FULLERTON >> Before the Tesoro baseball team left its campus Saturday to play in the CIF-SS Division 4 championship game at Cal State Fullerton, coach Tony Nieto told his team to “just follow the script” of pitching and defense.
The Titans did just that and beat Fullerton 3-0 to win the first CIF baseball championship in school history.
Senior pitcher Coleton Dahl threw six shutout innings, allowed just three hits and struck out 11 in the victory.
“Coleton had an awesome performance and we played our style today,” Nieto said. “He made big pitches when they had people on base and that shows huge character in our guy.”
Behind him, the Tesoro (25-8) defense made excellent plays to help Dahl escape jams. In the second inning, Fullerton had runners on first and second with no outs and executed a quality sacrifice bunt, but first baseman Hunter Sablatura made a heads-up play and threw a strike to third base for the force out.
“That’s the signature of our program, a culture of pitching and defense,” Nieto said. “In our semifinal game we won with four pitchers and defense. We feel we have one of the best defenses in the area.”
Fullerton (24-8) had its chances but stranded six runners on base in the first four innings. Three of those runners were in scoring position.
Indians pitcher EJ Ayala was making only his third start of the season. The senior did his part, allowing just one run on three hits through five innings.
“He went five innings and did an unbelievable job so we are proud of him,” Fullerton coach Shaun Hill said. “We had a bunch of guys on and we were just waiting for the big hit or them to make a mistake and neither happened.”
Offensively, Tesoro used small-ball tactics to score its runs. In the first inning, Tesoro had its first two hitters reach base and they advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Owen Faust.
Justin Simard hit a sacrifice fly to right field to give the Titans a 1-0 lead.
Tesoro’s best hitter Jackson Freeman led off the sixth inning with a double down the right field line which awakened the Tesoro dugout. Faust laid down another perfect bunt for an infield single and a throwing error allowed Freeman to score.
“That was huge, being able to lead off the inning like that and set the tone,” Freeman said.
After an infield single by Simard and a sacrifice bunt by Nate Molinari, Kevin McCaffery hit a sacrifice fly to give the Titans a 3-0 lead heading into the final frame.
Tesoro’s closer Jacob Lambdin entered the game in the seventh and threw a perfect inning to earn his sixth save of the season.
“It was a magical season with the 20th anniversary of Tesoro and getting the 300th win in program history in the middle of the season,” Nieto said. “I’m super proud.”
Zachary Fany led Fullerton’s offense, going 1 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt.