Omaha, Neb. — Pluck could carry Cal State Fullerton only so far.
A team that never found its rhythm until May and had to scrap for every run saw its season end Tuesday with a 5-3 loss to LSU at the College World Series.
"We're in Omaha. It's a success," coach Rick Vanderhook said. "I told our guys at the end, there is only going to be one team happy. That's how it goes in these tournaments. We've gone toe-to-toe with everybody."
That the Titans (39-25) made it this far was improbable. They were 20-19 after a 14-1 loss to Cal State Bakersfield on April 22. Three weeks later they lost top pro pitching prospect Justin Garza to an injury to his right (throwing) elbow. They had to win three extra-inning games in regionals and super regionals, advancing to Omaha on David Olmedo-Barrera's controversial home run off the foul pole against Louisville.
Fullerton squandered 3-0 leads in their two games in Omaha. Thomas Eshelman was his usual brilliant self until a rainstorm forced the suspension of Sunday's game against Vanderbilt. When play resumed, the Commodores scored four times against Eshelman's replacements, with the winning run on a walk-off homer.
Tuesday, Olmedo-Barrera tripled as the Titans strung together four straight hits in the first inning against LSU, and Dalton Blaser's safety-squeeze bunt brought in another run for a 3-0 lead. But the Tigers used six singles and a sacrifice fly in the fourth to take the lead, and the Titans couldn't solve freshman Alex Lange after their big first inning.
"When you're one of the final eight teams in the country in the middle of the USA, they're going to be disappointed," Vanderhook said, "but when all is said and done, they got to play in the College World Series. And that's a big deal."
LSU (54-11), the No. 2 national seed and the No. 1 team in the major polls, will play Thursday against the loser of the Tuesday night game between Vanderbilt and TCU.
The Tigers' Alex Bregman, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Houston Astros, matched his career high with four hits while batting leadoff for the first time this season.
Bregman, who was 2 for 4 against TCU on Sunday after going 1 for 16 in his first five NCAA Tournament games, led off the inning the first three times he came to bat and singled four straight times before dribbling out to the pitcher in the eighth.
Bregman's base hit to left started LSU's four-run third inning against freshman Connor Seabold (5-4) and Miles Chambers. Kade Scivicque and Chris Sciambra and Chris Chinea followed with RBI singles and Andrew Stevenson's sacrifice fly brought in another run. Pinch hitter Danny Zardon's sacrifice fly in the seventh gave the Tigers a two-run cushion.
"I think they jumped on some pitches," Seabold said. "I didn't have my best stuff today. I was having trouble finding the strike zone and couldn't get my pitches down. They were taking advantage of the mistakes I made."
Fullerton has lost seven straight CWS games and is 2-8 in Omaha since winning the national title in 2004.
"We played two games here and didn't lose one. We got beat twice. I can live with that," Vanderhook said. "We didn't beat ourselves at all."College World Series."
Vanderbilt 1, TCU 0: Zander Wiel's home run leading off the seventh inning broke up Alex Young's no-hit bid, Philip Pfeifer and Kyle Wright combined on a five-hitter and the Commodores defeated TCU.
The defending national champion Commodores (49-19) earned two days off and would have to be beaten twice by either TCU (50-14) or LSU to be denied a second straight trip to the best-of-three finals. Those teams will play an elimination game Thursday.
Young (9-3) flummoxed Vanderbilt for six innings, striking out a career-high 12 batters. Wiel drove out the junior left-hander's 2-1 breaking ball just inside the left-field foul pole for his 15th homer of the season.
Pfeiffer (5-5) and Wright allowed five singles and walked four. Wright earned his fourth save.
College World Series
TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Virginia 5, Arkansas 3
Florida 15, Miami 3
TCU 10, LSU 3
Vanderbilt vs. Cal State Fullerton (suspended)
Vanderbilt 4, Cal State Fullerton 3
Miami 4, Arkansas 3, Arkansas eliminated
Virginia 1, Florida 0
LSU 5, Cal State Fullerton 3, CSF eliminated
Vanderbilt 1, TCU 0
Game 9 - Miami (50-16) vs. Florida (50-17), 8 p.m.
Game 10 - LSU (54-11) vs. TCU (50-14), 8 p.m.
Game 11 - Virginia (41-22) vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 12 - Vanderbilt (49-19) vs. Game 10 winner, 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 20
x-Game 13 - If Game 9 winner also wins game 11, TBD
x-Game 14 - If Game 10 winner also wins Game 12, TBD
Championship Series (Best-of-3)
Monday, June 22, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, June 23, 8 p.m.
x-Wednesday, June 24, 8 p.m.