"Coming in, all the guys teased me a little bit because I'd hit my only two home runs here," Fuller said.
Even Texas coach Augie Garrido chimed in on the ribbing. After Fuller completed his trot around the base paths, Garrido quipped, "He had to rest at second."
Now, Texas advances to face Regional No. 2 seed UC-Irvine (No. 9 in this week's Baseball America poll), which blasted Wake Forest, 13-0, in Friday's early game. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. (CDT).
RHP Joseph Krebs (9-1) collected the win after fanning a career-best seven batters through 3-1/3 innings. He yielded two hits, no walks and extended his streak of scoreless innings pitched to 14-1/3 frames. Closer Randy Boone fired 1-2/3 innings of relief to record his 14th save of 2007. LHP James Russell took the mound for the Horns but was touched for seven hits through four innings, including five in the top of the fourth.
Saturday's tilt will mark the first meeting between the Horns and Anteaters. Texas is 25-25 against squads from the tough Big West Conference (which includes Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State). RHP Scott Gorgen, a First-Team All-Big West Conference selection, should get the start against the Horns. Gorgen (10-2) sports a 3.06 ERA and has fanned 96 batters. Texas will counter with Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Adrian Alaniz (12-2, 2.58 ERA).
The crowd of 9,230 was the largest ever to attend a Texas-hosted Regional contest. (The previous record was 8,000 for Texas-Oklahoma in the 1982 Regionals)
NCAA home run leader Kyle Russell previously said the thing he liked most about the Dell Diamond was the shorter fences. The sophomore laced a one-out solo shot, his 28th of the season, over the left field wall to give Texas a fast start in its first at-bat. Travis Tucker's leadoff double down the left field line launched a promising third inning, but the Horns stranded two runners for the second consecutive frame.
Brown grabbed a surprising 2-1 lead with a two-out rally in the top of the fourth. That's when the Bears swatted five straight singles. ("It's nice to be a No. 1 seed and have such an easy game to begin with," Garrido joked). Texas limited the damage when Peoples zipline throw nailed Robert Papenhause at the plate. Credit backup C Brett Lewis with the tag. Lewis was behind the plate after starting C Preston Clark injured his knee Wednesday night while jogging.
Krebs relieved Russell in the top of the fifth. After issuing a one-out single, Krebs fanned the last two batters to end the frame. Tucker singled to right before Russell drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the fifth. But the Horns, again, stranded a pair of base runners when Chance Wheeless flew out to left-center.
Lewis gunned down Papenhause on an attempted steal of second to end the Brown sixth. It sparked the partisan Burnt Orange contingent and swung the momentum to the Texas dugout.
"The team doesn't function without a good defensive catcher," Garrido said, "I thought our pitchers were very effective tonight and that doesn't happen without a quality catcher. (Lewis) has done the right things all year long, but he's been in a tough role where he hasn't started a lot of games and knowing full well that he's capable of that."
Bradley Suttle worked the count full in the home half of the frame before slapping a standup double to left. It appeared Texas would squander another opportunity with a runner in scoring position after Russell Moldenhauer fouled out and Peoples went down swinging. But Fuller earmarked a 0-1 pitch for the bleachers in left-center field as Texas reclaimed the lead, 3-2. The Horns threatened to tack on another when Travis Tucker singled to left after Lewis reached on a well-placed bunt down the third base line. The uprising ended, however, when Danks took a called a third strike. But Fuller's blast had given Texas all the runs it would need.
"I felt we tensed up some in the middle," Fuller acknowledged, "but after that (homerun), it separated us from them. I think everybody relaxed and all the stress came off everybody's shoulders."
The Horns tacked on another in their next at-bat. Wheeless walked before Suttle singled to right to put runners on the corners with one down. Moldenhauer's deep shot down the left field line stayed fair by a matter of inches. His standup double plated Wheeless and spotted Texas a 4-2 advantage.
Boone took the mound for Krebs with one down in the top of the eighth and retired the final two batters. Texas broke this one open during their last at-bat. Tucker's single to left was his fourth hit in as many appearances. Danks and Russell drew walks to load the bases with no outs. Wheeless absolutely crushed a 1-0 pitch deep into right-center for a two-run standup double. He advanced to third and Russell scored on a wild pitch. Moldenhauer's groundout plated Wheeless to complete the scoring at 8-2.