LOS ANGELES — Kelly Ford slammed her palm to the plastic table and promised a big adjustment after Cal State Fullerton was shut out, 3-0, in Friday’s NCAA regional first-round game against San Jose State.
“Score,” the fifth-year head coach said of the critical change the Titans need to make to survive in the four-team Los Angeles Regional at UCLA’s Easton Stadium. “If you can’t score, you can’t win.”
The Big West champion Titans (33-22) mustered only three hits and advanced only two runners past first base Friday, while SJSU’s Katelyn Linford pitched a complete game gem to help the Spartans earn the program’s first NCAA tournament win.
To stay alive in the double-elimination tournament, the Titans must defeat Lehigh on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., then beat the UCLA-San Jose State loser at 7 p.m. to advance to Sunday’s regional finals, when the Titans would need to beat an unbeaten UCLA or San Jose State team twice.
Senior Delynn Rippy, Fullerton’s leading hitter, went 0 for 3 as her four-game hitting streak ended. Linford, who was battling a virus all week according to SJSU coach Peter Turner, struck out three while forcing six fly outs and 11 ground outs.
“I moved too fast,” Rippy said of her hitting troubles against Linford. “I let her speed me up instead of me slowing her down.”
What started as a pitchers’ duel unraveled in the sixth inning. Leading 1-0 off a solo home run from Brittany Abacherli in the second inning, the Spartans scored two runs in the sixth to chase Fullerton ace Kelsey Kessler from the circle. Kessler, a transfer from Arizona State, allowed only one run on two hits in the first five innings, but gave up two early walks in the sixth. An error from shortstop Shianne Brannan allowed the Spartans to load the bases, then SJSU’s Madison Aurin drove in two runs on a single to center field.
In 5-2/3 innings, Kessler allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits, with two walks and only one strikeout. The…