FULLERTON, Calif. - The Pepperdine baseball team advanced to the NCAA Fullerton Regional final with a 7-4 win over Arizona State on Sunday afternoon, but the Waves' postseason run was cut short with a 10-1 loss to regional-host Cal State Fullerton in the nightcap.
Pepperdine broke a tie in the eighth inning against Arizona State to eliminate the Sun Devils early in the day. The Waves fought their way into the final out of the loser's bracket in the tournament after suffering an opening game loss to the Titans. Pepperdine also eliminated Clemson from the regional on Saturday.
The Waves closed the season 32-29 after picking up two victories in NCAA Regional play and five postseason wins total counting WCC Tournament play. The 2015 regional appearance was the second-straight for the Waves after Pepperdine made a run into the NCAA Super Regional last season. This year was the 30th NCAA Postseason appearance for Pepperdine and the Waves third in four years. Pepperdine has made an NCAA Regional in eight of the 11 years head coach Steve Rodriguez has been at the helm. That is the most of any coach in Pepperdine history.
"We had to win a couple games in that last weekend of the regular season just to get into our own conference tournament, and after we did, next thing you know, we're sitting here fighting for a championship in the regional," said Rodriguez. "If you would've told me halfway through the year, this is where we're going to be, I'd be very ecstatic about it. I think with this team the individuals really pulled the best out of each other."
Hutton Moyer (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) came up with the clutch hit in the eighth inning against ASU, breaking a 4-4 tie with a double to deep centerfield that brought home three runs. Moyer's bases-loaded blast came with two outs in the inning after singles by Manny Jefferson (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood HS) and Nick Costello (Claremont, Calif./Claremont HS), and a two-out walk by Chris Fornaci.
Max Gamboa (Mill Valley, Calif./Tamalpais HS) came in to close it out, stranding runners on second and third with two popups and a strikeout. It was Gamboa's second appearance, giving the freshman a win and a save in his first collegiate postseason.
ASU got on the board first in the back-and-forth contest, putting up a pair of runs in the third on a sacrifice fly and an RBI-single. The Waves responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth when Brandon Caruso (Pasadena, Calif./Loyola HS) and Kolten Yamaguchi (Kona, Hawai'i/Konawaena HS) each drove in runs.
It would be a two-run homer by Moyer that put Pepperdine ahead in the bottom of the fifth inning, 4-2. The Sun Devils had the response this time, with Jake Peevyhouse hitting a solo homer in the sixth and then Andrew Snow getting a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Moyer finished the game with two hits and five RBI, matching a career-high he set earlier this season for runs driven in. The Waves had 11 hits in the game, with Caruso and Aaron Barnett (Mission Viejo, Calif./Capistrano Valley HS) also posting two-hit days.
Ryan Wilson (Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS) got the start for the Waves, tossing 6.2 innings in which the freshman scattered nine hits and gave up four runs. He was two off his career-high with seven strikeouts and walked just two batters in the game. Chandler Blanchard (Henderson, Nev./Coronado HS) got the win, picking up the final two outs of the eighth inning before the Waves pulled ahead.
After fighting through two elimination games in two days, the Waves couldn't overcome top-seeded CSUF in a third.
The Titans scored in both the second and third innings in the late game to take an early 2-0 lead, and then broke the game open with a four-run fourth inning. CSUF tacked on two more runs in the sixth and that was enough to put the Waves away.
The Pepperdine comeback machine ran out of gas Sunday night as the Waves posted seven hits, but could only bring one run home in the eighth. Moyer continued his tear in the late game, notching three more hits to give him five on the day.
"This is similar to what happened last year," said Rodriguez. "We had all of those freshman on our team, now those guys are sophomores and they've had a chance to experience a couple years of postseason now. We have two seniors, six juniors, and the way I look at it is that it's a blessing for us. It hurts to lose, no doubt, but it is an absolute blessing because you get experience that 90% of our conference never gets to experience, or even most of college baseball. You hope that they understand it when they start practicing when we get back here next year."
2015 Fullerton All-Regional Team
Catcher: Aaron Barnett, Pepperdine*
1B: Tanner Pinkston, Cal State Fullerton
2B: Hutton Moyer, Pepperdine*
3B: Chris Fornaci, Pepperdine
SS: Eli White, Clemson
OF: Trever Allen, Arizona State*
OF: Josh Vargas, Cal State Fullerton
OF: Steven Duggar, Clemson
DH: David Olmedo-Barrera, Cal State Fullerton
P: Thomas Eshelman, Cal State Fullerton*
P: Tyler Peitzmeier, Cal State Fullerton
MVP: Thomas Eshelman, Cal State Fullerton
* - Unanimous Selection