FULLERTON, CA – Though No. 7 Long Beach State wrapped up the Big West Conference championship last weekend, No. 14 Cal State Fullerton’s junior ace pitcher Connor Seabold pitched as if the title was on the line and led the Titans to a 6-3 victory in game one of the Dirtbags’ regular season finale.
“He pitched down [in the strike zone] a little more than he ever has and the slider was a little better though he didn’t really need it,” LBSU head coach Troy Buckley said. “I thought we didn’t have a very good approach against him and it took us too many at bats to figure him out and get him to change something.”
Seabold dominated the Dirtbags (35-17-1, 18-4 Big West) on Thursday night, striking out 11 batters on his way to a complete game for the Titans (34-19, 15-7 Big West). He improved his record to 10-4: (CG, 7 H, 3 ER, 0 BB).
“[Seabold] has a good fastball and he’s not afraid to come after you,” LBSU junior left fielder Lucas said. “We didn’t make the adjustment throughout the game to get to him.”
In what may have been his last start in front of the Titan’s faithful at Goodwin field, Seabold won his third straight conference career start against LBSU and gave this postgame interview to @BaseballTitans on Twitter;
“I don’t think it’s actually sunk in yet but if there’s any way I’d want to go out this is it,” Seabold said. “Everytime we play [LBSU] there’s a lot of energy and excitement and we were looking forward to get back at them after they won our conference.”
The Dirtbags’ junior starting pitcher John Sheaks was greeted rudely by CSUF, allowing four earned runs and four hits in his first three innings on the mound. Titans’ junior center fielder Scott Hurst and senior Timmy Richards both tagged Sheaks for solo home runs in the bottom of the third.
Usual game one starter, junior Darren McCaughan, was not on the mound for LBSU in game one in order to stay on schedule in pitching on Fridays with the NCAA regional tournament around the corner June 2nd to the 4th.
The Dirtbags also committed two errors behind Sheaks, including a routine ground ball that was mishandled by senior first baseman Daniel Jackson; his first error of the year.
Trailing five runs and hitless through the first time around the batting order, LBSU was able to get to CSUF junior starting pitcher Connor Seabold in the top of the fourth. The Dirtbags strung together three straight base hits that loaded the bases with no outs.
Junior right fielder Brock Lundquist was able to land a bloop-single in front of the Titan’s left fielder that scored the first LBSU run of the game. Junior designated hitter Luke Rasmussen followed with an RBI ground out and the Dirtbags cut the lead to 5-2.
Both team’s pitchers would exchange scoreless innings until LBSU sophomore second baseman Jarren Duran lead off the top of the eighth inning with a triple down the right field line against Seabold. Tancas (2-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI) later drove him in with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-3.
CSUF would answer in their half of the eighth inning by loading the bases with no outs after a hit, a walk, and a mental mistake by LBSU. Freshman relief pitcher Zak Baayoun entered the game and got a ground ball right back to him on the mound for a 1-2-3 double play.
The Titans were be able to capitalize and added one run to their lead after a wild pitch later in the inning as CSUF took a 6-3 lead into the ninth.
Seabold made the slow walk out the mound for the bottom of the ninth inning much to the liking of the home crowd. The Titan’s ace maintained his velocity of 91 to 93 mph on his fastball despite throwing 112 pitches in his outing and got the final three outs to give CSUF a 1-0 advantage in the series.
LBSU will have to bounce back and win the next two games to secure their chance in hosting an NCAA regional June 2nd to the 4th.
“We respect this rivalry and we’re not going to sit on our ass and expect to win in this ballpark,” Tancas said. “This is a test that we failed tonight but we’re going to make the proper adjustments tomorrow and create a playoff atmosphere because that’s what this team is looking ahead towards.”
McCaughan (8-2, 2.70 ERA) will look to put LBSU back on track tomorrow when he counters CSUF junior left-hander John Gavin (6-2, 3.16 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Goodwin Field.