MALIBU — Cal State Fullerton's baseball season is only three games old, but Mark Kotsay already has a game-winning home run.
Kotsay's leadoff homer in the seventh off freshman relief pitcher Justin Cueller broke up a 4-4 tie and the Titans went on to beat Pepperdine, 5-4, Wednesday at Eddy D. Field Stadium.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," said Kotsay, who hit 21 home runs last year when he won the Golden Spikes award as the college game's top player. "I was trying to hit the ball the other way to left, but he hung one and I got into it." Kotsay's homer gave the victory to Matt Wise, a transfer from Pepperdine. He pitched a planned two innings, as did starter Scott Hild and Dustin Spencer.
The most impressive pitching performance of the day, however, belonged to senior Mark Chavez, who retired Pepperdine in order in the last three innings to pick up the save. Chavez was scheduled to pitch only the seventh and eighth innings but stayed in for the ninth.
Fullerton (2-1) had 14 hits against four Pepperdine pitchers with shortstop Jack Jones going four for five. Kotsay was two for four with a sacrifice fly that drove in another run. Jeremy Giambi, Mike Lamb and C.J. Ankrum also had two hits.
"I was pleased with the way we hit the ball," Coach Augie Garrido said. "Pepperdine is a good club though. They have good team speed and good left-handed hitting."
The Waves (2-3) are ranked seventh nationally in one preseason poll and were 36-19-1 last season when they won the West Coast Conference championship easily and advanced to the NCAA West Regional.
Titan associate head coach George Horton said he was generally pleased with the work of all four pitchers. "Chavez pitched very well," he said. "Wise had a lot of things going, with pitching against his former teammates and all."
Pepperdine tied the score at 4 in the fifth. A throwing error by Lamb that hit the baserunner caught between third and the plate, allowing both runs to score after a pickoff by Wise went sour through no fault of his own.
"I thought their runner jumped in front of the throw," Garrido said. "It turned out to be a rough inning for us, but I thought our infield defense was good the whole game."
Pepperdine Coach Pat Harrison said he thought both teams made some early-season mistakes.
"Most of them were mental mistakes," he said. "We didn't get to some fly balls that should have been caught. But Fullerton hit the ball well, and they're the kind of team that puts a lot of pressure on people."
The Titans' home opener is Friday night against Fresno State. Kirk Irvine is the probable starter for Fullerton.