Sunday, May 24, 2009

Senior Moments


By Don Hudson

Behind the power hitting of senior sluggers Jared Clark and Joe Scott and the dominant pitching of freshman Noe Ramirez, the Cal State Fullerton Titans may have assured themselves an NCAA tournament national seed with a 7-1 victory over the Long Beach State Dirtbags last night at Goodwin Field.

Just as they did Friday night, the Dirtbags took an early 1-0 lead. T.J. Mittelstaedt led off the second inning for LBSU with a triple deep to rightfield. When Devin Lohman lifted a flyball to short centerfield, Mittelstaedt was perched on the bag waiting to challenge the arm of CF Josh Fellhauer, who was coming in on the dead run. However, the ball was hit too softly and dropped in front of Felly - who picked it up and tried to retire Mittelstaedt on a tag play at the plate. The throw was strong but hit the mound and bounced up, allowing the runner from third to score and Lohman to advance on the throw. It was almost the first 8-to-2 fielder's choice I would have ever seen in eighty years watching baseball.

A sacrifice bunt moved the potential second run to third base with one out, but Noe Ramirez went into complete lockdown mode. He retired Jonathan Jones on a foul popout to C Billy Marcoe and got Tre Dennis on a groundout to 2B Joe Scott.

Demonstrating that he is more than just a one-dimensional slugger, Joe Scott led off the Fullerton third inning with a walk and then stole second base. After Christian Colon was hit by a pitch, Gary Brown grounded a base hit into leftfield to tie the score (1-1). A wild pitch later, the Titans had runners at second and third with one out.
Fellhauer lifted a fly ball to leftfield, which Dirtbag LF Jones lined up with forward momentum to try to throw Colon out at the plate. Jones gloved the ball and next thing you know he was picking it up off the ground. First base umpire Frank Flugradt emphatically ruled it 'no catch.' After further review with fellow umpires Dick Flahert and Dwayne Finley, the call was reversed - the catch was allowed and the drop was judged to be on the transfer. (I was sitting down the leftfield line at the time and I also thought it was on the transfer - good job, Blue!) The sacrifice fly put the Titans up, 2-1.

The Titans weren't done. After Brown went to third on a wild pitch by Jake Thompson, Jared Clark added yet another RBI on a single hit off the glove of 3B Taylor Krick. Khris Davis then smashed a long double to centerfield, driving in Clark with the run that gave the Titans a 4-1 lead.

From that point on, the game became a masterpiece being painted by Noe Ramirez. After the back-to-back hits in the second inning, he retired the next nineteen Dirtbags in a row. In a season filled with extended streaks of lockdown pitching by Daniel Renken, Tyler Pill and Noe Ramirez, this effort ranked up there with the best of them.

The Titans nearly blew the door off the barn in the fifth inning. Gary Brown led off with a single and took off for second on the front end of a hit-and-run play. Unfortunately, Fellhauer scalded a line drive right to the second-baseman, who flipped to first for an easy double-play. Jared Clark then launched one of his tape-measure home runs to leftfield, making the score 5-1.

The Titans added another solo tally in the sixth inning when Billy Marcoe was hit by a pitch and scored on singles by Joey Siddons and Christian Colon.

But the best was yet to come. At approximately 8:07 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Saturday, May 23rd in Fullerton, California, Joe Scott joined fellow senior Jared Clark with a home blast deep to leftfield. The two seniors have combined for a dozen home runs this season and 27 in their careers at Fullerton.

Kyle Mertins finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning in relief.
So what did we learn last night?
My imaginary friend Nathan tells me that I get too emotionally attached to things and have trouble letting go. He may be right. I was overcome with sadness yesterday when I reached into my glove compartment prior to the penultimate home game of the regular season. That feeling you get when you see the once thick stack of season tickets whittled down to just one for tonight's game always creeps me out. Heck, I even got slightly teary-eyed that my laminated season parking pass is good just once more. Senior Day may be really challenging for my fellow sentimentalists - we will soon be saying good-bye to some great young men and families that have become inextricably woven into the fabric of the Titan Nation.

In 1969, we watched in awe and amazement as these difficult-to-see images were beamed from a place that man had only dreamed of visiting: the moon. It was a similar experience forty years later as Joe Scott went deep for the first time in his Titan career. The recorded image of either event may not be clear, but each memory will last a lifetime. Other than a championship dogpile, I don't think I've ever seen a happier celebration as Scott was pummeled by his adoring teammates. This guy has been as unselfish as a player could be during his tenure with the Titans and it was a remarkable sight to see him beaming after hitting a bomb in his final regular season series at home against the Dirtbags. Way to go, Joe!
The performance by Noe Ramirez was something to behold. He went eight innings and allowed just one run, three hits, no walks and no hit batters, while striking out seven Dirtbags. Best of all was his economy of energy: he threw just 84 pitches and never had to expend effort throwing to first-base to hold runners: when you retire nineteen batters in a row, you don't tire throwing to the base and your first-baseman is in normal fielding position.

Finally, a word of thanks to Dr. Dan Barber, the longtime publisher of "Dr. Dan's Diamond Dust." I have always enjoyed his unique style and insightful stories about Dirtbag baseball and he was a personal inspiration for me to write about the Titans: if the Dirtbags have a regular blogger, shouldn't the Titans? It was great to meet him in person yesterday for the first time during a tailgate gathering. Dan has made multiple posts in his Dirtbag blog seeking contributions for the Jon Wilhite recovery funds. When I went to the "Silent Auction" booth yesterday, hosted by Renee Suzuki, I just happened to catch Dr. Dan handing over a check to help the cause.
Whew! I saw Joe Scott hit a home run and got to meet Dr. Dan - even with the sadness of my season ticket stack evaporating into the vacuum of time, it was the type of day that makes you happy to be alive and living in the Titan Nation.
Let's give these guys - Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Matthew Fahey, Jake Silverman, Dustin Garneau, Jeff Newman and Shevis Shima - a rousing ovation tonight at the Senior Day ceremonies. By the time the game is played, the Regional host sites will have been announced and I imagine the NCAA Committee will have completed the seeding and the bracket, so the game tonight realistically should have no bearing on the road ahead. But it would be great to see Tyler Pill regain his dominant form and for the seniors to shine in their final regular season game

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice read, Don.