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Home Run Ends Season for Titans

Putnam's drive in top of 10th sends Stanford to 7-5 win over Cal State Fullerton at College World Series.

June 20, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

OMAHA — Nine innings and three tense hours couldn't determine a winner in the third and decisive meeting between Cal State Fullerton and Stanford at the College World Series. One swing of Danny Putnam's bat did.

Putnam hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning off reliever Darric Merrell to send the Cardinal into the best-of-three championship round against Rice with a 7-5 victory Thursday night in a 3-hour 57-minute game before 16,085 at Rosenblatt Stadium.

It was the final blow to a challenging season for Fullerton. The Titans (50-16) worked their way through injuries and suspensions to a No. 1 national ranking and a victory away from playing for their fourth national title. But their efforts weren't enough to overcome the long ball that Stanford has used to its advantage.

The Titans also lost shortstop Justin Turner, who was hit in the face by a fastball from starter Matt Manship in the third inning. Turner was treated at Bergan Mercy Medical Center and returned to the dugout later after suffering a bruised, heavily swollen mouth and a spraining an ankle while trying to escape the inside pitch.

Putnam's blast won it but Jonny Ash's first career home run in the seventh inning off All-American closer Chad Cordero changed the game. After Sam Fuld doubled with one out, Ash turned on a fastball from Cordero and hit it into the right-field bleachers to tie the score, 5-5.

"Our third-base coach [Dean Stotz] told us it would happen about a couple of weeks ago," Ash said. "Last night I had a dream that it would happen against Cordero. In the dream, it was a game-winning home run. It was close enough."

Said Cordero: "I went after him like I go after everyone else, even though he's not really a home run hitter. I left a fastball out over the plate and he hit it well."

Cordero had not been scored upon since May 16 and gave up only one run in his last 34 1/3 innings. Titan Coach George Horton and pitching coach Dave Serrano decided to go to their closer in the sixth as they tried to nurse a 4-3 lead even though his only three-inning stint this season came in a 14-inning win Feb. 21 against Nevada.

"We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them," Horton said. "You make one mistake and it's over the fence."

Stanford (50-16) has batted .316 with nine home runs in the Series -- both highs among the eight teams -- with three homers coming in Thursday's victory. In contrast, the Titans hit only .262 and got little production from several spots in the lineup.

Fullerton left 15 on base Thursday. In the eighth, the Titans loaded the bases with two out. Shane Costa singled and P.J. Pilittere and Richie Burgos drew walks from reliever David O'Hagan. Kyle Boyer, who was two for 17 in the tournament, worked the count full, then hit a fly ball to center as O'Hagan escaped the threat.

O'Hagan (7-1) held the Titans scoreless over the final 4 1/3 innings despite walking four. Boyer stranded five runners.

"We had some quality at-bats, but we had some stinkers too," Horton said. "We set the table, but we couldn't get the key hit."

Jason Windsor, the Titans' No. 1 starter, held the Cardinal to a run in the first five innings. But as the sixth approached, the junior developed a cut on his thumb that needed closing from trainer Chris Mumaw.

The delay lasted more than 10 minutes and it gave Stanford a chance to regroup. With two out, Jed Lowrie singled to left. Chris Carter then hit a two-run shot to right to cut the Titan lead to 4-3.

Windsor said the cut didn't affect his pitching but Horton said the homer altered the game plan.

"Chad told the coaching staff he could go four [innings] if we needed him to," Horton said. "Obviously the bleeding became an issue. It kind of took the momentum of the game away."

Stanford continued its success in the CWS against Fullerton. The Cardinal won twice in 1988 and 2001 to eliminate the Titans and has seven victories in 10 meetings.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Horton said. "We lost to a great baseball team."

*

College World Series

at Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha

Best-of-three championship series; all times Pacific

* Saturday: Stanford (50-16) vs. Rice (56-11), 4 p.m.

* Sunday: Stanford vs. Rice, 11:30 a.m.

* Monday: Stanford vs. Rice, 4 p.m., if necessary

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