FULLERTON, Calif. - Thomas Eshelman threw his third consecutive complete game for Cal State Fullerton but it was not enough as they dropped a 3-2 Big West Conference decision to UC Riverside Friday night at Goodwin Field.
Eshelman suffered his second straight complete-game loss for the Titans (24-21, 7-9) after throwing a 10-inning complete-game shutout against Hawaii on April 25. The sophomore right-hander recorded a career-high in strikeouts, fanning 12 Highlanders (21-23, 9-7) on the night. He gave up nine hits and allowed three runs, recording his 11th quality start of the year.
Offensively, J.D. Davis led the Titans as he went 4-for-4 with a double and a run scored. It was his third four-hit game of the season, the most on the team.
The Highlanders jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning. David Andriese and Thomas Walker led off with singles and then Drake Zarate laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to the first base side to bring in Andriese from third. The run snapped the Titans' pitching staff's scoreless inning streak at 22.
The Highlanders would add to the lead in the next inning as Devyn Bolasky singled to center field with one out. After a fly out to left, Nick Vilter stepped up and sent the first pitch he saw from Eshelman over the left-field fence for his 10th home run of the season to give the visitors the 3-0 advantage.
It was Vilter's only hit of the game as he went 1-for-4 on the night, but it proved to be the difference. Bolasky and Andriese each went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The Titans would get one back in the bottom of the third after Clay Williamson led off by smoking a triple to left-center field. Tanner Pinkston followed with a single through the left side to drive in Williamson and make it 3-1. Davis then came up and smacked a single to right to give the Titans a pair of base runners with no outs. Matt Chapman followed with a flyout center field for the first out of the inning and Pinkston appeared to tag up and advance to third base. But the Highlanders appealed at second base and Pinkston was ruled out for leaving the bag early and the Titans rally was abruptly put down.
Williamson went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two walks and has now reached base in 18 straight games, a new team season high.
The Titans made it 3-2 in the fifth inning after Davis got aboard with a two-out double to right-center. Chapman followed with a sharp line-drive single through the left side to plate Davis and cut their deficit to one. For a moment, it appeared the Titans were about to jump on top as David Olmedo-Barrera blasted the first pitch he saw from Highlanders starter Jacob Smigelski deep to right field but Andriese made a leaping catch to rob the Titans' designated hitter of an RBI and extra bases.
Smigelski recorded his seventh victory of the season, going five innings and allowing two earned runs. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out five. Dylan Stuart came in and earned his fourth save of the year, throwing four innings of scoreless relief and allowed just one hit.
Both teams will return to the field Saturday as the Titans send Justin Garza to the mound while the Highlanders counter with right-hander Zach Varela.
Notes: Eshelman was named to the 30-man Golden Spikes Award Watch List on Thursday. His 12 strikeouts on Friday night tied the team season-high. Garza struck out 12 against San Francisco on Feb. 22… The Titans are now 10-12 in one-run games this season… Keegan Dale went 1-for-3 and extended his season-high hitting streak to 12 games.