Titans Prevail in Crucial Series

scott roeder | Staff Photographer Jeff Cusick slides into home plate safely as the ball bounces off Fullerton catcher Billy Marcoe’s shoulder.

scott roeder | Staff Photographer Jeff Cusick slides into home plate safely as the ball bounces off Fullerton catcher Billy Marcoe’s shoulder.

San Diego State 6 UCI 5

San Diego State (12-17) scored twice in the ninth to defeat UC Irvine 6-5 in a midweek matchup at Anteater Ballpark.

Guy Willieford’s two-out double off UCI closer Kyle Necke provided the tying run represented by Chris Wilson. Ryan O’Sullivan then plated the pinch runner for the winning run off of usual Saturday starter Christian Bergman.

Necke fell to 1-3 after pitching 1.2 innings and allowing two runs. Starter Matt Summers struck out four, gave up five hits and allowed three runs in 1.2 innings of work.

UCI 7 CSUF 4

Jeff Cusick’s game has been knocked for its lack of power. Nobody is knocking anymore. With one swing of the bat, Cusick sent a 1-0 changeup over the left field fence for a three-run walk-off home run for a 7-4 win over hated rival Cal State Fullerton Friday night.

Cusick’s home run, which was his fifth of the season, came after Sean Madigan and Casey Stevenson singled to lead off the inning. Brian Hernandez, who already had a home run and a double on his belt, was questionably sent to bunt the runners over. Hernandez struck out, but Cusick’s long ball bailed out Mike Gillespie’s small ball.

Starter Danny Bibona went the distance pitching nine innings, allowing four runs (two earned), while striking out eight in 115 pitches. Bibona improved to 5-2 on the season while reliever Nick Ramirez fell to 0-3 after starter Noe Ramirez pitched 6.1 innings striking out six and allowing four earned runs in the no-decision.

Cusick finished the day two for four with four RBI’s, and Hernandez was two for four with two RBI’s. Madigan was two for four with one RBI, and Stevenson added three hits.

UCI (18-9) scored in the first inning when a groundout by Cusick scored Madigan who had been put on base by a hit by pitch. The Titans knotted the score in the second when Nick Ramirez hit a solo shot off Bibona.

UCI added a run each in the fifth and sixth innings off Madigan’s RBI single to score Fisher and a solo blast by Hernandez to left field.

The Titans rallied in the seventh inning on an RBI single by Tyler Pill. Pill then scored when catcher Francis Larson’s throw to first went wide off the sacrifice bunt attempt. With two outs and a runner on third, Bibona was charged with a suspect balk call, scoring the runner and putting the Titans up 4-3.

CSUF 6 UCI 3

In a battle between under-achieving starting pitchers, Fullerton’s Daniel Renken managed to better Irvine’s Christian Bergman, leading the Titans to a 6-3 win in game two of the series.

“Over the last two weeks, he’s been getting back into the mold of what we’re used to with Daniel Renken,” CSUF Head Coach Dave Serrano said. “We need him to step up and pitch like he did today — the All-American junior with a lot of experience.”

The ’Eaters were able to get on the board early, with the help of an error from Titans catcher Billy Marcoe. After the defensive miscue allowed Jeff Cusick to score, Ryan Fisher extended the inning with a single before Matt Summers contributed a sacrifice fly.

Unfortunately, the early 2-0 lead proved to not be enough, as Fullerton struck back in the top of the third, this time with an error from the Anteaters. Bergman threw wide to first base, allowing Anthony Hutting to reach base. Next up, Carlos Lopez hit a sharp grounder in the hole, beating out the throw from DJ Crumlich. Tyler Pill followed with a squibbler of a double that just got past Cusick at first, before Marcoe made up for his earlier miscue by belting a two-run single into right-center.

“[Bergman] has been very inconsistent in the strike zone,” Gillespie said, while conceding Bergman a victim of tough luck this season. “He’s a guy that has to command the strike zone … he’s a sinker ball, slider, cutter guy … if he doesn’t pitch down, he’ll get hit.”

Bergman gave up five runs in 5.1 innings, but only one was earned. Renken meanwhile went 6.1 with only one earned run allowed.

“I thought our chance to get [Renken] was early, and then when he settled into his game he became really good,” Gillespie said.

Nick Ramirez added a two-run shot off reliever Andy Lines, while UCI would only muster one more run to make up the final 6-3 tally. The lone bright spot was the emergence of freshmen lefties Ruben Orosco and Matt Whitehouse. The pair combined for 2.2 hitless innings against the heart of the Titan lineup.

“We desperately need quality left-handed pitching and I think both guys handled themselves well today,” Gillespie said.

CSUF 6 UCI 1

Pill took to the mound on Sunday, stifling UCI to lead Fullerton to the crucial series win.

The only Anteater run came in the 8th off of a Fullerton error. Meanwhile, Eric Pettis suffered his first loss on the season for UCI, giving up 11 hits and three earned runs in 7.1 innings.

UCI dropped to 18-11, 4-2 in the Big West with the loss.