From the brink of death, the Hornets revive to sting the Monarchs twice and advance to the SoCal Regional Finals


Fullerton dugout celebrates their win as they run to Michael Curatolo after he records the final out for the Hornets, getting the job done. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

Pedro Saravia, Staff Writer

Game 2:

With no margin for error, the Hornets were trailing big at home. Then, fans at Hornets Field would witness a magical comeback on the biggest stage, which ended with Fullerton winning Game Two, 10-7.

Trying to forget their tough loss on Friday, the Hornets jumped into Game Two with the need of winning and avoiding elimination from the Super Regionals. However, things did not go their way the first few innings as the Monarchs kept applying the same pressure from Friday.

Fullerton scored an early run in the top of the first, where sophomore right fielder Isaiah Marquez earned a walk. Freshman first baseman Tank Espalin then singled to center field, putting Marquez on third. Up came freshman center fielder and OEC MVP Britton Beeson, who provided a double to right center, putting the Hornets up 1-0 on the scoreboard.

LA Valley responded in the bottom of the second inning, serving as the home team at Fullerton College. Sophomore catcher Bobby Velasco surprised the stands with a triple to center field. Freshman first baseman Max Aude proceeded to rope a double to right field, scoring Velasco to tie the game at 1-1.

The Hornets pushed for more runs in the third, with a Beeson walk and a single to center field from sophomore left fielder Niko Santamaria. Sophomore DH Bryce Gamble grounded into a fielder’s choice, which was followed by a double play hit into by sophomore second baseman Jared Benash, killing the rally.

The Monarchs took advantage of the home team’s desperation and managed to bring in four runs in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman shortstop Tino Valdez started the inning with a single to left field, followed by freshman center fielder Royce Clayton, Jr. also smacking a single. Sophomore DH Brandon Cuervo filled up the bases with a swinging bunt.

Manager Chad Baum called for a mound visit and tried to settle his starter down, sophomore RHP Masen McDonnell. The meeting was to no avail, as sophomore right fielder Tyler Olivas singled to left field, driving in Valdez and Clayton Jr. Then, Olivas and Cuervo took second and third on a wild pitch. Velasco earned a walk to first and the bases were loaded again still with no outs.

After another wild pitch, all runners advanced including Cuervo to score the Monarch’s fourth run. Aude came up to bat, and recorded an RBI ground out to put the Monarchs up 5-1 over the Hornets after three innings.

With no time to think, the Hornets responded quickly in the top of the fourth inning when sophomore catcher Haku Dudoit doubled to left field. Marquez walked and Dudoit stole third on the pitch. Espalin singled to left field, allowing Marquez to advance to second and Dudoit to score. Beeson tacked on one more run for the Hornets by singling to right field and making the game score 5-3 in favor of the Monarchs.

Sophomore Haku Dudoit at bat waited to get that perfect ball to hit down the line at Fullerton College against La Vally on May 13, 2023.
Sophomore Haku Dudoit at bat looking for the perfect ball to hit at Fullerton College against LA Valley on May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

Starting pitcher freshman LHP Drew Gustafson was pulled at the end of the inning by LA Valley Manager Dave Mallas. He called on freshman RHP Brett Edwards from the bullpen. Edwards would be the losing pitcher in this contest, giving up three earned runs, two hits, three walks and struck out four in his four innings pitched.

Winning pitcher of the game, freshman RHP Deven Beasley, entered in the sixth inning. He pitched three innings, gave up four hits, two runs, two walks and had one strikeout.

“You can’t count us out ever. I wasn’t really nervous. I had a good feeling that we were going to come back,” said Beasley.

The Hornets continued to keep chipping away at their deficit. In the seventh inning, Santamaria singled to left field and then took second on a wild pitch. Freshman DH Diego Franco also singled it to left, opening up a ground out RBI opportunity for Benash, inching the Hornets closer, now down 5-4.

The Hornets stole the game in the eighth inning when freshman pinch hitter Rudy Gonzales earned a walk and advanced to second on a selfless ground out from Dudoit. Espalin drove in the game-tying run with a single to left. He advanced to second on the throw that was too late to get Gonzales at the plate, with the game now tied again 5-5. LA Valley switched pitchers to sophomore LHP Josh Eigenbrodt after the play, but it was not enough to stop the Hornets offense.

Beeson and Santamaria were walked, loading the bases full of Hornets. Then, Franco executed the game’s biggest hit, a double to left field, which emptied the bases and brought the score to 8-5.

Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Blumberg then singled to right field, scoring Franco and capping off the dramatic, five run inning for the Hornets. The comeback was complete, with Fullerton now on top 9-5.

Freshmen Diego Franco scored when Jimmy Blumberg singled to right field, which made it 9-5 at Fullerton College against La Vally on May 13, 2023.
Freshmen Diego Franco shows all the emotion after scoring on a single to right friend from sophomore Jimmy Blumberg which grew the Hornets lead to 9-5 at Fullerton College against La Valley on May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

One more run was added for the Hornets in the ninth as Dudoit reached first on a throwing error and then advanced to second. Espalin singled again, scoring Fullerton’s catcher and bringing the score up to 10-5.

The Monarchs put up two runs in the bottom of the ninth off of Beasley, which forced Baum to go to closer LHP Nathan McManus. He slammed the door on LA Valley, ending the game with a 10-7 victory.

The win for the Hornets granted them one more game, winner take all to advance to the CCCAA SoCal Regional Finals.

Sophomore Nathen McManus for Fullerton he pitched for 1 inning. He was the save where relief pitcher under certain circumstances against La Vally at Fullerton College on May 13, 2023.
Sophomore Nathan McManus secured the save for the Hornets against LA Valley at Fullerton College on May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo


Game 3:

LA Valley began the scoring early in this one as freshman center fielder Royce Clayton Jr. was given a leadoff walk, followed by a sophomore right fielder Tyler Olivas single to right field. Sophomore DH Bobby Velasco then singled it through the left side, which scored Clayton Jr. giving the Monarchs the early advantage 1-0.

The Hornets responded in the second inning with a freshman center fielder Britton Beeson walk, a sophomore left fielder Niko Santamaria hit by pitch and a freshman DH Diego Franco walk. Sophomore second baseman Jared Benash was then awarded a walk, scoring Beeson.

Two more runs came in for the Hornets as Monarchs pitching struggled to find command. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Blumberg earned a walk as well, now pushing Santamaria to score. Freshman third baseman Landon Runge flew out to execute a sacrifice fly, scoring Franco and putting the Hornets up 3-1.

A home run from Clayton Jr. in the top of the third inning surprised Fullerton, getting the Monarchs back into the game now only one run behind.

LA Valley managed to fill up the bases still with no outs, which had Manager Chad Baum immediately pull starting sophomore RHP John Sarmieto and switch to who would be the winning pitcher, sophomore RHP Joe Linehan. He pitched one inning, allowed one run, two hits, struck out one and walked one. This move was enough to shut down the Monarchs and leave the score 3-2.

Sophomore Joe Sarmiento starter pitch for Fullerton he played only for two inning. Then sophomore Joe Linehan number 39 came in pitch for one inning.
Sophomore Joe Sarmiento took the hill to start for Fullerton at home on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

The Hornets loaded the bases in the third inning. Benash delivered a beautiful, two RBI single to right field. Benash then took second on a wild pitch, which was then followed by Blumberg being walked to reload to the bases.

Runge drove in another run with a single to left field, allowing Franco to score. Then, Benash, would score on sophomore catcher Haku Dudoit’s sacrifice fly, bringing the score to 7-1.

As Baum switched pitchers again in the fourth inning to who would be the closing pitcher of record, sophomore RHP Michael Curatolo, who went the final six innings. LA Valley did manage to score on a bases loaded walk to sophomore left fielder Brandon Cuervo. The score was turned to 7-2.

“I came in and did my job, and that’s what the coaches had been asking,” said Curatolo.

Sophomore Michael Curatolo Fullerton closer for the night he pitch for six inning gets the save for this game at Fullerton College again La Vally on May 13, 2023.
Sophomore Michael Curatolo, closed out the series for the Hornets. He tossed six innings in relief at Fullerton College against LA Valley on May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

Entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the rout was on for the Hornets. An RBI single from Franco and an RBI hit by pitch for Runge brought the score up to 9-3. Monarch command issues seemed to be contagious no matter who LA Valley Manager Dave Mallas brought in from their bullpen.

Freshmen Diego Franco comes in to score on a singled through the left that freshmen number nine Landon Runge hits at bat bottom of the 3rd at Fullerton College against La Vally on May 13, 2023.
Freshmen Diego Franco comes in to score on a single through the left side from freshmen Landon Runge in the bottom of the third inning at Fullerton College against LA Valley on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Photo credit: Yasmin Sotelo

“We always talk in our program about process, and this was just another step in our process of playing the game and playing at a high level,” said Baum.

The Hornets topped their scoring game in the seventh as Dudoit doubled to right field. Sophomore right fielder Isaiah Marquez singled to left field, pushing Dudoit to third, who then would score on a wild pitch, bringing the score to 10-3.

The Monarchs offense was totally neutralized by Cuartolo. They only managed to get one more run in the eighth inning via freshman third baseman Will White, who doubled to center field, then scored on a single from freshman second baseman Luis Torres, which left the final score at 10-4. This would cap a massive Hornets win, punching their ticket to the SoCal Regional Finals.

“It’s an unreal feeling. Knowing that you are down in the game and you can come back to win a game and you can win the next game after that,” said Dudoit.

The Hornets will play in the CCCAA SoCal Regional Finals at Santa Ana College. It will be a best of three series against the Dons. The games start Friday, May 19 at 2 p.m. Game Two will be Saturday, May 20 at 1 p.m. And Game Three if needed will be played Sunday, May 21 at noon.