The Huskies rallied in the ninth and 10th innings for a 6-5 victory over Cal State Fullerton to earn their first trip to the College World Series starting next weekend in Omaha, Neb.
FULLERTON, Calif. — When Washington coach Lindsay Meggs gathered his players early in the season, he made a statement that would become prophetic.
“We talked early on that this thing is going to come down to the last day, the last game, the last inning,” Meggs said. “That’s what we were preparing for.”
That preparation enabled the Huskies to survive two innings of late melodrama to earn their first trip to the College World Series.
Kaiser Weiss’ sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning culminated a two-run rally that gave Washington a 6-5 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday night at Goodwin Field.
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Alex Hardy (5-2) got the win in relief for the Huskies (35-24), who will travel to Omaha, Neb., with 15 wins in their past 20 games. UW will play Mississippi State. The day is yet to be determined, but the tournament starts Saturday.
“This weekend, we’ve been working this whole year for it,” said Weiss, wearing a “Destination Omaha” cap moments after the game. “We always say, ‘Omaha no matter what.’ We grind it and we just wanted the opportunity. We had the opportunity and we seized it. It’s a team effort, all around, everyone.”
The Titans, who trailed 3-0 after six innings, took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th on Hank LoForte’s sixth home run of the season, a solo drive just over Weiss’ glove in right field.
But UW combined two hits, two sacrifices and two errors into the necessary runs. Joe Wainhouse began the inning with a single off second baseman LoForte’s glove and was replaced by pinch-runner Jack Johnson.
Levi Jordan bunted down the first-base line. Pitcher Brett Conine fielded the bunt but threw wildly down the line, enabling Johnson to take third base and Jordan to reach second.
A.J. Graffanino followed with an infield single that brought Johnson home. Next, Willie MacIver hit a ground ball to shortstop Sahid Valenzuela, who misplayed the short hop for an error that loaded the bases. Weiss’ fly ball to left field sent Jordan to the plate and the Titans into next year.
Fullerton (36-25) nullified a 3-1 deficit by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth inning to move ahead, 4-3. The Titans combined four singles — including three in succession — with a hit batter against right-hander Joe DeMers, who had a perfect game for six innings.
DeMers began the inning by hitting pinch-hitter Jordan Hernandez with a pitch, forcing Hernandez out of the game. Pinch-runner Zach Weisz replaced Hernandez and moved to second on Mitchell Berryhill’s one-out single. But after Ruben Cardenas flied out, those three singles — beginning with Valenzuela’s hit off DeMers’ glove — put the Titans ahead and chased DeMers.
“That was my fault,” Meggs said. “I should have gotten him out of the game. He was probably running on fumes. But I believe in Joe so much that I wanted him to finish it.”
Yet that collapse provided motivation from a reserve.
“Jordan Jones got us all together,” Weiss said. “He’s a guy of few words but a lot of emotions. He just told us, ‘We’ve been battling all year for us to come down to this, right now. We’ve got to pull together.’ We all did and we bought into the process.”
But after tying the score in the bottom of the ninth, UW put the potential winning run in scoring position.
Weiss doubled down the right-field line with one out and tied the score when Jonathan Schiffer hit a ground ball that barely eluded a diving Valenzuela for a single.
With K.J. Brady at the plate, Schiffer tried to reach second base on a hit-and-run. Brady swung and missed, and Schiffer was tagged out on a rundown. But the umpires ruled that Brady committed interference as he swung, so Schiffer remained at first base.
Brady had replaced Mason Cerrillo, who left the game after injuring his hand while sliding back to first base on a pickoff throw in the seventh.
Braiden Ward then struck out but the ball skipped past catcher Daniel Cope, so Ward reached first base and Schiffer took second. Nick Kahle watched a 95-mph fastball hit the outside corner for a third strike that ended the threat.
DeMers, who pitched one inning of relief and earned the save in Friday’s 8-5 win, induced 15 ground outs and collected three strikeouts while allowing four runs, five hits, a walk and a hit batter in 82/3 innings.
For Meggs, the victory vindicated his vision — one based on this weekend’s opponent.
“When I got hired, we talked about trying to play the type of game Cal State Fullerton plays,” he said. “We knew we were behind physically so we did our best to get guys who never quit, who like to play hard, who aren’t afraid to be at the plate or come out of the bullpen with the game on the line.”