It was 10 years ago that Cal State Fullerton won the softball College World Series. "That would make it special to go back this year," Titan Coach Judi Garman said.
And Fullerton is one victory away from making it happen after overwhelming top-seeded Cal State Northridge, 11-0, Saturday to advance to today's championship round of the NCAA regional at the Titan Softball Complex.
Fullerton (41-26), the only unbeaten team, faces UCLA (43-9) at 1 p.m. today, and the Bruins would have to win twice to prevent the Titans from advancing to the softball College World Series for the second consecutive year.
UCLA beat Cal State Northridge, 7-5, Saturday.
Garman isn't quite sure what has brought the 15th-ranked Titans' hitting to life in the regional, but she hopes it doesn't change.
A nine-run first inning, highlighted by second baseman Chris Zboril's grand slam, carried the Titans to the victory over sixth-ranked Northridge. Third baseman Traci Fischer connected for a two-run homer in the third.
The game ended under the eight-run mercy rule after freshman Liza Brown (18-11) held Northridge scoreless through the top of the fifth. She gave up only one hit, a double to Shelby Wilcox in the final inning. Brown struck out three and walked one.
Garman said Brown will pitch her third consecutive game in the tournament today. "That's why it was so important for us to win Game 5, and not have to play two," Garman said. "This way she'll be rested."
The Titans' other top pitcher, sophomore Brandi Isgar (19-13), was dismissed from the team after the Titans lost two games May 3 at Long Beach State. At that point, the Titans were slumping and had won only three of 14 games.
"All I want to say about that is that it was a problem, and the team voted that she be dismissed," Garman said. "Maybe it's helped bring us back together."
The Titans ended the regular season with two victories at Santa Barbara.
"We're all together now," Fischer said. "We've had our ups and downs, but I think now we're a team on a mission."
Fullerton had 15 hits Friday in its 5-1 victory over UCLA in the first round, then got 11 in only four innings against two Matador pitchers. Starter Jennifer Richardson (21-8) managed only one out in the first inning when the Titans had eight hits. The first three batters hit safely. Beth Queypo's triple drove in the first run, and she scored on Fischer's single. Bevan Trueblood's hit brought in another run. A new pitcher, Tara Glaister, walked in a run, and Monica Bagaylos' single drove in another. Zboril's grand slam, her 10th homer of the season, capped Fullerton's biggest inning of the year.
Queypo's third hit of the game in the third set up Fischer's sixth homer of the year.
"When everyone is hitting well, it gets contagious," Zboril said.
Fullerton's outfield fence was moved in from 200 feet to 190 feet down the lines, but moved back 220 in center field for the tournament to meet NCAA recommendations. Normally, it is at 200 to all fields. But Garman thought both homers to left against Northridge would have cleared anyway.
"I hate to even put a bunt on right now, we're hitting so well," Garman said.
At the Fresno State regional:
Fresno State 3, Long Beach State 2 (8)--The 49ers rallied for two runs in the seventh to send the game into extra innings, but Fresno State scored an unearned run in the eighth to advance to the title game.
Nicola Walsh's two-out single skipped past left fielder Amber Wall, scoring two runners. Walsh was thrown out at the plate on a relay from Bulldog shortstop Randi Berg. The 49ers (36-22) defeated Texas A & M, 4-1, in an earlier game.