FULLERTON, Calif. -- Cal State Fullerton coach Dave Serrano called it an unfortunate sequence: a liner that appeared to bounce before it was caught was ruled an out, costing the Titans a run and, ultimately, the game in a 1-0 loss to Stanford at Goodwin Field in the NCAA regionals.
Fullerton would have broken a scoreless tie in the fifth if not for the blown call by third-base umpire Joe Marion. With two outs and Nick Ramirez on second, Greg Velazquez sent a sinking liner to left field that, even from the press box behind the plate, appeared to bounce before Tyler Gaffney got his glove under it. The large crowd groaned in disbelief and Serrano jogged out to dispute what replays later confirmed: Gaffney had, indeed, trapped the ball.
"That's baseball," Serrano said. "We got the misfortune of that call. It was a judgment call. I didn't have the monitors next to me but as far as my eyes could see, I thought the ball hit the ground. But he's the umpire and I'm the coach and his word is final. We had to live with that. You can't blame it on the call, I guess."
After the game, Gaffney wouldn't say if he caught the ball or not.
"I just jumped out there and wished for the best," Gaffney said. "That was the end of the inning."
And, really, it also was as close as the Titans got to scoring against Stanford's Jordan Pries.
Top-seeded Fullerton (41-16) wasted a masterful effort from ace Noe Ramirez and now must win twice Sunday to stay alive. The Titans will face fourth-seeded Illinois in an elimination game at 4 p.m. PT, with the winner advancing to play second-seeded Stanford (34-20) at 8 p.m. Fullerton beat Illinois 10-4 on Friday night and the Illini bounced back Saturday by eliminating third-seeded Kansas State in the loser's bracket.
Ramirez had a season-high 12 strikeouts and gave up four hits in eight innings. The junior right-hander's lone hiccup came in the sixth, when Stephen Piscotty sent the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence.
"It was a mistake," said Ramirez, who fell to 8-4 on the season. "We were trying to establish strike one."
But the Titans didn't get their first baserunner until the fifth and had only one hit through seven against Pries, who struck out six in 7⅔ innings. The Titans stranded the tying run at third base in the eighth.
"We're just going to have to do it the hard way," Serrano said. "It's not going to be easy but if it was easy, everyone would be good."