Cal State Fullerton had seemed to be living a charmed baseball life lately.
But Friday wasn't the Titans' day.
Erasmo Ramirez, one of Fullerton's top pitchers, suffered a broken nose when he was hit by a ball thrown during pregame batting practice, putting his status in question.
Then the Titans' 14-game winning streak--the nation's longest at the start of the week--came to an end in a 10-9 defeat at the hands of host UC Santa Barbara.
Ramirez was knocked down by the errant throw and had to be helped off the field. He was treated at the UCSB health service, and returned before the game ended.
Fullerton coaches discussed Ramirez's injury by telephone with the team doctor Friday night, and pitching coach Dave Serrano said Ramirez might be cleared to pitch today if he has no headaches or bleeding. "We'll wait and see how he feels," Serrano said.
The Big West tournament that decides the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs begins Thursday at Fullerton. The 13th-ranked Titans (40-13, 23-5 in conference) are assured of the top seeding.
After Ramirez's misfortune, the Titan pitchers who took the mound also had their share of trouble.
Benny Flores, who went into the game 11-0 and ranked as one of the nation's top pitchers, gave up five runs, all earned, on five hits in six innings after being staked to a 3-0 lead. He walked five.
Kirk Saarloos gave up three runs in the seventh, and closer Adam Johnson gave up the winning run with one in the bottom of the ninth when he hit Jim Alderette with the bases loaded.
Johnson (1-2), who had eight consecutive scoreless relief appearances, took the loss. Johnson hit one batter and gave up two walks, one intentionally, before an infield hit scored one run and loaded the bases.
"Adam should never have had to be in that situation," said Flores, who was disappointed with his effort. "I'm frustrated. I wasn't throwing it over the plate, and you can't have those kinds of lapses. We should have been in control."
The Titans lost their first conference game on the road this season despite a season-high five home runs. All but one, a two-run shot by Pete Fukuhara in a five-run eighth, came with the bases empty.
Ryan Moore followed Fukuhara's homer with his second homer of the game and the Titans scored two more runs in the eighth. They led, 9-8, after Greg Jacobs' RBI single.
Moore also homered in the sixth and was four for four before striking out in the ninth.
Steve Chatham, who started in center field ahead of Reed Johnson, homered in the first. Kevin Duck homered in the second.
"I can't remember getting five home runs in a game and not winning it," Titan Coach George Horton said. "We had the right three pitchers pitching, but they weren't as effective as they normally are. Flores' problem was that his walks and hit batters came at the wrong time for him. We did a lot of good things on offense, though, and I liked the way we came back late in the game."
A four-run fifth inning was costly to Flores. He made a bad throw to third base on a pickoff play that enabled one run to score, and two walks set up a two-run double by Justin Lehr.