Titan Offense Punishes New Mexico State

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Fullerton put the finishing touch on a three-game sweep of New Mexico State with its best flourish on offense this season.

"I thought we played great," Titan Coach George Horton said after the Titans rolled to a 24-4 victory in a Big West Conference baseball game in front of 1,395 Sunday at Titan Field. "It was probably our best sustained effort."

It was the most runs scored by the Titans since they defeated New Mexico State with a 25-run spree in 1995, and surpassed the 23 runs they had in a victory over Arizona in the opener of a three-game series earlier in the season.

The sweep enabled the Titans to gain two games on Long Beach State in the Big West's Southern Division. Fullerton (26-19-1) is 14-7 in the Big West, but trails the 49ers by three games with nine remaining in the conference's regular season.

Long Beach lost two of three games over the weekend to Nevada, the Northern Division leader. Fullerton plays a three-game series at Nevada (31-13, 15-6) beginning Friday.

"Our chances of being able to catch Long Beach with only that number of games left aren't real good, but the important thing is that we win as many as we possibly can before the tournament starts to help our chances from an at-large standpoint. Our main concern is ourselves."

The Big West's automatic NCAA berth will be determined in the conference tournament May 15-18.

The Titans, getting their first series sweep since one against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in mid-March, blasted four Aggie pitchers for 24 hits in their fourth victory in the last five games. Mike Lamb, Aaron Rowand and Jerome Alviso each had three hits. Ryan Owens batted in four runs on two hits.

Brandon Duckworth (7-1) picked up the victory, giving up nine hits over six innings. Duckworth, who walked four and struck out a season-high 10, gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Upshaw in the second inning, but was solid in the other five innings.

New Mexico State (16-27, 5-16) managed only one hit in the final three innings, that coming off Scott Hild, who took over in the seventh. Dustin Spencer pitched the ninth.

The Titans took a 2-0 lead in the first on Lamb's two-run single after C.J. Ankrum's hit and Steve Chatham's double, then got to Aggie starter Bryan Kozlowski (4-7) for four in the third. Chatham's sacrifice fly drove in Ankrum with the first run and Lamb's double and Aaron Rowand's triple brought in another. Alviso also had an RBI single in the inning.

The Titans broke the game open with nine runs in the fourth. Fullerton had six hits in the inning, including consecutive doubles by Ankrum and Chatham that each drove in a run. Owens also had a two-run single. Two Aggie errors also contributed to the big inning.

Horton began pulling several of his regulars in the sixth inning, and it turned into a rout after that. The Titans had a six-run seventh inning with reserve catcher Mike Wright's two-run homer the highlight.

"We did everything well," Horton said. "We played good defense all the way, which is especially good for that kind of game. We didn't have many sloppy at-bats the whole day. I was pleased because a team can be a little tired for the third game, and we didn't show any of that."

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