FULLERTON — The ninth-inning comeback and all the other positives in what was shaping up to be an encouraging weekend for the Cal Poly baseball team seemed like a distant memory by the time Cal State Fullerton’s Carlos Lopez delivered his second double of the afternoon.
The Mustangs scored two runs with two out in the ninth inning for Cal Poly’s first lead of the afternoon, but Fullerton tied the game in the bottom of the ninth and scored the game-winner on Lopez’s double in the 10th inning for a 5-4 victory in Sunday’s rubber game of the Big West Conference series at Goodwin Field.
The Titans’ win maintains their share of first place and denied the Mustangs’ bid for their first series win at Fullerton at the Division I level.
“It’s tough,” said Cal Poly coach Larry Lee, whose team dropped to fourth place, a game behind UC Santa Barbara. “ You get a chance to win a series against a team like this, on the road, and we didn’t take care of business. We played good, we just couldn’t close it out.
“We battled. We did really well all weekend at the plate. We got contributions all throughout the lineup. We’re playing well and we had some great performances, but at this point in the season when you lose meaningful conference games, you can’t look at it that way. You’ve got to take care of business and we didn’t.”
Cal Poly (22-16, 6-6) was a strike away from defeat in the ninth inning. That’s when Chris Hoo kept the Mustangs alive with a single to right field, lined just out of the reach of the lunging second baseman and scoring David Armendariz from second for the tying run.
Two batters later, Mike Miller singled in pinch runner Jordan Ellis for a 4-3 lead off Fullerton closer Michael Lorenzen (2-0), who entered the inning having surrendered just one run in 12 appearances this season.
The Titans (26-13, 9-3) responded with a two-out run in the bottom of the ninth. Anthony Hutting ignited the rally with a leadoff single, advanced to second on a bunt single by Austin Kingsolver and took third when Keegan Dale beat the throw to first on the back end of a potential game-ending double play. Jared Deacon followed with a single that scored Hutting.
“We knew there was still a chance,” Miller said. “But momentum definitely shifted their way then. The crowd was going and it really sparked their dugout.”
Cal Poly was limited to a double by Jimmy Allen in the top of the 10th before the Fullerton offense quickly got back to work. Ivory Thomas drew a leadoff walk and ended the game a batter later when he scored on Lopez’s double to the gap in left-center.
Lopez finished 3 for 5 with two RBI.
Miller led Cal Poly with three hits, giving him eight for the series. Allen, Armendariz and Denver Chavez each had two hits for the Mustangs, who finished with 12 hits after Titans starter Grahamm Wiest had retired the first nine batters he faced.
“We hit well all weekend,” Miller said. “We got a ton of hits against a good staff. That’s definitely a positive. There were a lot of positives ... But it’s a tough loss to swallow right now.”
Junior right-hander Nick Grim (2-2) took the loss, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk in 1 1⁄3 innings.
Fellow reliever Matt Imhof had kept the Mustangs in the game with 4 1⁄3 innings of one-hit work after starter Kyle Brueggemann left with a 2-1 deficit in the fourth inning.
Doubles by Armendariz and Chavez tied the game 2-2 in the fifth, but Fullerton regained the lead in the sixth when Lopez doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Hutting.
Cal Poly stranded a runner on third in the sixth and ended the seventh with Chavez being thrown out at home trying to score from second on a drive to left by Miller.
“It’s frustrating” Miller said. “We feel like we could have won, but they played well. We had our chances. We didn’t get it done.”