IRVINE, Calif. - David Olmedo-Barrera hit the go-ahead two-run single in the eighth and Clay Williamson threw out the potential tying run in the bottom of the ninth as Cal State Fullerton edged No. 24 UC Irvine 4-3 to score a critical Big West Conference sweep Sunday afternoon at Anteater Ballpark.
The Titans (28-22, 11-10) swept the Anteaters (35-19, 15-6) for the second consecutive season and have now beaten their Orange-County rivals eight straight times.
It was anything but simple as the Titans needed to overcome a deficit against the national saves leader for the second consecutive game and then needed some marvelous defense in the final two innings to escape Cicerone Field with the victory.
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth, Keegan Dale drew a one-out walk against Anteaters reliever Evan Manarino. That prompted the hosts to call upon Sam Moore, the NCAA leader in saves with 23 in 25 opportunities. J.D. Davis greeted Moore by promptly lining a single to left field and then Matt Chapman cut the deficit to 3-2 with a double to left field, plating Dale. Olmedo-Barrera then stepped up and laced a single back up the middle to score Davis and Chapman to give the Titans the 4-3 lead.
It was Moore's second straight blown save and third of the season. He is still one save shy of tying the NCAA single-season record.
The Anteaters would not go away, however, as they loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning. But Titans reliever Koby Gauna got Mikey Duarte to hit a line-drive to shallow right for the second out of the inning, forcing the runners to hold. Taylor Bryant then made an outstanding defensive play, charging a slow hopper to second and making a perfect throw to nip Grant Palmer at first for the last out of the inning and end that threat.
In the ninth, Davis came in to attempt to record his second save in as many days, but the Anteaters started a rally after Dale committed a throwing error, allowing Connor Spencer to reach. Davis then drilled Taylor Sparks to put the tying run in scoring position again and then pinch-hitter Renae Martinez lined a single to center field.
Spencer put his head down and headed for home to try and tie the game, but Williamson threw a strike to the plate and Jared Deacon made the tag to nail Spencer and preserve the lead for the Titans. Davis then got catcher Jerry McClanahan to fly out to Williamson to end the game.
Davis earned his sixth save of the season, securing the victory for Gauna who pitched three innings of scoreless relief. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one.
Moore took the loss for the Anteaters, allowing two runs on three hits in just 2/3 of an inning.
The Titans were led offensively by Chapman, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI. He was one of seven Titans to record a hit on Sunday afternoon but the only one to record a multi-hit game.
Grahamm Wiest started on the mound for the Titans and drew a no-decision, going five innings and allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked three and struck out three. It was the first time Wiest has failed to record a quality start since Mar. 30 at Wichita State. He had gone at least six innings in six straight appearances.
Chapman put the Titans out in front right away in the first inning with an RBI single to left field off Anteaters starter Evan Brock. Williamson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and then Dale stroked a soft single to center on the ensuing offering from Brock to give the Titans a pair of base-runners. Davis would hit into a fielder's choice as shortstop Chris Rabago erased Williamson at third base before Chapman's hit to put the Titans up 1-0.
Williamson reached base for the 23rd consecutive game but failed to record a hit, going 0-for-4 to snap his hitting streak at 13 games. Dale would go 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, extending his hitting streak to 17 games.
Brock went six and 1/3 innings for the Anteaters in his 14th start of the season. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out five en route to a no-decision.
The Anteaters responded in the third inning with some crucial two-out hitting. After Palmer doubled to left-center with one out, Wiest struck out Rabago swinging and was one out away from getting out of the jam. But Spencer lined a single off Dale's glove at short to bring in Palmer and tie the game. Spencer advanced to second on Austin Diemer's throw and would come around to score on Sparks' ensuing single to right-center to put the Anteaters in front, 2-1.
The Anteaters added a run in the fifth, but left the bases loaded and failed to break the game open. They would go on to leave 12 men on base.
Spencer finished the day 1-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI while Rabago and Palmer each went 2-for-5.
Notes: Davis went 1-for-4 at the plate and extended his hitting streak to eight games… Chapman has hit safely in four games and has recorded multiple hits in each one. He now has 17 multi-hit games this season… The Titans are now 12-13 in one-run games, having won two straight. They lead the nation with 25 one-run games played… Fullerton finished off their regular season road schedule winning five straight games away from Goodwin Field… The Titans are now tied for fourth place in the Big West Conference with UC Riverside after the Highlanders dropped two games to Long Beach State on the weekend…The Titans weekend rotation of Wiest, Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza had recorded 11 consecutive quality starts prior to Sunday's game… The Anteaters had a hit in eight of the nine innings on Sunday… With the Titans win, Cal Poly clinched the Big West Conference title.