Cal State Fullerton softball tops Long Beach State to regain Big West title

View Original Notice ? Cal State Fullerton softball tops Long Beach State to regain Big West title

FULLERTON — The nightmare that dogged the Cal State Fullerton softball team for a year finally disappeared Saturday.

In 2021, the Titans had the Big West Conference title nearly in hand before going to Long Beach State and being swept in the season’s final three-game series to give LBSU the title and leave the Titans grasping for words.

The situation was almost identical this year. Hawaii swept the Titans last weekend and Fullerton went into this weekend tied with Long Beach and needing two wins in the three-game to win the crown. They got it, as Daisy Muñoz, the hero of Friday’s 8-6 win, provided more drama with a go-ahead solo home run with two outs in the sixth inning for a 2-1 win.

Fullerton (36-20 overall, 20-7 Big West) won four consecutive Big West titles from 2016-19 and denied the chance to extend that run in 2020 when the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long Beach grabbed the 2021 title, so some sort of order has been restored, in Fullerton’s perspective.

Long Beach (29-22, 19-8) won the second game of the doubleheader, 8-3, with Maddy Ruffin and Mikayla Ceballos hitting home runs. Fullerton will learn where it is headed for a four-team, double-elimination regional when the 64-team NCAA tournament bracket is revealed on Sunday (4 p.m. PT, ESPN2).

Muñoz had two strikes on her in the sixth and said she was just looking for a way to get on base.

“Anyway to get on base, a ground ball single,” she said. “I got a fastball inside and just turned on it.”

Muñoz said the entire team knew what was at stake this season and knew who would be there waiting at the end.

“We knew what was coming up,” the former Los Alamitos High star said. “There was vengeance there, but we needed to stay within ourselves. I said after last season what we would never miss the postseason again. I wouldn’t let the team down.”

The first game was a pitchers’ duel between Fullerton’s Myka Sutherlin and Long Beach’s Sophia Fernandez. Fullerton got a run in the third, Megan Delgadillo singling to left and promptly stealing second and third to boost her season total to 46. She set a new single-season program record of 47 during the second game Saturday.

Hannah Becerra hit a deep fly to left to score Delgadillo.

Long Beach didn’t get a hit until the fifth. Jacquelyn Bickar was hit by a pitch and then stole second. With two outs, Marissa Caballero lined a soft single to center to tie the score.

Fernandez had retired 10 of the last 11 batters to get to the sixth with two outs when Muñoz came to the plate. She turned on an inside fastball to deposit the game-winner in left, her 12th homer of the season.

Sutherlin retired Long Beach in order in the seventh to close out the win.

Long Beach came into the series looking to duplicate 2021’s thrilling finish, when it came into the final series against Fullerton needing three wins and got them all behind the pitching of Kelli White.

LBSU was expected to contend again this season and did, but with only a small nucleus of returning players – just five seniors, and only one returning pitcher, 2021 Big West Freshman of the Year Shannon Haddad, who was injured and did not play.

Long Beach coach Kim Sowder lamented the breaks of the game. LBSU hit a lot of hard line drives in both games that found Titan gloves and had several defensive miscues Friday.

“It’s a game of inches, for sure,” Sowder said. “It can be a hard game to understand at times. We hit shot after shot Friday. And we made mistakes that Fullerton was able to cash in.

“We had a tough (nonconference season), and I was worried that they had lost confidence, but they got better as the season went on and gave us everything they could.”

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