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Titans Come From Six Runs Down, Pound Texas Again

Baseball: Top-ranked Fullerton scores 13 runs in sixth to sweep Longhorns with 19-7 victory.

March 04, 1996|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AUSTIN, Texas — One of the strengths of Cal State Fullerton's team that won the College World Series last year was an ability to overcome adversity, and the Titans showed that quality Sunday against Texas.

Fullerton overcame a 6-0 deficit after two innings and overwhelmed the Longhorns, 19-7, with the help of a 13-run sixth inning. The victory completed a three-game sweep of the four-time national champions in front of 4,936 at Disch-Falk Field.

It was the top-ranked Titans' 15th consecutive victory, only three fewer than in last year's season-ending winning streak. The only loss this season came in the opener at Stanford.

Coach Augie Garrido, back in the dugout and recovering after a chronic back problem kept him inside the stadium watching on TV Saturday, said the comeback was a tribute to his team's poise under pressure.

"We showed patience and our experience to let some close pitches go by with confidence," Garrido said. "And that's hard to do when you're trying to come back."

Four pitchers gave up a combined eight walks, five hits and a hit batsman before the Longhorns finally stopped the Titans in the runaway inning. Texas Coach Cliff Gustafson used seven pitchers in the game, and they gave up 17 walks and 14 hits. "I don't recall that big an inning against us before, or having that many walks in a game," said Gustafson, in his 29th season at Texas. And only rarely has Gustafson seen his team swept at home in a three-game series. Fullerton also did it in 1994. Last year's team won two of three in Austin, and also beat the Longhorns in the Anaheim Hilton & Towers tournament at Fullerton.

Titan outfielder Steve Chatham had a big day, driving in five runs, scoring two, and going three for five. C.J. Ankrum also had three hits and three RBIs. Tony Martinez hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

Texas pitched especially cautiously to Mark Kotsay and Jeremy Giambi. Kotsay went two for three, including a first-inning triple, but was walked three times. Giambi walked four times, twice in the sixth, and had one hit.

Texas (10-11) scored four runs off starter Scott Hild in the first, and two in the second before relief pitcher Luis Estrella was able to get the Longhorns under control. Estrella, who picked up his first victory, gave up five hits in five innings, walking two. Mark Chavez pitched two shutout innings and Kotsay a scoreless ninth.

Hild gave up grand slam to Jason Layne in the first, and the Longhorns loaded the bases in the second with none out before Estrella came in and stopped the inning at two runs.

"Estrella did a good job," said George Horton, the Titans' pitching coach. "Hild didn't have his best stuff, but their hitters seemed to really be focused at the start of the game. It was tougher on Scott than it was on anyone."

Estrella said he tried to focus on his pitching, not the situation when he came in. "Coach Horton tells us to pitch the same, no matter what the circumstances in the game and I tried to do that," he said.

Garrido also said a sparkling defensive play by second baseman Jerome Alviso in the third helped stop Texas' momentum. Alviso made a diving stop of a sharply hit ball deep into the gap between first and second, and threw out the runner, saving at least one run. "That was a big play in the game," Garrido said.

Estrella agreed. "Jerome told me he didn't know whether to throw the ball to me or C.J., who had been pulled wide, so he just threw it to the bag, and I was able to get there," he said.

The Titans scored a run in the third, and four in the fourth on two-run singles by Ankrum and Chatham. Fullerton tied it in the fifth on Ankrum's RBI single. Texas took the lead briefly in the fifth on Trey Salinas' triple and Wylie Campbell's hit, but the Titans' sixth inning broke open the game.

Scott Seal's two-run single put the inning in high gear and Fullerton ahead to stay, 8-7. Two more runs scored on walks, and Kotsay drove in another with a sacrifice fly. Chatham drove in three more with a double, and Brian Loyd had an RBI single in the inning. Martinez capped it with his first homer of the season.

Gustafson was surprised his pitching went sour. "I felt we would be in good shape on pitching today because we had three of our most effective pitchers ready, but it didn't work out that way," he said. "I can't make any excuses for all those walks, though."

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