FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton (33-23, 18-3 BWC) swept UC Riverside (33-22, 10-11 BWC) in the Saturday double-header to win their third consecutive Big West Championship and earn their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Trish Parks got the start in game number one and shut the Highlander offense down. Yes, she got a lot of offensive help, but in her five-inning complete game, the junior allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out seven batters.
The offense came in hot today plating eight runs and ultimately leading to a run-rule victory. Bryanna Ybarra led the way as she stayed red hot going a perfect 3-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Sammie Vandiver and Zoe Richard had identical stat lines each going 2-3 with a run scored and two RBI. Deshea Hill also recorded a multi-hit game going 2-3. Brooke Clemetson (1-2 with two runs scored and two stolen bases), Ari Williams (1-3 with a run scored), Shianne Brannan (1-3 with a run scored), and Julia Valenzuela (1-2 with three RBI) were the other Titans with knocks in the ballgame.
Fullerton came out of the gate red hot plating six runs in the bottom of the first inning starting with an RBI single from Vandiver to drive in Clemetson. After a pair of singles loaded the bases, Richard came to the dish and sent one up the middle for a two-RBI single. With the bases loaded again, Valenzuela came up and launched one into the left-center gap to clear the bases and give the Titans an early 6-0 lead.
UCR looked they were going to answer back in the top of the second as they loaded the bases against Parks, but she was dealing. Not only did she keep the Highlanders off the board, but she did so by striking out the next three to come up.
After a Williams single and stolen base, Ybarra would collect her second hit of the contest to drive her in and make it a seven-run lead.
From that point on, Parks allowed just one baserunner, a single in the top of the third and nothing more. Vandiver would come up in the bottom half of the third and drive in Clemetson again to put the run-rule into effect and 8-0 would be the final.
That victory would actually be the only one the Titans needed as Long Beach State lost their game making Fullerton the outright Big West champions before the second game even started.
Nevertheless, a second game needed to be played and Kenzie Grimes got the start as the Titans looked to close out senior day and the regular season with one more victory. Grimes would only last 1.2 innings allowing a run on three hits and three walks. She would be replaced by Parks who finished out the game going 6.1 innings of shutout ball only allowing three hits and two walks while striking out one.
The offense was collecting hits throughout the whole game, but never really got the big hit they needed. Deshea Hill led the way going 3-4 with an RBI. Ari Williams and Shianne Brannan each recorded multi-hit games going 2-4 and 2-3 respectively. Sammie Vandiver (1-3), Zoe Richard (1-4), and Sam Kennedy all recorded a hit in the ballgame. Mikaela Francis in another pinch hit opportunity came out the here with a game-winning hit in the eighth inning.
UC Riverside got on the board first in this one courtesy of an RBI single from Jenae Lockwood and jumped out to the early lead.
While it would take a couple innings, Fullerton would answer back in the third inning as Hill would send one to the wall for an RBI double as Williams would come around to score.
Both pitchers were dealing in this one as neither team could get anything going. The ballgame would remain tied and it would require extra innings to find a winner.
After a Richard single, pinch runner Emily Randall would move up to second on a Brannan sac bunt. That would set the scene for Francis, who already hit a walkoff home run earlier this season. It may not have been launched over the fence, but she would come through again. Finding the left-center gap, the senior left-hander would drive in the winning run and give the champions another win, this time a 2-1 victory.
That concludes the regular season for Cal State Fullerton as they finish 33-23 overall and 18-3 in conference play. That conference record is the best finish for the Titans since they went 20-1 back in 2003.
Fullerton will find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow night when the Selection Show airs at 7:00 p.m.
Photo: Nick Allen, SportsLingo.com
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