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Titans advance to super-regionals with 6-1 win over Sun Devils

Thomas Eshelman is sharp as Cal State Fullerton rides early lead to victory over Arizona State.

June 03, 2013|By Andrew Gastelum

Behind eight efficient innings from freshman pitcher Thomas Eshelman, Cal State Fullerton booked a date in the super-regionals with UCLA for the fourth times in the last seven postseasons. 

Despite sitting in the visitor’s dugout in their home stadium, the Titans (51-8) looked right at home in a comfortable 6-1 win over Arizona State on a brisk Sunday night at Goodwin Field.

“We took advantage of what they did wrong and played the way we play,” Titans Coach Rick Vanderhook said. “We’ve accomplished some things and we’re still not done -- we hope.”

It didn’t take long for Cal State Fullerton, seeded fifth overall in the tournament, to get going. Center fielder Michael Lorenzen, who picked up the save in a 1-0 win over Arizona State on Saturday, put the Titans up 2-0 in the top of the first with a two-run single to right.

Arizona State (37-22-1) sent 6-foot-9 left-hander Adam McCreery to the mound for his first start since March 30.  In his 1 1/3 innings of work, McCreery notched a season high with six walks. He walked second baseman Jake Jefferies with the bases loaded to make it 3-0 before the Sun Devils even stepped to the plate.

During a 46-pitch first inning, McCreery walked three of the first four batters he faced, one more than Eshelman has walked all season.

Eshelman came into the tournament as the reigning Big West freshman pitcher of the year, sporting a 1.63 earned-run average and 71 strikeouts, leading the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio (35.5) and WHIP (0.76). The Carlsbad native limited a Sun Devils offense that collected 10 runs in the 4 p.m. elimination game against Columbia to one run and six hits on 115 pitches.

“Seeing that five in the first inning really helped me out," Eshelman said.

In his first postseason start, the righty kept the Arizona State bats at bay with full control over a fastball that topped out at 87 mph and a deceptive changeup. Eshelman seemed to get stronger as the game went on, retiring 10 straight batters coming into his eighth and final inning.

“It was a long day,” Arizona State Coach Tim Esmay said. "He just threw strikes and forced us to hit.”

The top three hitters in Arizona State’s lineup combined for seven RBIs in the 10-5 win over Columbia earlier in the day, which gave the Sun Devils a one-hour respite before meeting Cal State Fullerton at 8 p.m. Eshelman held the top of the lineup to two singles on 2-for-12 hitting.

The Titans scored twice more in the top of the second, behind an RBI single from designated hitter J.D. Davis and a squeeze bunt from Lorenzen to make it 5-0.

Arizona State got on the board in the fourth on a two-out single from right fielder Trever Allen, his team-leading 49th RBI of the season. Two batters earlier, catcher Max Rossiter hit a sinking line drive to center that resulted in a triple when Lorenzen couldn’t make a diving catch and the ball rolled to the wall.

Fullerton added another run in the top of the eighth when third baseman Matt Chapman singled home shortstop Richy Pedroza with two outs to make it 6-1.

The Titans have now advanced to the super-regionals in nine of the last 11 NCAA regionals at Goodwin Field.

“The stakes are the same,” Vanderhook said. “UCLA is going to be a different challenge. … I think it’s going to be a good fight.” 

Andrew.Gastelum@latimes.com

Twitter: @andrewgastelum

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