Saturday, April 11, 2009

Heavy-hearted Titans Split: Part 2


By Don Hudson

After losing the resumption of Thursday's suspended (darkness) game in fifteen innings, the Cal State Fullerton Titans bounced back on Friday afternoon to beat the Cal State Northridge Matadors, 7-5, behind a balanced offensive attack that included hits from each player in the line-up. Noe Ramirez (4-1) pitched 7 1/3 innings and got the win.

After Josh Fellhauer reached base in the first inning on a two-out infield single, Jared Clark gave the Titans an early 2-0 lead with a home run to left field against losing pitcher Billy Ott.

After Noe Ramirez threw an easy first inning, the Titans lengthened their lead to 4-0 in the second inning. Khris Davis and Gary Brown started the inning with singles and advanced into scoring position on Joe Scott's sacrifice bunt. Dustin Garneau drove in Davis with a sacrifice fly to rightfield; Brown also scored on the play when the throw back into the infield went awry.

Noe Ramirez and Ott matched zeros on the scoreboard the next three innings. After five innings, Noe was breezing along with a three-hit shutout.

The Titans seemed to put the game out of reach in the top of the sixth inning as sharp lightning bolts crackled in the distance. Nick Ramirez started the inning with a base hit up the middle and advanced to third when Khris Davis laced a double to centerfield - his third double of the two games. One out later, Joe Scott doubled in both runners to make it 6-0 and Dustin Garneau added the extra point with an RBI single, making it 7-0.

The Matadors finally got to Noe Ramirez in their half of the sixth inning, starting with two small ball hits (a chopper by John Parham far to Brown's left that he fielded cleanly but threw late after his trademark piroutte move and a bunt surprise bunt single by Richard Cates), a clean single to leftfield by Ryan Pineda and a grand slam by Dominic D'Anna. Still with no outs, Ramirez hit the next batter and surrendered a single to Jason Dabbs. But in a sign of confidence for their freshman hurler and his ability to bounce back from adversity, Noe was allowed to continue and allowed just one of those runners to score, making it 7-5 and turning what had just moments earlier seem like an easy game into a nailbiter.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jason Dabbs got his third hit of the game, followed by a solid single to rightfield by Jeff Pruitt. With a pitch count of 120 and the go-ahead run at the plate, and two right-handed hitters coming up (one scheduled and the second a pinch-hitter), Coach Serrano bypassed his available right-handed relievers and brought in freshman left-hander Nick Ramirez. Nick did a great job and retired the next two hitters easily on a foul pop-up and a lazy flyball to centerfield.

The Titans threatened to add insurance runs in the ninth inning when they loaded the bases on one-out singles by Jeff Newman and Josh Fellhauer. With Felly advancing to second on the late throw to try to get Newman at third base, Jared Clark was intentionally walked to set up the double-play situation. Nick Ramirez obliged the Matadors, hitting into a 4-6-3 twin killing to stymie the rally.

With the 2/3/4 hitters coming up for Northridge and the closer ready in the bullpen, Nick Ramirez was allowed to start the inning - and he finished it off in impressive fashion. He fell behind Parham 3-0 in the count before getting him to chase a high 3-1 pitch and fly out to Felly. (Sorry, Susan, it would have been ball four - just ask Tim.) Ramirez recorded his first collegiate save when he retired the dangerous Cates and Pineda.


So what did we learn today?

You've got to love a bomb and a bunt. After blasting a long home run in the first inning, Jared Clark surprised the Matadors with a bunt in the seventh inning. What wheels: he legged it out and then stole second base, making him 9-9 this year in the pilfery category.

The bats showed some signs of life this game: Christian Colon, Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark, Nick Ramirez and Khris Davis each tallied two hits, with each other starter (Newman, Brown, Scott and Garneau) getting one each.

Do you remember last year's Sunday slugfest at Goodwin Field, when the Titans beat the Matadors by a 17-15 score, despite three home runs and nine RBI by CSUN's freshman catcher Chris Hannick? So far, Coach Rousey has not put him into a game this series despite him being healthy and available (according to local Matador followers). I would have to guess he will make an appearance sometime today.

The situation in the bullpen should be interesting as we head down the stretch toward the Regionals. Earlier in the year, the righties (Mertins, Ackland and Morrison) were getting all the key innings and the lefties were pictured on milk cartons. Recently, the lefties (Kevin Rath and Nick Ramirez) have come on strong and could continue to get the ball in pivotal late game situations.

Lastly, the unexpectedly large Good Friday crowd of 175 ate the Matador Field concession stand out of hot dogs in between the suspended game and the scheduled game. Kudos to the concessionaire for taking swift corrective action and running home to grab some extra dogs (45 regular and 30 spicy) out of the freezer to feed the hungry crowd.

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