FULLERTON, Calif. – Carlos Lopez's leadoff double in the eighth turned into the game-winning run as No. 4 Cal State Fullerton clinched the series with a 2-1 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday night at Goodwin Field.
With the win, the Titans (38-7, 14-3) maintain their one-game lead over Cal State Northridge in the Big West Conference standings, while the Dirtbags fall to 21-23 overall and 9-8 in Big West play.
Lopez led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to deep center field – marking the fifth time during the game the Titans put the leadoff run on – and the third time by way of a double.
Long Beach State looked to its bullpen, and right-hander Jon Maciel took over on the mound for starter Jake Stassi. J.D. Davis put down a sacrifice bunt that Maciel failed to field cleanly, putting runners on the corners with no outs courtesy of the error. Micahel Lorenzen then hit into a double play, allowing Lopez to score unearned.
In the top of the ninth, Lorenzen moved from center field to the mound, and made things exciting by loading the bases with one out on a walk and back-to-back singles. Jeff Yamaguchi then hit into a fielder's choice as Juan Avila was retired on a force at the plate and pinch-hitter Zack Belanger struck out swinging to end the game, as Lorenzen recorded his 15th save of the season and the 31st of his career.
The 2,278 fans at Goodwin Field witnessed a pitchers' duel and six innings of scoreless baseball until each team put a run on the board in the seventh.
Through six innings, Justin Garza (10-0) had faced just one batter over the minimum, holding Long Beach State scoreless on one hit and one walk, but that changed in the seventh.
Colton Vaughn led off the first with a single to left, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Garza delivered a wild pitch as Vaughn advanced to third, but looked to recover by recording the second out when Ino Patron flew out to shallow center.
But Zack Rivera had other plans, driving a two-out, RBI double off the wall in left center, ending six-plus scoreless innings of baseball and giving Long Beach State a 1-0 advantage.
But Garza wasn't the only pitcher to bend in the seventh as a leadoff runner was also costly for Stassi. Greg Velazquez was walked to start the bottom of the seventh and sacrificed to second, before moving to third on a groundout.
Austin Diemer was responsible for driving in the game-tying run, lacing a single into left field.
In the win, Garza tossed eight innings and allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out four.
Stassi (4-2) was the tough-luck loser, allowing two runs – just one earned – on five hits and three walks while striking out five.
The series finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch from Goodwin Field on Sunday.
Notes: The Titans' 38-7 record is the best for the program since the 1996 squad opened the year 38-7… the Titans hold a 5-0 record against Long Beach State in 2013…Michael Lorenzen's 31 career saves rank fourth all-time…Fullerton is now 11-4 when the opponent scores first…the Titans have erased a one-run deficit on eight occasions in 2013...both games of the series have been decided one run.