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Persinger scores game-winner in Super Regional as Titans reach College World Series

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Cal State Fullerton’s Dillon Persinger, left, a Fountain Valley High product seen here on Friday, scored the game-winning run against Long Beach State on Sunday.
(Kevin Chang | Daily Pilot)

LONG BEACH — When best friends and former Fountain Valley High and youth teammates Dillon Persinger and Brock Lundquist reminisce about one of what one coach called the most energetic college baseball game in Southern California history, they will likely talk about the importance of 90 feet.

That’s the distance that separated them from being the player who scored the winning run and the one who was stranded at third in the bottom of the ninth with the would-be-tying run on Sunday.

Persinger, the Cal State Fullerton junior first baseman, was the one who crossed the plate with the second run of the game in a 2-1 win over Long Beach State in front of 2,896 at Blair Field.

The victory clinched the best-of-three Long Beach Super Regional for the Titans (39-22), who will make their 18th College World Series appearance in Omaha, Neb.

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Lundquist, the Dirtbags’ junior right fielder, was the guy who opened the ninth inning with a ringing double off the left-center-field wall, but was not picked up by his teammates.

Persinger was hit by a pitch in the second inning, after Sahid Valenzuela was also drilled to open the inning by Dirtbags’ starting pitcher John Sheaks. After Timmy Richards advanced both with a sacrifice bunt, designated hitter Hank LaForte lined a single to center field, plating Valenzuela and Persinger.

It was Cal State Fullerton’s first hit of the game, the first of only two hits on the day, but was made to stand up by starting pitcher Colton Eastman and closer Brett Conine.

Eastman, a sophomore who missed 10 weeks with elbow tightness and earned his first win of the season in the regional sweep at Stanford, allowed one hit and no earned runs in seven innings to get the win Sunday. The former Freshman All-American struck out eight, walked four and threw a season-high 106 pitches.

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Long Beach State (42-20-1) cut into the lead when sophomore Jarren Duran, who had two hits, scored on a passed ball in the sixth inning.

Perrine, an All-American, struck out three in two scoreless relief innings to record his 15th save in as many chances this season.

But Lundquist made the Titans, including Persinger, sweat.

“Off the bat, it looked like [center fielder Scott Hurst] had a bead on it and I thought he was going to catch it,” Persinger said of Lundquist’s deep drive on an 0-1 count that one-hopped the wall. “Then it just kept carrying. Luckily, it stayed in.”

Lundquist, who also walked twice on Sunday, finished three for eight in the series. With four walks, he reached seven times, but never scored. When he advanced to third on one-out groundout in the ninth inning Sunday, it was the second time he had gotten past second base in the series.

“We were lucky enough to have Colton back and he pitched a hell of a game,” said Persinger, a Golden West College transfer who was one for nine with a walk and was hit by pitches twice in his first Super Regional. He scored twice in three games and drove in a run in Fullerton’s 12-0 win Saturday.

“None of that matters because we’re going to Omaha,” Persinger, who was seven for 12 with five runs and two RBIs in three regional games at Stanford, said of his individual stats. “It’s a pretty surreal feeling, especially beating our rivals at their field. Even though they took the Big West, we have a chance to go to Omaha. I’ll take that every day of the week.”

Long Beach State won the conference regular-season crown and was 6-1 against the Titans this season after Friday.

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Hunter Cullen, the Titans’ senior right fielder, was two for 12 with two runs and one RBI in the series. The Corona del Mar High product in his third year at Fullerton, will be making his second trip to the College World Series. Cullen appeared as a defensive replacement in Omaha in 2015, but did not get an at-bat.

“It’s crazy,” Cullen said of extending his final college season. “It was absolutely nuts to beat Long Beach, our rival, on its home field. There is no better feeling.”

Fullerton, which won NCAA titles in 2004, 1995, 1984 and 1979, will open the College World Series against Oregon State (54-4), the No. 1 overall seed that has won 21 in a row.

“We’re excited for it,” Cullen said of the matchup, at a date and time to be determined. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Also helping Cal State Fullerton beat Long Beach were junior starting right fielder Chris Prescott (two for 11 in the series), junior Orange Coast College transfer and relief pitcher Jack Pabich (2 2/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 loss in Game 1 on Friday), and senior starting pitcher Connor Seabold, a Newport Harbor High product who is 11-5 on the season after taking the loss Friday.

Marina High graduate Maxwell Gibbs, a senior relief pitcher, and JT McLellan, a junior OCC transfer who is out for the season with a leg injury, have also contributed for the Titans this season.

In addition to Lundquist, the Long Beach State roster includes sophomore relief pitcher Eli Villalobos, who played at Golden West last season, and senior infielder Jeff Nellis, an OCC transfer.

Villalobos did not allow a hit or a run in one relief inning Sunday. He pitched one-third of an inning and allowed one hit in Friday’s win.

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barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5


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