FULLERTON, Calif. - The rich baseball histories of Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State provided a nostalgic storyline for Saturday's regional matchup but it was the future - not the past - taking center stage, in the form of freshman phenoms Justin Garza and Ryan Kellogg.
Garza outdueled Kellogg to lead the top-seeded Titans (50-8) to a 1-0 victory in front of 3,371 fans, putting the team one win away from a spot in the Super Regional. Cal State Fullerton, ranked third nationally, will return to action at 8 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the Arizona State-Columbia game that'll start at 4 p.m.
Through his 8.1-inning performance, Garza limited the second-seeded Sun Devils (36-21-1) to four hits and collected nine strikeouts to match his season best. Once finished, he raised his season record to 12-0 and set a new Fullerton record for the most wins by a freshman pitcher. Michael Lorenzen closed out the victory, striking out the two batters he faced to become the program's all-time saves leader with career save No. 35.
A seventh-inning sacrifice fly from senior Richy Pedroza scored the only run of the contest after freshman Jake Jefferies initiated the rally with a double off the leftfield wall. Jefferies finished 2-for-3 at the plate to lead the Titans' attack. Kellogg lasted 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and the one run while striking out three.
The two storied programs entered the day with a combined 293 NCAA postseason wins in total - Arizona State at 151 and Fullerton at 142. Saturday's game, which started at 9:45 p.m. after Columbia topped New Mexico in 13 innings, represented a chance for either the Titans or Sun Devils to take control of the Fullerton regional and send the other into the losers' bracket.
Taking the mound for the late-night showdown were a pair of undefeated pitchers looking to prolong their prolific freshman seasons. Fullerton's Garza and Arizona State's Kellogg entered the game with identical 11-0 records on their All-American resumes.
Garza came out firing, establishing his 93- to 94-mph fastball while mixing in a deceptive changeup to register five strikeouts through the first two innings.
Although not as overpowering early on, Kellogg matched Garza in putting zeroes up on the scoreboard. Two Titan batters reached base on consecutive two-strike counts in the bottom of the first but Kellogg left them stranded after getting a foul out from J.D. Davis and a fly out by Lorenzen.
With Fullerton threatening on offense once again in the second, Sun Devils' rightfielder Trever Allen helped Kellogg keep the host squad off the board. After charging and fielding a one-out, line drive single from No. 9 hitter Austin Deimer, Allen fired in a strong throw to catcher Max Rossiter for the easy tag of Chad Wallach trying to score. It marked Allen's ninth assist of 2013.
Arizona State third baseman Michael Benjamin made a strong bid for a leadoff single in the top of the sixth. He floated the ball into shallow left but Diemer charged in and made a splendid catch for out No. 1, helping Garza in the early stages of a streak of 10-consecutive hitters retired between the fourth and seventh innings.
Lorenzen lined a one-out single past the shortstop in the bottom of the sixth, reaching base in his 13th-straight game and interrupting the cruise-control nature of Kellogg's outing. The Sun Devils' hurler ended Greg Velazuez' seven-pitch at-bat with a strikeout to get out of the sixth inning with the score still locked at 0-0.
The Titans broke through with the eventual winning run in the bottom of the seventh. A sacrifice fly from Pedroza brought in Jefferies, who started the rally with a double to leftfield.
Although Garza finished two outs shy of his first career complete game, Lorenzen kept the shutout intact in the ninth to keep Cal State Fullerton undefeated in regional play this weekend.
Notes: Justin Garza's 12th win set the new Cal State Fullerton freshman record, which prior to the 2013 season was held by Tyler Pill (2009)…Garza's eight and 1/3 innings on the mound set a new season high and his nine strikeouts matched a season best …Michael Lorenzen's 19th save of the season was also the 35th of his career, also setting the all-time record at Cal State Fullerton…dating back to 1975 the Titans and Sun Devils have played one another in the postseason 17 times with Fullerton holding a 9-8 advantage…at Goodwin Field in the postseason, the Titans hold a 6-3 edge over ASU…in nine Regional games between Fullerton and Arizona State, the Titans hold a 5-4 lead…in Regional games played at Goodwin Field against ASU, the Titans are an undefeated 3-0 with wins previously in 2001 and 2004…six of the 17 postseason contests have been decided by one run, with Fullerton holding a 4-2 advantage…the Titans all-time postseason record is 143-74 and 93-39 in Regional play…the Titans hold a record of 33-9 in during Regional play at Goodwin Field…the Titans last shut out Arizona State, 5-0, on June 5, 2004 in a Regional game at Goodwin Field…Fullerton last totaled 50 wins in 2006 (50-15).
Game Four Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Rick Vanderhook
"He threw the best game that I've ever played defense behind. I thought he was going to go all the way so it was a lot of pressure on me to come in and finish it strong, but I told him I would take care of it and that there was no way he was leaving this game with a no decision."
Game Three: Columbia 6, New Mexico 5
No. 4 seed Columbia battled back from a five-run deficit to defeat No. 3 seed New Mexico 6-5 in 13 innings Saturday afternoon at Goodwin Field, eliminating the Lobos from Regional play.
New Mexico carried a commanding 5-0 lead through seven innings. However, the Lions made it a game in the eighth, mounting a comeback and putting a five spot on the board to tie the game. Four innings of scoreless baseball led to the top of the thirteenth when Nick Crucet, who went 2 for 5 with three RBIs, singled to center, allowing the runner at second base to beat the throw home and score.
After a Jordan Serena double forced Lobos' starter, Sam Wolff out of the game, Alex Black came to the plate in the eighth and rocked a two-run blast over the fence in left centerfield off reliever Hobie McClain. The Lions then loaded the bases for Crucet who dropped in a single over the head of a diving Sam Haggarty to bring Columbia within a run. Mike Fischer followed with single to centerfield to tie the ball game.
New Mexico and Columbia each turned double plays in the ninth to preserve the 5-5 tie. After three innings of scoreless extra inning play, Crucet came to the plate in the top of the thirteenth with two outs and a runner on second. He singled to right field off pitcher Will Mathis, which proved to be the game-winning hit as Nick Ferraresi came in from second, just beating the throw the at plate.
In the bottom half of the frame, with the tying run at third, Black (5) struck out DJ Peterson to earn the save and clinch the victory for Columbia.
Joey Donino (7-0) earned the win for the Lions in relief, shutting out the Lobos for 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight. Mathis was charged with the loss.
Starters, Wolff and Tim Giel both earned no-decisions on the day. Wolff pitched a solid 7 and 1/3 innings, holding the Lions to one run on six hits while striking out a career-high seven batters. In the first seven innings, Columbia scattered five hits but were unable to capitalize leaving six men on base, three in scoring position. Meanwhile, Giel went 5 and 1/3 innings conceding all five Lobos runs on nine hits, including two doubles.
New Mexico took the lead early plating one in the first off the right-hander, Giel. Mitch Garver recorded his third RBI of the weekend when he smacked a line drive to right center to bring in Chase Harris who reached base earlier after being hit by a pitch.
After three quite innings, the Lobos excited the crowd, after drilling back-to-back doubles in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead.
The bottom half of the order produced for New Mexico in the sixth, as they caught fire, opening up a 5-0 lead. Josh Melendez and John Pustay, each came in to pinch hit, and strung together back-to-back singles before Alex Allbritton shot a ground rule, RBI double over the fence in left center, forcing Giel out of the game. Jared Holley knocked in two more off reliever Donino before the Lobos were done in the inning.
With the victory, Columbia advances to face off against the loser of the Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State matchup tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. PT.
Game 3 Postgame Quotes
Columbia head coach Brett Boretti
"From our end, it was a tremendous comeback. To tie the game up at the top of the eighth inning, the credit goes to our guys for staying positive and believing. Our pitching staff did a tremendous job. Tim Ciel got us a quality start and Joey Donino put together a special performance out of the bullpen. Great team effort, up and down the lineup. Guys getting on base in key situations. Just battling the whole night through. I thought Wolff from New Mexico did a really nice job in shutting us down. We were able to get some things going when he ran out of gas. Our defense was solid with no errors on the night so we did a good job of not giving up anything for free."
Columbia first baseman/ pitcher Alex Black
On getting first-ever tournament win
"From the start of the season, this has been one of the hardest-working groups I've been a part of. It feels incredible, just winning the Ivy League championship was incredible and now having the opportunity to compete with some of the best teams in the country is amazing and I'm glad we could capitalize on the opportunity."
On getting to pitch to Peterson at the end
"I was pumped. All that was running through my mind was the scene from Major League 2 with Jack Parkman and Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen struck out Jack to win the pennant and that's really all that was going through my mind."
Columbia designated hitter Joey Falcone
On his birthday Saturday and the big win
"Thanks for the reminder, I'm 27 years young today. It's the program's first NCAA tournament win. That's one of the best birthday presents I've gotten. I'm not interested in any other presents, that's all I could have wanted."
On the comeback
"It's a testament to the resiliency to the team. Our everyday practice is a long day from our drills and lifting. That gets us used to digging deep when you need it most. It all worked out today."
New Mexico Interviews
New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham
On the emotions at the finish
"Our last four ballgames have been like that. Two of them have been plays at the plate that have been, bang bang. The kids keep fighting and it goes down the last pitch. I tip my hat to Columbia, they have some pretty good arms. I was really impressed with the caliber of club they put on the field."
On 2013 season
"In college baseball, there's only team that ends up being really happy at the end of the year out of 300. It ends at some point."
New Mexico shortstop Jared Holley
On improvement of individual performance from Friday to Saturday
"The difference was my teammates. I was struggling yesterday but my teammates came up to me and kept me up. Unfortunately we didn't get the 'W' today."
New Mexico pitcher Sam Wolff
On approach and offspeed stuff
"Columbia does a great job of batting. They hung in there and fouled off a lot of pitches. They do a good job of keeping their hands back and adjusting to the offspeed. Once we knew they were setting on the fastball a little more, we had to go to curveball to keep them off balance."