LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Colton Eastman had a dominant outing to lead Cal State Fullerton back to the World Series.
Eastman allowed one hit and one run in seven innings in a 2-1 win over Long Beach State in the best-of-three NCAA super regional series Sunday at Blair Field. He struck out eight and worked his way around four walks.
The Titans (39-22) last went to the College World Series in 2015.
Hank LoForte had the first hit of the game, a single to score Fullerton’s two runs, in the fourth inning. Brett Conine earned the two-inning save, his 15th of the season.
Eastman, who was out with an elbow injury for almost three months and returned mid-May, has been big for the Titans in the postseason. He led the Titans to the clinching victory over Stanford as they swept the regional, and then there was Sunday’s gem.
Eastman didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning, when leadoff batter Jarren Duran, the 19th batter he faced, hit a sharp single to right field. He stole second base after originally being called out before shortstop Timmy Richards dropped the ball. He moved to third on a sacrifice by Daniel Jackson and scored on a passed ball to get the Dirtbags (42-20-1) within 2-1.
In the seventh inning, Eastman (2-0) struck out the first two batters but walked Brooks Stotler, who stole second. With the tying run on, Eastman got David Banuelos to ground out. He then did an emotional arm and leg flapping celebration toward the Dirtbags dugout.
Long Beach State starter John Sheaks (8-4) pitched well too, allowing just two runs on two hits in five innings. He walked the leadoff batter in the sixth, and the Dirtbags went to the bullpen. Sheaks didn’t allow a hit until the 14th batter he faced.
Sheaks hit the first two batters in the fourth inning and a sacrifice bunt by Timmy Richards moved the runners over. Then LoForte’s single scored both.
Long Beach State was looking to make its first trip to the College World Series since 1998 but left a runner on third base in the bottom of the ninth. It played its fourth elimination game this postseason on Sunday, but it wasn’t able to come through this time.
Long Beach State won the first game of the series 3-0 then Cal State Fullerton blasted the Dirtbags 12-0 on Saturday.
Right-hander Conine relieved Eastman in the eighth. With two out and runners on second and third, he struck out Ramsey Romano looking. With two out in the ninth and a runner at third, he struck out Banuelos. Eastman and Conine combined for 11 strikeouts.
Long Beach State, host of the super regional, has loads of success having its players make the majors with 47 all-time, including 13 in 2016. Those players are giving back in a visible way at Blair Field. There is the Jered Weaver Bullpen beyond right field and the Troy and Daryl Tulowitzki Batting Facility that were constructed as part of ongoing stadium renovations.
WILD, WILD WEST
The Big West Conference continues to shine in the postseason as it has put a team in the College World Series for the fourth consecutive season. Last year, UC Santa Barbara advanced, Cal State Fullerton made it in 2015 and UC Irvine went in 2014.