The No. 9 Oregon Ducks knew they would have their hands full against the No. 5 Cal State Fullerton Titans, but a 9-2 loss in what Oregon manager George Horton described as a “thumping,” wasn’t exactly what they hand in mind.
Led by Thomas Eshelman’s dominating performance on the hill, the Titans (4-4) defeated the Ducks 9-2 to hand Oregon (8-1) their first loss of 2014. Eshelman pitched eight innings, giving up just two hits while striking out seven and walking one.
“He had good stuff tonight,” said Oregon DH Kyle Garlick. “You just have to tip your hat to him. He was getting ahead with the fastball and then had a good change, good cutter, good slider. Everything was working for him tonight.”
Oregon starter Tommy Thorpe had a tough outing, going 5.1 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
“I can only control what I can control,” said Thorpe. “Some things went the other way. That’s just how the game goes sometimes”
Kyle Garlick brought in Oregon’s only runs with a two-out, two-RBI double in the bottom of the ninth. Garlick went 1-for-4 on the night, the double being his lone hit on the night.
Fullerton’s bats came alive as the Titans racked up 14 hits off the Ducks, including a rare PK Park home run in the fourth inning.
“14 hits in this ballpark on a Friday and nine runs is a whooping,” said Oregon manager George Horton. “We got beat in a lot of different ways and they outcoached us as well.”
The Titans got on the board first after a throwing error from A.J. Balta allowed a run in. Balta, playing in just his second game at first base, fielded a ground ball and turned to second to try and start a double play. The throw went off the back of Keegan Dale and allowing him to score all the way from second. Thorpe found himself in another jam issuing a walk to J.D. Davis to load the bases, but would get Fullerton slugger Greg Velazquez to ground out to third and end the inning.
Thorpe found himself in another jam in the top of the 4th as the Titans managed to load up the bases of a walk, a single and a bunt. With the bases full, a passed ball allowed Cal State Fullerton to score a runner from third. Then, Austin Diemer laid down a perfect bunt which Thorpe was unable to field, extending the Titans’ lead to 3-0.
With runners in scoring position and two outs, Matt Chapman delivered a three-run homer for the Titans out over the left field fence, extending Fullerton’s lead to 6-0. Chapman went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
It took until the bottom of the fourth inning with one out for the Ducks to finally get their first hit, a sinlge from Austin Grebeck.
“When you’re getting thumped, it’s hard to have positive energy,” said Horton. “We didn’t handle adversity very well.”
Fullerton used their small ball tactics in the fifth inning to add on an insurance run. After a walk and a stolen base from Velzaquez followed by a sacrifice bunt from Clay Williamson, Jared Deacon came up with an RBI single to extend the Titans’ lead to 7-0.
Thorpe’s night would end after getting Dale to ground out to start the fifth inning. Horton would bring on Darrell Hunter in relief. Hunter got off to a shaky start giving up a single followed by a double to give the Titans runners in scoring position with two outs.
Fullerton cleanup hitter J.D. Davis took advantage, roping a single into right field to drive home both runs, extending the Titans lead to nine runs.
It took Oregon until the bottom of the sixth with two outs to advance a runner past first base after a pinch-hit single from Mark Karaviotis and a fielders choice groundout, advancing Karaviotis to second base. Oregon would strand their first runner in scoring position after a groundout to end the inning.
Brando Tessar would come on in relief for the Ducks in the seventh, throwing just eight pitches to set the Titans down in Order, a welcome sight for Oregon who hadn’t had a one-two-three inning since the top of the second.
Needing a miracle, Oregon forced Eshelman to surrender his first walk of the season in the bottom of the eighth to lead off the inning. Last season, Eshelman issued just three walks all year. After drawing the walk, Balta would move up to second after pinch-hitter J.B. Bryant stuck out swinging, but would be stranded as Eshelman answered back with by stirking out Connor Hoffman and forcing Karaviotis into a lineout to end the inning.
If there’s such a thing as a moral victory (there’s not according to Horton), the Ducks earned theirs in the bottom of the ninth with a pair of doubles, including one off the bat of Garlick that drove in two runs to break up the shutout.
“There’s no moral victories,” said Horton. We got thumped, but the fact that we got a little momentum and still had that characteristic of not rolling over and quitting makes me a little bit less grumpy.
The Ducks and Titans are back at it on Saturday with a 2:00 pm first pitch. For Oregon, freshman Matt Krook will get the start, and Tommy Thorpe has no doubt in the youngster whatsoever.
“He’s going to do really good,” said Thorpe. “I believe in him one hundred percent.”