Sunday, May 31, 2009

Titans Zig Past Zags

FULLERTON REGIONAL: TITANS 7, GONZAGA 4

By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans advanced to their Regional finals last night with a 7-4 win over the 19th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, led by Dustin Garneau's career-high five hits and Daniel Renken's tortuous-but-successful eight innings of pitching. The Titans play tonight (6:00) against the winner of this afternoon's (2:00) elimination game between the Bulldogs and Utah Utes, who staged a gallant comeback yesterday afternoon in eliminating the Georgia Southern Eagles, 11-10.

If the Titans win tonight, they will advance to the Super Regionals next weekend against the winner of the Louisville Regional. If they lose, they will play the "if necessary" game tomorrow night (6:00) to determine the Regional championship.

Daniel Renken, the Titans' Friday pitcher all year, was held back a day to pitch the winners bracket game and was quite shaky out of the gate. He seemed over-amped and was not hitting his spots. (Was I the only one that had a queasy flashback to the Saturday hex of last year when that was Daniel's regular spot in the rotation?)

Renken was matched against Gonzaga's Steven Ames, who entered the game with an impressive 8-1 record. Ames surrendered a first-inning double to Gary Brown - a single to left-centerfield for most players but a double for Brown - but escaped unharmed. Renken was not so fortunate in his half of the first. After consecutive opposite-field singles by lefthanded-hitting Evan Wells and Drew Heid, catcher Tyson Van Winkle woke up the Gonzaga crowd with a double into the leftfield corner to give the Bulldogs a quick 2-0 advantage. Renken was uncharacteristically falling behind hitters and clearly was not as sharp as we have become accustomed, but he did bear down to retire the next three hitters and mitigated the damage.

Khris Davis cut the lead in half with one swing leading off the second inning, spiking his fourteenth home run of the season. Garneau then surprised the Bulldogs with a bunt that went for an easy base hit. After a scarifice by Jeff Newman, Joe Scott brought the crowd to its feet with a game-tying triple to left-centerfield. Joey Siddons followed with an RBI single that gave the Titans a 3-2 lead and momentum was seemingly building. But CF Heid broke that momentum when he made a great running grab of a ball smoked into the gap in left-centerfield by GAry Brown.

When Renken had a 1-2-3 second inning, the ship (falsely) seemed to have been righted: we have the lead and our ace back on track, right? Like Joe Besser says, "Not so fast!!!!"

The usually airtight Titans defense gave Renken more angst in the third inning. Wells led off with a groundball that ate up Colon for a single. Heid followed with a single after a stay of execution resulting from a dropped foul ball after a long run by LF Jeff Newman (ruled an error). But Renken retired the next three hitters to maintain the slim 3-2 lead.

The Titans made it 4-2 in the top of the fourth on a Garneau single, a Newman sacrifice and an RBI single by Siddons.

The bottom of the fourth inning produced more stomach squirming in the Titan Nation. Mark Castellitto and Grant Kveder led off with singles. Attempting to bunt the tying run to third and the go-ahead run to second, Jason Chatwood fouled a bunt that was grabbed out of the air by the cat-like reflexes of Garneau. After a walk to ninth batter Ernesto Ortiz loaded the bases with one out, Renken turned the tables on Wells and Heid, each of whom had been 2-for-2 at the top of the Gonzaga line-up, by retiring them without baserunner advancement.

Renken and the Titans defense sagged again in the fifth inning. With one out, Gonzaga's giant 1B Ryan Weigand hit a ball to Joe Scott's right. With a relatively slow runner, Joe had a chance to make a play, but it seemed to spin away and he was charged with an error that led to a costly run when the next hitter, Anthony Synegal, launched a home run to straight-away centerfield to tie the score, 4-4.

The home run seemed to fire up Renken, who then settled into a groove the rest of the game.

The next inning began with "the play of the game." Garneau led off with a swing that, as he described it, "exploded" his bat. It sounded like a good old fashioned broken bat - which is what it was. CF Heid broke in, expecting a Texas Leaguer, and watched helplessly as the ball sailed over his head for a double. Newman failed to deliver his third sacrifice of the game, but Joe Scott came up with a clutch base hit to centerfield. Heid came up throwing and threw a perfect strike to the plate, which was just ahead of the belly-flopping Garneau. Blue was ready to give an emphatic "OUT!" call, but C Van Winkle dropped the ball and the Titans had a 5-4 lead on Scott's RBI single.

With a second lease on life, Renken was not about to let it slip away, nor was the Titan defense. After a one-out single, Van Winkle ripped a line drive to Siddons, who caught the ball and fired across the diamond to complete a double-play.

The Titans added a huge insurance run in the seventh inning with a two-out rally. Davis walked and then stole second before scoring on a huge RBI hit by Garneau to make the score 6-4. Renken was pumped up and he retired the side in order in the seventh, including two K's.

The Titans added another run in the eighth inning. Newman led off with a single, which drove Ames from the game - he pitched an excellent game considering how well the Titans have been swinging the bats lately. Scott was unable to execute the sacrifice, and both he and Siddons struck out, but Colon extended the inning with a base hit to rightfield that sent Newman to third. Just as I predicted to my buddy Tim just before the pitch, Gary Brown hit an infield chopper for a single that made it 7-4.

Renken continued to sizzle and had another 1-2-3 inning in the eighth, ending the night with 135 pitches. (He was later quoted, "I felt fine; I'll throw 180 pitches to keep this team in the game.")

Closer Nick Ramirez entered the game in the bottom of the ninth and immediately gave the crowd an uneasy moment. After jumping ahead in the count, he lost the strike zone and issued a walk to Wells. But Heid then hit a laser down the third-base line that Siddons - protecting the line - fielded cleanly and started an around-the-horn double-play, with Scott making a perfect pivot and the Titans getting a close call at first. Van Winkle also hit the ball hard to third: Siddons knocked it down, picked it up quickly and made a long throw across the diamond to barely nip Van Winkle for the game-ending out.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Consider the importance of pitching. There have been 36 innings played in the Fullerton Regionals. Guess how many have been scoreless (e.g. no score in either top or bottom of inning)? Two. Both in the Fullerton/Gonzaga game last night. It makes the Texas/BC marathon with all those scoreless innings all the more amazing.
Pitching is king. In the two "non-Fullerton" games played so far in our Regional, the winning team has surrendered ten runs in each game: (Gonzaga 19-10 over Georgia Southern and Utah 11-10 over Georgia Southern.) The winning team in the two "Fullerton" games has allowed an average of three runs per game. Fullerton fans are hoping for a 19-18 extra inning slugfest in the elimination game this afternoon to trash the pitching staff of our opponent tonight.

Neither Noe Ramirez (Friday) nor Renken (Saturday) were at their best, but each got past early control issues and settled down to pitch very well. Not counting the kid from Texas throwing no-hit ball in his first twelve innings of relief, pitchers aren't expected to be perfect - their teammates have to give them a reasonable margin of imperfection. Both Noe and Daniel colored inside the lines and passed the tests.

We learned that Gonzaga has a very good team and plays the game very hard. Their defense was stellar - most opponents tend to make more errors than usual when faced with the Titans speed and aggressiveness, but the Bulldogs made no errors and made some excellent plays. SS Ortiz played a great game defensively. Van Winkle also threw out two would-be Titans base stealers with excellent throws.

There was one thing that I really liked about the Saturday night win: after the top five did so much damage in the opening game - fifteen hits and eleven RBI - the bottom four did a great job on Saturday. Garneau, Newman, Scott and Siddons combined for ten hits, five runs and five RBI. Two of Scott's hits drove in huge runs: the tying run in the third and the eventual winning run in the sixth. Baseball is a ridiculously tough game: the Fellhauers and Clarks aren't going to get three hits and four RBI every game - so the teams likely to go farthest in the tournament are those that get balanced productivity.

What more could you ask for from Dustin Garneau? He is an amazing defensive catcher - blocking the ball, throwing our runners and handling a pitching staff that includes a sophomore starter, two fresmen starters and a freshman closer. His bat was the quietest Friday ("I kind of felt left out"), but his five hits, three runs and clutch RBI made him the hero of the win against Gonzaga on Saturday.
Let's get this thing done today. The Bulldogs would appear to be the obvious choice to eliminate the Utes, but the Utah squad displayed a lot of guts in their win yesterday against the Eagles. Regardless of who wins the afternoon game, they face an uphill battle having to beat the rested Titans to advance to the Super Regionals.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Titans Clobber Utes in Regional Opener

FULLERTON REGIONAL: TITANS 18, UTAH 2

By Don Hudson

Play began Friday afternoon at Goodwin Field in the Fullerton Regional. After the third-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs beat second-seeded Georgia Southern, 19-10, the host and top-seeded Cal State Fullerton Titans took care of business against the Utah Utes, 18-2.

The Titans and Bulldogs will play a winners bracket game this evening at 6:00, while the Eagles and Utes will meet at 2:00 this afternoon in an elimination game.

Noe Ramirez was tabbed to get the starting assignment for the Titans based on his ability to bounce back on shorter rest in the event he would be needed for an inning or two in a Monday championship game. He looked jittery early in the game, as he issued a four-pitch walk to Nick Kuroczko in the first inning with two outs, followed by a wild pitch. But, as he has been all season, the freshman was tough as nails when he had to be and he retired cleanup hitter C.J. Cron to escape unharmed following a very early meeting on the mound with Coach Serrano.

The Utes sent Jordan Whatcott to the hill - a pitcher with wins this year over several ranked opponents. He not only had decent numbers pitching - particularly considering the conference and high altitude locations for many of their games - he also came into the game with seven pickoffs. He nearly used that skill to escape unscathed in the first inning when he threw to first just as Gary Brown broke for second (following an infield single) and was easily retired on a steal attempt. But Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark and Khris Davis followed with singles, Davis' driving in Felly with the game's first run. The Titans scored only once, but they had four hits and established omens of an offensive barrage to come.

Noe's early jitters manifested themselves in the second inning when, following a two-out double by Rick Cornu, Noe wheeled around and attempted a pickoff at second base - but the spheroid was errantly miscast about forty feet wide of the bag and Cornu trotted to third. This brought about one of the game's great moments to me: the freshman seemed unsettled and three seniors the stature of Jared Clark, Joe Scott and Dustin Garneau met on the mound to help him relax. From Section K, I thought I saw glimpses of smiles and encouragement that helped Noe settle into his groove. He struck out Cooper Blanc to retire the side scorelessly.

The pesty Jeff Newman led off the second with a walk before Scott popped out on an attempted sacrifice. Joey Siddons then also bunted in the air, but the diving pitcher Whatcott gloved the ball in fair territory and could not hang on, allowing Siddons to reach on a single. After a Christian Colon single loaded the bases, the wheels were about to fall off the defensive wagon of the Utes. Gary Brown bounced a ball to the left of shortstop Michael Beltran, who knew he would have to hurry to double up the blazing Brown. Beltran booted the ball and them made an ill-advised throw to first, which ended up in the dugout. (It was scored as a two-base throwing error, but I would have charged an error on the boot - which was why all the runners were safe - and a second error on the throw allowing the runners to advance a base.)

With the Titans now leading 3-0, Fellhauer was hit by a pitch to load up the bases and bring the RBI Machine, Jared Clark, to the plate. Clark drilled a double deep to right-centerfield to score two runs and make it a 5-0 lead. Whatcott escaped even worse damage when he retired two Titans with the bases loaded (5 LOB in the first two innings).

The Utes ran into a crucial out in the third inning, after which the Titans never looked back. After two singles to open the third inning gave the Utes some hope, Tyler Yagi failed twice on sacrifice attempts and then struck out. When Noe Ramirez threw a pitch in the dirt to the next hitter, Dustin Garneau blocked it and kept it near his feet. The runner on second attempted to advance to third. Garneau threw to 3B Siddons, who caught the throw, ran over to the Omaha West tent for a couple scrumptious pulled pork sliders and came back with plenty of time to apply the tag.

By the time the third inning ended, the aggressive play of the Titans had put the outcome out of question. Scott walked to open the inning, went to second on a sacrifice by Siddons and scored on an RBI single by Colon. Brown then drilled a double deep to centerfield, scoring Colon. Clark followed with another run-scoring double and the score was 8-0 and the rout was one.

From that point on, the Titans just played their game. Noe settled down and pitched very well: he gave up seven hits in seven innings, striking out eight and allowing just two runs (on a two-run homer by the Utes' Kuroczko.) The offense tied the season-high of eighteen runs and had a season-best 24 hits.

Late game highlights included a three-run homer by Khris Davis (his thirteenth of the season), a triple by Joe Scott and an RBI double by Jeff Newman. Kyle Mertins and Ryan Ackland finished up with a scoreless inning of work each.


++++++++++++++++++++++++

So what did we learn last night?

I'm still not exactly sure what a 'Ute' is. Every time I hear the word, I flash back to that scene from "My Cousin Vinnie":


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVjbf-dHjW0


The offense put up some sick numbers. How about the top five hitters combining for fifteen hits and eleven RBI? Every starter got at least one hit and seven had multiple hit games. Jeff Newman had another classic Jeff Newman game: three hits, two walks and four runs scored.

But as great as the offense was and as good as the pitching was, the defense may have been even better. Scott made an excellent play on a ricochet shot off Noe Ramirez and he also turned a sweet double-play. Shevis Shima also had a nice turn late in the game. Clark scooped a couple low throws out of the dirt. But it might have been Colon whose star was brightest. Here is a sound bite I heard in Section K last night on a slow chopper towards shortstop: "That's going to be a very tough play......well, it would have been a very tough play if it was anybody but Colon."

I loved the quote from Utah leftfielder Tyler Yagi in the Salt Lake newspaper this week after winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament: "We all know that we're one of the hottest teams right now. I don't know....if I was Fullerton, I'd be a little scared right now, because we're pretty hot." Congratulations to the Titans for playing so well under such adverse circumstances.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are ranked #19 by Baseball America and should be a formidable opponent tonight. They scored nineteen runs yesterday: it will be interesting to see how well they fare against Daniel Renken and the strong Titans defense. This is what it's all about - hope to see you out at Goodwin Field and Omaha West today.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fullerton Regional Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

#2 Seed – Georgia Southern Eagles

Overall Record – 42-15
Conference Record – 20-8 (2nd place)
How they qualified for a regional – Won the Southern Conference Tournament (Davidson 4-3 in 11 innings, Appalachian State 6-5, Furman 16-4, Elon 7-3)
Last Regional Appearance – 2002
RPI/ISR – 32/39

Season Summary

Georgia Southern went 33-25 in 2008 despite averaging 10 runs per game, hitting 114 HR’s and having 109 SB’s because of a pitching staff that had a 7.04 ERA. The Eagles expected to contend for a regional this season if they were able to get better pitching with several of the hitters returning who were able to take advantage of the short dimensions at their home ballpark (330 to the lines, 360 to the alleys, 385 to CF) that helped them put up those strong numbers. Georgia Southern is 7-6 against teams that qualified for the regional field and had a 108 SOS according to Boyd’s World.

The Eagles did pad their stats with early series romps against Presbyterian and Coppin State but they also went 3-2 in non-conf games against Georgia Tech and East Carolina, including a 23-3 midweek bludgeoning of the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Southern doesn’t have quite the HR power that they had last season but they are a very consistent lineup with eight players hitting over .300 and five hitters with double digit HR’s. The Friday SP for the Eagles has been very good and the other two weekend SP’s have done enough to get games to a bullpen that has been solid. Georgia Southern is 33-1 when leading after 7 innings and 34-0 when leading after 8 innings.

Offense

Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 116 (increases offense by 16%).
Batting Average – .324 (NCAA ranking - 36)
Runs Per Game – 9.6 (5)
Home Runs – 80 (31)
Stolen Bases – 50 (182)
Slugging Percentage – .507 (44)
Walks – 268 (23)
HBP’s – 105 (6)
Sac Bunts – 33 (99)

Batting Order

LF Roman Grimaldi (LH – .329 in 73 AB’s). OF reserves are Randy Williams (RH – .286 in 70 AB’s) and Jonathan King (RH – .246-1-18-3). King is tied for team lead with 34 BB’s in only 126 AB’s.
CF Ty Wright (RH – .331-11-58-15). Leads team in R’s and SB’s. 2nd on team in RBI’s. Very good BB/K ratio (29/26). Hit .398 with 17 HR and 52 RBI in 2008.
C Griffin Benedict (LH – .401-11-61-8). 2nd team all-conf. Leads team in RBI, OBP (.522) and HBP’s (23). Tied for team lead with 34 BB’s. Tied for 2nd in HR’s. 2nd on team in SLG (.627). Very good BB/K ratio (34/29).
RF Phillip Porter (RH – .368-11-50-11). 2nd on team in BA, OBP and SB’s. Tied for 2nd in HR’s. Leads team with 45 K’s.
DH Kyle Blackburn (LH – .314-11-26-0). Leads team in SLG (.744). 11 HR’s and 21 K’s in only 86 AB’s.
3B A.J. Wirnsberger (RH – .332-13-57-2). Leads team in HR’s. Had even better power #’s in 2008 with 21 HR and 74 RBI.
1B Eric Phillips (RH – .328-3-41-3). 2nd on team with 6 SAC bunts.
SS Brian Pierce (RH – .353-3-41-0). Returning starter is 3rd on team in BA.
2B Kevin Bowles (RH – .285-3-32-1). 2nd on team with 13 HBP’s and leads team with 8 SAC bunts.

Defense

Fielding .974 (15) – 55 errors. Good fielding team around the infield. Wright and Porter have good speed in the OF.
Double Plays – 60 (21)
Stolen Base Attempts – 40-62 against Benedict. Benedict has picked off three runners and the team has picked off 16 runners.
WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 52

Pitching

ERA – 4.95 (71)
BA – .290
HR – 57
H’s/9 IP – 10.18 (95)
BB’s/9 IP – 3.74 (112)
K’s/9 IP – 8.1 (37)

Starting Pitchers

Chris Mederos (RHP – 11-1, 3.66 ERA, 15 starts, 93 IP, 92 H, 29 BB, 112 K, .264 BA, 5 HR, 9 HBP, 5 WP). 1st team all-conf. Hard thrower is 5th in the country in wins and 12th in K’s. Allowed 3 R or less in each of his last four starts. 7-12 SB’s. Picked off four runners.

Jake Brown (LHP – 6-3, 4.54 ERA, 16 apps, 11 starts, 81 IP, 97 H, 22 BB, 58 K, .298 BA, 10 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP). Allowed 4+ R in last three starts after allowing only 3 R total in two previous starts. Tied for team lead in HR allowed. 13-16 SB’s.

Matt Murray (RHP – 6-3, 4.76 ERA, 15 apps, 13 starts, 1 save, 74 IP, 81 H, 27 BB, 60 K, .287 BA, 8 HR, 8 HBP, 5 WP). Held Furman to 1 R on 3 H with 11 K in 7 IP in the conf tournament. 8-15 SB’s.

Andy Moye (RHP – 5-1, 6.60 ERA, 16 apps, 13 starts, 61 IP, 73 H, 27 BB, 52 K, .307 BA, 10 HR, 7 HBP, 7 WP). Midweek SP.

Relief Pitchers

Closer – Kyle Kamppi (RHP – 3-2, 3.86 ERA, 30 apps, 8 saves, 37 IP, 44 H, 20 BB, 39 K, .291 BA, 4 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP). Able to go several innings after being a part-time SP last season.

Dexter Bobo (LHP – 2-2, 6.62 ERA, 27 apps, 3 saves, 34 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 32 K, .276 BA, 7 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP).
Charles Matthews (RHP – 2-0, 3.93 ERA, 28 apps, 1 save, 34 IP, 35 H, 21 BB, 30 K, .280 BA, 2 HR, 10 HBP, 2 WP).
Collin Snow (RHP – 4-2, 3.64 ERA, 17 apps, 3 starts, 42 IP, 46 H, 17 BB, 33 K, .279 BA, 4 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP).
Michael Hester (RHP – 3-0, 6.75 ERA, 14 apps, 2 starts, 23 IP, 26 H, 9 BB, 23 K, .289 BA, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP).

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

#3 Seed – Gonzaga Bulldogs

Overall Record – 35-16
Conference Record – 14-7 (1st place)
How they qualified for a regional – Won the West Coast Conference championship series (Loyola Marymount 4-3, 14-3).
Last Regional Appearance – 1981
RPI/ISR – 43/20

Season Summary

Gonzaga came into this season with pretty high expectations after going 30-23 in 2008 and returning seven regular position players and most of their pitching staff. The Bulldogs have been a consistent team and have only had two weekends where they didn’t win their series/tournament. Gonzaga has only played nine games against teams that qualified for the regional field and went 5-4 in those games (including 1-1 against Utah) and has a 46 SOS according to Boyd’s World. The Bulldogs took control of the WCC race early with series wins against Pepperdine and San Diego and finished things off with back to back series wins against Loyola Marymount to end the season. Gonzaga doesn’t have a prolific offense but that hasn’t been necessary because their pitching staff has put up some of the best numbers in the country, including two strong SP’s who have combined to go 16-2.

Offense

Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 99 (decreases offense by 1%).
Batting Average – .297 (159)
Runs Per Game – 6.8 (142)
Home Runs – 35 (214)
Stolen Bases – 40 (237)
Slugging Percentage – .429 (198)
Walks – 189 (190)
HBP’s – 94 (15)
Sac Bunts – 29 (147)

Batting Order

2B Evan Wells (LH – .313-0-24-12). Leads team with 55 R’s, 31 BB’s, .450 OBP, 12 SB’s and 6 SAC bunts. Very good BB/K ratio (30/25).
CF Drew Heid (LH – .350-2-37-9). Good speed. 2nd on team in BA. 5th in the country with eight 3B’s.
C Tyson Van Winkle (RH – .361-5-54-0). 1st team all-conf. Leads team in BA and SLG.
1B Ryan Wiegand (LH – .330-6-62-1). 1st team all-conf. Leads team in RBI. Good BB/K ratio (26/29). Had 3 HR and 8 RBI in the series clinching game against LMU last weekend.
DH Anthony Synegal (RH – .329-6-32-3). 1st team all-conf. Tied for 2nd in HR’s.
LF Mark Castellitto (RH – .273-8-39-3). Leads team in HR’s.
3B Jason Chatwood (RH – .238-4-23-5). Hit .316 and played SS last season before moving over to 3B this year.
RF Grant Kveder (RH – .217 in 92 AB’s) or Chris Sturdivant (RH – .333 in 45 AB’s). Kveder hit .322 as the starting catcher in 2008.
SS Ernesto Ortiz (LH – .300-0-19-7). Leads team with 60 K’s.

Defense

Fielding .970 (49) – 57 errors. Beltran has decent range but has committed 18 errors. Chatwood has committed 9 errors after committing 29 errors last season at SS. Wells has committed only 6 errors. Heid has very good range in CF.
Double Plays – 45 (143)
Stolen Base Attempts – 36-56 against Van Winkle.
WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 38

Pitching

ERA – 4.21 (20)
BA – .276
HR – 41
H’s/9 IP – 9.69 (62)
BB’s/9 IP – 3.36 (54)
K’s/9 IP – 7.8 (54)

Starting Pitchers

Matt Fields (RHP – 8-1, 2.86 ERA, 13 starts, 2 CG, 88 IP, 89 H, 28 BB, 73 K, .264 BA, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP). WCC Pitcher of the Year. Ground ball pitcher with good stuff and good control. Beat LMU 4-3 in each of his last two starts. 2008 – 8-3, 4.92 ERA, 12 GS, 79 IP.

Steven Ames (RHP – 8-1, 3.51 ERA, 13 starts, 3 CG, 90 IP, 95 H, 17 BB, 66 K, .273 BA, 6 HR, 6 HBP, 6 WP). Outstanding control but has been hit a little harder than Fields because he stuff isn’t quite as good and he is around the plate more.

A.J. Proszek (RHP – 2-1, 3.09 ERA, 12 apps, 4 starts, 3 saves, 47 IP, 49 H, 13 BB, 24 K, .278 BA, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP). Moved into the rotation the last month of the season and went 7 IP in each of his last two starts. 2008 – 3-4, 4.92 ERA, 10 starts, 60 IP.

Ryan Carpenter (LHP – 6-3, 4.82 ERA, 14 apps, 11 starts, 62 IP, 65 H, 27 BB, 62 K, .278 BA, 5 HR, 2 HBP, 4 WP).

Relief Pitchers

Closer – Cody Martin (RHP – 5-4, 3.31 ERA, 21 apps, 4 starts, 6 saves, 54 IP, 47 H, 30 BB, 60 K, .233 BA, 9 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP). Hard thrower but wild and prone to giving up HR’s. 2008 – 4-1, 2.80 ERA, 9 saves.

Reedy Berg (LHP – 3-4, 5.75 ERA, 16 apps, 4 starts, 41 IP, 45 H, 11 BB, 43 K, .281 BA, 8 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP).
Tyler Olson (LHP – 1-1, 5.09 ERA, 11 apps, 18 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 19 K, .290 BA, 2 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP).
Jacob Hiatt (RHP – 1-1, 4.91 ERA, 12 apps, 1 save, 15 IP, 18 H, 10 BB, 17 K, .286 BA, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP).
Andy Hunter (RHP – 1-0, 4.82 ERA, 11 apps, 19 IP, 20 H, 6 BB, 20 K, .270 BA, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP).

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

#4 Seed – Utah Utes

Overall Record – 26-29
Conference Record – 8-16 (6th place)
How they qualified for a regional – Won the Mountain West Conference Tournament (BYU 2-1, TCU 9-7, San Diego State 8-9, San Diego State 4-1, TCU 6-4, San Diego State 9-3)
Last Regional Appearance – 1960
RPI/ISR – 91/78

Season Summary

Utah won only two of thirteen weekend series (against Cal State Bakersfield and Air Force) but were only swept twice. Despite that poor series record, Utah has a 30 SOS according to Boyd’s World and is 12-13 against teams that made the regional field including wins against fellow Fullerton regional member Gonzaga (1) as well as TCU (4), San Diego State (3), UC Irvine (1), Texas A&M (1), Washington State (1) and Sam Houston State (1). Utah was the longshot in the MWC Tournament before getting on a hot streak and pulling off several upsets on their way to the tournament championship. The Utes have a solid offense but they don’t have gaudy numbers like you would expect for a MWC team that plays most of their game at high altitude. After their #1 starter Utah has struggled with getting consistent outings from the rest of their pitching staff but they did pitch very well in the conference tournament except for an 8th inning meltdown in their loss to San Diego State.

Offense

Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 110 (increases offense by 10%).
Batting Average – .301 (142)
Runs Per Game – 6.9 (137)
Home Runs – 54 (109)
Stolen Bases – 55 (159)
Slugging Percentage – .454 (143)
Walks – 210 (134)
HBP’s – 46 (206)
Sac Bunts – 52 (20)

Batting Order

2B Corey Shimada (LH – .335-6-36-16). 2nd team all-conf. Leads team with 58 R’s and 42 BB’s. Hit .329 and stole 21 bases in 2008.
LF Tyler Yagi (RH – .323-0-30-1). Second on team with 8 SAC bunts.
3B Nick Kuroczko (LH – .351-5-37-4). Leads team in BA and OBP. Second on team in SLG and walks (39).
C/DH C.J. Cron (RH – .341-9-51-1). MWC FR of the YR. Leads team in HR and RBI.
DH/C Devin Walker (RH – .327-8-35-0). Leads team in SLG. Tied for 2nd in HR’s.
1B Austin Jones (RH – .280-8-46-3). Second on team in RBI’s and tied for 2nd in HR’s. 2nd on team with 41 K’s.
RF Rick Cornu (RH – .274-8-29-8). Tied for 2nd in HR’s.
CF Cooper Blanc (RH – .222-6-23-9). Hit .345 and stole 14 bases in 2008.
SS Michael Beltran (RH – .300-0-19-7). Leads team with 11 SAC bunts and 53 K’s. Hit .372 in 2008.

Defense

Fielding .966 (95) – 74 errors. Beltran has good range but has committed 17 errors. Kuroczko has committed 12 errors. Shimada has committed only 6 errors.
Double Plays – 49 (89)
Stolen Base Attempts – 41-53 against two main catchers. Cron 23-29. Walker 18-24. Cron has picked off five runners and Utah has picked off 21 runners.
WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 53

Pitching

ERA – 5.76 (142)
BA – .306
HR – 44
H’s/9 IP – 11.16 (178)
BB’s/9 IP – 3.48 (70)
K’s/9 IP – 7.2 (98)

Starting Pitchers

Jodan Whatcott (RHP – 5-2, 3.59 ERA, 16 apps, 14 starts, 1 save, 85 IP, 76 H, 43 BB, 61 K, .247 BA, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 6 WP). 2nd team all-conf. Easily the best and most consistent SP. Has wins against UC Irvine and Texas A&M. Won two games in MWC Tournament (BYU, San Diego State) and save another game (TCU). Picked off 7 runners. 4-10 SB’s.

Brian Budrow (RHP – 5-5, 5.32 ERA, 15 apps, 14 starts, 1 save, 93 IP, 112 H, 29 BB, 74 K, .296 BA, 5 HR, 9 HBP, 12 WP). Friday SP (Whatcott started during the season on Sundays). Won his start against TCU in the MWC tournament and saved a game against San Diego State. Was more effective in 2008 (6-5, 3.49 ERA, 13 starts, 80 IP).

Andrew Wilding (RHP – 2-5, 6.05 ERA, 13 apps, 13 starts, 74 IP, 96 H, 13 BB, 44 K, .319 BA, 9 HR, 8 HBP, 3 WP). Held San Diego State to 2 R on 6 H in 7 1/3 IP in his start in the MWC Tournament.

Bryn Card (LHP – 5-2, 5.67 ERA, 16 apps, 11 starts, 60 IP, 73 H, 23 BB, 48 K, .304 BA, 9 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP). Held TCU to 3 R on 7 H in 5 2/3 IP in his start in the MWC Tournament.

Relief Pitchers

Closer – Greg Krause (RHP – 1-4, 5.09 ERA, 29 apps, 4 saves, 41 IP, 52 H, 15 BB, 45 K, .301 BA, 6 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP). Had two saves in MWC Tournament and allowed 1 R (0 ER) in 5 2/3 IP in three appearances.

Stephen Streich (LHP – 2-3, 6.03 ERA, 25 apps, 2 saves, 34 IP, 48 H, 18 BB, 27 K, .338 BA, 4 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP).
Tyler Andersen (LHP – 1-1, 7.71 ERA, 19 apps, 23 IP, 37 H, 5 BB, 19 K, .356 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP).
Robert Chimpky (RHP – 2-2, 8.62 ERA, 23 apps, 3 saves, 24 IP, 35 H, 14 BB, 27 K, .347 BA, 5 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP).
Bennett Askew (RHP – 1-4, 9.13 ERA, 17 apps, 24 IP, 32 H, 9 BB, 25 K, .327 BA, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP).
Joe Pond (RHP – 1-1, 8.61 ERA, 15 apps, 2 starts, 23 IP, 36 H, 17 BB, 20 K, .364 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 4 WP).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Senior Day Massacre

GAME 56: TITANS 15, LONG BEACH STATE 3

By Don Hudson

By now it's all old news, so we'll keep it brief: the Titans kicked the spit out of the Dirtbags last night at Goodwin Field, 15-3, and were awarded the second seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was Senior Day for the Titans and all six seniors (Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Dustin Garneau, Matthew Fahey, Jeff Newman and Shevis Shima) on the squad started - and each scored a run. Newman and Clark each reached base four times, with Newman scoring thrice.

Tyler Pill pitched four effective innings (one run on three hits, with one walk and four strikeouts) and was credited with his tenth win - a new school record for freshmen - on a "designated staff day."

Everybody is already looking forward to the Regionals, so I'll spare you the details on last night except the eleven run third inning - the most scored in an inning by the Titans since 2007 against Stanford (also eleven runs). In this case, much of the Dirtbag damage was self-inflicted: eight unearned runs in the inning.

Facing Dirtbag starting pitcher Andrew Gagnon, Newman finished a good at-bat with a single to leftfield, which was followed by Josh Fellhauer getting hit by a pitch. A four-pitch walk to Clark loaded the bases for Khris Davis, who delivered an RBI groundout to give the Titans their first run of the game. After a walk to Fahey reloaded the bases, Dustin Garneau lined a base hit to rightfield, scoring one run and leaving the bases loaded.

After Scott struck out for the second out, the damage was just two runs, with Shima coming up and the bases loaded. Ooops - Gagnon hit him with a pitch, making it 3-0 with the bases loaded.
So far, it is a pitching problem - out came Gagnon and in came Josh Corrales. This is when the wheels really came off the Long Beach wagon. Gary Brown hit a soft liner to shortstop Kirk Singer for what should have ended the inning. But Singer misplayed the ball and another run scored and the inning continued, with the bases loaded. A walk to Newman drove in another run and left the bases loaded. Fellhauer then hit a grounder to second-base that was misplayed and two more runs were in. After Felly stole a base, Jared Clark ripped a base hit to rightfield for his 69th and 70th RBI of the season.

Then, just for good measure, Khris Davis launched a monstrous home run deep to leftfield, punctuating the eleven run inning. The bomb gave Davis the team lead in home runs with 12, just ahead of Clark (11) and Nick Ramirez (10).

From that point on, it was simply a matter of getting a little work for five members of the bullpen: Brock Floro, Michael Morrison, Colin O'Connell, Kevin Rath and Ryan Ackland. The Titans were extraordinarily merciful in not making the score much worse than it was: there were numerous times the Titans played station-to-station baseball after the game's outcome was no longer in doubt.
++++++++++++++++++++

So what did we learn last night?

The Dirtbags (who didn't really play like real Dirtbags) are probably glad they won't be seeing Goodwin Field for two more years: they went 0-6 here this season, counting the three games they were swept by the Gauchos when fires caused their scheduled series in Santa Barbara to be played at a neutral site.

With six seniors starting and the game result not affecting the NCAA outcome, Christian Colon sat out the entire game, leaving Jared Clark as the only player to start all 56 games this season. Gary Brown was the only other Titan to play in all 56 games, starting in 54 of them.

Brown led the offense with three hits, while Davis and Fellhauer each posted three RBI. Seniors Shima, Newman and Clark all had two hits for the Titans.
On an evening when the seniors were wildly popular, Shevis Shima received an extra special standing ovation after lining a double into the leftfield corner in the seventh inning: he was the "Double-Double Player of the Game."

This was a day when the story can be told better in pictures than words. Here are just a few of the scenes from Senior Day. (Click on pictures to enlarge and save, if you wish.)






















Weekly RPI Report (Final)

By Samuel Chi

The NCAA will announce its 64-team field today at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 p.m. PT). It is a foregone conclusion that the Titans will be among the eight national seeds. The question is, who will they be playing and which regional will they be paired against?

The Titans finish the regular season with the No. 1 rating in the RPI, but most likely they will not be the overall No. 1 seed because they finished five games behind UC Irvine in the Big West. It looks, though, that they will be a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, the highest seed of teams that are not automatic qualifiers.

With three national seeds but otherwise a dearth of quality teams from the West, the Titans should get pretty favorable matchups in the regional, even if as expected San Diego State lands in Goodwin. Stephen Strasburg will pitch a great game, but it won't be against the Titans.

As for the super regional, should the Titans get that far, their opponent will be from a regional played east of the Rockies. Most likely, it will be an ACC or Big 12 team.

Here's the final national seed forecast:

1. Texas, 2. Arizona State, 3. LSU, 4. UC Irvine, 5. Cal State Fullerton, 6. North Carolina, 7. Rice, 8. Florida State.

Super Regional matchups:

Texas-East Carolina (Virginia No. 1 seed); Arizona State-Louisville; LSU-Clemson; UCI-Georgia Tech; CSF-Oklahoma; North Carolina-Ole Miss; Rice-Texas Christian; Florida State-Florida.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Senior Moments

GAME 55: TITANS 7, LONG BEACH STATE 1

By Don Hudson

Behind the power hitting of senior sluggers Jared Clark and Joe Scott and the dominant pitching of freshman Noe Ramirez, the Cal State Fullerton Titans may have assured themselves an NCAA tournament national seed with a 7-1 victory over the Long Beach State Dirtbags last night at Goodwin Field.

Just as they did Friday night, the Dirtbags took an early 1-0 lead. T.J. Mittelstaedt led off the second inning for LBSU with a triple deep to rightfield. When Devin Lohman lifted a flyball to short centerfield, Mittelstaedt was perched on the bag waiting to challenge the arm of CF Josh Fellhauer, who was coming in on the dead run. However, the ball was hit too softly and dropped in front of Felly - who picked it up and tried to retire Mittelstaedt on a tag play at the plate. The throw was strong but hit the mound and bounced up, allowing the runner from third to score and Lohman to advance on the throw. It was almost the first 8-to-2 fielder's choice I would have ever seen in eighty years watching baseball.

A sacrifice bunt moved the potential second run to third base with one out, but Noe Ramirez went into complete lockdown mode. He retired Jonathan Jones on a foul popout to C Billy Marcoe and got Tre Dennis on a groundout to 2B Joe Scott.

Demonstrating that he is more than just a one-dimensional slugger, Joe Scott led off the Fullerton third inning with a walk and then stole second base. After Christian Colon was hit by a pitch, Gary Brown grounded a base hit into leftfield to tie the score (1-1). A wild pitch later, the Titans had runners at second and third with one out.
Fellhauer lifted a fly ball to leftfield, which Dirtbag LF Jones lined up with forward momentum to try to throw Colon out at the plate. Jones gloved the ball and next thing you know he was picking it up off the ground. First base umpire Frank Flugradt emphatically ruled it 'no catch.' After further review with fellow umpires Dick Flahert and Dwayne Finley, the call was reversed - the catch was allowed and the drop was judged to be on the transfer. (I was sitting down the leftfield line at the time and I also thought it was on the transfer - good job, Blue!) The sacrifice fly put the Titans up, 2-1.

The Titans weren't done. After Brown went to third on a wild pitch by Jake Thompson, Jared Clark added yet another RBI on a single hit off the glove of 3B Taylor Krick. Khris Davis then smashed a long double to centerfield, driving in Clark with the run that gave the Titans a 4-1 lead.

From that point on, the game became a masterpiece being painted by Noe Ramirez. After the back-to-back hits in the second inning, he retired the next nineteen Dirtbags in a row. In a season filled with extended streaks of lockdown pitching by Daniel Renken, Tyler Pill and Noe Ramirez, this effort ranked up there with the best of them.

The Titans nearly blew the door off the barn in the fifth inning. Gary Brown led off with a single and took off for second on the front end of a hit-and-run play. Unfortunately, Fellhauer scalded a line drive right to the second-baseman, who flipped to first for an easy double-play. Jared Clark then launched one of his tape-measure home runs to leftfield, making the score 5-1.

The Titans added another solo tally in the sixth inning when Billy Marcoe was hit by a pitch and scored on singles by Joey Siddons and Christian Colon.

But the best was yet to come. At approximately 8:07 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Saturday, May 23rd in Fullerton, California, Joe Scott joined fellow senior Jared Clark with a home blast deep to leftfield. The two seniors have combined for a dozen home runs this season and 27 in their careers at Fullerton.

Kyle Mertins finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning in relief.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
So what did we learn last night?
My imaginary friend Nathan tells me that I get too emotionally attached to things and have trouble letting go. He may be right. I was overcome with sadness yesterday when I reached into my glove compartment prior to the penultimate home game of the regular season. That feeling you get when you see the once thick stack of season tickets whittled down to just one for tonight's game always creeps me out. Heck, I even got slightly teary-eyed that my laminated season parking pass is good just once more. Senior Day may be really challenging for my fellow sentimentalists - we will soon be saying good-bye to some great young men and families that have become inextricably woven into the fabric of the Titan Nation.





In 1969, we watched in awe and amazement as these difficult-to-see images were beamed from a place that man had only dreamed of visiting: the moon. It was a similar experience forty years later as Joe Scott went deep for the first time in his Titan career. The recorded image of either event may not be clear, but each memory will last a lifetime. Other than a championship dogpile, I don't think I've ever seen a happier celebration as Scott was pummeled by his adoring teammates. This guy has been as unselfish as a player could be during his tenure with the Titans and it was a remarkable sight to see him beaming after hitting a bomb in his final regular season series at home against the Dirtbags. Way to go, Joe!
The performance by Noe Ramirez was something to behold. He went eight innings and allowed just one run, three hits, no walks and no hit batters, while striking out seven Dirtbags. Best of all was his economy of energy: he threw just 84 pitches and never had to expend effort throwing to first-base to hold runners: when you retire nineteen batters in a row, you don't tire throwing to the base and your first-baseman is in normal fielding position.

Finally, a word of thanks to Dr. Dan Barber, the longtime publisher of "Dr. Dan's Diamond Dust." I have always enjoyed his unique style and insightful stories about Dirtbag baseball and he was a personal inspiration for me to write about the Titans: if the Dirtbags have a regular blogger, shouldn't the Titans? It was great to meet him in person yesterday for the first time during a tailgate gathering. Dan has made multiple posts in his Dirtbag blog seeking contributions for the Jon Wilhite recovery funds. When I went to the "Silent Auction" booth yesterday, hosted by Renee Suzuki, I just happened to catch Dr. Dan handing over a check to help the cause.
Whew! I saw Joe Scott hit a home run and got to meet Dr. Dan - even with the sadness of my season ticket stack evaporating into the vacuum of time, it was the type of day that makes you happy to be alive and living in the Titan Nation.
Let's give these guys - Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Matthew Fahey, Jake Silverman, Dustin Garneau, Jeff Newman and Shevis Shima - a rousing ovation tonight at the Senior Day ceremonies. By the time the game is played, the Regional host sites will have been announced and I imagine the NCAA Committee will have completed the seeding and the bracket, so the game tonight realistically should have no bearing on the road ahead. But it would be great to see Tyler Pill regain his dominant form and for the seniors to shine in their final regular season game

Final Regional Projections

By Samuel Chi

The NCAA will announce this year's regional sites at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT). If you want to get a jump on things, it'll be shown on ESPN's Bottom Line crawl and also at www.ncaa.com.

The following teams are projected to get to host regionals -

ACC (4) - Florida State, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech
SEC (3) - LSU, Florida, Mississippi
Big West (2)- UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton
Big 12 (2) - Texas, Oklahoma
Pac-10 - Arizona State
MWC - Texas Christian
CUSA - Rice
Big East - Louisville
Big Ten - Minnesota

Since the sites will be announced before the games are over on Sunday, the national and regional seedings may change slightly. At the moment, this looks like how the top teams will be seeded:

1. Texas, 2. Arizona State, 3. UC Irvine, 4. LSU, 5. Cal State Fullerton, 6. Florida State, 7. Rice, 8. North Carolina.

Rice may have to win the Conference USA title game to secure the national seed, or it may fall to Florida.

The other regional hosts are expected to be 1-seeds, except Minnesota, which may end up as a 2-seed if Virgina wins the ACC championship game against Florida State.

The Titans are locked into the No. 1 spot in the RPI, no matter what happens in today's games. Fullerton is certain to get a national seed, and because of a dearth of quality West Coast teams this year, it may get a pretty favorable draw both in the regional and the super regional.

The entire 64-team bracket will be announced on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT) on Monday.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beat the Beach

GAME 54: TITANS 4, LONG BEACH STATE 3

By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans moved closer to national seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament with a 4-3 victory Friday night at Goodwin Field against perpetual rival Long Beach State. With the loss, LBSU (25-27) will suffer their first non-winning season since the "Dirtbag era" bagan in 1989.

Daniel Renken (9-2) was the starter and once again pitched at least eight innings (or more, as he has in eight of his last nine starts) in gaining his fifth consecutive win.


The Little Leaguers in the stands were barely hopped up yet on their sugar and caffeine rushes when Steve Tinoco belted a first-inning Renken pitch off the screen above the leftfield wall to give the Dirtbags a quick 1-0 lead.

Adam Wilk was the pitcher for LBSU and is regarded as one of the conference's top starters - just behind UCI's Daniel Bibona and CSUF's Renken. He was wild in the first inning - walking Jeff Newman, hitting Gary Brown and walking Khris Davis after Newman and Brown executed a double-steal - but left the bases loaded when Dustin Garneau flied out to rightfield.

Wilk was touched for two runs in the second inning. DH Shevis Shima led off with a beauty of a bunt down the third-base line for a base-hit. Joe Scott's attempted sacrifice was lifted softly in the air and pitcher Wilk made a diving effort to grab it in the air; the ball bounced out of his glove and Scott was aboard with a bunt single. Joey Siddons successfully sacrificed both runners along. Christian Colon then hit a ball deep towards rightfield: RF T.J. Mittelstaedt made a good effort to catch it and limit it to a sacrifice fly, but he could not hold onto the ball as he dove and Colon had a double to give the Titans a 2-1 advantage.

Joe Scott had his second bunt single in the fourth inning, but was stranded.

The Dirtbags got to Renken in the fifth inning. Jonathan Jones led off with a high chopper to third: Siddons had no play but to wait for it to come down and he just missed Jones at first. A sacrifice bunt moved Jones to second, where he was subsequently erased when Colon sneaked in behind him and took a perfect pickoff throw from Renken. With two outs and the bases empty, ninth batter Kellen Hoime walked and came around to score when Jordan Casas' deep drive to left-centerfield just eluded a diving CF Gary Brown. The score remained 2-2 when Renken retired Derek Legg on a line-out to 1B Jared Clark.

A touch of wildness and a defensive lap haunted Wilk in the bottom of the fifth inning. Newman was hit by a pitch and Brown walked on four pitches before Clark rolled into a 4-6-3 double-play. A popup to short rightfield by Davis should have ended the inning, but 2B Legg dropped it and the Titans had a 3-2 lead.

The gritty Dirtbags battled Renken again in the top of the sixth inning. Mittelstaedt hit a one-out triple and scored on a single by Devin Lohman, tying the score at 3-3. After a stolen base and a pop-out, Renken walked the next two hitters on 3-2 pitches to load the bases. He settled own and worked out of the jam by striking out Hoime to end the inning.

After retiring the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth (despite a dropped foul pop-up extending Shima's at-bat), Wilk hit Joe Scott with a 3-2 pitch. Joey Siddons hit a hopper to second-base - perhaps too slow to turn a deuce but surely an easy force play at second - but Legg's throw was off-line and Lohman had to stray far off the bag to grab it and everybody was safe. One out later, Newman walked to load the bases. Behind in the count 1-2, Brown hit the ball on the ground towards the shortstop hole. With his tremendous speed and a headfirst dive into first-base, Brown beat it out for an infield single that gave the Titans a 4-3 lead they would maintain the rest of the game.

Renken gave the crowd of 2,430 a few more anxious moments in the top of the eighth inning. After allowing a leadoff walk to Mittelstaedt, Renken appeared to rush a weak grounder back to the mound by Lohman: in his haste to start the double-play, he muffed the play and both runners were aboard. Attempting to bunt the tying and go-ahead runs into position, Taylor Krick lifted a foul bunt that C Garneau alertly chased down for the first out. The larcenous Dirtbags then attempted to do with their legs what they failed to do with a bunt: a double-steal attempt. Garneau had a tough putch to handle - low and away near the ground - but he handled it perfectly and fired a pea to Siddons at third to nab Mittelstaedt. With the tying run at second, Renken induced Jones to fly out to RF on his 122nd and final pitch of the evening.

Nick Ramirez entered the game and closed it out in style - a 1-2-3 inning climaxed with a whiff of Jordan Casas to end it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

What did we learn last night?

It wasn't a very pretty affair, but gratifying that the Titans could grind out a win against the opposing team's best pitcher without one of our own best players (Josh Fellhauer) in the line-up. The Titans managed just six hits and four of them never left the infield (bunt single by Shima, two bunt singles by Scott and Brown's groundball to shortstop.) Wilk pitched an excellent game and deserved a better fate.


While the Dirtbag defense made three errors on easy plays, they also made some good plays, primarily through excellent outfield positioning. Colon, Davis and Scott all hit balls on the money that could have been gap jobs, but the Dirtbag outfield was always perfectly positioned and made excellent plays. Their infield, however, ........

What a nice game for Jeff Newman, who does the great things that don't show up in the box score. He went 0-for-1 (big deal, eh?), but was on base three times via a couple walks and an HBP, along with a stolen base.

In the pantheon of longest foul balls you've ever seen, add the one that Nick Ramirez hit pinch-hitting in the seventh inning. Facing lefty specialist David Born, Ramirez hit one that crossed the 57 Freeway and landed in the parking lot at Target on Yorba Linda Boulevard. Born got the best of this battle by striking out Nick, but don't be surprised if sometime in the next couple days that Ramirez doesn't face Born again.

More importantly, though, Nick upped his mark to 6-for-6 in save situations as the Titans' closer. He seems equally comfortable facing righthanded and lefthanded hitters.

Tonight's game should be quite spirited. The game last night was broadcast on ESPNU - always nice to see Phil Nevin back at Goodwin Field - so the Dirtbags' hardcore following seems to have held back traveling until today, when they have a huge tailgate party planned. I really hope they are given warm hospitaility, just as we enjoy so much when we travel. Years from now, the Titans fans that went to Hattiesburg will talk about how nice the local fans were to them - I always wish visiting fans would say the same after coming to Goodwin.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Long Beach State Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton is heading down the home stretch of the season with only one series left for the Titans to take care of business and potentially wrap up a national top eight seed that would guarantee hosting a regional and a super regional if Fullerton won their regional. After a 4-7 slump in the middle of the season, the Titans have rebounded to win 16 of their last 19 games including a sweep of UCSB and series wins at Cal Poly and against UCLA in their last three weekend series. Fullerton is looking to continue their solid play this weekend at Goodwin Field as they wrap up Big West play against their archrivals from Long Beach State. The Dirtbags have won their last two series against the Titans and Fullerton would like nothing better than to end Long Beach’s season on a negative note by winning this series and go into the post-season with more momentum.

Long Beach (25-26, 11-10) knew they were going to have a rebuilding year after losing eleven players to the draft last June and returned only three pitchers with over 20 IP last season (two of them were middle relievers) and two starting position players along with several reserves. The Dirtbags figured they would probably get off to a slow start but couldn’t have expected that they would struggle as much as they did in losing their first five series to USC, Cal, South Carolina, Washington State and Wichita State. Long Beach started playing better when their schedule eased up some and they bounced back to win five out of six series. The Dirtbags looked like they might be potentially playing their way into consideration for a regional when they were scheduled to play at UCSB, a series that was moved to Fullerton due to fires in the Santa Barbara area a couple of weeks ago. Goodwin Field wasn’t a hospitable place for Long Beach as the Gauchos swept the Dirtbags to start them on a 1-6 skid that included a series loss at home last weekend to Cal Poly.

LINEUP

Long Beach has had trouble offensively due to injuries and having so many new starters in the lineup and is hitting .295 (6th in the conf), has scored 313 R’s (7th in the conf and only 200th nationally), has a .398 SLG % (7th in the conf and only 251st nationally) and has hit only 23 HR’s (8th in the conf and 267th nationally) due to playing in one of the best pitcher’s parks in the country. The Dirtbags were struggling with making contact during non-conf games and were averaging 7 K’s per game but have cut that number down to averaging around 5 K’s per game during Big West games. Long Beach has struggled offensively in conf games and despite scoring 13 runs last Saturday has hit only .279 and averaged under four runs per game in the five series when they were not hitting against the poor pitching staffs of Pacific and UC Davis.

A few areas that the Dirtbags have excelled at are in being patient at the plate, stealing bases and moving runners over. Long Beach is among the leaders in the conf with 171 BB’s and 71 HBP’s. The Dirtbags will put runners in motion early and often and are far and away the leaders in the conf and are 10th in the country with 116 SB’s. The Fullerton catchers will be tested by Long Beach but Dustin Garneau and Billy Marcoe have often been up to the task of stopping the opponents running game by throwing out runners 61% of the time. Long Beach will move runners over by playing little ball via the hit and run and bunting and are sixth in the country with 58 SAC bunts.

With all of the players that Long Beach lost from last year it was not surprising that the Dirtbags struggled defensively to start the season but they have been playing better defensively as the season has gone on. Long Beach has committed 62 errors for a .968 fielding % but have been better during conf games with a .972 fielding %. The infield defense has become more solid and so has the OF defense, which is necessary at Blair Field with all of the space to cover in the outfield. The catchers for the Dirtbags have been solid at stopping the running game (35-61 SB’s, 4th in the conf) and blocking pitches and have allowed 36 WP’s/PB’s (3rd in the conf).

LINEUP

Infield/DH

C/DH – JC transfer Kellen Hoime (RH – .262-0-19-5) was sharing time pretty evenly with Soph John Hill (LH – .264-1-7-1) during non-conf games but Hoime is a little better defensively, although he made three errors last weekend, and has started behind the plate in 13 of the last 15 games. Hoime was hitting better earlier in the season but has worn down a little bit down the stretch and is only hitting .196 in conf games including 2-11 last weekend. Hill has been the DH in the last three games that Long Beach has faced a RHP due to injuries to other players and has hit better in conf games at .286. Hill would likely hit 6th and Hoime 7th when both are in the lineup and both are willing to take a HBP (8 for Hoime, 6 for Hill in 53 AB’s). Baserunners are 26-41 against Hoime (11-20 in conf games) and 13-18 against Hill. Hoime has also picked off four runners so Fullerton will have to be watching for Hoime trying to catch runners sleeping on the bases.

1B – JR Steve Tinoco (RH – .359-4-29-5) leads the team in SLG % and usually hits in the middle of the lineup but he is questionable for this weekend due to a concussion he suffered in batting practice prior to last Tuesday’s game against UCLA. If Tinoco is unable to play he would be replaced at 1B by JR Taylor Krick (RH – .321-2-28-7), who is a versatile player and has played 1B, 2B and 3B during his career. Krick does lots of little things well like occasionally stealing bases and he leads the team with 9 SAC’s. Krick usually hits 8th but hit 5th last weekend due to all of the injuries for Long Beach and went 5-11.

2B – FR Derek Legg (Both – .315-1-19-11) has stepped right into the lineup from day one and has played well both offensively and defensively. Legg usually hits 5th but due to the lineup shuffling caused by injuries batted 2nd last weekend. Legg handles the bat well and has good speed.

SS – Soph Devin Lohman (RH – .314-4-34-13) looks like he could be the latest in the long line of shortstops at Long Beach who were selected in the first few rounds of the draft. He has struggled at times defensively and has made 12 errors but has been a force offensively and usually bats 3rd. Lohman is a threat on the bases and is 10th in the conf in SB’s. He leads the team in OBP and gets on base often by BB’s (2nd on the team) and HBP’s (leads the team). The one thing that Lohman has had trouble with is making contact and he is 2nd in the conf with 46 K’s.

3B – Taylor Krick has been starting at 3B most of the time during conf games after Rylan Sandoval was suspended from the team. If Tinoco is unable to play it would open a spot in the lineup for FR Kirk Singer (RH – .289 in 38 AB’s). Singer can play SS or 3B and is solid defensively. After only going 4-22 for the season Singer started and hit 9th in all four games last week due to Tinoco’s injury and he went 6-12 against Cal Poly and had seven RBI’s in Long Beach’s come from behind win last Sat.

Outfield

LF – Soph Jonathon Jones (RH – .293-1-23-14) has good speed, is 9th in the conf in SB’s and was the starting CF last season (2008 – .343-0-18-6) but has been moved over to CF this year. Jones was hitting leadoff earlier in the year but has settled in at 2nd in the lineup. He missed all four games last week due to a concussion suffered when he was hit in the face with a pitch against UCSB and is questionable for this weekend. If Jones is unable to play, JC transfer Tre Dennis (LH – .239-1-13-10) would play LF. Dennis has good speed but is not as good offensively as Jones is.

CF – Soph Jordan Casas (LH – .322-0-24-22) has gone from a part-time player last season (2008 – .302 in 53 AB’s) to one of the team leaders offensively. Casas has moved into the leadoff spot and is 2nd in the conf in SB’s. He is also dealing with injury issues and was hit in the hand last Friday while trying to bunt (leads the team with 9 SAC’s) and it was thought that he had broken a finger but he was able to put a splint on his hand and play Sat and Sun, when he went 4-10.

RF – JR TJ Mittelstaedt (LH – .318-6-46-6) is one of the more experienced players on the team and is having an outstanding season after a subpar 2008 when he only hit .219. Before this year he hadn’t shown much power but Mittelstaedt has been a very good run producer in the cleanup spot and is 6th in the conf in RBI’s. With the increased power has come more strikeouts and he is 8th in the conf in K’s. Mittelstaedt has always been known for drawing lots of walks and this year is no exception because he is 7th in the conf in BB’s. He is 7-19 with 4 RBI’s in his career against Fullerton.

PITCHING

Long Beach is usually among both the conference and national pitching leaders due to having talent on the mound and a very favorable park for pitchers. However, this year the Dirtbags are only 4th in the conf with a 5.11 ERA, 6th with a .294 BA and have allowed 36 HR’s, numbers that are all very high by their usual lofty standards. Long Beach did not pitch well during the first five series that they lost and allowed seven runs per game while going 4-11. The Dirtbags started to pitch much better during their stretch of five series wins in six series and allowed three runs per game while going 13-5. The wheels have started to come off in the last seven games, however, and Long Beach has allowed 70 runs while going 1-6. Long Beach has been getting very good pitching on Friday nights and their bullpen has been pretty reliable but they have struggled with getting consistent outings from their Sat and Sun SP’s.

Starters

Fri SP – JR Adam Wilk (LHP – 7-3, 2.77 ERA, 13 apps, 11 starts, 88 IP, 88 H, 18 BB, 54 K, .265 BA, 4 HR) was a middle reliever during his first two seasons (2008 – 0-0, 1.26 ERA, 15 apps, 14 IP) and his role wasn’t decided on for the first couple of weeks but once he was moved into the rotation he became the best SP on the team. Wilk is 3rd in the conf in ERA, 5th in IP, 6th in wins, 8th in K’s and 10th in BA. He has outstanding control and does a good job of changing speeds and keeping the ball down and making batters hit lots of ground balls. Although he allows a hit per inning, because he does such a good job of keeping the ball down he has allowed only 10 extra base hits. Wilk has allowed 3 R’s in each of his last three starts, has gone at least 7 innings in six of his last seven starts and has not allowed more than 3 R’s in any of his last ten starts. He has allowed baserunners to go 8-13 on SB attempts. Wilk has allowed 2 R on 4 H in 1 1/3 IP in 3 apps against Fullerton.

Sat SP – Soph Jake Thompson (RHP – 4-6, 5.35 ERA, 13 starts, 77 IP, 91 H, 12 BB, 39 K, .294 BA, 7 HR) is the only SP back from last season (2008 – 2-5, 4.95 ERA, 13 starts, 67 IP, 90 H, 21 BB, 42 K) but he struggled with some health related issues in the middle of the season and has not been able to develop any consistency and is tied for 3rd in the conf in losses. Thompson has a low 90’s fastball and very good control but he doesn’t miss too many bats and has had trouble keeping the ball down, resulting in too many extra base hits (20 2B’s, 7 HR’s). He pitched well in his three starts against Northridge (6 1/3 IP, 2 R), Pacific (7 IP, 3 R) and Davis (7 2/3 IP, 2 R) but didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning the last two weeks against UCSB (3 IP, 7 H, 5 R) and Cal Poly (2 1/3 IP, 6 R, 6 H). Thompson does a good job of holding runners and has only allowed 3-6 SB’s. He allowed 5 R on 7 H in 3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

Sun SP – FR Andrew Gagnon (RHP – 3-6, 6.17 ERA, 12 starts, 70 IP, 91 H, 20 BB, 41 K, .323 BA, 5 HR) is a talented pitcher with a low 90’s fastball who was drafted in the 10th round last June but has also had trouble with being consistent and is tied for 3rd in the conf in losses. Much like Thompson, he pitched well in his three starts against the three bottom teams in the conf (Northridge, Davis, Pacific) when he allowed 8 R on 20 H in 17 IP but struggled against the three of the better teams in the conf (Irvine, UCSB, Cal Poly) when he allowed 19 R on 25 H in 14 IP. Gagnon has good control but also like Thompson has been around the plate too much and has not missing too many bats and has been getting his pitches up and allowing extra base hits. He has allowed baserunners to go 8-12 on SB attempts.

Relievers

The closer is JC transfer Charlie Ruiz (RHP – 2-2, 3.75 ERA, 11 saves, 26 apps, 24 IP, 20 H, 12 BB, 41 K, .217 BA, 1 HR), who has done an outstanding job and is 2nd in the conf in saves and 5th in appearances. He has a low 90’s fastball and a good slider and has an excellent K/IP ratio although he has been a little wild and leads the conf with 11 WP’s despite only throwing 24 innings due to the movement on his slider. Ruiz will usually only throw one inning and rarely goes beyond that. He has only allowed 3 ER in 11 apps in conf games and they all came in a blown save in the final game of the UCSB series.

Long Beach has a pretty deep bullpen after Ruiz and they will using quite a few arms during the weekends, especially on Sat’s and Sun’s. The middle relievers most likely to see action this weekend are SR David Born (LHP – 2-0, 2.89 ERA, 28 apps, 19 IP, 12 H, 12 BB, 20 K, .185 BA, 1 HR), SR Dustin Rasco (RHP – 0-2, 4.32 ERA, 1 save, 27 apps, 25 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 28 K, .232 BA, 4 HR), SR Anthony Carrillo (RHP – 0-0, 3.15 ERA, 14 apps, 20 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 12 K, .291 BA, 0 HR) and FR Josh Corrales (RHP – 1-2, 6.64 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 20 IP, 25 H, 9 BB, 11 K, .325 BA, 0 HR). Born and Rasco have both been tough to hit, don’t usually pitch much more than an inning and would be most likely to be brought into games in the 7th and 8th innings if Long Beach has a lead. Born leads the conf in appearances and Rasco is 3rd. Rasco has allowed 0 R on 3 H in 2 2/3 IP in three apps in his career against Fullerton. Carrillo and Corrales would be most likely to be brought into the game earlier and pitch multiple innings.

Other relievers who are available for Long Beach are midweek SP JC transfer Jeff Lease (LHP – 2-2, 6.98 ERA, 11 apps, 6 starts, 30 IP, 48 H, 12 BB, 25 K, .381 BA, 7 HR), JR Jason Markovitz (LHP – 1-1, 4.42 ERA, 17 apps, 18 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 13 K, .318 BA, 1 HR), JR David Brown (RHP – 2-0, 5.68 ERA, 14 apps, 19 IP, 25 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .333 BA, 3 HR) and SR Tyler Topp (RHP – 0-1, 9.90 ERA, 12 apps, 20 IP, 42 H, 5 BB, 13 K, .429 BA, 1 HR). Topp was expected to contend for a weekend SP role after being a solid middle reliever last season (2008 – 2-2, 3.65 ERA, 12 apps, 37 IP, 38 H, 9 BB, 34 K) but has had a miserable season. He threw three scoreless innings in his only appearance against Fullerton last season.

OUTLOOK

Any hopes that Long Beach had of making it into a regional were squashed the last two weekends against UCSB and Cal Poly so the Dirtbags are playing for pride this weekend and are hoping to finish with a winning record and in the top third of the conference standings. Fullerton has much higher aspirations for this season and is playing to host post-season series at Goodwin Field. Also, the Titans are looking for revenge after losing the last two series to the Dirtbags and do not want to lose three straight series to Long Beach for the first time since 1996-1998. Injuries and inexperience have caught up with Long Beach down the stretch and they are not playing well right now while Fullerton has gotten over their midseason slump and are coming into this series with lots of momentum. Long Beach has a chance to pull off the upset in this series with the way that Wilk has been pitching on Fridays and will be motivated to finish this season with a series win but Fullerton is on too much of a roll to pick against the Titans and Fullerton should win two of three games this weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Just Three Games Left

GAME 52: UCLA 13, TITANS 10

GAME 53: TITANS 9, PEPPERDINE 1

By Samuel Chi

After losing the final game against UCLA and routing Pepperdine in the season's final mid-week game (both started by Tyler Pill, incidentally), the Titans are ready for their regular-season finale against their arch rival Long Beach State Dirtbags.

Unlike in past years, there isn't much on the line for this series. The Dirtbags are out of postseason contention and will be playing strictly for pride. The Titans, on the other hand, should be able to wrap up a national seed with just one victory in the three-game set.

If Cal Poly does not sweep UC Riverside, then a single victory will secure no worse than second place in the Big West for the Titans. That, combined with their RPI, which should end the season at either No. 1 or No. 2, will be enough to keep Fullerton home until Omaha time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Diamond Club: Tuffy's Titans

The May 17 edition is posted below ... please click on each individual page to enlarge for easy reading.



Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly RPI Report (T-1)

Let's go right for the most unthinkable scenario. For several weeks now, much speculation has been focused on whether the West would indeed get the three national seeds that it deserves. And if the committee somehow screws one team, whom would it be.

Would you believe ... UC Irvine?

Yes, yes, yes, it's far-fetched. But let's give this a good look. Currently, the 'Eaters are No. 18 in the RPI and it's likely that they could be out of the top 20 altogether by the end of the regular season. Would the committee take a team outside of the top 20 and make it a national seed - particularly if that team puts in a weak hosting bid and could be conveniently packed into a roadtrip for a top regional seed elsewhere?

It would be criminal, but it's the NCAA, so no one should be surprised if it happens. And if it does, expect the 'Eaters to be paired off with Arizona State in a Super Regional showdown.

For the Titans, currently holder of the No. 1 spot in the RPI, the path to a national seed seems pretty clear: Win the Long Beach series, which will guarantee a second-place finish in the Big West and a top 5 finish in the RPI.

Over the past four years, only one team that finished in the RPI top 5 failed to earn a national seed - Texas in 2005, when the 'Horns finished No. 4 in the RPI but third in the Big 12, behind Nebraska and Baylor, who were both national seeds. However, the 'Horns went on to win the national championship that year, the fifth for Augie Garrido.

Here's a year-by-year national seed review, from 2005-2008:

2008

1. Miami (1 RPI)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Arizona State (4)
4. Florida State (3)
5. Cal State Fullerton (10)
6. Rice (5)
7. LSU (8)
8. Georgia (12)

RPI top 10 left out: Nebraska (6), Georgia Tech (7), Oklahoma State (9).

2007

1. Vanderbilt (2)
2. Rice (1)
3. North Carolina (4)
4. Texas (3)
5. Arizona State (5)
6. Florida State (6)
7. Arkansas (17)
8. San Diego (15)

RPI top 10 left out: Texas A&M (7), Virginia (8), South Carolina (9), Missouri (10)

2006

1. Clemson (1)
2. Rice (2)
3. Texas (5)
4. Alabama (7)
5. Cal State Fullerton (3)
6. Nebraska (8)
7. Georgia (4)
8. Georgia Tech (6)

RPI top 10 left out: Oklahoma (9), North Carolina (10)

2005

1. Tulane (3)
2. Georgia Tech (2)
3. Nebraska (17)
4. Baylor (6)
5. Ole Miss (1)
6. Cal State Fullerton (14)
7. Florida (5)
8. Oregon State (11)

RPI top 10 left out: Texas (4), Miami (7), LSU (8), Clemson (9), NC State (10).


A few observations:

* The ACC and SEC had at least two national seeds each every year from 2006-2008.
* The West had two national seeds (but not more) in three of the past four years.
* The Big 12 have not had two national seeds in the same year since 2006.
* The highest RPI to get a national seed is 17.
* Two schools earned national seeds in three of those years (Fullerton, Rice).


Based on the committee's history, it's probably unlikely that UC Irvine, which has clinched the Big West title, would be snubbed of a national seed - barring a sweep by UC Santa Barbara this weekend. Still, with its heavy reliance on the RPI, the possibility is there. As for the Titans, short of a disaster against the Dirtbags, the prospects for a national seed are very good.

Here's this week's national seed forecast:

1. North Carolina, 2. Arizona State, 3. Texas, 4. UC Irvine, 5. LSU, 6. Cal State Fullerton, 7. Florida, 8. Rice.

One national seed (the No. 7 slot in this projection) should be up for grabs between the second team from the ACC and SEC. Rice, after failing to win the Conference USA regular-season title, may need to win the conference tournament to lock up a spot.

The other regional hosts would be:

Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, TCU and East Carolina.