NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – In just his second weekend start of the season, Koby Gauna delivered, as No. 3 Cal State Fullerton opened its final regular season series with a 5-2 victory over Cal State Northridge at Matador Field on Thursday afternoon.
Gauna (4-1), who hadn't made a weekend start since the Titans opened the season with four games in three days, held the Matadors to two runs on five hits in seven innings on the mound while fanning three and issuing just one walk . After allowing two runs in the second, Gauna retired 14 consecutive Matador batters, and from the third through seventh innings, faced the minimum.
The Titans now improve to 46-8 overall and 21-4 in the Big West Conference, while Cal State Northridge drops to 31-24 overall and 15-10 in league play.
By a sweep of UC Irvine last weekend, the Titans have already clinched their 27th conference championship, including their fourth consecutive Big West title. The championship also clinches the Titans the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as Fullerton will be making its 35th postseason appearance, including its 22nd in a row.
Regional hosts will be announced on www.ncaa.com/CWS at approximately 6 p.m. (PT), Sunday, May 26. The 2013 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection Show with regional pairings, will be revealed in a live, one-hour telecast on ESPNU at 9 a.m. (PT), Monday, May 27.
Cal State Fullerton took a 1-0 lead in the first as Michael Lorenzen's two-out RBI single to right scored Richy Pedroza, after the Titans' leadoff hitter reached on a single to center field to start the game.
Northridge responded in the bottom of the second, scoring two runs to claim a short-lived lead. Alexis Mercado led off the inning with a single into right field, and Chester Pak added a one-out double, putting runners on second and third. Ryan Raslowsky placed a RBI bunt down the third base line that the Titans were unable to field early, allowing the Matadors' first run to score. Matt Chapman eventually reached the play, but an errant throw allowed Pak to score as CSUN went ahead 2-1.
Northridge starter Jerry Keel got into trouble in the third against the Titans, and the inning eventually spelled his end as Fullerton scored three runs on four hits in the frame.
In his second at-bat, Pedroza once again led off the inning with a single, and turned it into a run as he advanced to second on a passed ball, moved to third on Carlos Lopez's bunt single, before scoring on Chapman's sacrifice fly to left.
J.D. Davis then came to the plate, and hammered his fourth home run of the year over the center field wall, breaking the 2-2 tie, and giving the Titans a two-run advantage as Keel was chased from the game.
In the fourth, with Northridge reliever Brycen Rutherford on the mound, Fullerton built its lead to 5-2 as Austin Diemer scored courtesy of Lopez's RBI groundout.
In the loss, Keel (7-3) allowed four runs on six hits while walking one in two and 1/3 innings of work – his shortest start of the year.
In relief, Rutherford allowed one run on three hits while striking out one in six and 2/3 innings. He retired nine straight during one stretch, and faced the minimum in his final five innings on the mound.
Davis retired the Matadors in order in the bottom of the ninth, and struck out one to record his third save of the year.
The second game of the series is scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch from Matador Field on Friday.
Notes: Fullerton's 46 wins are the most since 2010 when the team finished the year with 46 victories…Fullerton's 46-8 record is the best for the program after 54 games in Division I history which dates back to 1975…the Titans have outscored opponents 60-14 in the first inning this season.