FULLERTON, Calif. — In what was the biggest baseball game in Washington history, the Huskies and Cal State Fullerton traded punches over an epic final two innings before the visitors from Seattle landed the final knockout punch that also punched the University’s first ticket to the College World Series.
“I’m thrilled for our guys. I’m thrilled for the University of Washington,” said ninth-year Husky head coach Lindsay Meggs. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m really proud of our guys.”
Freshman Kaiser Weiss, who scored the tying run in the ninth inning, hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left field that scored Levi Jordan and gave Washington a 6-5 win in 10 innings over Cal State Fullerton.
“Before that at bat, like I did in the ninth, I told myself I just need to flush whatever is happening right now and focus on what I need to do,” Weiss said.
What he did is he continued the Huskies’ (35-24) miracle run and extended a season that looked lost after Washington saw its two-run, ninth inning disappear.
UW starting pitcher Joe DeMers had cruised through the first eight innings and led 3-1 going into the ninth inning. Up to that point, DeMers was virtually unhittable and was in full control of the game. He had allowed two base runners, including just one hit, but after a hit batter to start the inning, things changed quickly.
The Titans strung together four hits, including three with two outs, to score three runs and grab a 4-3 lead and stun the Huskies.
But, like so many times this year, UW answered back in the ninth to tie it up after Weiss doubled with one out and came around to score one batter later when freshman Jonathan Schiffer singled.
Again, Fullerton answered, this time on a two-out solo home run by Hank LoForte in the 10th inning off Alex Hardy (5-2) to retake the lead, 5-4.
But, things unraveled from there for the Titans, who finish their season 36-25. Joe Wainhouse singled to start the inning, and pinch runner Jack Johnson moved all the way to third base when pitcher Brett Conine threw a bunt by Jordan into right field.
AJ Graffanino reached on an infield single that scored Johnson and after a fielding error at short by Sahid Valenzuela loaded the bases, Weiss calmly lifted a deep fly to left that scored Jordan, setting off a wild celebration between first and second base.
The Washington offense was held in check for the most part, but the Huskies did enough to give their ace, DeMers, some breathing room early. Home runs by Nick Kahle and Willie MacIver proved to be the boost DeMers would need.
Kahle struck first, hammering a hanging curveball into the twilight sky and over the scoreboard in left field for his sixth homer of the year, his second in the post-season to give UW a 1-0 lead.
An inning later, MacIver connected for a blast over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead. It was MacIver’s third home run of the season.
The Huskies padded their lead in the sixth inning to go up 3-0, largely on the legs of freshman Braiden Ward. He led off the inning with a single, stole second and came around to score on a two-out single by Jordan.
Through the first six innings, DeMers was perfect and had thrown 52 pitches, but in the seventh, Cal State Fullerton finally got its first base runner of the game on a lead-off double by second baseman LoForte. He came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Ruben Cardenas, ending a streak of 14-straight scoreless innings by DeMers.
Washington will now play Mississippi State in their opening game of the College World Series.