FULLERTON, Calif. - Shortstop Timmy Richards hit a three-run home run and pitcher Thomas Eshelman tossed his second consecutive complete game as the Titans moved within one win of clinching at least a share of the Big West Conference title with a 4-2 victory over Long Beach State Thursday night at Goodwin Field.
The Titans (32-22, 17-5) stayed one game ahead of UC Santa Barbara in the conference standings with two to play after the Gauchos upended UC Riverside 20-2 on Thursday. One more win would clinch a share the Titans 20th Big West Conference title and two more would give it to Fullerton outright.
Eshelman hurled his fifth complete game of the season against the Dirtbags (28-24, 11-11) as he allowed just two runs, one earned, on six hits. He struck out four to maintain his Big West strikeout lead over Thursday night counterpart Kyle Friedrichs, who fanned 11 Titans in a losing effort for Long Beach State.
Three Titans had multi-hit games on Thursday night, led by third baseman Jerrod Bravo. He went 3-for-4, his first career three-hit game. He also reached base safely for the 36th straight game he's played. Tanner Pinkston went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored and Josh Vargas went 2-for-4.
Richards provided all the run support Eshelman would need in the second inning as the Titans jumped ahead 3-0. Pinkston singled to lead off the frame and then Dalton Blaser added a one-out single to put two men aboard. That brought up Richards, who unloaded on an 0-2 offering from Friedrichs and sent it over the net overlooking left field for his first career home run, a three-run jack, to put the Titans out in front.
Fullerton added another run in the fourth after Pinkston walked and then Bravo singled to start the inning. Both runners would advance on a wild pitch and then catcher Eric Hutting's throw to second base sailed into center field, allowing Pinkston to come in and make it 4-0.
The Dirtbags scored a run in the fifth and one in the seventh, but a botched squeeze play in the seventh resulted in a double play to kill the possibility of trimming the Titans lead further and the Dirtbags never threatened again.
The Titans will send left-hander John Gavin to the bump on Friday night to try and clinch the Big West title and Long Beach State will send freshman standout Chris Mathewson to the mound. First pitch is set for 8 p.m.
Notes: Thursday night marked the 200th meeting between the Titans and Dirtbags in NCAA Division I play. Fullerton is now 135-65 against Long Beach State all time… Eshelman's 28 and 2/3 scoreless innings streak came to an end in the fifth inning.