Sunday Summations, A one-hitter in Fullerton

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Cal State Fullerton's Sean Urena tossed a complete-game one-hitter against No. 6 Rice at Goodwin Field today.


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First off, today was possibly the best day of the college baseball season so far. What a wicked collection of close games all up and down the board. There were eight one-run or two-run games in those involving ranked teams alone. As a college baseball fan, you've got to love that. Sorry, I'm grandstanding here.

As an aside to that, what I got to see was one of the best pitching performances of the first month of the season as the Titan freshman shut down the Owls.

Oh sure, South Carolina's 3-2 escape at home against Clemson set the tone for the day as these two bitter rivals played a classic that I wish I was able to attend. Damn those lead off walks, eh Tigers? Well at least it wasn't a rout. With the two-game sweep of CU, the Gamecocks look primed to take over No. 1 in at least one or two ranking systems and improve to 10-1 on this young season. Clemson drops to 7-3, and probably loses a little bit of legitimacy with that ugly 12-0 loss yesterday.

Since I couldn't get to that two-game series in the Palmetto state, I instead blasted through the Sunday drivers in Smogland and made it out to Orange County to attend the third game of the Rice-Fullerton series.

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What I saw out at Goodwin Field today---
Rice - 1
Cal State Fullerton - 6
Fullerton freshman pitcher Sean Urena has slowly gotten better with each Sunday start this season, and today he shined like Yul Brenner's head, throwing a complete game 1-hitter on 109 pitches (73 for strikes) against the 6th-ranked Owls.

Talk about a guy that has come out of nowhere. I talked briefly with first-year Titan pitching coach Bill Kernan and head man George Horton after the game and learned a lot about this young phenom that riddled Rice today.

When I asked where Fullerton keeps getting these out-of-the-woodwork pitchers like Urena year after year, Coach Kernan said, "When I got here, he wasn't even on the list for middle relief work because he was nearly 300 pounds. So I said to him, 'Look, I can put you on a program to get you down to a physical condition that you can work with. You'll never be a ballet dancer but you'll at least be competitive, be able to move around and be able to pitch.'"

Now, Urena has made some changes to his diet and goes on a one-hour jog each day. Not fast. Just an hour long. No matter what. With that he's dropped 65 pounds, gained some strength and is hitting 90 on his fastball again.

Can you say Joba Chamberlain? 'Coz this sounds like that kind of story to me.

According to Kernan, the big frosh also came to fall camp ready to contribute after his redshirt year. He began pitching consistently, day-in, day-out. And that sort of precision carried over to the January workouts as well.

Because of this hard work, a performance like today is no big shock to Coach Horton either.

"He made it look a little easy today, didn't he?" Horton wryly said after the win. "He's got a good curve-ball that keeps people off-balance. But none of his pitches are awesome pitches. It's the mix and location that works for him. He's pitched very well lately, was really good against UCLA last week. So it wasn't a big surprise, just a pleasant one."

As if the performance from Urena wasn't enough against a potentially dangerous Owl lineup, the Titan D was steady as usual, committing just one error (while Rice committed four costly ones) and the offense came up big in key situations.

As witnessed by RF Chris Jones' performance, a 2-for-4 performance with three RBi, including a two-run double in the 2nd inning that ended up being all the more punch the Titan offense needed today.

Know what? Today's win was just what Horton was looking for too. "This team measures things too much for me." Horton says with disdain about his 2007 charges. "In other words, they get a lead and kind of shut it down from there. I warned our team that Rice was going to come into yesterday's game with their guns-a-blazin' because they're like us, they've got a lot of pride and they came out with a whole different speed than we did yesterday."

But as today's lock-down win showed, it looks like his Titans are starting to learn how to go about things now. "You know, I like the fact that we've responded to losing to Arizona, UCLA and getting our butts kicked yesterday, but we're still looking to get that consistency to play hard three games in a row. Not give one away here and there."

Today's win marked the 16th straight series win for the Elephants, dating back to last March and improves CSUF to 12-5 on the season against what has to be one of the toughest schedules in the country.

And Coach Horton's synopsis through one month of play for the '07 Titans? "I'm pleased. It looks like my challenge with this group is going to be to keep them hungry and driven to play well. Because when they want to play, they can play with anybody."

Which is, of course, a phrase that Rice found out was true this weekend.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert