FULLERTON — Long Beach State had already clinched the Big West Conference baseball title before it ventured to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday to begin a three-game series that will conclude the regular season. But the longtime rivals are both still trying to impress the NCAA playoff committee, so neither side is lacking motivation.
Long Beach is already in the playoffs, and is hopeful of hosting one of the 16 four-team regionals. Fullerton wants to show well so it can receive an at-large entry when the pairings are announced Monday morning.
The Titans can thank the strong arm of junior Connor Seabold for taking the series opener. Seabold (10-4) pitched a complete game, holding Long Beach to three runs on seven hits while striking out 11 and walking none in a 6-3 victory before 2,213 at Goodwin Field.
Leading 5-3, Fullerton got an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning when Long Beach relief pitcher Zak Baayoun uncorked a wild pitch that scored Hunter Cullen from third.
Fullerton (34-19, 15-7) got home runs from Scott Hurst and Timmy Richards and RBI from Chris Prescott and Hank LoForte.
Seabold was thrilled.
“Oh, it’s huge,” he said of the victory. “Momentum just on our side for the next couple of days, hopefully. And that’s what it’s all about, who’s hotter at the end? And if we go in this last weekend, have a good weekend, come away with a couple of wins, I think we’re in good shape going into the playoffs; if we go on.”
Seabold’s fastball typically hovers in the 92-93 mph range, but reached 94 a few times Thursday.
“Yeah, I mean, it was a big start,” Seabold said, when asked if he was extra motivated. “This could possibly have been my last start at home in a Titans uniform, so it’s kind of a big deal for me. It just felt great out of the gate.”
Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook praised his right-hander, adding that it’s the hardest he’s seen Seabold throw.
“He pitched well,” Vanderhook said. “I mean,…