Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hitting Rock Bottom


Not to take anything away from the Trojans, but have the Titans played a worse game this season, including the series against Pacific?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Walk to Help Stop Drinking and Driving


A Message from Michael Wilhite, brother of Jon Wilhite, former Titan catcher who was critically injured (but recovering) in a tragic April 9 car accident involving a drunk driver:

I'm sending this to the Walk for MADD group and the Love for Willis (my brother Jon's) group. This tragedy has affected my entire family and a lot of friends since my brother had been critically injured by a guy who was driving a van while 3 times over the legal blood alcohol limit and killing 3 other people including my really good friend Henry Pearson, Nick Adenhart and Courtney Stewart. If you can make it to the MADD Walk (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) that would be great, if not PLEASE sponsor one of the walkers, even $5 helps a lot! Also, if you're not a member join our Walk for Madd group that Kady Gallagher set up.

The walk is May 9th in Huntington Beach and I’m not one to ask for donations, I've never been one that likes to ask for things but this has hit our family hard and anything we can do to help stop drinking and driving we'll do. To sign up for the walk or sponsor someone if you can’t walk click on this link,; Thanks again and like I said, even a few dollars helps.

Thanks again, what our family and the other 3 families are going through is something I would never wish upon anyone and the more we can help stop these events from happening the better off we will all be. Thanks again, let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Diamond Club: Tuffy's Titans

The April 26 edition is posted below ... please click on each individual page to enlarge for easy reading.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brown, Pill Too Much for Aggies


By Don Hudson

On a perfect Chamber of Commerce day at UC Davis, the Cal State Fullerton Titans managed just four hits but won 3-0 on Tyler Pill's second complete game shutout. Gary Brown led the offense, while the team played an outstanding defensive game behind Pill, who upped his record to 7-1.

Pill and UC Davis' Scott Chew locked up in a pitchers' duel that was scoreless through five innings. The Aggies had a couple scoring opportunities, but Pill and his defense were always equal to the task. In the bottom of the third, Scott Heylman blooped a double to leftfield, but 3B Joey Siddons made a nice diving grab of Scott Kalush's attempted sacrifice bunt. Groundouts to Joe Scott and Christian Colon got Pill out of the inning scorelessly.
Pill also stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning. Joey Siddons made a nice play on a hard hit ball to end the inning.
With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Gary Brown lifted a drive towards the leftfield foul pole. It seemed certain to have the distance from the moment it left the bat, but it was a question whether it would stay fair. The ball hooked inside the pole and the Titans had a 1-0 lead on Brown's home run.

In the last of the sixth, the Aggies again placed a runner in scoring position on Joey Siddons' two-base throwing error, but Pill induced groundballs that were handled deftly by Scott and Colon.

Clinging to a narrow 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Pill retired the first two batters but then gave a hint of tiring when he surrendered a base hit and a four-pitch walk. But Pill got Ty Kelly to hit a perfect double-play ball to second base, which Scott, Colon and Clark executed perfectly (even though they only needed one out.) Even the umps played it out like a real double-play situation.
Facing reliever Scott Lyman in the ninth inning, Gary Brown was hit by a pitch and stole second base. He advanced to third on Josh Fellhauer's grounder to shortstop, with Felly reaching on the Aggie's only defensive miscue of the day. Jared Clark grounded out to give the Titans a big insurance run and advance Fellhauer into scoring position. After a groundout moved Felly to third, Billy Marcoe came up with a clutch RBI base hit up the middle to give the Titans a 3-0 lead.

The two insurance runs seemed to give Pill an adrenaline burst, as he finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

So what did we learn today?
After 13 runs and 21 hits on Friday, it was nice to see pitching and defense so good that the Titans could win a road game on just four hits. Give credit to the Aggies, who also got some excellent pitching and made several good defensive plays. Chew went seven innings and allowed just three hits, no walks and one run - on the Gary Brown home run.

Complete game shutouts are usually replete with strikeouts: such was not the case today. Pill struck out just two, but he limited UC Davis to just four hits, one walk and no HBP. Pill kept his infielders busy: Clark, Scott, Colon and Siddons combined for 20 putouts and 15 assists. Joe Scott recorded eight assists, including a few tough backhand plays. Gary Brown also made a couple good catches in rightfield.

Big West umps seem to be a little too zealously calling batters for leaning into pitches that hit them. While the pitch shown here is about to hit Billy Marcoe and send him to first base, he was called back earlier when he got drilled in the arm by a pitch from which he was attempting to duck away. It seems like Gary Brown has been called back to the plate about half the times he's gotten hit lately.

Let's get this deal done tomorrow and keep this winning streak going.

Reminder - Titans Talk on Tuesday

Don't forget the Titans Talk on Tuesday. (The USC game is on Wednesday.) Details below, courtesy of

Spring Titan Sports Talk Set for Tuesday
Baseball, Softball and Track on Final Menu
April 24, 2009

Fullerton, Calif. - The spring sports of baseball, softball and track and field will be on the menu at the final Titan Sports Talk session of the academic year on Tuesday, (Apr. 28) at 7 p.m. at Villa Del Sol in downtown Fullerton.

Respective Head Coaches
Dave Serrano, Michelle Gromacki and John Elders will review their seasons to date and preview the upcoming championship scenarios. Fans are invited to listen and ask their own questions.

Villa Del Sol is located at the northwest corner of Wilshire Avenue and Harbor Blvd. Nearby Stadium Tavern will provide complimentary food (pasta and salad) and non-alcoholic beverages. There is no admission charge.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Four In a Row


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans continued their winning ways, defeating the UC Davis Aggies today at Dobbins Baseball Complex, 13-1, led by Daniel Renken's eight innings of stellar pitching and Gary Brown's four hits and three RBI.
Our backs weren't even hurting yet from the aluminum bleacher seatbacks when Christian Colon defied the strong wind blowing in and led off the game with a home run to leftfield. CC placed it perfectly: the foul poles are a short 310 feet from the plate, but the field fans out quickly to 385 in the power alleys and 410 to centerfield.
After Renken tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, the Titans wasted no time getting to Aggies lefty starter Quist for five runs in the second. Dustin Garneau (single) and Tony Harkey (double) set the table, followed by Joe Scott's RBI groundout. Siddons drove in Harkey with an RBI single, but was gunned down at the plate attempting to score on Colon's double. Gary Brown then doubled in Colon and scored on Josh Fellhauer's RBI single. Felly advanaced around the bases on a throw, a wild pitch and a balk.
Khris Davis led off the third inning with a single, stole second and went to third on Garneau's single. When Garneau successfully stole second, the throw went into centerfield and Davis scored the Titans' eighth run on the error.

From that point on, the game storyline revolved around Renken and his bid for a no-hitter (as well as how long our backs could last.) He walked a few guys, but held the Aggies hitless through five innings. He had excellent defensive support, with Joe Scott making an excellent backhand of a ball hit hard up the middle and Josh Fellhauer perfectly positioned to catch a sharp line-drive to short centerfield, doubling a runner off second base. Renken helped himself to end the fifth inning with a ball hit hard up the middle that deflected off him; sans glove, he retreated and fired the ball to Jared Clark, just barely ahead of the runner.

In the bottom of the sixth, Renken walked the leadoff man, retired the next two and then walked Justin Schafer. Ty Kelley then hit a high bouncer that neither Renken or Colon had a chance to make a play on for the first Aggies hit of the game. Renken struck out the next hitter to leave the bases loaded. The Fullerton fans applauded loudly, although I'm not certain if it was for Renken's outstanding performance or the announcement that the concession stand was closing.

The Aggies finally broke the scoring ice against Renken in the bottom of the seventh with two singles, a wild pitch and a groundout. But the Titans responded with three runs in the eighth. Jeff Newman and Joe Scott started the inning with singles and scored two outs later on Gary Brown's opposite field triple. Brown scored easily on a wild pitch to make it 11-1.

After Renken finished his work for the day with a scoreless eighth inning, the Titans teased the triskaidekaphobiacs in the crowd when they reached the magic thirteenth run (do they still have "13 pools" in bars and offices?). Jeff Newman walked and Matthew Fahey and Joey Siddons singled. One run scored on a sacrifice fly by Christian Colon and, after Brown's infield hit that rolled and came to rest against the third base bag, Felly walked with the bases loaded to drive in the game's final run.

Freshman Colin O'Connell finished up with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, supported by a couple nice plays by Shevis Shima at second-base.

So what did we learn today?
First of all, we learned that it is one long drive to UC Davis. Can you imagine what that ride was like before iPODs and satellite radio? I was delighted that Freddie Blassie's "Pencil Neck Geek" still gets played on the radio. Can you believe it has been 25 years since Depeche Mode released their classic "Blasphemous Rumours"?

Speaking of music, they play "Louie Louie" after the top of the seventh inning at Dobbins Complex, instead of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." What the heck kind of time honored tradition is that?
Gary Brown, who has played innings in all three outfield positions this week, continues his sizzling play. Brown was 4-for-6 today, with a double, triple and three RBI. Felly is Felly: he went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI. The 21-hit attack included two each by Colon (home run and double), Khris Davis, Joe Scott and Joey Siddons. Nine different Titans scored at least one run.

The hitting revival is very encouraging....but let's not start sculpting those statues again just yet. The team is back to doing what it is expected to do: score lots of runs against "Johnny Allstaff" (San Diego and Pepperdine) and a team entering play with a team ERA of 7.40 (UC Davis). But after the inevitable swoon the first few weeks of April, these guys could be ready to peak again at just the right time.
Finally, for those of us that think the umps are blind whenever our beloved Titans are called out at the plate, let's give kudos to Jeff Henrichs for getting it right. Joey Siddons made a great slide to try to avoid the tag at the plate after a strong relay throw following Colon's double, but the catcher did apply the tag with Joey's fingers just inches away from the plate. (Click on pic to enlarge and see just how close it was.) Good call, Jeff!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

UC Davis Series Preview


By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton is at a crossroads in their season, coming off of a series loss to Pacific for the first time in the history of the program and seeing their faint hopes for a Big West championship pretty much finished.

Fullerton has had to deal with a great deal of adversity recently both on the diamond as well as off the field, with the tragic car accident that former teammate Jon Wilhite was critically injured in as well as having to deal with some academic suspensions. With that as the backdrop, the Titans travel up to UC Davis after earning a hard fought win in the final game of the Pacific series and putting things together in midweek wins against San Diego and Pepperdine.

UC Davis has struggled in their second season as a member of the Big West after qualifying for a regional in 2008. The Aggies suffered heavy losses to the draft and graduation and weren’t predicted to have a good season. UC Davis was picked to finish 7th by the Big West coaches and those predictions have been pretty accurate. The Aggies brought in a truckload of new players to attempt to make up for all of the players they lost from last season but the results haven’t been good with UC Davis starting out 7-28, including 1-8 in conference games.

UC Davis was swept at Pacific and lost 2 of 3 vs. UCSB to start Big West play and was swept at Cal Poly last weekend. The Aggies lost 3 of 4 at San Diego State in between the UCSB and Cal Poly series. UC Davis hasn’t won a weekend series this season with series losses at UCLA (1-2), vs. Pepperdine (1-2), at Portland (0-3) and against Sacramento State (1-2) prior to starting conference play. The Aggies are 4-11 at Dobbins Field this season, which is definitely a ballpark that favors pitchers with dimensions that are 385 to the power alleys and 410 to straight away center with a good amount of foul territory. According to Boyd’s World, the ballpark helps hold down offense by 21%.


Fullerton has gone 10-2 against UC Davis and won all four series since the Aggies moved to D1 but everybody saw last weekend how much those type of stats mean when Pacific went into Goodwin Field and took the first two games of the series. The Titans have to take control of this series early and not let the Aggies think they have a chance of winning this series. There is no question that Fullerton is the better team and the Titans have to go out and play like it.

Offensively, Davis has been hitting better in the last month so they could give Fullerton trouble if the Titans offense struggles like they have been quite often lately. Fullerton needs to get the running game going and put pressure on the Davis defense because the Aggies have not handled that well at all. The pitching comparison is a flat out mismatch between these two teams if the Fullerton pitchers are on their game because Davis has rarely pitched well this season, especially in conference games. Fullerton has played much better on the road this season than they have at home and unless the Titans suffer mental lapses like they had in only going 3-3 against Northridge and Pacific they should sweep this series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two In a Row


By Don Hudson

It was a hot and sultry Tuesday night at Goodwin Field and the Cal State Fullerton Titans rallied twice from three-run deficits to upend the University of San Diego Torreros, 8-5. Freshman pitcher Colin O'Connell earned his first collegiate win on the strength of a five run rally started by a Dustin Garneau home run and punctuated by Gary Brown's two-run triple.

Noe Ramirez returned to the bump after sitting out the weekend series (emphasizing academics) and was touched for a run in each of the first three innings, two on solo home runs. While it was far from his best outing, he minimized damage with one run in each of the first three innings. (I remember turning to my imaginary friend Nathan and remarking that at least Noe wasn't digging us into an insurmountable hole.) The ball was also carrying like a rocket on the warm evening.

Meanwhile, Johnny Wholestaff was pitching for Rich Hill's Torreros. First Guy was yanked after 1 1/3 innings of no-hit ball. His replacement, Second Guy, gave up a leadoff single to RF Tyler Pill in the third inning, balked him to second and was replaced by Third Guy. A Joe Scott sacrifice and a Joey Siddons groundout made it 3-1, and Christian Colon's home run off the screen in leftfield made it 3-2.

In need of some work after struggling in the closer role recently, Michael Morrison entered the game in the top of the fifth. He threw three straight balls far out of the strike zone, but retired the hitter on an infield pop-up. But Jon Hotta whacked a triple deep to right-centerfield and 3B Siddons immediately alerted the dugout that Morrison needed attention for what looked (from Mikey Mo's reaction) like a charley horse or lower back tweak. Freshman Colin O'Connell was summoned and given unlimited time to warm up. His first pitch to Chris Engell (who had homered in the first inning) was pounded into leftfield for an RBI single. A 5-4-3 double-play prevented worse damage.

O'Connell was also touched for a solo tally in the sixth inning when he hit the leadoff man and scattered two singles. Once again, the Titans trailed by three runs (5-2).

The Titans got one of the runs back in the sixth inning and had a chance for more. Christian Colon singled and scored on a gap-job double to left-centerfield by Josh Fellhauer off of Fifth Guy. But Fifth Guy settled down and retired Jared Clark and Nick Ramirez to escape further damage.

After O'Connell threw a scoreless seventh inning, the Titans made their big comeback rally. Dustin Garneau hit a bomb to left-centerfield against Fifth Guy to cut the deficit to 5-4. When he committed the cardinal sin of walking the #8 and #9 hitters (Scott and Siddons), Fifth Guy got yanked.

Christian Colon greeted Sixth Guy with a groundball single through the right side for an RBI that tied the game at 5-5. It did not stay tied very long - Gary Brown laced a pitch just inside the third base line and down into the corner. Siddons and Colon raced around to score on Brown's triple. Josh Fellhauer drove in the fifth run of the inning with a sacrifice fly, making the score 8-5.

Reliever Ryan Ackland made the lead stand up with a six-out save, his first of the season.


So what did we learn last night?

My neighbors learned not to ask me for scores from ice hockey or basketball games while we're watching a baseball game. Get real, people! It is April and it's been a hundred degrees out there: hockey was meant to be played on frozen ponds and basketball is something you do in the winter to stay in shape for playing sports. It's Titan time!

Khris Davis was inactive last night, which caused some line-up shifts. Siddons played third base - and made one excellent play ranging far to his left - while Brown played left and Pill was in right. Brown made a great over-the-shoulder grab of a long ball early in the game that looked like it might find its way off the scoreboard when it left the bat.

The top of the line-up was reconfigured, with Colon leading off and Brown hitting second. I was surprised the Titans eschewed the bunt in the first inning: trailing 1-0, Colon led off with a HBP and Brown was allowed to hit away. Result: double-play. But Colon and Brown ended up the offensive heroes of the game. Colon had three hits, including the home run and the game-tying single, while Brown had two hits and the huge triple that gave the Titans the lead in the seventh inning rally.

Garneau moved up to the #6 slot and started the rally with his long home run.

I'd love to tell you more, but I need to get to work so I can sneak out early and catch the game this afternoon at Pepperdine. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

There's Always Omaha ...

Even if the Titans are in a slump, there's always a good reason to think about Omaha and the post-season.

See more videos here, including Moustache March.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Diamond Club: Tuffy's Titans

The April 19 edition is posted below ... please click on each individual page to enlarge for easy reading.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Titans Avoid Pacific Tsunami

By Don Hudson

Despite being outhit again, the Cal State Fullerton Titans managed to salvage the series finale against the University of the Pacific Tigers this afternoon at Goodwin Field, winning by a 4-3 margin on the combined pitching of Kyle Witten and Nick Ramirez.

My mother always told me that if you have nothing nice to say, it is better to say nothing at all. So with that in mind, here are my recaps for all three games of the series.

Nothing to say here, except that Daniel Renken once again pitched well enough to win and was the victim - for the second consecutive game against a perennial Big West Conference cellar swellar - of a ninth inning meltdown by the bullpen.

Nothing to say here.


It looked like another lost day in the Titans recent streak of somnambulance when the Tigers posted two quick markers in the first inning. Starting pitcher Kyle Witten hit leadoff man Nick Longmire with the game's first pitch. Titan nemesis Joey Centanni then hit a perfect double-play ball to 2B Joe Scott, but SS Christian Colon dropped the routine throw and everybody was safe. J.B. Brown then ripped a single and the game was just five pitches old and the Tigers had an unearned run and two runners on with nobody out.

After a groundball out placed runners on the corners, Witten tried the "fake to third, look at first play" - and plate umpire Rorke "The Showboat" Kominek emphatically called it a balk, scoring Centanni with the second run of the game. Coach Serrano came out to compare recipes, but (in my humble opinion) The Showboat seemed to get the call right: Witten's foot appeared to swing far beyond the 45 degree imaginary line.

The Titans scored a quick run in the second inning on a Nick Ramirez leadoff walk and an RBI double into the left-centerfield gap by Khris Davis. But a potential big inning was averted by giving away one out on Jeff Newman's sacrifice bunt and then having Davis run into an easy out at the plate on the "contact play", which generally doesn't work well on one-hoppers back to the pitcher.

After squandering Joey Siddons' leadoff HBP in the third inning by having him thrown out by about ten feet attempting to steal, Witten worked out of a jam in the fourth inning on a nicely executed 3-6-1 double-play after singles by Mike McKeever and Kurt Wideman had placed runners at the corners with one out.
The Titans took their first lead of the game with three runs in the fourth inning. Nick Ramirez drew a one-out walk and was pushed around one base at a time on singles by Davis and Newman. Dustin Garneau's bases loaded single drove in two runs and was followed by Joe Scott's RBI single, making it 4-2 in favor of Fullerton. Scott's hit drove Pacific starting pitcher Mark McCain and brought in Jamie Niley.

After Scott stole second base, Siddons struck out on a wild pitch that bounced right back to catcher Wideman. Garneau was sent homewards, running into the fifteenth or sixteenth silly out of the series. (Oops, sorry Mom.)
Witten labored along in the ninety degree heat, striking out the first two hitters in the sixth inning. But McKeever and Brian Martin followed with solid singles and Kurt Wideman walked on four pitches, with Witten seeming to wince in pain on the last couple. Coach Serrano notified The Showboat that he was making an injury substitution and Nick Ramirez was summoned with the bases loaded and given extra time to warm up. When play resumed, Nick came up big and got Mike Walker to ground out to second-base.

Ramirez got into and out of trouble in the seventh inning, but he stranded runners at second and third when he got the dangerous J.B. Brown to fly out to CF Fellhauer.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Titans fastidiously stuck by their offensive strategy and prevented adding an insurance run. Siddons led off with a single (and was curiously not pinch-run for by Gary Brown). Leading 4-2 and with an excellent bunter at the plate (Colon), you bunt the runner over late in the game and give Felly and Clark a chance to drive him in and take a three-run lead....right? Colon was allowed to hit away and was narrowly doubled up at first base. Fellhauer then smoked a single that the first-baseman dove for and deflected away, which would have easily scored the runner from second had there been a successful sacrifice.

The strategy looked even more curious the following inning when McKeever crushed a lead-off home-run, cutting the lead to 4-3. After a strikeout and a single, another curious play happened: there was a high chopper towards Scott at second-base. The runner from first was already well past him when the ball came down and the only play was to first base for the second out. But Scott went up for the ball and like a hoopster trying to avoid a travel, he tried to alley-oop the ball to Colon, who had no play. Flashbacks of the Friday and Saturday meltdowns swept through the horrified crowd, who were further sickened when a dinky chopper between the mound and third base loaded the bases with just one out. After the bullpen collapses of the two previous nights, Ramirez was allowed to continue and he justified the coaches' confidence when he induced a short fly to Felly which could not advance the runners and then retired SS Ben Gorang on another easy fly to centerfield.

With no sign of the earlier bullpen culprits, Nick Ramirez took the mound in the bottom of the ninth to face the 2/3/4 hitters in the Pacific lineup. After two quick outs, McKeever gave us one final scare when he launched one deep to right-centerfield. There was a collective sigh of relief when Felly put his glove up, shielded his eyes from the bright sunshine and made the catch to preserve the 4-3 victory.


So what did we learn this weekend?

First of all, we learned that there are no longer teams in the Big West Conference where you can just lace up your spikes and count on a win. Give credit to the Pacific Tigers for playing an awesome series: they collected 22 runs on 43 hits in the three games, and played errorlessly in two of the games.

We learned that there is a reason Tigers catcher Kurt Wideman has thrown out more than half of would-be base-stealers (19 out of 36 thrown out). He and Dustin Garneau both put on a catcher's throwing clinic this weekend. With an opponent coming in with a team ERA hovering around the 6.00 mark, I just don't get why we took away so many at-bats on failed steal attempts, ran "contact plays" on balls hit to the third-baseman and pitcher and had hot hitters bunt in hitting situations and slumping players swing away in bunting situations. In the games Friday and today, the Titans got completely shut down by a bullpen that usually gets lit up.

Let's hope the injury to Witten is minor and he does not lose any more time. This has been an injury-riddled season for him from the start; he could be a key component to unraveling the mystery of what to do about the bullpen if he can remain healthy. It's probably time to give Michael Morrison a midweek start to help him sort through his recent rough outings as the closer. I thought the Titans pitching was at its best during the road trip when Noe Ramirez was a weekend reliever and a midweek starter. He is a weapon no matter how he is used - I'd rather see him in at the end of the game than any of the other righties at the moment and Nick seems ready to handle the portside part of a closer tandem.

There is an old baseball axiom that you're never as good as you look when you're winning and you're never as bad as you look when you're losing. That surely seems applicable to this year's Titans. I'm sure the team and the coaches are just as frustrated as idiots like me sitting up in the bleachers. But the talent on this team is the same as it was when they were the talk of the nation and being fitted for bronze statues during Mustache March. It's easy to support a team when they are winning games and reminding people of the 1995 juggernaut. Now is the time to really dig in and help them through this funk. Let's start with a good showing Tuesday night against San Diego and Wednesday afternoon against Pepperdine before heading up to Sacramento to play UC Davis.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pacific Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

The Cal State Fullerton baseball program went through one of the toughest situations in its history last weekend during the series at Cal State Northridge, playing the first game in that series hours after former teammate Jon Wilhite was critically injured in a car accident that killed the other three people in the car that he was a passenger in.

The Titans struggled with their emotions but were able to come back from losing the first game of the series, a game that took 15 innings and two days to play due to the lack of lights at Northridge, to win the next two games to break out of a slump in which Fullerton had lost 5 of the previous 6 games. The Titans also played well in winning 9-2 Tuesday at USC and enter the series with the Pacific Tigers this weekend at Goodwin Field on a three game winning streak.

Pacific was unanimously picked by the Big West coaches to finish in last place after going 14-41 in 2008 and finishing in last place in the conference at 5-19, but the Tigers are 13-18 and have gotten off to a good start at 5-4 in conference games, sweeping UC Davis and losing two of three games at UCSB and at home to Cal Poly last weekend. Pacific has been competitive at home, going 9-7 and sweeping Houston in addition to the sweep of UC Davis. The Tigers have been mediocre on the road, losing all three series they have played (Baylor 1-2, San Jose 0-3, UCSB 1-2) and splitting four games in San Diego State’s tournament but those results are an improvement over last season when Pacific went 5-20 on the road.


Fullerton has traditionally beaten Pacific soundly every season, winning 19 straight games and 29 of the last 30 against the Tigers. Pacific has been more competitive this season because of the drastic improvements with their position players this season both at the plate and in the field. One of the keys to this weekend will be how well the Fullerton pitching staff can hold down the Tigers offense because Pacific is 0-13 when they have scored four runs or less and 13-5 when they have scored 5+ runs, with four of those losses coming against UCSB and Cal Poly.

The other key to this weekend will be how well the Fullerton offense can continue to score runs after scoring 24 runs in the last three games. Pacific has struggled with their pitching most of the season in allowing 6+ runs in 20 of 31 games. If Fullerton can keep being productive at the plate and the Fullerton pitching staff can control the Pacific offense, the Titans should win this series and it would not be much of a surprise if Fullerton was able to sweep this series.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fight On ... for Cal State Fullerton


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans handed the USC Trojans a 9-2 defeat last night at Dedeaux Field, extending their winning streak to three games.

The Titans jumped out to an early lead on the strength of first inning singles by Jeff Newman and Josh Fellhauer, followed by a two-RBI double by cleanup man Jared Clark and an RBI single by Khris Davis gave Fullerton a 3-0 lead.

USC made it look like it would be a high-scoring midweek slugfest when it took just two batters to put two runs on the board against starter Kevin Rath. Joe De Pinto led off with a double and scored on Mike O'Neill's home run to rightfield: his first of the season. When Rath fell behind to the next hitter, a brigade of pitchers and catchers made their way to the Titans bullpen. Rath settled down and gave up no more hits in his three inning stint, walking two.

USC starter Kevin Couture also settled down and posted a couple goose eggs until Nick Ramirez banged his seventh home run of the season over the wall in centerfield.

Kyle Witten took the hill and pitched three innings of one-hit shutout ball, hitting one batter and walking one. He escaped harm in the bottom of the sixth inning when the Trojans had runners at the corners with two outs. After two quick outs and the Titans holding a 5-2 lead, Anthony Vasquez doubled and went to third on a wild pitch, followed by a walk to Ricky Oropesa. With Witten seemingly on the ropes and the tying run at the plate, the Trojans ran into a silly out. Witten did the "fake to third, look at first" play, with Vasquez easily retreating to third. But when Witten stared over at Oropesa at first and did not look back at the runner inching his way off third, Vasquez made a dash to try to steal home. With the help of his bench and infield, Witten realized the situation and threw home to catcher Billy Marcoe, who easily applied the tag to end the inning.

The Titans conducted a baserunning clinic in the seventh inning and broke the game open with three runs. Christian Colon drove a single up the middle and stole second base. After Jeff Newman walked, Josh Fellhauer continued his hot hitting with an RBI single into rightfield, advancing Newman to third. When Felly broke for second, the Trojans threw through and Newman broke for home: perfectly executed double steal! With the USC defense dazed and throwing the ball around, Felly stole third base and scored easily when the catcher's throw sailed into leftfield.

Nick Ramirez pitched two shutout innings, allowing two hits but striking out three. After the Titans added a final run in the ninth inning on Christian Colon's walk and Clark's second double of the game, closer Michael Morrison came in to get some work. He had another rocky outing, allowing a double and two walks, but managed to wiggle out of the bases loaded jam without any runs allowed.


What did we learn last night?

The Titans had great fan support, starting with the sold-out Diamond Club bus group and a large walk-up crowd. The state of baseball support at USC is pretty sad: the most storied baseball program in history is now a shadow of its former greatness. There had to be at least twenty times as many Trojan fans watching the Trojans football practice on the adjacent field than watching one of today's premier baseball powerhouse programs (e.g. Fullerton) against the greatest program of yesteryear. (Talk about what have you done for me lately!)

If there is one way to frame the current state of the two programs, consider the baserunning in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh. Trailing by three runs and having the tying run at the plate and the pitcher on the ropes, the Trojans ran themselves out of the inning with the botched attempt to steal home. The following inning, the Titans stole three bases, including a perfectly executed double steal of home and second. Methinks coaching has a lot to do with this.

Clark and Fellhauer each had two hits and were keys to the two three-run rallies: Felly drove in two runs with his two hits and scored twice. Clark's two doubles produced four more RBI for his rapidly growing total.

Notwithstanding the two Trojans runs before any outs were recorded, Titans pitchers tossed a "shutout" over the next 27 outs. Rath and Witten were both effective (again, notwithstanding Rath's rocky beginning), but they were "wildly" good: Rath threw 21 strikes and 24 balls, while Witten was better at 22/17. We saw some very encouraging signs from Witten, who can be a dominant force on this pitching staff in the stretch run.

Nick Ramirez continues to pitch well while Michael "Houdini" Morrison continues to toy with my blood pressure. Like he did in the games against University of Rhode Island and UC Irvine, Mikey Mo loaded the bases and then worked his way out. He threw 10 strikes and 11 balls but escaped unscathed. The closer situation obviously needs to be better if the Titans' "First to Practice, Last to Play" mantra is going to become reality.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Diamond Club: Tuffy's Titans

The April 12 edition is posted below ... please click on each individual page to enlarge for easy reading.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Near-Perfect Pill


By Don Hudson

Freshman pitcher Tyler Pill threw a one-hit complete game shutout Saturday afternoon at Matador Field as the Cal State Fullerton Titans took the rubber game of their Big West Conference series, defeating host Cal State Northridge, 8-0. The offense was led by Josh Fellhauer (5-for-5) and Khris Davis (three-run homer and 5 RBI.)

It was evident right away that Pill was going to be tough to hit when he struck out the first three Matadors he faced on balls in the dirt that catcher Bill Marcoe had to block. (In fact, the only base runner the Matadors managed in the first six inning was second batter T.S. Reed, who struck out in the first but reached on a wild pitch.) An early Matador threat was avoided after Reed stole second base and was stranded when cleanup hitter Dominic D'Anna hit a screamer that was fielded nicely by first-baseman Jared Clark.

Unlike last season's 17-15 rubber game between the Titans and Matadors at Goodwin Field, this game was a tight pitchers duel for five innings. After Reed reached on the wild pitch strikeout, Pill retired the next seventeen Matador hitters consecutively. Meanwhile, Justen Gorski, making his first start of the season, scattered four hits through the first five innings of shutout baseball. The Titans biggest threat during the early innings was the fourth, when Jeff Newman led off with a single and Josh Fellhauer turned an attempted sacrifice bunt into a base hit. After Clark sacrificed both runners ahead, Gorski settled down and struck out Nick Ramirez and retired Khris Davis to end the threat.

The Titans finally broke through against Gorski in the sixth inning. After Christian Colon's hustling double started the inning, Jeff Newman sacrificed him to third base. Josh Fellhauer broke the scoreless tie with a solid base hit into rightfield. After Felly stole second base, the Matadors worked around Clark and walked him to set up a potential double-play. After Ramirez struck out, Khris Davis lined a pitch that looked at first like one of those "oh, darn, he it hard but right at the centerfielder," but it kept on carrying and gave the Titans a 4-0 lead when it landed on the other side of the outfield wall for a three-run homer.
The Titans were not done yet. Gary Brown hit the first of his two doubles in the game and scored on a two-out RBI single by Billy Marcoe off reliever Davin Tate.

The Titans threatened again in the seventh, when Fellhauer and Clark both singled - and the speedy Clark pilfered his tenth sack of the year. But Tate escaped harm with strikeouts of Ramirez and Davis.

After the time-honored tradition in the middle of the seventh inning, interest started to stir about how far Pill would go before surrendering a hit. Bowing to baseball tradition and superstition, nobody within earshot used those words "no hitter", but I'm sure it was on everyone's mind as the game got into the late innings.

The classic Jack Norworth lyrics "For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out, at the old ballgame" had barely been uttered when CSUN shortstop T.S. Reed lined a no-doubt-about-it base hit to centerfield. Pill received a nice ovation from the fans in both rooting sections. Not distracted by the no-hitter being broken up, Pill and his defense erased the runner when Ryan Pineda hit a ball sharply into the shortstop hole that was turned nicley into a Colon-to Scott-to Clark double-play.

Trailing 5-0 entering the ninth inning, CSUN coach Steve Rousey opted to bring in his closer (Brian Slover), who had thrown 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the Thursday marathin game. Coming back on just one day's rest after the extended outing, his 'stuff' was not nearly as good on Saturday. Jeff Newman led off with a HBP and went to third on Fellhauer's fifth single of the day. Clark then drove in Newman with a double. After a groundout by pinch-hitter Joey Siddons with the infield in did not allow the runners to advance, Khris Davis drove in his fourth and fifth runs of the day with a base hit up the middle, making the score 8-0.

The only question then was whether Pill would come out to pitch the ninth inning and nail down the complete game and the shutout. He issued his only walk of the day to Jeff Pruitt leading off the ninth, but he finished strong by retiring the next three hitters to end the game.


So what did we learn yesterday?

First off, this young pitching staff is pretty good. Northridge is a good hitting team - particularly at home - yet Titan pitchers posted zeros in 28 of the 33 innings played in this series.

After the Oral Roberts series, we observed that Pill was giving up a fair number of hits but avoiding damage by his knack of 'scattering' them. But with this win yesterday - making him 6-0 - Pill has now allowed just two hits in his last fifteen innings pitched (going back to last week against UCI.) How is that for scattering hits?

The offense is showing signs of breaking out of its mid-season malaise. Khris Davis went 6-for-13 against Northridge, including three doubles, a home run and five RBI. Josh Fellhauer went 9-for-17 and had two RBI and a stolen base. Gary Brown also had a good series both offensively and defensively, going 5-for-15 with three doubles and three stolen bases - all on one trip around the bases in the series opener.

Finally, let's make it a good showing Tuesday night at Dedeaux Field against the USC Trojans. The Diamond Club bus trip is sold out and I understand a large number of Titans fans are driving to the game. Let's join forces at the game and give a strong showing of support to help these guys move forward with the rejuvenation which we saw in the last two games in Northridge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Heavy-hearted Titans Split: Part 2


By Don Hudson

After losing the resumption of Thursday's suspended (darkness) game in fifteen innings, the Cal State Fullerton Titans bounced back on Friday afternoon to beat the Cal State Northridge Matadors, 7-5, behind a balanced offensive attack that included hits from each player in the line-up. Noe Ramirez (4-1) pitched 7 1/3 innings and got the win.

After Josh Fellhauer reached base in the first inning on a two-out infield single, Jared Clark gave the Titans an early 2-0 lead with a home run to left field against losing pitcher Billy Ott.

After Noe Ramirez threw an easy first inning, the Titans lengthened their lead to 4-0 in the second inning. Khris Davis and Gary Brown started the inning with singles and advanced into scoring position on Joe Scott's sacrifice bunt. Dustin Garneau drove in Davis with a sacrifice fly to rightfield; Brown also scored on the play when the throw back into the infield went awry.

Noe Ramirez and Ott matched zeros on the scoreboard the next three innings. After five innings, Noe was breezing along with a three-hit shutout.

The Titans seemed to put the game out of reach in the top of the sixth inning as sharp lightning bolts crackled in the distance. Nick Ramirez started the inning with a base hit up the middle and advanced to third when Khris Davis laced a double to centerfield - his third double of the two games. One out later, Joe Scott doubled in both runners to make it 6-0 and Dustin Garneau added the extra point with an RBI single, making it 7-0.

The Matadors finally got to Noe Ramirez in their half of the sixth inning, starting with two small ball hits (a chopper by John Parham far to Brown's left that he fielded cleanly but threw late after his trademark piroutte move and a bunt surprise bunt single by Richard Cates), a clean single to leftfield by Ryan Pineda and a grand slam by Dominic D'Anna. Still with no outs, Ramirez hit the next batter and surrendered a single to Jason Dabbs. But in a sign of confidence for their freshman hurler and his ability to bounce back from adversity, Noe was allowed to continue and allowed just one of those runners to score, making it 7-5 and turning what had just moments earlier seem like an easy game into a nailbiter.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jason Dabbs got his third hit of the game, followed by a solid single to rightfield by Jeff Pruitt. With a pitch count of 120 and the go-ahead run at the plate, and two right-handed hitters coming up (one scheduled and the second a pinch-hitter), Coach Serrano bypassed his available right-handed relievers and brought in freshman left-hander Nick Ramirez. Nick did a great job and retired the next two hitters easily on a foul pop-up and a lazy flyball to centerfield.

The Titans threatened to add insurance runs in the ninth inning when they loaded the bases on one-out singles by Jeff Newman and Josh Fellhauer. With Felly advancing to second on the late throw to try to get Newman at third base, Jared Clark was intentionally walked to set up the double-play situation. Nick Ramirez obliged the Matadors, hitting into a 4-6-3 twin killing to stymie the rally.

With the 2/3/4 hitters coming up for Northridge and the closer ready in the bullpen, Nick Ramirez was allowed to start the inning - and he finished it off in impressive fashion. He fell behind Parham 3-0 in the count before getting him to chase a high 3-1 pitch and fly out to Felly. (Sorry, Susan, it would have been ball four - just ask Tim.) Ramirez recorded his first collegiate save when he retired the dangerous Cates and Pineda.


So what did we learn today?

You've got to love a bomb and a bunt. After blasting a long home run in the first inning, Jared Clark surprised the Matadors with a bunt in the seventh inning. What wheels: he legged it out and then stole second base, making him 9-9 this year in the pilfery category.

The bats showed some signs of life this game: Christian Colon, Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark, Nick Ramirez and Khris Davis each tallied two hits, with each other starter (Newman, Brown, Scott and Garneau) getting one each.

Do you remember last year's Sunday slugfest at Goodwin Field, when the Titans beat the Matadors by a 17-15 score, despite three home runs and nine RBI by CSUN's freshman catcher Chris Hannick? So far, Coach Rousey has not put him into a game this series despite him being healthy and available (according to local Matador followers). I would have to guess he will make an appearance sometime today.

The situation in the bullpen should be interesting as we head down the stretch toward the Regionals. Earlier in the year, the righties (Mertins, Ackland and Morrison) were getting all the key innings and the lefties were pictured on milk cartons. Recently, the lefties (Kevin Rath and Nick Ramirez) have come on strong and could continue to get the ball in pivotal late game situations.

Lastly, the unexpectedly large Good Friday crowd of 175 ate the Matador Field concession stand out of hot dogs in between the suspended game and the scheduled game. Kudos to the concessionaire for taking swift corrective action and running home to grab some extra dogs (45 regular and 30 spicy) out of the freezer to feed the hungry crowd.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Heavy-hearted Titans Split: Part 1

By Don Hudson

Photo Courtesy Bryan Crowe

The Cal State Fullerton Titans arrived at Matador Field at Cal State Northridge Thursday after a bus ride in which you could hear a pin drop. For the players, coaches, support staff, alumni, fans and families, it was a day filled with shock, profound sadness, deep sorrow and smoldering anger. A drunk driver (forgive my lack of political correctness for not saying "alleged drunk driver") with a suspended license resulting from a prior DUI conviction had stolen the lives of three fantastic young people and left a young man we have come to know and love in a hospital fighting for his life.

Being part of Titan baseball, even just as some old guy sitting in the stands spitting sunflower seeds and watching these remarkable young men play a game that has captured his imagination since childhood, is an extreme privilege and provides an impenetrable buffer between the harshness of the real world and our secret world of small ball, hit-and-runs, hidden ball tricks and trips to Omaha. News of the tragic accident in Fullerton in the wee hours of the morning was a painful incursion that shattered that barrier and left everyone associated with the Titan Nation that day feeling numb. Just as the team on the field did everything in their power to focus on the matter at hand - as they knew Jon Wilhite would insist that they do - it was impossible, just as it was for the supporters in the stands. Eyes were full of tears, people hugged and prayed and held out hope that the next text message received would be the one to let us know that everything was going to turn out okay.

If you've ever been to Matador Field, there are a couple things you notice right away: there are no lights and the closest bathroom is in Santa Clarita. This became a major factor in a game that was played in chilly, cloudy weather conditions and was eventually suspended after twelve innings because of darkness, with the score tied at 4-4. Both teams had opportunities to push across runs each extra inning played today after the game resumed, but it was the Matadors who eventually took care of business in the bottom of the fifteenth inning and won a 5-4 verdict.

It took a few innings for the Titans to shake off the shock and the emotional handcuffs. After an easy 1-2-3 inning for the Titans in the first inning, pitcher Daniel Renken was touched for two runs in the bottom of the frame when he plunked the leadoff man with a pitch, followed by a stolen base, two singles and a fielder's choice.

The Titans plated their first run in the third inning when Joe Scott led off with a bunt single, advanced to second on Dustin Garneau's sacrifice and scored on Josh Fellhauer's RBI single up the middle.

Gary Brown was a one-man rally in the fourth inning. After two quick outs, he stroked a base hit into right field. He stole second. He stole third. With Joe Scott at the plate and the count 2-2, CSUN pitcher Ryan Juarez and catcher John Parham thought they had Scott struck out on a pitch close to the plate. As the catcher framed the pitch and the pitcher glared at umpire Dan Perugini, neither noticed Brown inching down the line. As soon as Parham tossed the ball back to the mound, Brown broke for the plate and easily stole often do you see a player steal three bases during one teammate at-bat?

With the score tied 2-2, Renken continued to pitch effectively. He ended up going eight strong innings and left with a lead that was subsequently lost.

In the seventh inning, the Titans took their first lead of the game, again sparked by Brown. He led off with a double in the leftfield corner and was moved around on a Scott sacrifice bunt and a Garneau sacrifice fly.

The Titans' 3-2 lead was short-lived, however. Parham walked and Richard Cates singled to open the inning. One out later, Dominic D'Anna lifted a flyball to leftfield, which scored Parham with the tying run just ahead of Jeff Newman's strong throw.

By this point in the game, the dark clouds and late hour (why do they wait until 3:00 to start the game with no lights, especially when their games average around four hours?) were making it harder and harder to see what was happening.

In the top of the ninth inning, Khris Davis led off with a double and moved to third on a groundout by Brown, which brought CSUN's ace closer, Brian Slover, into the game. Rather than attempt a squeeze with Joe Scott due up (which everybody in the stadium would be expecting), Tyler Pill was summoned to pinch-hit and he delivered a long sacrifice fly to give the Titans a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth.

On came closer Michael Morrison to nail it down for Renken and the Titans. After an easy flyout to rightfield and a groundout to shortstop, Morrison quickly threw two strikes to Cates: "Come on, Michael! Just one more out and we can go home with a satisfying gut-it-out win on an horrific day." But the wheels came off the wagon: Morrison lost his control and Cates walked, bringing the Matadors best power hitter, Ryan Pinedo, to the plate. With the winning run one swing of the bat away, surely the 'dors wouldn't risk ending the game with a failed steal attempt? But Morrison was intent on keeping the tying run out of scoring position and he eventually sailed a pickoff throw way over Jared Clark's head, advancing Cates to second. A wild pitch moved Cates to third, but just one more out was needed. With the count 3-1, Mikey Mo's next pitch was way out of the strike zone and got past a diving Garneau, tying the score on a wild pitch. Kyle Mertins came in to avoid further damage.

In the tenth inning for Fullerton, Newman reached on an error but was picked off to end the inning. Mertins allowed a two-out triple to Jeffrey Pruitt, but escaped unscathed. (Umpire Perugini apparently has much different taste in music than Pruitt: every time Pruitt advanced towards the plate, Perugini glared towards the press box and used a familiar hand gesture instructing them to cut off the song. It became comical as the game went along, with Perugini eventually giving a thumbs-up when the music was cut off prior to his cut-it-off gesture.)

Billy Marcoe singled to lead off the eleventh inning, but CSUN second-baseman Justin DeMarco made a nice play when he stood his ground on a Khris Davis hit-and run attempt, which he turned into a double-play.

The Matadors had a golden opportunity to put the game away in the last of the eleventh inning. T.S. Reed led off being hit by Mertins' first pitch and beat Clark's throw to second base when Parham bunted on the next play. A wild pitch moved the potential winning run to third base with nobody out. This is when you bring the outfield in to choke off anything hit in front of them, knowing that a deep flyball will end the game anyways? Nope; the Titans opted to walk the next batter to load the bases and played their infield in, but the outfield stayed in their normal positions. Mertins got cleanup hitter Pineda to hit a slow roller in front of the plate, which Garneau retrieved and stepped on the plate for the force play.

Kevin Rath came in from the bullpen to face the dangerous D'Anna. He got the perfect result: a comebacker to the mound, which he turned into a 1-2-3 double-play.

The twelfth inning was played in near darkness. Closer Slover continued his extended tour of duty on the hill for Northridge. He threw a 1-2-3 inning, which Rath matched with a hitless stanza (with a walk allowed).

After the inning, the coaches and umpires conferred and the next thing I knew the screen in front of me had gone dark - it reminded me of the final scene in "The Sopranos". The screen went dark, the characters disappeared and the outcome was ambiguous.


In lieu of our normal "what did we learn today" crap, I'll tell you how the game ended Friday afternoon when it was resumed. You'll have to wait for tomorrow to read about the Titans' 7-5 win in Part 2 of this novelette.

The suspension of play forced Slover (who lowered his ERA to 0.32) from the game and gave the Titans a chance to recover physically and emotionally from perhaps the most trying circumstances in which they've ever played. Coach Serrano, Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Dustin Garneau and Matthew Fahey planned to return to Orange County last night to visit Jon Wilhite at the UCI Medical Center. By all accounts, the suspension of play seemed like a big break for the Titans.

Things looked up for the Titans when Jeff Newman lined a single when play resumed in the thirteenth inning, but an unsuccessful bunt attempt and a pickoff thwarted that rally. Rath continued his strong pitching (three innings with no hits allowed) with a 1-2-3 thirteenth inning.

In the top of the fourteenth, the Titans again got the leadoff runner aboard but could not produce a run. Billy Marcoe reached on an error and was advanced on a sacrifice, but a flyout and a hard line drive to centerfield by Joey Siddons ended the inning.

The Matadors got a leadoff walk by Pineda, who went to second on a Rath balk, in the bottom of the fourteenth. After a Rath strikeout, Ryan Ackland entered the game in relief and worked out of the jam by retiring the next two hitters.

The Titans got the leadoff man aboard again in the fifteenth on a single by Garneau, who went to second on Christian Colon's sacrifice. After Newman struck out, Fellhauer beat out an infield hit, which would have brought leading RBI man Clark to the plate with the go-ahead run - except the Titans tried to catch the Matadors taking a siesta by keeping Garneau running to the plate. He was thrown out by about twenty feet - same play they tried unsuccessfully last Sunday against UCI.

The long drama came to an end when Pruitt led off the fifteenth against Ackland with a double. DeMarco's effort to sacrifice Pruitt to third was a beauty - Ackland and Brown had no play and there were runners on the corners with nobody out. The next batter was walked to load the bases and set up a force out at every base - pretty conventional baseball, eh? But the Titans once again eschewed the 'baseball book' by leaving their outfielders at normal depth. Parham drove the second pitch he saw into right-centerfield for the winning hit. (It would have been interesting to see what would have happened on that play had the outfield been drawn in - Felly might have caught the ball twenty field behind the infield, which would not have scored the runner from third.)

Both teams had multiple chances to win the game - the Titans can lament the blown save in the ninth and the Matadors can look back at 18 runners left on base. But the Matadors can also relish the outstanding relief pitching they got: this normally shaky staff did not permit a walk from the seventh through fifteenth innings.

No loss is ever easy, but this one was perhaps understandable. These guys played with heavy hearts and they played about as well as you could ever expect under the circumstances.