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USC Bats Knock Out Fullerton

College baseball: Trojans' 14-hit attack powers 8-3 win that ends Titans' season.

May 29, 2000|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Solid pitching has been the key for USC most of this season, but strong hitting lifted the Trojans to their third consecutive NCAA regional baseball championship Sunday.

The Trojans banged out 14 hits, including two home runs, to overwhelm Cal State Fullerton, 8-3, in front of 2,177 at the first regional tournament hosted by the Titans.

The victory stretched USC's winning streak to 13 games and sent the Trojans (41-18) into a best-of-three super-regional series against Georgia Tech. Super-regional sites will be announced today, but a USC athletic department spokesman said the school did not bid to host a super-regional.

The loss ended early a bid by Fullerton (38-21) for a second consecutive trip to the College World Series.

"USC was an awfully good team in this game," Fullerton Coach George Horton said. "They played offense about as well as you can play it."

USC Coach Mike Gillespie was especially pleased by his team's hitting balance. Shortstop Seth Davidson, selected as the tournament's most outstanding player, was three for four with two runs scored, and third baseman Justin Gemoll was three for four with four runs batted in. Abel Montanez and Josh Persell each hit home runs.

"I'm really proud of the contribution after contribution we had down through the lineup," Gillespie said. "We got great contributions from our 7-8-9 spots in our lineup. Maybe they'll hit 1-2-3 next week. The thing that surprised me the most was the way we played on offense. "

The Titans had 12 hits--including three each by seniors Steve Woodward and Chris Beck--but left 14 runners on base. USC stranded 10.

USC starter Anthony Reyes (6-6) picked up the victory, giving up seven hits and two runs in five innings. He struck out five and walked three. Ronald Flores gave up five hits and one run in four innings to earn his fourth save.

Fullerton starter Jon Smith (9-3) gave up six runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"Smith was a Trojan-killer the two times we faced him last year," Gillespie said.

Smith didn't pitch last weekend in the final regular-season series against Long Beach State because of soreness in his shoulder.

"I felt good out of the gate, but in the third and fourth innings they started getting some hits," Smith. "They're a good offensive team."

Fullerton scored runs in the second and third for a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Shawn Norris and Beck.

But three runs in the third gave the Trojans the lead. Montanez hit a wind-blown homer to right, and Gemoll drove in two on a double into the left-field corner.

Smith, who had given up only four homers in 14 starts this season, was tagged for another one to right by Persell in the fourth. USC added two more runs after two were out. An RBI double by Barre, who played at Pacifica High, and an RBI single by Gemoll pushed the lead to 6-2.

Gemoll drove in his fourth run in the sixth and the Trojans added another run in the seventh off Kirk Saarloos.

Fullerton reached Sunday's championship round with a 5-2 victory over Loyola Marymount in which Titan pitcher Ronnie Corona struck out 12 and gave up only four hits in eight innings. The game didn't end until after midnight Sunday morning.

"We probably were a little more tired today after that late game, but I don't think it had that much effect on how we played," Woodward said.

Said Horton: "We knew it was going to be a very competitive weekend. We're disappointed, but not every team you have can go to Omaha. We gave it a run."

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