Sunday, March 22, 2009

Titans Complete Sweep of Oral Roberts


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans beat the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles this afternoon at Goodwin Field by a score of 7-1, completing the sweep of the three-game series and extending their winning streak to four games and 15 of the last 16. Freshman hurler Tyler Pill upped his record to 4-0, scattering seven hits over eight innings and striking out ten.

Pill demonstrated command right away, easily retiring the side in the first inning: three up, three down.

Former Dirtbag pitcher Andre Lamontagne toed the rubber for the Golden Eagles against a Titans team that had scored four first-inning runs in each of the first two games. Lamontagne had a comparatively successful start, allowing just one run on the strength of a leadoff single by Gary Brown, an error on a made-for-order-double-play-ball hit by Christian Colon, a passed ball and a Jared Clark RBI groundout.

Pill encountered his only real trouble of the day in the second inning. P.J. Sequira hit a one-out double to rightfield and, one out later, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single by Michael Notaro. The threat continued when Colby Price singled, but Pill got out of the inning by striking out Kyle Price.

For the next few innings, Lamontagne and Pill battled to a virtual standstill. ORU's defense was poor - five errors on the day - but Lamontagne held the hot-hitting Titans to just one unearned run and two hits until the fifth inning. Meanwhile, Pill never faced more than four batters in an inning for the remainder of his outing.

The Titans broke the tie score in the bottom of the fifth inning, with Jeff Newman leading off with a walk and then stealing second. After Brown popped out attempting a sacrifice bunt, Colon struck out but reached base on a passed ball by catcher Seth Furmanek. Things got worse for ORU when Furmanek's throw to first base sailed into right field, allowing Newman to score the go-ahead run and sending Colon to second base. Josh Fellhauer reached on a four-pitch semi-intentional walk. Jared Clark hit a sinking line drive to left field and was retired on a nice shoestring grab by LF Robert Barbosa. But Nick Ramirez came through with a clutch two-out rope into rightfield to give the Titans a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Titans plated a couple insurance runs on a single by Billy Marcoe, a Joe Scott HBP, a Jeff Newman sacrifice bunt and an RBI single by Gary Brown, who gave the Titans a 5-1 lead moments later when he scored on a wild pitch.

Lamontagne's day ended with one out in the seventh inning after Khris Davis got the green light on a 3-0 count and took a mighty dribbler - that rolled about fifteen feet and hugged the infield grass for an infield single. Reliever Drew Bowen faced Dustin Garneau, who reached on an error. Joe Scott blooped a base hit: Davis held up to see if it would be caught and Garneau ran full speed knowing it would drop in. Unfortunately, the differential in their approaches ended up with two runners and just one third base bag: Davis was tagged out in a rundown. Jeff Newman came through with a sharp RBI through the middle to make it 6-1.

The Titans added their final run of the day in the eighth inning on singles by Colon and Ramirez and an RBI double by Davis.

Michael Morrison pitched a crisp 1-2-3 ninth inning to end it.


So what did we learn this afternoon?

The #3 (Pill) and #4 (Noe Ramirez) starters are two savvy freshmen that are making a huge impact on this team and this season. Pill now leads the team in innings pitched (29 2/3), just ahead of Ramirez and Daniel Renken (tied at 28 innings each). This is not a "be all and end all" statistic, but it is reflective of two pitchers at the back end of the rotation pitching deep into their starts.

What I like best about Pill on the hill is how he scatters his hits and doesn't hurt himself with walks: just five walks (versus 27 strikeouts). While Noe holds opposing hitters to a paltry .189 batting average, Pill is somewhat more hittable (.286 opponent B.A.) - but Pill is very effective because of how well he scatters the hits.

Khris Davis led the offense today with three hits (a single and two doubles). He boosted his batting average to .368 and he leads the team in home runs (7) and slugging percentage (.736).

The way I saw this series, Oral Roberts never had a prayer. With today's 11 strikeouts (10 by Pill and 1 by Morrison), 37 of ORU's 81 outs came on strikeouts. They also committed eight errors, which led to seven unearned runs allowed in the three games. I was hoping for a more competitive series after hearing how these guys had beaten Rice - so now we need to root for them to start hitting and fielding better so they can help our RPI by winning games the rest of the year. (It's amazing how much of a TCU, Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and URI fan I have become - add ORU to the list now.)

It was great to see Christian Colon, Jared Clark and Josh Fellhauer visit (and show off their moustaches) with Rob Walton, their coach on the 2008 undefeated Team USA squad. This guy is obviously one of the premier coaches in the country, in his fifth year at Oral Roberts, so it must be a great challenge for him to lead a team so bereft of NCAA Division 1 experience after leading the incredibly talented and deep international team last summer. I have a feeling his team will learn from their visit to Fullerton and become stronger from the experience.

The "new" winning streak is now up to four, albeit against slightly weaker opponents after that meat grinder schedule. URI and ORU were a welcome respite between the epic, hellacious road trip against ranked opponents and the upcoming series against U.C. Riverside, Arizona State and U.C. Irvine. After a little bit of shelter from the storm, the Titans have to get right back into high gear when they hit the road to open Big West Conference play against an excellent team that has given them fits on the road. Leave work early on Friday afternoon, bring your smog masks and get out to support this team!

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