RENO - Darrell Rasner won his first eight starts for the University of Nevada's baseball team by working out of some tight spots. The freshman from Carson City saw his run come to an end Saturday afternoon when he lasted just four innings while absorbing an 11-2 Big West Conference loss to nationally-ranked Cal-State Fullerton.
The Titans scored seven runs in the second, third and fourth innings to hand Rasner his first collegiate loss before a crowd of 2,042 - third largest in Peccole Park history.
Fullerton, ranked No. 8 by Baseball America, has now beaten the Wolf Pack twice in the weekend series to improve its Big West-leading record to 5-0 (15-7). Nevada is now 2-3 (18-10) and has been outscored 32-14 in the first two games of the series.
"We're struggling on the mound and they're taking advantage, which is something a good team does," Nevada coach Gary Powers said.
"We just have to regroup and come back and compete tomorrow," he added, referring to the final game of the three-game series today at noon at Peccole. "It's a long season. We have 24 games left after today and we can't be worrying about what happened yesterday. Our whole focus has got to be on the next game."
Most likely, Rasner will be more than happy to look ahead to his next outing. The right-hander allowed 10 hits, walked four and hit one batter in his shortest outing of the season. Shortest in terms of innings because he threw 105 pitches - 46 during Fullerton's four-run third inning alone.
"He didn't have a feel for all his pitches today," Powers said. "He struggled with his fastball, and when you can't locate your fastball, it's hard to make your other pitches work."
Of the 10 hits Rasner gave up, six came on two-strike pitches. Two of those hits ignited a four-run third inning rally that gave the Titans a 6-0 lead.
Aaron Rifkin singled on a 2-2 pitch to lead off and then Brett Kay hit a full-count hit-and-run single to the right side. Shawn Norris walked to load the bases, then after Rasner rang up a strikeout, No. 9 hitter Chris Strangfellow singled past the glove of Don Price at first base to drive one run home.
David Bacani hit another two-strike pitch to the same spot to drive in another run and Steve Woodward singled to score another run. Jason Corapci scored the fourth run of the inning on a sacrifice fly, but Nevada right fielder Josh Laidlaw gunned down Bacani trying to advance to third base to complete an inning-ending double play.
Rifkin hit a one-out homer in the fourth to finish the scoring against Rasner. The home run was the second in as many days and the fourth of the season overall for Rifkin.
Jon Smith pitched 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and one run, to pick up the win for Fullerton. Kirk Saarloos retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced, five on strikeouts, to finish the game.
George Moran pitched the final five innings for Nevada, allowed four runs (all in the sixth) on four hits and three walks and struck out eight.
Another bright spot for Nevada was shortstop Matt Maguire, who hit 3-for-4 with a triple, and handled six chances in the field without error. He made a diving stop of a sharp grounder to his left and came up with a leaping stab of a screaming liner in the sixth, plus he turned a 6-3 double play to end the eighth.
Don Price also hit his 11th home run of the season, a solo shot in the eighth, to give Nevada its final run.
Nevada had other opportunities, though. The Wolf Pack had runners on first and third with one out in the second, but Joey Herrera hit a liner right to Rifkin at first base for an inning-ending double play. The Wolf Pack also had two runners aboard with two outs in the fifth when Alex Rangel fisted a drive to left field that was caught by Woodward on the warning track.
"There were a couple of times where it seemed like the baseball gods showed their faces," Powers said. "We hit about three hard line drives that could have scored some runs, they just didn't fall. That's the game and today was their day."