FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — After struggling through Game 1 of the super regionals and losing, Cal State Fullerton got back down to business on Saturday and played the way four-time national champions play.
Junior right hander Tommy Wilson pitched seven strong innings to lead Fullerton to a 5-2 victory over Washington to even their best-of-three super-regional series at a game apiece.
Wilson limited the Huskies to one run and three hits and improved to 7-0 on the season. Brett Conine pitched the eighth and ninth innings to secure the victory.
“I wasn’t nervous and when I go out there I always want to give my boys a chance to win,” Wilson said. “Today was fun. My fastball was working well and I got a couple of strikeouts on my changeup. We settled down after a tough game yesterday.”
The Titans (36-24) forced a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday. The Titans will advance to its 19th College World Series with a victory. Last season Fullerton lost their opening super-regional game to Long Beach State before winning the next two to reach the CWS.
“I hope our experience pays off tomorrow,” said Titans coach Rick Vanderhook. “We went out today and got better. Today was a new start and tomorrow is another game and we hope to get better again.”
UW (34-24) fell to 1-9 all-time against Fullerton and needs a win on Sunday to advance to its first CWS in school’s history.
Jordon Jones (6-4) went 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on seven hits and took the loss.
The Titans took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Sahid Valenzuela led off with a triple to right center and scored on Jake Pavletich’s RBI double down the right field line. Pavletich scored later in the inning on a fielder’s choice.
“I played scared yesterday after making a few errors but today is a new day,” said Pavletich, who had two hits in the game. “We started out 1-7 this season and we grinded it out and today our backs were against the wall and we grinded it out.”
Huskies DH Joe Wainhouse drilled his 18th homerun of the season over the left center field wall to lead off the fourth to cut the lead to 2-1. He blasted his second homer of the game to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Wainhouse has hit 13 HRs in his last 16 games.
Fullerton upped its lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning after three consecutive hits to lead off the inning. Jarius Richards and Brett Borgogno highlighted the rally with a RBI triple and single, respectively.
“It’s always nice to increase your lead and I think my hit helped give us momentum,” Richards said. “I got to play today because I had a good BP (batting practice) before the game and I’m happy about that.”
Hank LoForte’s two-out RBI triple increased Fullerton’s lead to 5-1 in the seventh.
The Huskies had their four-game win streak snapped. The Titans have won 9 of 11.
Joe DeMers came on in the ninth inning to preserve Friday’s win and is expected to start on Sunday for Washington.
LaForte extended his hitting streak to 21 games with a seventh-inning triple and has reached base in 44 consecutive games.
After Nick Kahle, Levi Jordan and AJ Graffanino combined to go 9 for 12 with five runs scored and four RBIs in Friday’s 8-5 victory, the trio went 1 for 10 with no RBIs on Saturday.
“Congrats to the Titans,” said Washington coach Lindsay Meggs. “Nobody has to remind us of their success. There is a reason why they are here. This is why players come to Washington and Fullerton to play in big games like this. Tomorrow’s game is going to be in front of a rowdy crowd. Tomorrow’s game will come down to the ninth inning and somebody is going to have to make a play or a pitch. We look forward to it.”
-Fullerton pitcher Tommy Wilson is the son of actor Thomas F. Wilson, who starred as Biff Tannen in the “Back To The Future” Trilogy movies.
-Cal State Fullerton’ Colton Eastman, the Big West Conference Pitcher of The Year, was drafted in the fourth round this past week by the Philadelphia Phillies.
-Fullerton won its first super regional home game since 2009.
-A.J. Graffanino was one of four Huskies selected in the MLB draft this week and was the highest UW player taken (8th round by Atlanta).
-This weekend series was the first time the Titans and Huskies have played each other since 2011.
-Fullerton second baseman and leadoff hitter Hank LoForte’s streak of reaching base on his first at bat in 10 straight games came to an end when he grounded out to first on a bunt attempt in the first inning.