During a game against the Palomar Comets on Feb. 8, the Fullerton College baseball team stormed out to a thunderous 4-0 lead in the first inning. Freshman Monte Montenegro singled to right, veteran Thomas Delgadillo singled to left, and the score-fest began.
The lead was stapled with nails by the fresh-faced pitcher Connor Tousignant who gave up only one run in seven innings of work.
Tides turned when sophomore Jordan Wisner came in for relief at the top of the eighth and walked his first batter. He proceeded to give up two singles and then a double, and Palomar broke through to score four, bringing them to a 5-4 lead. Pitcher Lourence Kao came in to clean the rest of the inning, but the damage had been done.
The team couldn’t produce a run in the ninth and walked away on the losing end at home.
An unfortunate scene, and a frustrating trend in Fullerton’s first 15 games.
The Hornets (7-8), find themselves at a peculiar crossroads. The depth is there, pitching especially, but they struggle to close out games and hold onto leads.
“We’ve lost very lost four or five games because we couldn’t hold people off and gave up some runs late so it’s very disappointing,” said head coach Nick Fuscardo, now entering year 32 coaching the team.
Fuscardo has seen his fair share of success and failure, so the early floundering doesn’t phase him as much as it inspires him to set goals and clog the holes he sees in the team’s gameplan.
Helping the team reach their potential is outfielder Montenegro who came into the season competing for a spot in the lineup.
“He’s been special,” said Fuscardo. “I mean, he’s been squaring up balls. He started off the season and wasn’t a starter at first, and then got to get an opportunity a couple games into the season and he’s out there every day now.”
Montenegro found a comfortable spot batting first in the lineup with a .414 batting average and 10 RBIs in his 11 games played.
Another newcomer is pitcher Tousignant, a right-hander from Brea Olinda High School.
The righty carries a 0.67 ERA in 26.2 inning pitched which ranks seventh in the CCCAA statistical leaderboard and also has 22 strikeouts, averaging 7.42 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
As a redshirt for the team last year, he spent a lot of time with his peers, so familiarity on the mound helps him polish his game.
“It’s a good vibe here,” Tousignant said. “I just love to play the game. We wanna win conference. Hopefully we can get up to state and win that too.”
Sophomore Ryan Aguirre feels the same, but he’s aware of the challenges ahead in the Orange Empire Conference which is set to be one of the most competitive in the state.
“We gotta get better honestly, because our conference is pretty tough,” said Aguirre. “Our schedule is tough year around, but I think we have the potential to be really good and contend for a title, but we gotta get better.”
Aguirre was a key contributor last year and has improved this season, batting .333 with 14 RBIs.
Their main goal this season?
“Win the championship,” said Aguirre. “Conference and state.”
Fuscardo said it in calmer terms, but he feels the same as he does every season.
“We always have a goal to win the conference title. And we want to make sure we make it to the postseason and play for a state championship,” said Fuscardo.
In order for the team to start with winning the conference, they’ll need to tighten loose screws and play with confidence and poise.
The talent, old and new, is there. But the question is if they can tune it enough to play in sync and translate that into wins. That kind of success starts small.
“Our slogan is ‘win the week,’” said Montenegro. “So we want to keep that up. It can be hard sometimes, but I think we have it in us to end up winning the week every single week.”
The Hornets begin conference play at home against the Golden West Rustlers on Tuesday, March 6 at 2 p.m.