LONG BEACH, Calif. - Two of the top pitchers in the Big West Conference faced off Friday night and when it was over, it was Cal State Fullerton who came out on the short end as they dropped a 1-0 conference decision to Long Beach State at Blair Field.
The Titans (22-19, 5-6) got an outstanding performance from Thomas Eshelman while the Dirtbags (22-21, 8-5) got a great outing from Andrew Rohrbach.
The reigning Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week and NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week recorded an eight-inning complete-game for the Titans, allowing the Dirtbags just one run on four hits, needing only 79 pitches to do so. He struck out seven on the night, five of them looking.
But Rohrbach was just as good for the hosts, tossing his second complete-game shutout of the season. He scattered seven hits on the night and fanned nine batters without allowing a free pass. As a team, the Dirtbags pitching staff has now gone 30 consecutive innings without allowing a run. They have recorded three straight shutouts for the first time since 1975.
The Titans had seven hits on the night and were led offensively by Clay Williamson, who went 2-for-4. Tanner Pinkston, J.D. Davis and David Olmedo-Barrera each went 1-for-4 while Taylor Bryant and Keegan Dale were 1-for-3 to round out the Titans offense.
The Dirtbags took the lead in the fourth inning after Richard Prigatano led off by lining a double to left field. Eshelman then temporarily saved a run as he kicked Michael Hill's hard grounder into the air toward short. Keegan Dale started toward the mound and then retreated to his original spot to field the ball and get Hill at first and robbing the Dirtbags' third baseman of an RBI.
But Cameron Pongs, the reigning Big West Conference Field Player of the Week, would cash in Prigatano in the next at-bat with an RBI groundout to second to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
That would be the final bit of offense for the Dirtbags as Eshelman cruised in his final five innings of work as he retired 15 straight with five strikeouts. The Dirtbags hit just one ball out of the infield off Eshelman in those five innings, a fly out to right by Colton Vaughn in the eighth inning.
The Titans had their chances to score off Rohrbach. In the sixth, Williamson hit a one-out single. But the Titans center fielder was picked off. Pinkston would follow with a single and Matt Chapman reached on an error to put the tying run in scoring position. But Davis ended the inning with a groundout to second base and the Titans came up empty.
Their best chance came in the eighth inning after Bryant and Dale led off the frame with consecutive singles. Williamson came up and laid down an excellent sacrifice bunt near the third-base line that was eclipsed by Rohrbach's defensive play. The 6-foot-3 right-hander immediately darted off the mound and bare-handed the ball. He whirled around and threw a strike to Hill, beating Bryant to the bag and erasing the lead runner for the Titans.
The wheels then came off the wagon for the Titans as Dale was thrown out trying to take third base on a ball in the dirt. One pitch later, the Dirtbags pitched out as Williamson broke for second and catcher Eric Hutting's throw erased the Titans center fielder and ended a once-promising inning for the Titans.
Both teams will return to action tomorrow as Justin Garza takes the mound for the Titans while Josh Frye draws his sixth start of the season for the Dirtbags. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Notes: The Titans out-hit the Dirtbags 7-4 on the night. It was just the third time the Titans have lost a game when out-hitting their opponent this season in 18 occasions… This was the second time a Titans pitcher has suffered a complete-game loss this year. Grahamm Wiest pitched a complete-game in the Titans 3-0 loss at Cal Poly on April 19…Dale's single in the eighth extended his hitting streak to a team-high eight games while Pinkston and Davis extended their streaks to seven and six games respectively. Austin Diemer's six-game hitting streak came to an end on Friday night… Williamson has now reached base safely in 14 consecutive games, the second most by a Titans player this season. Pinkston reached in 17 straight games earlier in the year.