Dirtbags freshman reliever Ethan Clough snapped his head to the outfield in a tie game Sunday as he tracked the seventh inning bases-clearing triple he allowed. This propelled Fullerton to a 5-1 win and a sweep of the series against Long Beach (3-19).
“It’s embarrassing because I don’t care what our record is, that rivalry still means something,” head coach Troy Buckley said.
The Dirtbags got their first lead of the series in the first inning. Senior center fielder Brooks Stotler drove a pitch into shallow right and used his impressive speed to make it a double. He scored on a fielding error by Fullerton (10-11) RHP Michael Knorr, who matched a career-high by pitching seven innings.
“It was the right fielder, he was just kinda lollygagging to the ball so I thought, ‘Why not test it and try to catch him off guard’ and that’s what I did,” Stotler said.
Stotler hit another double in the eighth. He had a career-high four hits.
The Dirtbags effectively erased lead runners. In the first, junior catcher Dominic Campeau threw out Hank LaForte trying to steal. In the second inning, the Dirtbags turned a clean 5-4-3 double play. Consequently, Fullerton had nothing to show for its six hits through four innings.
The defense helped keep Dirtbags junior RHP Sagun Gainey in the game. Gainey went a career-long four and a third innings Sunday.
Gainey pitched to contact which helped limit his pitch count, but he ran out of gas in the fifth inning. He was relieved by freshman LHP Basilio Pacheco with runners on first and second.
“[Gainey] wasn’t afraid to have the ball hit the bat whereas some of our guys appear to pitch around contact because they don’t like what happens on contact,” Buckley said.
After the runners advanced on a strikeout in the dirt, Fullerton’s Sahid Valenzuela hit a hard one-hopper to third which bounced off the glove of Dirtbags’ sophomore third baseman Santino Rivera for an RBI single tying the game 1-1 in the fifth.
The end of the inning closed the book on Gainey who allowed one run on seven hits and one walk.
In the seventh, Pacheco allowed back-to-back walks, a cardinal sin of baseball. The Dirtbags compounded matters by failing to cover first base on a bunt single for the second time in the series. That loaded the bases for the triple allowed by Clough which handed the loss to Pacheco (1-4).
“They kicked our ass, that’s the bottom line,” Buckley said.
The Dirtbags end the home stand with a 6 p.m. Tuesday game against USC.