Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Pitching + Clutch Hitting = Win


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans got seven strong innings of pitching from Daniel Renken and six RBI from cleanup hitter Jared Clark en route to an 8-1 over the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night at Goodwin Field.

Renken and Stanford starter Jeffrey Inman both looked sharp right away. Renken retired the side easily in the first inning - including two strikeouts - before yielding a peculiar run in the second inning. Joey August led off for Stanford by hitting an easy dribbler towards first base that we all hoped would stay fair for an easy out - until it hit the base, took a funny bounce and momentarily transmogrified Jared Clark into Bill Buckner; August easily reached second base with the softest double in history. He advanced to third on a passed ball (possible mix-up in signals) and scored when Jonathon Kaskow punched a 1-2 pitch into right field on a little "excuse me" swing.

Fullerton had an opportunity in the bottom of the second frame when Tyler Pill, substituting for the injured Nick Ramirez, walked and Jeff Newman placed a perfect bunt for a base hit. With one out, Garneau bunted (presumably trying to catch the infield napping) and was thrown out, with both runners advancing. Joe Scott struck out to end the threat.

After a strong 1-2-3 third inning for Renken, the Titans had another mild threat in the third inning. With one out, Colon was hit by a pitch and reached second on a wild pitch. Fellhauer ripped a line drive up the middle that left pitcher Inman with just two choices: catch the ball or sing soprano in the Stanford band. He chose the former, making a nice reaction to catch the liner and easily double Colon off second base.

Renken and Inman were both very impressive early on. After 5 1/2 innings, Stanford held a 1-0 lead and the Titans had been held to just one base hit: the bunt by Newman. Renken was aided by some stellar plays by shortstop Colon and Garneau making excellent throws to nail would-be base stealers to end the fourth and sixth innings.

The Titans finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning - not coincidentally when I pulled out my old lucky grey sweater and put it on for the first time this season. Brown led off with a single and Colon followed with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single to left. Both runners advanced - and Fellhauer reached base - when Stanford misplayed his sacrifice bunt, bringing Clark to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. The senior responded with an RBI single that plated two runs, giving Fullerton a 2-1 lead. After Pill sacrificed both runners along, Khris Davis fought off several breaking pitches and chopped a run-producing single on a high chopper over the drawn-in infield. Clark scored the fourth run of the inning on a nice slide into the plate on a safety squeeze play in which Newman bunted the ball back towards the pitcher.

Staked to a 4-1 lead, Renken did what the pitching failed to do against TCU: post a zero following our scoring. He looked sharp in the 1-2-3 seventh inning. After the stretch, the Titan offense went back to work against the Stanford bullpen. For the second straight inning, Clark reached the plate with the bases loaded following singles by Scott and Colon and a Fellhauer HBP. He swing at an 0-1 offering from Danny Sandbrink and hit a bomb over the scoreboard in left field - a grand-slam that gave the Titans an 8-1 lead.

With the widened lead, Coach Serrano turned mound duties over to Ryan Ackland and Kyle Mertins, who each pitched an effective inning to nail down the 8-1 win.


So what did we learn tonight?

First off, character shines through adversity. Coming off last weekend's disappointing series and apparently under the weather (flu), Clark gave a stellar performance. I heard Renken was also under the weather, but you couldn't tell from his seven inning, no walks, seven K's and 82 pitch performance.

Colon and Garneau made some excellent defensive plays. The usually stellar defense of Scott was a little shaky: he broke the wrong way on a line drive that went for a base hit and he made a bad throw on what should have been an easy 6-4-3 double play ball. I don't think anybody is worried about his D though.

Between Tuesday night and tonight, the bullpen mystery is starting to give us some clues. Ackland and Mertins look like they will be okay - I was actually a little surprised they were used in an 8-1 game with two games remaining in the series.

It was a nice win, but it is just one game. Let's come out and support these guys Saturday night. Don't forget the Diamond Club's potluck event prior to the game.

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