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Cal State Fullerton wins opener of key series, 4-1

Times Staff Writer

Cal State Fullerton struck first in the battle for the Big West Conference baseball title, defeating Long Beach State, 4-1, in a rain-interrupted opener of their three-game series Friday night at Blair Field in Long Beach.

The Titans (37-17, 16-6 Big West) took a two-game lead over the 49ers (35-19, 14-8) and clinched at least a tie for the conference title, but a tie isn’t good enough, Titans Coach Dave Serrano said.

“I don’t think either one of our programs is happy with a tie,” Serrano said. “We want to win it outright, and we still have our hands full to finish the job out.”

Fullerton starter Jeff Kaplan pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up only one run and three hits. He had given up only two infield singles through five innings before a steady rainfall delayed the game for more than 1 1/2 hours.

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Serrano took a chance by sending Kaplan back to the mound after sitting out the 97-minute delay on a chilly night, and the move nearly backfired as Kaplan gave up a walk and a single before Serrano brought in Michael Morrison.

Steve Tinoco greeted Morrison with a run-scoring groundout, but Jason Corder flied out to left to end the threat and Kaplan (11-1) won his eighth consecutive start and 10th consecutive decision.

He and the rest of the Fullerton pitchers were backed by a pair of run-scoring doubles by Jared Clark, who had three hits, and outstanding outfield defense by Erik Komatsu and Josh Fellhauer, who made several running catches on well-hit balls at or near the fence.

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peter.yoon@latimes.com


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