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Fullerton Tops Miami 6-3
OMAHA—What a difference a year makes.
After having the luxury of future big leaguers Adam Johnson, Kirk Saarloos and Chad Cordero as closers for the last six seasons, Cal State Fullerton has relied on its starting pitchers to act as their own closers. Righthander Jason Windsor went the distance Saturday against South Carolina, throwing 145 pitches in the process during a 2-0 victory. It was Windsor’s 10th complete game and the team’s 16th.
Sophomore lefthander Ricky Romero delivered complete game No. 17 Monday night, finishing strong after a shaky seventh inning. He went the distance on 139 pitches as the Titans beat Miami 6-3 at Rosenblatt Stadium, joining Texas as the two undefeated teams in College World Series play.
Romero and Windsor became the first pitchers to throw back-to-back CGs for their team since Dave Fleming and Mike Rebhan did it for Georgia in 1990, when the Bulldogs won their only national championship. Romero wasn’t as brilliant as his senior teammate, who struck out 14 in his win, but he scattered nine hits, struck out seven and retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.
“We played very well, and Ricky was very good,” said Cal State Fullerton coach George Horton, whose team has won its first two games in the CWS for the second consecutive year. “I think the wind and the conditions gave Ricky a little more confidence, and we really worked to play the short game. It was a good night for us.”
Indeed, the windy conditions and cooler temperatures made Monday’s doubleheader of games a unique one. None of the four teams hit a home run, the first time that had happened at the Series since 1987. After South Carolina and Louisiana State combined for 34 singles, Miami and Cal State Fullerton had 22 hits in their game—21 of them singles. The Titans (44-21) executed better on the mound--where Romero out-pitched fellow lefty J.D. Cockroft--as well as at the plate and on defense. Cal State Fullerton extended its streak of having made one error in its past 70 innings, including none Monday night.
Miami, meanwhile, made four errors in the game’s first three innings, helping lead to a pair of unearned runs and digging the Hurricanes (50-12) a hole too deep to escape.
“We knew we couldn’t afford to make mistakes and still beat them,” said Miami coach Jim Morris, whose team had its 13-game winning streak end. “Then we shot ourselves in the foot in the first three innings with the errors. Our defense really killed us. And in the seventh, we had the tying run on second with our third and fourth hitters, and we didn’t get it done.”
Miami rallied with two runs in the seventh off an apparently tiring Romero, who passed the 100-pitch mark in the frame. Third baseman Gaby Sanchez, who made two of Miami’s four errors in the field, led off with a single, and he scored on Richard Giannotti’s triple to right. Shortstop Roger Tomas followed the game’s only extra-base hit with an RBI single to center, making it 5-3, and Jon Jay followed with an infield single.
Adam Ricks sacrificed the runners to second and third, but Romero found his resolve. He got DH Ryan Braun to loft a fly to center field, and freshman Clark Hardman showed off the throwing arm that Horton has called the best and most accurate he has coached. Miami apparently had heard the scouting report, and Tomas stayed put as Hardman threw a seed to the plate. Jim Burt, Miami’s RBIs leader, followed with a routine groundout to Ronnie Prettyman, ending the threat.
Romero said he trusted pitching coach Dave Serrano, who calls pitches for the Titans and who made a mound visit during the inning, to nurse him through trouble.
“My mechanics were off; coach Serrano talked to me and said I was opening up,” Romero said. “So I tried to focus on staying on top of the baseball and throw strikes.
“I didn’t shake coach Serrano off all night; I don’t think (catcher) Kurt (Suzuki) did either. I had my changeup working really good, and my curveball was inconsistent, but coach Serrano kept calling it. He wanted me to stick to it; I just trusted him.”
The Titans’ lineup helped back that trust by giving Romero an early cushion to work with, then answering each Miami rally with a run. Fullerton got on top early with the help of three Miami errors, two of them coming on one play. Sophomore left fielder Danny Dorn singled to left to lead off the inning against Cockroft. DH Felipe Garcia followed with a single—one of his four hits—and Bobby Andrews’ sacrifice fly moved the runners up to second and third.
Shortstop Neil Walton, the team’s weakest hitter at .259 entering the game, hit a chopper to third that would have scored Dorn anyway, but Sanchez booted the grounder. The ball bounded toward shortstop, where Tomas picked it up. He spotted Garcia straying off the bag at second base and threw behind him, but his throw sailed into right field, advancing Garcia to third. He scored when Ronnie Prettyman’s liner to left turned into a fielder’s choice. Prettyman then stole second and scored the inning’s third run when Justin Turner’s ground ball went through the legs of his counterpart at second base, Miami’s Adam Ricks.
Fullerton made it 4-0 in the third when Andrews’ RBI single scored P.J. Pilittere, who reached on Sanchez’ second error of the game and 24th of the season. “The secret’s playing good defense,” Morris said. “We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Titans, who have won 14 of their last 15 games, did enough of everything on the night to move into a Wednesday matchup against the winner of Tuesday’s elimination game between Miami and South Carolina. The Hurricanes will go with junior Brandon Camardese, while South Carolina will use either Zac McCamie, Billy Buckner or Arik Hempy in the 6 p.m. start.
Cal State Fullerton can leave Windsor and Romero, their twin aces, to rest while using third starter Mike Martinez in an effort to win the bracket. The Titans were in the same situation last year at 2-0 before losing twice to Stanford in the bracket championship. Stanford also eliminated Horton’s team in 2001, leaving him to ask Monday, “Mark (Marquess) didn’t show up, right? He’s not here?
“It was an easy speech for this year’s group. There’s not a lot of talk about it. We have a lot of work to do to win the bracket.”
Thanks to Romero and Windsor, though, the Titans have less work to do.
AROUND THE CWS Attendance records continue to fall at the CWS, with 24,857 fans attending Monday night’s game, a session six record and the seventh-best crowd ever. Cockroft’s 3 2/3-inning effort was the shortest start by a Miami starter since an April 18 loss to Florida State, a span of 26 games. Miami junior Paco Figueroa, a shortstop/outfielder, got his first at-bat since April 11 when he pinch-hit for Tomas in the ninth inning. Figueroa, a .360 hitter who missed thelast two months with a finger injury, popped out to lead off the inning.