Saturday, February 28, 2009

Titans Take Stanford Series


By Don Hudson

Behind another sterling performance by their starting pitcher, Cal State Fullerton rode the arm of Kyle Witten to a 3-2 win over nemesis Stanford on Saturday night at Goodwin Field. As Daniel Renken had done the previous night, Witten displayed command and masterful control until deep into the ballgame, allowing just four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings.

Witten was aided by a 4-6-3 double-play in the top of the first inning. Stanford's freshman starting pitcher Brett Mooneyham displayed a case of jitters in his Goodwin debut in the bottom of the frame: Gary Brown led off with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Christian Colon. After a four pitch walk to Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark ripped a shot up the middle that Mooneyham took off his foot: "Kick save and a beauty!" Khris Davis followed with a walk to drive in the game's first run. Joey Siddons followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0, with the third run posted on a sacrifice fly by Tony Harkey.

After Mooneyham's jittery first inning, both pitchers settled into a groove: Witten was more dominant, but Mooneyham was just wild enough to keep Titans hitters off stride. He finished with four zeros following the first inning, leaving after five innings, four hits, six walks, two wild pitches and 96 pitches thrown.

Witten was aided by another Titan twin-killing in the fourth inning, but he otherwise dominated the game without much defensive fanfare. Following a leadoff single in the fourth inning until two outs in the eigth inning, the only Cardinal base-runner was on a strikeout/wild pitch: that is dominant pitching against a quality opponent!

After retiring the first two batters in the eighth, Witten surrendered a single to Ben Clowe and a long double off the right field wall to Kellen Kiilsgaard (how many names do you see with two sets of paired vowels?). The game got tense when leadoff batter Zach Jones greeted reliever Kyle Mertins (and the lucky old grey sweater) with a two-run single to make the score 3-2 and bringing the muscular Toby Gerhart to the plate. Flashbacks to Saturday night meltdowns flashed through our minds as Gerhart lofted one deep towards right center field, but Felly caught the ball right up against the "Road to Omaha" sign.

Michael Morrison came in and pitched a dominating ninth inning for his second save this week. Facing the 3-4-5 hitters for Stanford, Morrison recorded two strikeouts and an easy flyball.


So what did we learn here tonight?

On February 3, 2007, a highly touted junior transfer made his debut as the the Saturday night starter and he lasted just 2 2/3 innings (against Stanford) and left trailing 5-0. It was not up to the guy's press clippings and we worried about what he would bring us. He rebounded with an excellent outing the following week (against UNLV) and went on to have a stellar two year record of 22-6: his name was Jeff Kaplan.

Kyle Witten's debut last week against TCU was equally inauspicious, but we saw tonight that this guy can be very special. He used a variety of speeds and hit his targets on almost every pitch.

We learned that the Titans can win on Saturday: hallelujah!

We also learned that maybe more credit for last weekend should have gone to the TCU hitters: they scored nineteen runs today in the first game of their rain-bitten series on the road against #24 Mississippi. Our pitching performed poorly in most respects last weekend, but clearly TCU has a talented offensive ballclub.

Hopefully Tyler Pill can follow up Renken's and Witten's performances with a solid 5-6 inning outing. The bullpen's ERA is improving, but the percentage of inherited runners scoring is still way too high. With the two inherited runners both scoring tonight, by my highly unofficial count, 11 of the 16 inherited runners have scored so far this season. That needs to improve.

With a lefty starting on the bump tonight for the Cardinal, we got to see a couple right-handed hitters in the line-up: Joey Siddons in left field and Tony Harkey as DH. His stats don't show much yet, but Siddons seems to have quality at-bats and he plays several positions. I'd like to see him get more playing time against both lefty and righty pitchers.

Lastly, we learned the Titans batting order just isn't as menacing without Nick Ramirez. I understand he should be returning to the line-up soon and hopefully he will pick up where he left off.

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