Tuesday, June 7, 1994
When Florida State came out smoking Tuesday, Cal State Fullerton turned to Dan Ricabal to put out the fire.
Ricabal entered the Titans' College World Series game after the Seminoles had scored three runs in the first inning. The senior right-hander shut down Florida State the rest of the way, paving the way for his team to rally for a 10-3 triumph.
"The story of that game is Dan Ricabal," Fullerton Coach Augie Garrido said. "There are other parts in the story, but there's no story if Dan doesn't put up eight consecutive zeroes."
Ricabal held the Seminoles to three hits after they had scored three runs off Titans' starter Chad Rolish in two-thirds of an inning. The only batter Rolish retired in the six he faced was Steve Nedeau on a sharp, one-hopper back to the mound.
Of the five other batters Rolish pitched to, three got hits, one drew a walk and the other was hit by a pitch. At that point, the Fullerton coaches had to be wondering if their decision to start Rolish over Ricabal had been a wise one.
"We were going back and forth on the decision and it wasn't until about noon that we made up our minds," Titan Pitching Coach George Horton said. "Dan has been our best pitcher. He'd been our best pitcher in the regionals, he's been our best for the last two years.
"In weighing the two options, we just felt that we would rather have Danny behind Rolish than the other way around. We knew what we could get out of Dan. That's why we went went with Chad."
But Garrido quickly pointed out that he wasn't gambling by starting Rolish, a senior with a 7-4 record.
"Rolish has been very effective," Garrido said. "He's been very good all year. He's capable of putting up seven zeroes, and if he had, we would have been in much better shape with Dan."
Ricabal (12-1) had pitched in both of Fullerton's first two CWS games, getting the last out Friday against Georgia Tech and throwing 2 1/3 hitless innings to pick up the win in Sunday's 20-6 mauling of defending champion Louisiana State.
He entered Tuesday's game and got the last out to end the first. Florida State got a hit off him in the second, and Nedeau opened the fourth with a single. From that point on, Ricabal retired 15 straight hitters before Colby Weaver walked to open the ninth inning.
"I was so focused," Ricabal said, "that I can't compare to this to any other game I've pitched. Now that it's over, I can't say if this was the best game I've ever thrown.
"All I know is that I wanted to throw strikes and keep us in the game. We were down 3-0 when I came in, and if we give up another couple of runs, our momentum is extremely down."
Instead, Ricabal gave his team a lift by shutting down the Seminoles. The Titans started pecking away at the Florida State lead. A three-run seventh inning put Fullerton ahead 5-3, and the Titans took control on Mark Kotsay's grand-slam homer in the eighth.
"What a tremendous job Ricabal did of coming in and shutting us down," Florida State Coach Mike Martin said. "That's as good a job of pitching, of locating the curveball and the changeup in any count, that I've seen out here in a long time."
Said Seminole shortstop Link Jarrett: "He had a good curveball, he got ahead well and he did a good job of spotting both the fastball and the curve. If we swung at a pitch that was down, he'd throw it there again."
Ricabal said that's by necessity.
"I don't have that great pop on my fastball," Ricabal said. "I don't throw 90 mph. Heck, I didn't even get drafted. I'm not a major league prospect."
But he turned in a big league performance against the Seminoles.
"They just told me I was going to be in the bullpen and that we wouldn't wait long," Ricabal said. "They said whenever they needed me, I would be in the game.
"I wasn't disappointed not to start, and that's the honest truth. There's a fine line. As a competitor, you want to start. But as a team person, you know you have a job to do.
"I fully understood that, and it wasn't an insult to me that I didn't start. My job today was middle relief, to be ready if our starter couldn't get the job done, and to put some zeroes on the board."