Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com

LONG BEACH, Calif. – A three-run cushion was all Long Beach State University starting pitcher Darren McCaughan needed.

With momentum on his side since the first inning, McCaughan dominated Cal State Fullerton, allowing two hits and striking seven batters en route to a 3-0 shutout win Friday over its Big West rival in Game 1 of the NCAA Super Regionals on Friday at Blair Field.

“The lead is huge,” McCaughan said. “You see the other team start pressing a little bit. They start swinging harder.”

McCaughan had a perfect game going into the fifth inning before hitting a batter and giving up a double.

Long Beach State (42-18-1) is one win away from reaching the College World Series for the first time since 1998. The Dirtbags can advance with a victory on Saturday in the best-of-three series.

The Dirtbags took an early lead when Jarren Duran led off the bottom of the first inning with a walk. Duran moved to second base after a sacrifice by Daniel Jackson. Lucas Tancas’ RBI single to center field scored Duran, and Ramsey Romano’s double to deep left brought home Tancas for a 2-0 lead. Romano came around to score on an RBI double by Luke Rasmussen (2 for 3), giving the Dirtbags their 3-0 advantage.

“He [Rasmussen] has been important all year,” Long Beach State coach Troy Buckley said. “In the last week, he has taken better at-bats. It’s just staying loose in the biggest situations possible and not trying to do too much.”

After a rough first inning, Fullerton’s starting pitcher Connor Seabold kept calm and pitched into the sixth inning. Seabold allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four in 5.1 innings.

“Seabold was all over the place in the first inning,” Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said. “When they [the Dirtbags] get going, they put the pedal to the metal.”

The Titans (37-22) posed a threat in the top of the ninth when they loaded the bases against LBSU closer Chris Rivera. After hitting Dillon Persinger with a pitch and giving up a single to Timmy Richards, Rivera struck out Hank LoForte before walking Taylor Bryant. Rivera then struck out Hunter Cullen and Chris Hudgins for his 13th save.

“It’s one game,” Buckley said. “Nothing is going to be easy. Especially this time of year, especially against those guys.”

About The Author Eric Ramos