STANFORD, Calif. — A season-high 22 Titan hits including a 4-hit performance by Dillon Persinger and 3-RBI efforts by Hank LoForte and Hunter Cullen pushed No. 2 seed Cal State Fullerton (35-21) to a dominating 13-2 NCAA Stanford Regional victory over No. 3 seed BYU (37-20) Thursday afternoon at Sunken Diamond.
The Titans will face the winner of tonight's Stanford-Sacramento State match-up on Friday night at 6 p.m. BYU will face the loser of that contest in an elimination game with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m. All games from the Stanford Regional will be streamed on ESPN3.
Titan starter Connor Seabold (11-4) was nearly untouchable over his first four innings of work, retiring 12 of the first 13 Cougars he faced. He limited the designated visitors to just one hit in that span while his offense built up a 7-0 lead. The junior right-hander wound up surrendering eight hits over his 7 innings of work while striking out eight en route to his 11th win of the year. An RBI-double by Nate Favero in the 5th and a Colton Shaver solo home run in the 7th were the only real blemishes to Seabold's final line.
Eight Titans wound up with two-or-more hits on the afternoon but it was their early offensive outburst that sent Cougar starter Brady Corless (6-2) to the showers. Fullerton touched him for five runs (four earned) on seven hits before he could escape the 3rd inning.
The Titans had hits in every offensive opportunity, scored in four of the first five innings and then tacked on four in the bottom of the 8th to keep the Cougar pitching staff consistently on the ropes. Their 13 runs were the most in a postseason game since 2009's 16-3 Fullerton Regional clinching game at Goodwin Field.
Four hits in the 1st highlighted by back-to-back RBI-singles by Persinger and Timmy Richards gave the Titans a 3-0 lead. A LoForte sacrifice fly and a home run by Hunter Cullen made it a cool 6-0 after three innings. Cullin's two-run blast to right was a no-doubter for the Titan right fielder off of fresh BYU arm Jordan Wood. It was his 6th home run of the year.
Persinger brought home Fullerton's seventh run in the 4th when his single up the middle scored Chris Prescott from second base.
Prescott, himself, added to the mix with a two-run single of his own in the 5th inning. He delivered a one-out single to left center to drive home Taylor Bryant and Chris Hudgins from second and third after a Bo Burrup balk set the table.
After the Cougars' fourth reliever Keaton Cenatiempo logged consecutive scoreless innings in the 6th and 7th innings, Fullerton poured on four more runs in the 8th off of Mason Marshall, the 5th BYU arm of the day. Sahid Valenzuela's ground ball drove in Scott Hurst who had opened the inning with a triple to the right-center gap. Five singles over the next six batters capped the Titan scoring. LoForte, Cullen and pinch-hitter each logged RBIs.
Persinger (4-for-5) led all players in hits, he also drove in one and scored three times. LoForte (3-for-4) and Cullen (3-for-5) each drove in three and scored one run apiece. Prescott, Richards, Hurst Bryant and Hudgins finished the day with two hits each.
BYU right fielder Brock Hale, who scored the first BYU run of the day, logged three hits in his final three plate appearances.
Fullerton is expected to throw southpaw John Gavin (6-2, 3.07 ERA) in Saturday's winner's bracket game.
NOTES: With the win, the Titans continue their streak of having never won 0-2 in Regional play. That is 39 consecutive postseasons with at least 1 win… Fullerton is now 119-54 in Regional action and 153-83 all-time in the postseason…Fullerton's all-time record against BYU improves to 8-4 all-time… It is the Titans' 7th win over the Cougars in their last 8 meetings… Hurst, with his first inning leadoff double extended his streak to 21 games of reaching base safely… Valenzuela (6 games), Cullen (5 games), Richards (4 games) and Hudgins (3 games) all extended their hitting streaks.
Head Coach Rick Vanderhook
Overall thoughts on the game…
"I thought we played a good game today. We hit the ball, we played catch and we threw strikes. We got a lot of timely hits and two-strike hits. I thought Connor Seabold cruised through the first three innings and really overall only had one inning where he got into trouble. He didn't even really struggle though, he was just being aggressive with his pitches. Every time they scored, we countered back. It's something we hadn't done in a long time. It was really enjoyable to watch."
On whether or not it was best hitting performance of the season…
"I thought we were good. We put together a game like that at Arizona State earlier in the season, but I'd say yeah, this might have been consistently as good of a game as we could play.
On the significance of Hunter Cullen's home run…
"I thought it was big. That really created some space for us. When you create space it always makes you a little more comfortable, but I don't think we were complacent at all. I thought we kept doing the same thing inning after inning and we forced them to get us out instead of us getting ourselves out."
Senior Outfielder Hunter Cullen
On his third inning home run…
"I was just looking for something up in the zone and luckily I got one I could hit out."
Junior Right-Handed Pitcher Connor Seabold
On his approach on the mound...
"There wasn't really anything different than what I normally try and do. They're an aggressive offense and I'm an aggressive pitcher. I think I did a good job of locating pitches early on. I left two over the plate, but other than that I think I did a pretty good job."
On pitching with an early lead...
"It's obviously huge. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders and lets you concentrate on just making pitches instead of worrying about getting enough runs. That's huge in this atmosphere.