. It marked the first time this season the Titans (6-2) have given up fewer than five runs, and the improvement came at a good time. The 10th-ranked Titans begin a three-game series Friday against No. 1-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee.
“Our theme the last two days has been on defense,” Horton said. “We know we can’t be a good team unless we’re good defensively.”
The offense didn’t put up the big numbers it did in last weekend’s series sweep at Arizona, but a three-run homer by Scott Seal and a one-run shot by Nakia Hill were enough.
Junior John Alkire, who lost his spot in the weekend rotation this week to freshman Michael Garner after giving up 16 runs in his last two starts, was much improved. Alkire held Northridge (7-3-1) scoreless in the first three innings, giving up only two hits.
“Today was a confidence-builder,” Alkire said. “I’ve been having great bullpens lately. The problem was that I wasn’t thinking pitch by pitch, and today I did that.”
Horton was pleased with Alkire’s resurgence.
“Alkire pitched well against Northridge in relief the last time, and that might have helped him,” Horton said. “We told him from the start he would pitch only three innings and that might have been a factor too. The important thing is that he did much better. It’s always a test when you’ve been down.”
Garner took over and held Northridge scoreless in two innings as a tuneup for his first college start Saturday against the Seminoles. Garner retired the side in order in the fourth. He gave up two hits in the fifth, but got a boost from two superb defensive plays. Seal threw out Matt Pitstick from right field when he rounded first after a leadoff hit, and first baseman C.J. Ankrum made another outstanding throw to third to complete a double play that took Garner out of the inning.
Mike Greenlee (2-0), who picked up the victory, followed with two hitless innings. Closer Brandon Duckworth took over in the eighth and retired the side in order. Northridge nicked him for two hits and one run in the ninth. Third baseman Mike Lamb ended the game by making a diving catch of a foul pop, then throwing out a runner trying to take second.
“I thought it was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Horton said.
The Titans finished with 10 hits.
Outfielder Steve Chatham and shortstop Jerome Alviso were held out of the game because of injuries. Alviso strained his right knee sliding in the Arizona series, and Chatham sprained his right wrist diving for a line drive in practice Tuesday. Horton said neither player will make the trip to Florida State.
An exhibition game between Fullerton and the Angels is set for March 31 at Titan Field. The Angels also played the Titans last year in their opening spring-training exhibition game in Mesa with the Angels winning, 11-7.