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Cal State Fullerton takes a familiar road to super regional through Stanford

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Cal State Fullerton outfielder Ruben Cardenas celebrates hitting a three-run home run against Stanford at Sunken Diamond on June 3.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

For the second year in a row, Cal State Fullerton won the Stanford Regional to advance to the NCAA super regionals, college baseball’s equivalent of the Sweet 16. The Titans took down national No. 2 seed and regional host Stanford 5-2 Sunday at Sunken Diamond.

Right-hander Tanner Bibee was forced into Fullerton’s starting pitching rotation because of an elbow strain suffered by Andrew Quezada last week. Titans coach Rick Vanderhook elected not to tell him until two hours before the game.

Bibee ran with the opportunity and a lenient strike zone from home plate umpire Brandon Cooper.

Bibee struck out 11, including eight batters that refrained from swinging at strike three. He worked both sides of the plate, getting called strikes on pitches an extra inch or five outside of the edges.

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The freshman from Mission Viejo pitched into the seventh inning for the second time. He gave up five hits and two runs to pick up his third career win.

It helped erase a disastrous start against Stanford the first weekend of the season. Bibee was quickly moved out of the weekend rotation after allowing four runs and not getting out of the first inning in the finale of a series sweep at the hands of the Cardinal.

“This entire season has humbled me and made me more mature and kind of just made me realize that I’m not the best, I need to work harder at it,” Bibee said. “I’ve been working hard this entire season and it happened to pay off today.”

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Cal State Fullerton freshman Tanner Bibee pitches against Stanford in an NCAA regional at Sunken Diamond on June 3.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times )

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For the second day in a row, Fullerton (35-23) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Daniel Cope sacrifice fly that scored Hank LoForte. The Titans added a sacrifice fly in the fourth. This time, Cope scored on a Jake Pavletich fly ball.

An inning later, Ruben Cardenas drove a line drive over the left field fence for a three-run homer that gave Fullerton some breathing room.

“It’s not often do you score two runs on no hits, but we did that,” Vanderhook said. “Then we got one hit, a three-run home run, that gave us a little cushion.”

Stanford (46-12) trimmed the deficit in the seventh inning. The Cardinal chased Bibee with a double and a single. Reliever Blake Workman walked the first batter he faced to load the bases and Alec Wilson hit a two-run single into center field.

Fullerton cut off a throw to the plate and caught runner Nick Oar off second base, tagging him out in a rundown to end the inning and Stanford’s best threat.

Workman pitched the final two innings giving up one hit, finishing off a regional that saw Titans pitchers hold opponents to five runs and 18 hits over three games.

The win advances Cal State Fullerton to the super regionals for the 14th time and third time in the last four years. It is the Titans’ 23rd regional title. They will play Washington, which defeated Connecticut to win the Conway Regional.

Since the Titans and Huskies were both No. 3 seeds in their respective regionals, the site will have to be determined by the NCAA.

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UCLA’s season ends in Minnesota loss

Alex Boxwell homered and doubled and drove in four runs, Jackson Rose pitched four innings of strong relief, and Minnesota won its first regional in 19 NCAA tournament appearances under coach John Anderson with a 13-8 win over UCLA.

Boxwell’s two-run homer gave the Gophers a 7-5 lead in the third inning, and he drove in two more runs with a double in a six-run fourth that broke open the game.

Toby Hanson also had a three-run homer for Big Ten champion and No. 14 seed Minnesota (44-13).

Rose (5-1) relieved struggling starter Jake Stevenson, who gave up five runs in two innings. Rose limited the Bruins to one run and five hits over four innings.

Garrett Mitchell went two for four with three RBIs for the Bruins (38-21). Nick Scheidler (1-1), the second of six UCLA pitchers, took the loss.


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