2018 Titan Baseball Season in Review

2018 Titan Baseball Season in Review


It was about as improbable of a season as the Titans have ever had. From an underwhelming 1-7 start to the season that left a young Fullerton squad searching for answers to hosting its 10th Super Regional in program history and nearly clinching another trip to Omaha.

Ironically the start of what looked to be a miserable campaign was exactly the same place where the Titans produced some of their most heroic moments later on during the postseason.

Palo Alto, California is where it all began. It wasn't pretty, as the Titans dropped three straight games to then ranked No. 13 Stanford. The Cardinal played with a chip on its shoulder, as the Titans came in and blew through the Stanford Regional to end the Cardinal's season just a year earlier.

Things didn't get much better right away for Fullerton, as a 1-4 homestand left it searching for answers heading into its second road trip of the season. Slowly, but surely, the Titans began to figure it out, as they picked up a big series win at Tulane and then pulled off a stunning upset of eventual National Champion Oregon State, hanging the Beavers their first loss of the season on March 9th.

"Man I just remember coming out of the club house after that series loss vs. Houston and let's just say Hooky (Rick Vanderhook) gave it to us pretty good," recalls Hank LoForte. "He took away our locker room at that point and honestly it was hard to believe that this was the same team that went to the College World Series just a year ago."

The Titans' 5-3 victory over the Beavers snapped what was currently the longest home win streak in the nation. In the game, catcher Daniel Cope launched a home run off what many perceived to be the nation's best pitcher in Luke Heimlich. At the time, the blast was the first given up by the All-American in 21 straight starts.

Just as the Titans were starting to find their groove on the field, tragedy struck off it, shaking the college baseball world to its core.

Legendary coach, Augie Garrido passed away at the age of 79 on March 15, 2018. He left college baseball as the sport's all-time winningest coach and a winner of five National Championships. Three of course came with the Titans at Cal State Fullerton.

Playing with a heavy heart, the Titans competed the very next day and grinded out a 7-3 win. That win turned into a series sweep over Grand Canyon. In fact, since beginning the season 4-10, Fullerton went on to win 32 of its final 47 contests following the death of the Titan legend.

"Coach Vanderhook talked about Augie every day it seemed like to us, even before he passed," said Jairus Richards. "We understand how much he means to this program and you couldn't help but think he was watching over us.

With the Titans already on the uptick, things really started to get exciting with the arrival of league play. Fullerton wasted no time getting the fireworks started, as Colton Eastman etched his name into the history books by tossing the fifth no-hitter in program history in a 3-0 victory over UC Santa Barbara in the conference opener. He struck out seven and walked only three in an outing that proved to set the tone for the rest of the season.  

"It was a pretty unbelievable experience," said Eastman. "It was just one of those days where I had things working, but I was able to trust my defense. I think it was just really an exciting moment for all of us."  

Before an April 3rd mid-week contest at Arizona State, something changed for the 2018 Titans. After back-to-back late inning rallies to earn a mid-week series sweep over the Sun Devils, Fullerton had figured things out.

"Before that first game, I remember Hooky called us into the locker room and he talked to us for about 30 minutes," said pitcher Timothy Josten. "He reminded us that this game was supposed to be fun. We were trying too hard. We needed to stop pressing and just play."

And that's exactly what happened. The Titans rattled off six consecutive victories and won their final seven Big West Conference series to clinch the program's 30th league crown on May 20th at home vs. CSUN with still a week left to play in the regular season. There wasn't a test Fullerton didn't pass along the way, as it took five of six contests from first place Hawaii and UC Irvine in back-to-back weekends before eventually ending the regular season with a bang, taking two of three at rival Long Beach State.

Then the real fun began, as Cal State Fullerton qualified for the NCAA postseason for the 40th time in program history and for the 27th consecutive season. The Titans ironically began their journey in the same place they began last year's impressive run to the College World Series and the same place they kicked off the 2018 campaign. That's right, they were the No. 3 seed in the Stanford Regional, paired up with the second ranked team in the country in the Stanford Cardinal, to go along with Big 12 power Baylor and Wright State.  

"We had a lot of confidence going back to Stanford," said shortstop Sahid Valenzuela. "We knew that we could win there. We were used to playing up there. We also knew we were a much better team than the that began the season."

For those who follow college baseball, you know the Titans are never a team anyone wants to face in the postseason, and this year's team was no different. After a disastrous beginning to the year, Fullerton had rattled off wins in 13 of its final 16 games and entered regional play as one of the hottest teams in the country.

The Titans opened up against two-seeded Baylor, and with Eastman on the hill, the result was never in doubt. Fullerton cruised to a 6-2 win over the Bears in the regional opener, as Eastman tossed 7.0 innings while surrendering just one earned run.

Then it was yet another date with host Stanford, which turned into an instant classic.

It was a pitcher's duel from the very beginning, as Tommy Wilson and All-American Cardinal ace Kris Bubic each gave their respective teams a chance to win.

Then came the bottom of the ninth, and the legend of Jace "Jumbo" Chamberlin was born.

Chamberlin entered the game with two outs, no one on base in the bottom of the ninth inning and yanked a 2-0 fastball over the right field fence and off the jumbotron for a walk off jack to send the Titans to the regional championship game. As if the moment couldn't have been any more dramatic, it was of course the first home run of his collegiate career.

 "I just remember running around the bases and I think I blacked out," Chamberlin said. "It was such an amazing moment, I can't even put it into works. It was definitely the biggest hit of my life."

The very next evening, it was the Tanner Bibee show, as he earned the spot start, filling in for the injured Andrew Quezada with a trip to Super Regionals on the line. The Mission Viejo, California native was nothing short of heroic, as he tossed 6.2 innings, while surrendering just two runs and fanning a career-high 11 batters.

"I probably told Bibee he was starting about two hours before first pitch," said Vanderhook. "I wanted everyone to be ready and I didn't anyone to get too nervous. He was tremendous."

With the Titans already leading 2-0 in the fifth inning, Ruben Cardenas put the finishing touches on a regional championship victory, as Cardenas launched a three-run round tripper with two outs to put Fullerton up 5-0 and essentially wrap up the Stanford Regional Title.

With the title, Fullerton earned the right to host Super Regionals at Goodwin Field for the 10th time in program history and for the first time since 2013. The Titans were backed into a must-win situation, after they dropped game one to Washington 8-5.

But for the second time in a week, Wilson came through when the Titans needed him most, as he went 7.0 innings and surrendered just one run, as the Titans cruised to a 5-2 victory to force a winner-take-all game three with a trip to Omaha on the line.

"We had to win the game," said Wilson. "There was no tomorrow if we didn't, so I just tried to stay focused and execute my pitches. I just wanted to go out there and give this team everything I had."

Game three was a battle unlike any other the Titans have had. Fullerton came through when the situation looked at its bleakest. The Titans were being no-hit by Washington ace Joe DeMers and trailed the Huskies 3-0 entering the seventh inning. But as Fullerton had shown all season, it may have been down but never out, as fittingly enough, it was LoForte ripping a double down the right field line to break up UW's no-hit bid, extending his on base streak to 45 straight games and his hit streak to 22 consecutive games. The Titans eventually got a run in the inning to trim the deficit to 3-1.

Entering the ninth inning, it was now or never and the Titans took the baseball world by storm, as they launched one of the more improbable comebacks of the season. Jordan Hernandez entered to pitch hit for Brett Borgogno and then reached via a hit-by-pitch. A few batters later Sahid Valenzuela stepped up to the plate with runners at first and second with two outs and the season on the line. He finally injected some life into the Goodwin Field crowd, as he shot an RBI single through the left side to make it a 3-2 score.

Then Jacob Pavletich then put one in play off the pitcher DeMers allowing Berryhill to come home and score to tie the game at 3-3. Chris Prescott then completed the rally by driving a knock to left field to give the Titans their first lead of the game at 4-3.

"I really thought we had it," Pavletich said. "I mean we were right there. Baseball is a cruel game sometimes."

Unfortunately the Huskies were able to get one back in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, but just when Titan fans thought they had seen everything, the impossible happened.

Five-foot-six LoForte stepped up the plate with two outs in the 10th inning and smashed a ball that just cleared the right field fence for his second career home run to put the Titans in front 5-4.

"I didn't know it was going out, but I was hoping," recalls LoForte. "I knew I had put a good swing on it and it just happened to leave the yard."

But unfortunately, the Cinderella story came up just short, as two errors led to two runs in the bottom of the 10th, culminating in a 6-5 Washington win to end Fullerton's year.

From a disheartening beginning to a miraculous postseason run that ended in heart break. 2018 Titan Baseball was full of peaks and valleys, but one thing was constant. The 2018 group battled like Titans. Something, the great Augie Garrido would be sure to be proud of.


• Fullerton has made 40 NCAA appearances in its 44 years at the Div. I level with the exceptions coming in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1991. Fullerton's 27th CONSECUTIVE postseason appearance keeps them in 2nd place in the nation behind and Florida State (41) for the longest active consecutive streak.

• After 2018, Fullerton has qualified for 14 Super Regionals It's the second most all-time behind Florida State's 16. The Titans are hosting a Super Regional for just the 10th time in program history and it'll be the first since 2013. The Titans haven't won a Super Regional home game since 2009, as Fullerton was swept by UCLA in 2013.

• The Titans' all-time NCAA Record is now 161-88 (.647) including a 124-54 mark in Regional games, an 21-14 record in the Super Regionals and a 34-31 record at the College World Series.

  The Titans have NEVER gone winless in Regional play. They have gone 0-2 twice in Super Regional action (2008 and 2013) and seven times in Omaha (1975, 1982, 1990, 2007, 2009, 2015 and 2017).

 • Overall it has won 23 Regional titles – including a national best 12 on the road (two each in Fresno and Baton Rouge and one each at USC, Austin, Starkville, Stillwater, South Bend, Tempe, San Diego and Stanford in back-to-back seasons).

• The Titans NEVER hosted a regional before 2000 but have since hosted 12 at Goodwin Field (10-2). They lost the first (USC, 2000) and won eight in a row from 2003-2010 before being eliminated by Illinois in 2011.

 • In the 20-year Super Regional era (4-team Regional format), The Titans have had to travel to a Regional eight times – five of those coming in the last seven years.

Consecutive trips to the NCAA Postseason
1.  Florida State                      41
2.  Cal State Fullerton             27


Regionals (App)                                            Super Regional (App)            CWS (App)
Augie Garrido 40-22 (16) -                                                                           20-10 (8)
Larry Cochell 8-0 (2)                                                                                     2-4 (2)
George Horton 30-11 (11)     13-4 (7)                                                           12-11 (6)
Dave Serrano 12-4 (4)           3-4 (3)                                                            0-2 (1)
Rick Vanderhook 16-6 (6)     5-6 (3)                                                            0-4 (2)

For the second straight season, the Titans went to the Stanford Regional and swept their way though, this time defeating Baylor once (6-2) and Stanford in back-to-back contests (2-1, 5-2). Fullerton has now won its last six postseason games at Stanford and its last four postseason games vs. the Cardinal.

For the 44th consecutive season the Titans have had at least one player drafted in the MLB Draft. It's now the fourth time in five seasons and three consecutive years that seven or more Titans have been taken in the draft. The full break down is below. 

Colton Eastman, Round 4, Pick 105 – Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Quezada, Round 7, Pick 216 – Colorado Rockies

Brett Conine, Round 11, Pick 342 – Houston Astros

Ruben Cardenas, Round 16, Pick 493 – Cleveland Indians

Erik Cha, Round 17, Pick 514 – Minnesota Twins

Tommy Wilson, Round 19, Pick 560 – New York Mets

Blake Workman, Round 22, Pick 669 – Arizona Diamondbacks

Head coach Rick Vanderhook was named Big West Coach of the Year, while Colton Eastman was named the conference's Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday. Blake Workman, Hank LoForte and Eastman were placed on the league's first team. Jacob Pavletich, Tommy Wilson and Ruben Cardenas were placed on the second team, while Mitchell Berryhll and Daniel Cope earned honorable mention nods.

After starting the regular season just 1-7, Fullerton has now claimed 30 conference championships in program history and has qualified for postseason for the 40th time overall, while it will participate in 27 consecutive NCAA Tournaments after clinching the Big West Conference title with an 11-4 win over CSUN on May 20. For Titan manager Rick Vanderhook, he's now led Fullerton to the conference crown in five of his seven seasons as head coach. Overall the Titans have captured 13 of the 10 Big West Conference titles in the 2000s.

To say the Titans have been dominant in league play this season is an understatement, as Fullerton has captured series victories in each of its last eight league series to end the year. The only series it didn't win, was a 2-1 series loss to UC Santa Barbara to begin the conference slate.

They say it's all about getting hot at the right time and the Titans are certainly living up to that statement. Over the Titans' last 21 Big West contests to end the regular season they finished 17-4, including three series sweeps. Here's a look at some the numbers Fullerton has put up during that span. The Titans clinched the Big West with still a week left to play in the regular season.

Category               Season                        Last 21 Big West Games
Batting avg.              .271                             .303
Slugging %                .352                             .398
On-base %                 .346                             .363
ERA                           3.50                             2.85
Opponent BA          .257                             .245

Hank LoForte had a spectacular junior campaign. He ends the season boasting a team-best 45-game on-base streak while collecting at least one hit in 33 of his last 34 games in addition his current 22-game hit streak.

Mitchell Berryhill finish the season ranked third in the nation sacrifice bunts (21). He ranks fourth nationally and second in the conference sacrifice bunts per game (.36).

Andrew Quezada came through when the Titans needed him most, as he tossed his first career complete game shutout, going 9.0 innings, while scattering 11 hits, surrendering zero runs and fanning a career-high equaling nine batters en route to the series clinching 8-0 victory over Hawai'i on April 22nd.

The Bellflower, California native got the help of some superb defense, as the infield turned five double plays in the game and didn't commit an error. The performance earned him Big West Pitcher of the Week honors on April 23rd. He tossed his second complete game shutout on May 6th at UC Davis.

Colton Eastman recorded the fifth no-hitter in program history on March 28, 2018 at UC Santa Barbara (W, 3-0). He pitched easily his best game of his collegiate baseball career, tossing 9.0 shutout innings, without allowing a run or hit, while striking out seven and just walking one. The no-hitter marked Fullerton's first since Justin Garza also recorded one in a 3-0 win over CSUN on May 24, 2014. The no-no was just the Titans' first no-hitter on the road, as the previous four came at home.

Fullerton's no-no was the 17th in DI baseball so far this year, which already breaks the all-time record for no-hitters in a single season set in 2013. Eastman also wears No. 17. He was named Perfect Game's National Player of the Week, NCBWA's National Player of the Week and the Big West Pitcher of the Week on April 2 thanks to the historic performance.

Eastman has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning three times this season and into the fifth inning on four occasions.

All-Time Titan No-Hitters

Longo Garcia – 1987

Ted Silva – 1995

Kirk Saarloos – 2001

Justin Garza – 2014

Colton Eastman – 2018

Just one week after tossing the fifth no-hitter in the Titan baseball history, Colton Eastman nearly did it again on April 6 vs. Cal Poly. Eastman tossed 5.2 innings of no-hit baseball to begin the game. Before Cal Poly's Kyle Marinconz finally got a hit in the sixth, Eastman had faced 55 consecutive batters without surrendering a hit. In all Eastman tossed 8.0 innings while recording the win, allowing just three hits, one run, but zero earned and fanned eight in what was another unbelievable performance.

Brett Conine finished 2018 with a 4-2 record to go along with a 4.09 ERA, while racking up 10 saves in 32 appearances. He also fanned 49 batter. His 10 saves ranked 40th most nationally and third most in the Big West, while his 32 appearances are 28th most in the country and was tops in the league. He was named to the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch list. Conine is one of just 12 players on the list of 41 that what appeared on the initial list back in February.

After a tough 1-7 record in February, the Titans continue to get better as the calendar continues to turn. The Titans went 9-8 in March, went 12-5 in April, 10-2 in May and went 4-2 in June.

Augie Garrido, one of college baseball's legendary coaches who claimed five National Championships, with three coming at Cal State Fullerton, passed away on the morning March 15 morning at the age of 79. Garrido's storied 48-year baseball coaching career spanned six decades, while his remarkable 1,975 victories goes down as the most managerial wins in the history of the game (1,975-952-9.) He will be remembered as one of the most successful coaches in not only baseball, but college sports history.

Garrido retired from the game of baseball in June 2016 after completing his unprecedented coaching career as the head coach at the University of Texas. He was the first coach to claim National Championships with multiple college baseball programs, leading the Titans to three of the program's four overall titles (1979, 1984, 1995) and claiming two with the University of Texas (2002, 2005).

Andy Lopez is the only other coach to claim multiple College World Series Championships, winning the title with Pepperdine in 1992 and again with Arizona in 2012. Garrido was also one of only three coaches in NCAA history to guide five or more teams to NCAA championships in college baseball history. He's tied for second, trailing only USC's Rod Dedeaux (10).

During his two stints with the Titans (1973-87 and 1991-96), Garrido's teams compiled an impressive mark of 875-341-5 for a winning percentage of .719, which is still the best in school history. In addition to his three titles with the Titans, he helped guide Fullerton to seven College World Series appearances and 16 conference championships, including 11 straight from 1974-84. He was named the National Coach of the Year six different times during his career (1975, 1979, 1984, 1995, 2002, 2005), with four of those instances coming with the Titans.

We all know the impact legendry head coach Augie Garrido had on the game of college baseball, but the two programs most affected by his greatness, Texas and Cal State Fullerton, seem to be playing inspired baseball in his honor. Since he passed, the two programs he won national championships with (three with the Titans and two with the Longhorns) combined to go 65-30. Texas has gone 33-15 since starting the season 9-9, while Fullerton went 32-15 since beginning 4-10. Both programs clinched their respective conference championships and won their regionals, while Texas advanced to Omaha.

The Titans went 11-5 over their last 16 home games. Overall the Titans are 609-91 at home all-time. They won their 600th home game on April 7th vs. Cal Poly.

Fullerton's win March 9th at No. 2 Oregon State was its first victory over either a No. 1 or No. 2 team in the nation since defeating No. 1 Florida 8-5 on Feb. 19, 2012. The Titans were 0-3 against top-two teams since then. Fullerton also improved to 3-2 all-time vs. the Beavers and earned a little bit of revenge after last year's College World Series contest. The win also snapped what was at the time longest current home win streak in the nation. Oregon State was previously undefeated at home and had only lost one game at home all of last season. They did it again defeating #2 Stanford last weekend.

Sahid Valenzuela was the lone Titan have started in all 61 contests in 2018.

Daniel Cope was named Big West Field Player of the Week back on March 12th for the first time in his career after he batted .400 in three games against No. 2 Oregon State, including blasting a home run scoring two runs and recording an RBI, all while helping to hand the previously undefeated Beavers their first defeat of the season. It snapped what was the longest home win streak in college baseball.

The catcher blasted a home run and a double to help hand the Beavers a 5-3 defeat in the opening game of the series.  Cope opened the scoring in the second inning with a solo shot to left field to put the Titans up 1-0. The jack was his third homer over the last four games. The homer was also the first one hit off of OSU's Luke Heimlich since May 14th, 2016. The Oregon State All-American had gone 21 starts without surrendering a home run.

Cope collected two hits and scored a run in the second game of the series, while walking a career-high three times in the series finale on Sunday.

The Titans were a convincing 26-6 this season when scoring first, while they were just 10-19 when the opponent scores first. Fullerton was 26-1 when leading after six innings, 29-1 when leading after seven innings and 29-1 when leading after eight innings.

The Titans regular season 3.52 ERA was ranked 28th nationally and was tops in the Big West. It's 1.29 WHIP was ranked 35th nationally and led the Big West, while it's 2.69 walks per nine innings was fifth lowest in the country and is best in the league. The Titans' 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio is also seventh nationally and tops in the Big West.

For the Titans, it'll be a good mix of returners and newcomers that should make up a team worthy of its top-10 preseason ranking. Fullerton welcomes back 16 letterwinners from a year ago, including two all-conference performers from 2017 in junior closer Brett Conine and sophomore infielder Sahid Valenzuela. The Titans will also be under the leadership of four-time Big West Coach of the Year Rick Vanderhook, who enters his seventh season as head coach. The returners will be joined by a recruiting class that is ranked 27th in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball. The Titans enter the 2018 season ranked in every national preseason poll, with the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association awarding Cal State Fullerton with the highest ranking of 10th.

The Titans have now claimed the Big West title seven out of the last nine seasons after doing it again in 2018. Cal State Fullerton was been picked as the team to beat in the Big West Conference, according to the nine league coaches that voted on the Big West baseball preseason poll. Fullerton received a total of 73 points and six of nine first place votes in the poll, while Long Beach State tallied 65 points and two first place votes to finish second.

2018 Coaches Poll Results

1. Cal State Fullerton - 73 (6)

2. Long Beach State - 65 (2)

3. Cal Poly - 64

4. UC Santa Barbara - 49

5. CSUN - 48

6. UC Irvine- 43 (1)

7. Hawai'i - 27

8. UC Riverside - 26

9. UC Davis – 10

( ) First-place vote

Overall, Cal State Fullerton has posted a dominant 776-275-1 (.738) conference record over 44 seasons. Rick Vanderhook, the school's fifth Div. I head coach, has compiled a 121-43 Big West Conference record in his seven seasons and has led Fullerton to the conference crown in five of his seven seasons at the helm. The five conference titles for Vanderhook is the second most in school history, only behind Augie Garrido (14). Overall, the Titans have won 30 conference titles.

A further breakdown has the Titans winning three PCAA conference championships (1975-76, 1987), eight straight SCBA titles (1977-84), and 19 while playing under the Big West name (1990-91, 94-95, 1997, 1999-2001, 2004-06, 2008, 2010-13, 2015-16, 2017-18). The Big West absorbed the PCAA records in 1990 upon its formation, giving the Titans 21 total Big West championships and a 600-229-1 (.722; 36 years) PCAA/Big West Conference record

Cal State Fullerton held its annual Alumni Game back on Jan. 27th and it was the Titans coming up with a 6-3 victory over the Alumni. The win Fullerton's ninth win in 10 tries over the Alumni squad.

Fullerton has won 30-plus games in each of its 44 seasons at the Div. I level and is tied for second in the nation when it comes to most consecutive 30-win campaigns. The only Titan team to win as few as 30 games was the 1989 squad skippered by Larry Cochell. Clemson has already done it, while Fullerton notched its 30th win Tuesday vs. USC. Miami is still three wins away.

Consecutive 30+ win seasons (active)
1.  Miami, Fla.                         47
2.  Cal State Fullerton                44
3.  Clemson                                 44

The Titans have had 65 former players ascend to the major leagues since their first products, Dan Whitmer and Tim Wallach, got there in 1980.

Fans can purchase tickets for various Cal State Fullerton athletic events by visiting FullertonTitans.com/Tickets. The Athletic Ticket Office can also be contacted by phone at 657-278-2783 or by email at athletictixs@fullerton.edu. The Ticket Office is located at the Titan House off of Gymnasium Drive at the eastern end of the Intramural Fields and is open from 10 am – 4 pm PT, Monday – Friday.

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