Cal State Fullerton makes early exit in College World Series
While Cal State Fullerton succeeded in its mission to return to the College World Series for the first time since 2009, ultimately, they didn't complete it all the way. The inexperienced Titans bowed out early after two losses to teams with significant CWS experience.
The turnaround, though remarkable, fell just short of completion Tuesday afternoon in Omaha, Neb.
"We got beat," Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook said. "That's the way I look at it. We didn't lose. We got beat... We got beat twice."
The Titans didn't blown a three-run lead all season, but they did it twice in two-straight games in the CWS.
Tuesday's loss came at the hands of LSU, and one big third inning. But the funny thing is, one of the top offenses in the country didn't use the long ball or the big hits to plate four runs. They manufactured them, just the way the Titans usually do.
It was the style of game that typically suits the Titans, but the Tigers made it theirs.
"It's a game of momentum," Fullerton designated hitter David Olmedo-Barrera said. "And when a team can get momentum and they run with it, it can be a dangerous thing. I think that's just happened to us at times."
The Titans jumped on Alex Lange in the first inning, tagging the big right-handed power pitcher for three runs. Early on, it seemed as though the moment was too big for the true freshman. But when he went to off-speed pitches, his composure regained. The roles then reversed and it was the Titans who succumbed to the pressure.
"Fastballs - that's what he threw in the beginning," said Olmedo-Barrera. "We were really committed to that. After that, I think we got away from it a little bit when he started throwing more off-speed. We chased it. And none of it was really for a strike. Kind of chased it and I mean, I know I did and some of my teammates did as well. They just stayed with their approach better than we did today."
The more the Titans chased, the more they pressed. And they more they pressed, the more they swung at Lange's sinking curve. He went the distance tossing a complete game, picking up steam as the game went on.
"I don't know if it was as much what he was doing as it was what we were doing," Vanderhook said. "If we would take a strike we would swing at the next pitch."
There are lessons to take for the underclassmen and tough decisions to make for the upperclassmen. Olmeda-Barrera, a 12th-rounder, may have hinted in a return when he referred to the team as "we" when talking about improvements for next season.
For a group that started off so flat and hovered around .500 all season, the run up to the College World Series showed just what can be accomplished when a team decides to change the course of its season and begins to play up to its true potential.
The end of that season? Well, that's just baseball, their coach says.
"We're in Omaha. You know, it's success," Vanderhook said. "But when you're one of the final eight teams in the country in the middle of the U.S.A., they're going to be disappointed. But when it is all said and done they got to play in the College World Series, and that's a big deal."