Cal State Fullerton freshman Jace Chamberlin got the nickname “Jumbo” earlier this year on a trip to New Orleans due to his affinity for jambalaya.
Late Saturday night, Titans coach Rick Vanderhook was looking for a big contribution from the 6-foot-4 freshman. He sent Chamberlin to pinch hit with two outs in the ninth inning. Chamberlin blasted a walk-off homer off the scoreboard in right field to beat regional host Stanford, the No. 2 national seed, 2-1.
“I thought I got it,” Chamberlin said. “I saw the right fielder go back and look up. I don’t really remember much from there. … I think I blacked out.”
Fullerton entered with 11 home runs in 56 games. Chamberlin had zero. Stanford’s top slugger, Andrew Daschbach, has 16 this season.
“There’s guys on every team we play that have more home runs than us [as a team],” Vanderhook said. “Pretty good time to hit your first career home run.”
Fullerton advances to the regional championship scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday. It will take on the winner of Sunday’s 1 p.m. elimination game between the Cardinal and Baylor. Whichever team wins will have to beat Fullerton twice.
The Titans took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Daniel Cope’s sacrifice fly. Hank LoForte scored after hitting a single to extend his hit streak to 18 games.
Stanford evened the score in the sixth inning. Alec Wilson barely missed a home run when his double hit less than a foot from the top of the right-center field wall, but he scored one batter later when Tim Tawa lined a triple into right-center field. A stellar defensive play by third baseman Brett Borgogno, diving to tag Tawa after fielding a chopper, kept the game tied. It was the first of a sequence of terrific defensive efforts from both teams.
Stanford left fielder Kyle Stowers threw out Mitchell Berryhill at the plate to end the sixth inning. With runners on the corners in the eighth inning, Cal State Fullerton turned a long inning-ending double play. Shortstop Sahid Valenzuela double clutched on the turn with his throw to first hitting the mitt milliseconds before Stowers touched first base.
Both starting pitchers threw well. Stanford left hander Kris Bubic gave up only one hit after the first inning. He struck out 10 in seven innings. Fullerton junior Tommy Wilson gave up one run on three hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out six Cardinal.
Titans closer Brett Conine struck out five in three scoreless innings. He was credited with his fourth win of the season.