NEW ORLEANS — Some people pop a couple of aspirin. Others prefer warm milk. But Augie Garrido's painkiller stands 6-feet 5-inches and can pitch a baseball at speeds in excess of 90 m.p.h.
His name is Mike Harkey, and once in a while, Garrido calls upon him to cure whatever ails his Cal State Fullerton team. In essence, Garrido hands Harkey the ball and says, "Make me feel better."
It happened again Friday afternoon. Harkey pitched a four-hitter to lead the Titans to a 4-0 victory over Tulane in the second round of the NCAA South II Regional tournament in front of 1,986 at Privateer Park.
It was Harkey's 10th victory of the season, and it was certainly the biggest. It came with top-seeded Fullerton facing elimination in the wake of a stunning 1-0 loss to Southern University in Thursday's first round. It came with the Titans searching for something to restore faith in themselves.
Garrido took all of this into consideration, and he made sure Harkey did, too.
"I talked to Mike prior to the game and said, 'This is what an ace does. This is what a Mike Harkey does. He takes the ball and goes out and gives us the momentum we need to go on.' "
The Titans (43-16) will play Louisiana Tech (43-13) in the third round today at 2 p.m. PDT.
Harkey picked this occasion for one of his more vintage performances. He struck out seven, walked three and held the top third of the Tulane batting order hitless. Billy Rapp, the Green Wave's leadoff hitter, was 5 for 5 in an opening-round loss to Louisiana State. Against Harkey, he was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Garrido called it the second-best outing of Harkey's Fullerton career, comparing it with a 9-3 victory over California in the Titans' lean days of February. "Both of the games were games we needed to turn things around when we were struggling," Garrido said.
Harkey got the defensive lift he needed in the second inning when, after singles by Tookie Spann and Brian Reaney, second baseman Mike Ross and shortstop Mark Razook combined on an inning-ending double play. Harkey retired the next eight hitters before giving up an infield single.
The Titans gave Harkey more runs than he needed with four in the third. Mark Baca broke Fullerton's 11-inning scoring drought with a single that drove in Keith Kaub, who led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. Andy Mota added an RBI double, and Ross and Ken Garcia had run-scoring singles to chase Tulane starter Gerald Alexander. Ricky Pursell replaced Alexander and pitched 6 innings of hitless relief, but the Green Wave couldn't mount a rally against Harkey.
"Overall, the feeling I get from it is, whew," said Harkey. "I'm glad it's over and I'm glad I did my part."
Titan Notes Temperatures for Friday's game were in the low 90s, with 70% relative humidity. Forecasts call for similar conditions for the rest of the tournament. . . . Fullerton's Paul Cameron was hit on the head by a fly ball during pregame warmups, but recovered quickly enough to enter the game in the eighth inning, replacing Keith Kaub at first base. On Thursday, Kaub made his first appearance since suffering a dislocated elbow in a 4-1 victory over USC April 28. . . . Left-hander Larry Casian (10-1) will start today for the Titans. Casian, 7-0 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn., was voted the PCAA's player of the year. . . . Today's game will be carried live by KMNY (1600). . . . The 10 Titan starters were required to take the NCAA-mandated drug tests after Thursday night's first-round game and didn't return to the team's hotel until nearly 1:30 a.m. The team had an 8:45 a.m. wake-up call Friday. Test results won't be known until next week. . . . The Titans had five hits in the third inning, matching their output for the entire game in Thursday's loss to Southern.