Baseball team eliminated in final day of regional play

By Bubba Brown, Staff Writer

They made an improbable run through the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Their season on the brink, they beat conference champions Georgia Southern and Gonzaga. But on Sunday night, the Utes finally gave up the ghost.

In the Regional Championship, a rematch of the first game of the NCAA Tournament, the Utah baseball team couldn’t overcome a powerful Cal State Fullerton offense that once again yielded double-digit runs off of Utah pitching. The 16-3 rout eliminated Utah from the tournament, while Fullerton will advance to the Super Regional round.

“After the Gonzaga game we were really excited to get a chance to play Fullerton again and get some revenge,” said second baseman Corey Shimada. “Cal State Fullerton is a great ball club. If you don’t have your A game they’ll get you.”

The Titans took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning and extended their lead to 3-0 in the third when a single by Josh Fellhauer plated two runs.

Fullerton put a stranglehold on the contest in the top of the fourth when Khris Davis led off the inning with a home run. One walk and two base hits later, the Titans led by seven runs.

The Titan offense wouldn’t let up throughout the rest of the game.

Fullerton led off the fifth with a single and a double, which ended the night for Utah starter Stephen Streich, who gave up eight earned runs in four innings just a day after providing four innings of relief against Georgia Southern.

The Titans greeted Utah reliever Robert Chimpky by scoring five runs in the inning, three of which were charged to Chimpky.

After scoring two more runs in the sixth and single runs each in the eight and ninth, Fullerton’s final tally sat at 16. The Titans scored 18 runs against Utah in the opening game of the tournament Friday night and send the Utes to the loser’s bracket.

“Coming into the game I knew it was going to be tough,” Streich said. “They do a good job of fighting off pitches. All I was trying to do was hold them off until we could score some runs. I give them all the credit in the world.”

Offensively, the Utes struggled to get anything going against Fullerton starter Tyler Pill, who turned in eight innings and only allowed two earned runs.

The only runs Utah was able to push across came courtesy of a fourth-inning home run off the bat of C.J. Cron, a sixth-inning RBI groundout by Cron, and an eighth-inning fielder’s choice by Jo Jo Sharrar.

Despite the loss, head coach Bill Kinneberg expressed his gratitude for his players’ efforts.

“I’m really proud of my club how they came back yesterday and how they beat a great Gonzaga club to advance to tonight,” he said.

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The Associated Press

Utah’s Nick Kuroczko makes his way to the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against Cal State Fullerton in the fifth inning of a NCAA Fullerton Regional baseball game in Fullerton, Calif., on Friday. The Utes faced Fullerton again on Sunday, when their 16-3 loss ended their tourney run.