STILLWATER — Heading into the Stillwater Regional, No. 3 seed Cal State Fullerton had plenty of questions surrounding its offense — while there were no doubts about its pitching staff.
Those questions seemed to fade when J.D. Davis blasted a grand slam off the top of the netting beyond the left field wall at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium to give the Titans a 5-1 victory over second seed Nebraska in the Stillwater Regional opener.
“We got lucky,” CSF coach Rick Vanderhook said. “We’ve not been lucky this year, but we’re starting to create our own luck by doing things the right way.”
The shot by Davis was the only big hit for either team as the two starting pitchers kept their opponents in check.
Nebraska’s starter Chance Sinclair had the Titans hitless through six innings — with a walk being Fullerton’s lone base runner — while Cal State Fullerton’s Thomas Eshelman allowed the Huskers to spring three hits over the first five innings.
The Huskers finally got Sinclair some help on offense in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Boldt led off with a triple off that right field wall — that was about two feet short of being a home run — and he was knocked in on a groundout to second by Austin Darby. A pair of back-to-back hits from Michael Pritchard and Pat Kelly went to waste, however, and Nebraska settled with the one run.
Leaving two aboard proved to be costly as the Titans chased Sinclair out of the game in the next half inning. Sinclair got touched up with an error and two hits to tie the game at 1 — with the run being unearned for Nebraska’s starter.
“I was getting ahead early with a lot of changeups early on,” Sinclair said. “I had a good breaking ball today and was really throwing three pitches today which really helped. That helped me get ahead of hitters.”
After a fielding error by first baseman Austin Christensen to leadoff batter Keegan Dale, J.D. Davis reached on a single to left for Fullerton’s first hit of the day. Two batters later, Davi Olmedo-Barre ripped a single up the middle that plated Dale. Nebraska got out of the inning when relief pitcher Zach Hirsch induced an inning-ending double play.
The Huskers attempt to respond with another rally in the bottom half of the seventh, started by a leadoff bunt single by Christian Cox. A single by Steven Reveles and a walk to Boldt loaded the bases with one out for Nebraska — but Koby Gauna, who came in for Eshelman after a bunt attempt, got the next two batters to foul out and fly out to escape the inning.
“The biggest point of the game was getting out of a bases loaded jam with just one out,” Vanderhook said. “... That gave us a little bit of momentum, because they could have easily made an out like they got their first run. The production of the outs, of how we got them, turned the game around.”
Fullerton loaded the bases itself in the next half inning with singles by Timmy Richards and Clay Williamson, along with a walk to Dale — all coming with two outs, which led to Hirsch getting the hook and being replaced by Josh Roeder.
Unlike the Huskers, however, Fullerton was able to take full advantage of bases loaded situation with Davis’ grand slam nearly clearing the netting over the left field wall.
“I knew that I was going to have an opportunity in either the eighth or ninth inning to do something crucial in the game,” Davis said. “... My approach was to just sit fastball away, and I saw that he was tailing off his fastball in on me, so I switched my approach.”
The Titans will take on top-seeded Oklahoma State in the winner’s bracket at 7 p.m. Saturday, while Nebraska will face Binghamton at noon.
At Allie P. Reynolds Stadium
Friday, May 30
Cal State Fullerton 5, Nebraska 1
Oklahoma State 8, Binghamton 0
Saturday, May 31
Game 3 — Nebraska (40-20) vs. Binghamton (25-26), 1 p.m.
Game 4 — Cal State Fullerton (33-22) vs. Oklahoma State (46-16), 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 1
Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Monday, June 2
x-Game 7 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, TBA