It is a new season, and much of the lineup and pitching staff is inexperienced, but there is some consistency in watching the Titans celebrate on Klein Field at Sunken Diamond.
After Cal State Fullerton (2-0, 0-0 Big West) won its fourth straight game at No. 17 Stanford (0-2, 0-0 Pac-12), the Titans huddled briefly and cheered their dominant 6-1 victory.
Meanwhile, head coach David Esquer ’87 talked over his postgame remarks with his fellow coaches and then delivered them methodically to his waiting team. The message?
“They got a lot of hits today,” Esquer said.
The final tally was 18 hits for Fullerton, 17 of which were singles. Stanford had just five hits, but matched the Titans’ one double. Esquer made the assessment that the older, more experienced Fullerton schooled Stanford these first two days.
“In typical Stanford-Fullerton games, we’d have popped a couple by now,” Esquer said. “There hasn’t been a home run in the series, let alone they have 17 out of 18 hits for singles.”
“I think taking a page out of their game, we probably need to start with the single,” Esquer added.
After Esquer’s speech, the team split into hitters and pitchers for a further debrief. Pitching coach Thomas Eager held his staff behind for an even longer discussion. Presumably, there was some discussion of the 18 hits surrendered between the three freshmen and one junior to toe the rubber.
Freshman LHP Quinn Matthews (0-1) made his first collegiate start and allowed a run in each of his first three innings. He was eventually tagged with 11 hits and four runs in his 4.1 innings of work. On a more positive note, after hitting the second batter of the game, he struck out three and did not issue a walk, and even escaped a bases-loaded no-out jam.
Relieving Matthews, freshman RHP Nathan Fleischli allowed an inherited runner to score, but eventually settled in for three innings. Fleischli quieted the Titans bats for just four singles during the span, though two came with one out in the top of the eighth inning, and in relief junior LHP Austin Weirmiller allowed both to score.
Freshman RHP Max Meier was given the ninth inning and scattered two hits in a scoreless final frame.
Fullerton leadoff man Zach Lew has been nearly impossible to get out in the series. After a 4-for-6 showing on Friday he has seven runs for the season and is reaching base at a .636 clip. In the three-spot, Isaiah Garcia went 3-for-5, and four more Titans had multi-hit games.
Fullerton’s pitching combination of Kyle Luckham (1-0) and Titus Groeneweg shut down the Stanford bats for a second consecutive game. Luckham lasted seven innings, gave up one run and struck out five to one walk. Groeneweg took the seventh and eighth, struck out two, walked one and surrendered a lone hit.
In the two-hole, junior first baseman Nick Brueser was the lone Cardinal to record multiple hits, going 2-for-4 including the lone RBI. Freshman left fielder Brock Jones set the table for Brueser’s double with a walk and a steal.
After an 0-for-5 debut, Jones reached base on a bunt single for his first career hit. During the fall, Jones played 11 games on special teams for the football team, but he has transitioned over to baseball for the spring.
“It’s come quickly from the first week of practice where he looked rusty to what he’s doing now,” Esquer said. “And just his poise. He really moves and acts like he belongs out there.”
“He’s 1-for-8, and we’re feeling pretty positive about his future,” Esquer added.
Jones is one of many Cardinal freshman seeing the field with Esquer’s “first look” lineup. Freshman shortstop Adam Crampton played errorless defense and tallied his first on a single to shallow right.
“We’re in it for the long haul, we’re in it for the growth,” Esquer said. “Much quicker starts in the last two years, but it’s just a different journey right now.”
There is, undoubtedly, a lot of change from last year, but it has become the expectation during the Esquer era. While the pitching and defense are now wavering, the one constant has been Fullerton finding ways to win at Sunken Diamond.
Sophomore RHP Alex Williams will take the mound on Sunday for the first time since a stellar, complete-game, win-or-go-home performance in the regional last spring. First pitch is at 1 p.m. PT.