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Sarver Is Savior for Titans

The surprise starter helps pitch Cal State Fullerton to a 4-0 win over South Carolina. Titans will play Texas for the national title.

June 25, 2004|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

OMAHA — With its chance to play for the national championship in the balance, it was no surprise that Cal State Fullerton ace Jason Windsor made an appearance.

But with it being an elimination game against South Carolina, the player that baffled the Gamecocks in the opening round of the College World Series didn't enter the game until the seventh inning Thursday night.

Instead, the Titans got six brilliant frames from Scott Sarver before turning to their standout right-hander and he finished a combined 4-0 victory to send them into the best-of-three championship final in front of 16,251 at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Fullerton will play Texas on Saturday in a matchup between George Horton, the Titans' coach, and Augie Garrido, his predecessor.

"I'm so proud of these guys that I can't believe it," Horton said. "Not in my wildest dreams did I think we'd shut out a great South Carolina ballclub."

The Titans (45-22) took a big gamble and it paid off.

After determining that Windsor hadn't recovered enough after his 145-pitch 2-0 victory against South Carolina last Friday, Fullerton opted to start the left-handed Sarver, who hadn't pitched in 18 days.

Sarver got the word after the Titans' 5-3 loss Wednesday to Gamecocks that forced Thursday's rematch. It was a surprising decision considering the Gamecocks had won three in a row and would start ace left-hander Matt Campbell, a first-round pick of the Kansas City Royals.

"You'd think that [we'd have the advantage]," South Carolina catcher Landon Powell said. "It's still baseball, and when you get between the lines, it all comes down to execution and performing.

"Sarver didn't pitch many innings, and he wasn't a highly touted guy, but he went out there and did a good job."

Relying on fastballs pitched inside and curveballs and sliders that kept the Gamecocks off-balance, the junior college transfer scattered five hits and struck out seven in six-plus innings.

"The only time I felt nervous was in the first inning," he said. "In the second through sixth innings, I felt as comfortable as I could possibly be."

But when Sarver, a junior, walked Michael Campbell to open the seventh, pitching coach Dave Serrano took no chances. Windsor had let the coach know that he was ready.

"I'd be lying if I knew that Scott would do what he did," Serrano said. "In my mind, I was going to shorten the game. I was thinking five innings and then I'd go with [Vinnie] Pestano knowing that I still had Jason.

"George and I went back and forth on it. I said to Coach, 'Jason's already up. We're extending him for Saturday's start, so why mess around. Let's do it now.' "

Windsor gave up three hits in three innings but finished with a flourish by striking out the side in the ninth. He also got help from right fielder Bobby Andrews, who threw out the Gamecocks' Steve Pearce at the plate to end the eighth.

Fullerton played stellar defense. Second baseman Justin Turner made a diving grab of a grounder up the middle and got a force play at second in the fifth. In the sixth, center fielder Clark Hardman dropped a fly ball as he ran in but threw to third base to nab Pearce.

The Titans broke through in the fourth, scoring three runs, and added another in the seventh. South Carolina (53-17) was shut out only twice -- both coming against the Titans in this tournament.

*

College World Series

Best-of-three championship series

Game 1 -- Saturday

Texas vs. Cal State Fullerton, 4 p.m.

Game 2 -- Sunday

Texas vs. Cal State Fullerton, Noon

Game 3 -- Monday*

Texas vs. Cal State Fullerton, 4 p.m.

Times PDT, All on ESPN. * if necessary

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