Originally written for publishing on May 14, 2013.
The Fullerton College baseball team has advanced to State Tournament for the first time ever. The team almost watched the chance slip away, however, Sunday against Palomar.
The Super Regionals are a double elimination tournament, and going into Sunday, the Hornets had not lost a game in them. They started on Friday by beating El Camino Compton 8-0 behind a complete game shutout by Jeff Curran. Then, they beat Palomar 5-1 on Saturday, after getting eight strong innings out of Juan Berumen.
Palomar had lost one, so all the Hornets had to do was beat Palomar once, and avoid losing twice.
In the first game Sunday, the Hornets came out flat. They fell to Palomar, 8-0, despite the Comets using their closer, Zach Wilkins, to start the game. Wilkins went the whole nine innings and only gave up five hits while striking out six. Hornet starter Troy Mulcahey only lasted three and one thirds innings while giving up seven runs, six of which were earned.
The Hornets went down six runs in the second game of the day, before pulling off the biggest win in school history. The deficit was 6-0 going into the sixth inning. The Hornets chipped away at the lead, and had the game tied at 6-6 in the eighth inning.
To make the ending even more poetic, Mulcahey came up in a tie game with runners on first and third. He lined a single between the shortstop and third baseman to bring in what would end up being the game winning run, and gave the Hornets a 7-6 lead.
“Me and coach talked before the second game, and he told me to try to pretend that game was way in the past,” said Mulcahey. “Words can’t even explain how I feel right now. I knew it right when I hit it that the ball was going to get through.”
With emotions running high, Jacob Miller was asked to pitch in the ninth for the second day in a row. He hit one batter, but also picked up a strikeout and ended the game without much trouble.
“I just made my pitches, and trusted that my defense would make every play needed,” said Miller.
The Hornets decided to pitch their ace, Jeff Curran, on two days rest, and he was pulled after giving up four runs in four and two thirds innings. Only one of the runs was earned.
Sean Michel came in to control the damage, and pitched three and one thirds innings of relief and only gave up one hit and two unearned runs.
Despite coming out with the win, FC definitely did not play the way a state championship team plays for the majority of the game. The Hornets had to overcome six errors and five unearned runs to get past the Comets.
“I did not think today was our best day,” said coach Nick Fuscardo. “I did think the last three innings were our best though.”
A big error occurred in the sixth inning for FC. A simple fly ball was hit to right field with two outs and the game still a manageable 4-0, but Ryan Joyce just dropped it and it turned into a three base error with a runner scoring from first. The runner that got to third also scored and it turned into a two run error.
Joyce had been a huge catalyst for the Hornets all weekend long and got a chance for redemption in the bottom of the eighth. Going into the second game, Joyce was 3 for 9 with three walks and three stolen bases.
He came up in the eighth with two outs, nobody on base and the Hornets still trailing 6-4. Joyce ripped a line drive down the right field line, and used his tremendous speed to try to stretch it into a triple. The throw came into third, but was overthrown and Joyce came into score.
“When I dropped that ball I was sitting in the dugout with my head down, and my teammates kept telling me not to worry, I had another at bat,” said Joyce. “Stuff happens for a reason. Then I got a good pitch and poked it out to right. I’m just pumped right now.”
Even though he had nothing to do with the games on Sunday, Berumen played a huge part in what the team accomplished in the Super Regional. Berumen was given the tough tasks of slowing down the Palomar lineup and following up a shutout by Curran.
He was more than up for the challenge. Berumen answered the call by going eight and one thirds innings, and only giving up one run on three hits.
“I felt good,” said Berumen. “I am not trying to overpower anyone right now. I am just hitting my spots and putting the ball where it needs to be.”
The team knows they made a lot of mistakes but also realize that they have gotten this far for a reason. Dakota Wix, the OEC Player of the Year, has confidence in the team.
“We just need to play like we have for the last couple months,” said Wix. “If we play our game, nobody can beat us.”
The Hornets will hit the road for Fresno and play another four-team, double-elimination tournament Friday through Sunday. The Hornets are the one seed from the south and will be joined by Cypress College, which makes it the first time in history that two Orange Empire Conference teams represent the South.
They will be joined by the North one seed, Santa Rosa College, and two seed Feather River. The Hornets will take on Feather River, Friday at 6 p.m.