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College Baseball: Titans' homer wins it

UCI rallied with two outs in the ninth to tie, but Cal State Fullerton gets walk-off triumph.

May 18, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

FULLERTON — Two pitches after he nearly swung out of his shoes, Cal State Fullerton senior Carlos Lopez left visiting UC Irvine on the field, stunned in their tracks.

Lopez launched a 1-1 split-finger fastball off a banner about 10 feet over the top of the right-field fence to lift the host Titans to a 3-2 walk-off victory over the Anteaters in front of 2,399 on Saturday at Goodwin Field.

The winning homer, which Lopez said was pre-ordered by Titans head man Rick Vanderhook, clinched the Big West Conference series victory for the Titans, who also wrapped up at least a share of the conference regular-season crown.

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The win also may have all but ruined UCI's chances of making the 64-team NCAA Regional field for the seventh time in eight seasons.

"Coach Vanderhook told me to try to hit a home run," said Lopez, who singled in the game-winning run to cap a 14-pitch at-bat in Friday's 5-2 come-from-behind triumph. "The first pitch was off-speed and I swung as hard as I could. I just missed it. I'm so old, I think I might have pulled something. He threw me a ball and then the off-speed again and I tried to hit it."

It was the 11th hit of the game, with at least one in every inning for the Titans (44-8, 19-4 in conference), ranked No. 4 in the nation by Baseball America. It was also the fourth straight win over UCI for the Titans, who have now won six of the last seven between the two Orange County rivals.

It was a win Fullerton appeared to have sealed and delivered when junior closer Michael Lorenzen used two pitches to get two outs in the ninth to put himself on the verge of his 18th save.

But UCI, which had five hits in eight scoreless innings, all but one out of which was delivered by freshman star Justin Garza, somehow managed to tie the score.

Jerry McClanahan reached second when his single to right-center was misplayed for an error and Jeff Stephens followed with a single to left to put runners on the corners. Kris Paulino singled to right to drive in UCI's first run and Grant Palmer came up with runners at the corners.

Palmer struck out on a check swing, but the ball skipped past catcher Chad Wallach for a wild pitch that allowed Palmer to reach first as the tying run scored. Lorenzen retired Chris Rabago to put himself in position for his third win in as many decisions, as the UCI crowd reveled in something to celebrate for the first time all night.

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