Disaster and loss seemed nailed in when Fullerton College starting pitcher Connor Tousignant was swapped out in the fourth inning, having given up six earned runs. But the Hornets fought for opportunity and pounced when it rose.
A few twists and turns changed the tides of the game, though, and the Hornets (7-9, 0-1) fell in their Orange Empire Conference home opener with an 11-12 loss to the Golden West Rustlers (10-6, 1-0).
Tousignant started his outing strong, striking out two and entangling a mess he made in the first inning. The second was quick work, but he lost command and imploded in the third, setting Fullerton back 6-2 going into the fourth.
Pitcher Austin Mills came in for relief but continued the mess, giving up four runs and setting the Hornets back 10-2.
“[Tousignant] has been our ace all fall and all spring. Today, he didn’t have his location and he just had one of those days. That’s baseball,” said Fullerton head coach, Nick Fuscardo.
The Rustlers’ starting pitcher, Troy Bethel, held Fullerton at bay until a wild rally energized the team.
Shortstop Jacob Hall lead the bottom of the inning off with a double to center, first baseman Jake Anderson singled to left, scoring a run, and the Hornets drove in four runs, bridging the gap, 10-6.
Golden West subbed out Bethel but their pitching woes continued into the fifth.
Fullerton loaded the bases and outfielder Monte Montenegro drove in two runs with a double to right field, cutting the lead to 10-8. Rustlers pitcher Eric Romo proceeded to walk two, driving two more runs in for the Hornets and tying the game at 10.
Right-handed pitcher Lourence Kao subbed in for Fullerton and mopped the opposition, giving up no earned runs in over two innings of work, but Golden West managed to score on an error in left field after Fullerton managed to take the lead, driving in outfielder Jeremiah Vison, tying the game again at 11-11.
Fullerton’s bullpen was the force that kept the team in the game.
“Kao did a great job. I didn’t know what to expect, but he still was good,” said Fuscardo.
The highly contested battle steamrolled into the ninth inning with Fullerton’s Gerardo Ramirez on the mound.
Ramirez pitched well for two innings but failed to get the save, allowing Rustler Nelson Padilla to score a run off a sacrifice bunt from catcher Anthony Marquez. He closed out the inning on a fielder’s choice.
Fullerton had a last opportunity to tie the game or take the lead after an opening single from outfielder Thomas Delgadillo, but two groundouts and a lineout later, the game was over, Golden West walking away with a victory.
The game continues a rough stretch for Fullerton, who have lost a number of close games this season.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Fuscardo said. “They were down 10-2, and they came rolling back. Never quit. They didn’t quit all the way until the last out.
“I think it was a good growing up day for them.”
Fullerton continue conference play at Golden West on Thursday, March 8.