Saturday, February 28, 2009

Titans Take Stanford Series


By Don Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

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


So what did we learn here tonight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Pitching + Clutch Hitting = Win


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans got seven strong innings of pitching from Daniel Renken and six RBI from cleanup hitter Jared Clark en route to an 8-1 over the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night at Goodwin Field.

Renken and Stanford starter Jeffrey Inman both looked sharp right away. Renken retired the side easily in the first inning - including two strikeouts - before yielding a peculiar run in the second inning. Joey August led off for Stanford by hitting an easy dribbler towards first base that we all hoped would stay fair for an easy out - until it hit the base, took a funny bounce and momentarily transmogrified Jared Clark into Bill Buckner; August easily reached second base with the softest double in history. He advanced to third on a passed ball (possible mix-up in signals) and scored when Jonathon Kaskow punched a 1-2 pitch into right field on a little "excuse me" swing.

Fullerton had an opportunity in the bottom of the second frame when Tyler Pill, substituting for the injured Nick Ramirez, walked and Jeff Newman placed a perfect bunt for a base hit. With one out, Garneau bunted (presumably trying to catch the infield napping) and was thrown out, with both runners advancing. Joe Scott struck out to end the threat.

After a strong 1-2-3 third inning for Renken, the Titans had another mild threat in the third inning. With one out, Colon was hit by a pitch and reached second on a wild pitch. Fellhauer ripped a line drive up the middle that left pitcher Inman with just two choices: catch the ball or sing soprano in the Stanford band. He chose the former, making a nice reaction to catch the liner and easily double Colon off second base.

Renken and Inman were both very impressive early on. After 5 1/2 innings, Stanford held a 1-0 lead and the Titans had been held to just one base hit: the bunt by Newman. Renken was aided by some stellar plays by shortstop Colon and Garneau making excellent throws to nail would-be base stealers to end the fourth and sixth innings.

The Titans finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning - not coincidentally when I pulled out my old lucky grey sweater and put it on for the first time this season. Brown led off with a single and Colon followed with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single to left. Both runners advanced - and Fellhauer reached base - when Stanford misplayed his sacrifice bunt, bringing Clark to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. The senior responded with an RBI single that plated two runs, giving Fullerton a 2-1 lead. After Pill sacrificed both runners along, Khris Davis fought off several breaking pitches and chopped a run-producing single on a high chopper over the drawn-in infield. Clark scored the fourth run of the inning on a nice slide into the plate on a safety squeeze play in which Newman bunted the ball back towards the pitcher.

Staked to a 4-1 lead, Renken did what the pitching failed to do against TCU: post a zero following our scoring. He looked sharp in the 1-2-3 seventh inning. After the stretch, the Titan offense went back to work against the Stanford bullpen. For the second straight inning, Clark reached the plate with the bases loaded following singles by Scott and Colon and a Fellhauer HBP. He swing at an 0-1 offering from Danny Sandbrink and hit a bomb over the scoreboard in left field - a grand-slam that gave the Titans an 8-1 lead.

With the widened lead, Coach Serrano turned mound duties over to Ryan Ackland and Kyle Mertins, who each pitched an effective inning to nail down the 8-1 win.


So what did we learn tonight?

First off, character shines through adversity. Coming off last weekend's disappointing series and apparently under the weather (flu), Clark gave a stellar performance. I heard Renken was also under the weather, but you couldn't tell from his seven inning, no walks, seven K's and 82 pitch performance.

Colon and Garneau made some excellent defensive plays. The usually stellar defense of Scott was a little shaky: he broke the wrong way on a line drive that went for a base hit and he made a bad throw on what should have been an easy 6-4-3 double play ball. I don't think anybody is worried about his D though.

Between Tuesday night and tonight, the bullpen mystery is starting to give us some clues. Ackland and Mertins look like they will be okay - I was actually a little surprised they were used in an 8-1 game with two games remaining in the series.

It was a nice win, but it is just one game. Let's come out and support these guys Saturday night. Don't forget the Diamond Club's potluck event prior to the game.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Titans Score Late to Beat Aztecs



SAN DIEGO - The Titans prevail with two late runs in sloppy contest on a night in which the game's first eight runs were scored with only three hits, seventh-ranked Cal State Fullerton used a pair of late tallies to edge San Diego State, 8-6, at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Eight of the game's 14 total runs were of the unearned variety as errors and pitching control issues were the story of the evening. The outcome evened both school's early-season record at 2-2.

Aztec freshman Ryan O'Sullivan made his collegiate pitching debut and pitched well overall although the final result left him with a no-decision. In his five innings of work, he allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits with a pair of strikeouts and three walks.

O'Sullivan retired the first batter he faced to open the game before Christian Colon reached on a fielding error. That seemed affect O'Sullivan's concentration as he walked the ensuing better, Josh Fellhauer, before giving up an RBI double to Jared Clark. Fellhauer then scored on a ground out and the Titans were quickly up 2-0.

San Diego State came back to score four runs in its half of the second, all without the benefit of a base hit. After walks to Cory Vaughn and Josh Chasse were sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts, catcher Matt Parker lofted a routine fly ball to left field that was dropped by outfielder Tyler Pill allowing both runners to score. A hit batter (Pat Colwell) and walk (Mitch Blackburn) loaded the bases. Another walk to Brandon Meredith scored Parker and Colwell later came home on a passed ball. The four unearned runs gave the home side a 4-2 lead.

A pair of walks, a balk and a single gave two of those runs back to Fullerton as the Titans tied the score at 4-4 in the top of the third.

The teams traded runs over the next three frames and the score stood at 6-6 going into the seventh when the visitors took the lead for good as Colon walked, stole second, advance to third on ground out and came home on a wild pitch. That run would make a winner of reliever Travis Kelly (1-0) despite his having given up the tying one an inning earlier. Junior Kegan Sharp (0-1) would be tagged with the loss

Fullerton added an insurance run in the ninth when Fellhauer scored from third on a safety squeeze after he had walked and gone to third on an errant pickoff attempt by Aztec pitcher Andrew Leary.

Titan closer Michael Morrison came on in the bottom of the ninth and retired the side in order to record the save in his first appearance of the season.

SDSU second baseman Mitch Blackburn finished the evening with a pair of hits and two walks while teammate Cory Vaughn had a single, two walks, two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases.

For the second consecutive game, outfielder Pat Colwell was hit by pitch twice and has now moved into the number-two spot on the SDSU career list with 22 in his two-plus seasons as an Aztec.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Frogs Take Series Finale


By Don Hudson

The outcome of Sunday's game was too depressing to get into details, so instead here are some photos from today's ceremonies honoring the 1979, 1984 and 2004 CWS championship teams. (Forgive the quality, as I am just learning how to use a new camera. I always dreamed of being Grantland Rice - not Ansel Adams!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Pitching Pains


By Don Hudson

If pain is the price paid for life's lessons, the tuition was raised last night on the Titans' pitching staff in losing to TCU, 8-6. We entered the season knowing that pitching is a work-in-process and that our patience would be tested - did we have to get a pop quiz the second day of class?

Kyle Witten clearly did not have his best stuff from the game's onset. Leadoff man Ben Carruthers stroked an 0-2 pitch into the gap past a diving Khris Davis. Josh Fellhauer made a nice play cutting the ball off and making a great throw to second to nail Carruthers attempting to stretch it into a double. The second batter hit a moon shot that Felly caught against the wall deep in center field, while Jeff Newman made a nice grab of a sizzling line drive to end the inning.

After a scoreless bottom of the first inning, Witten's first pitch was hammered on a line to left field, with Newman making another nice shoestring grab. Four batters and four outs - but the tone was set. The Titans struck for the game's first run in the bottom of the second on Khris Davis' home run that appeared to skim the top of the fence and off the scoreboard.

Witten allowed a single and a wild pitch in the third inning, but he stranded a Horned Frog at third base to end the frame. His shutout ended in the fourth inning: following a single, double and HBP, Witten uncorked a wild pitch to tie the game at one apiece. TCU took a 2-1 lead on a sacrifice fly.

As they did every time the Frogs scored on Friday night, the Titans' offense immediately bounced back. Davis led off with a sharp single, stole second base and scored on a double to right field by Nick Ramirez, who gave the Titans a 3-2 lead following a wild pitch and ground-out by Joe Scott.

The Frogs knocked Witten from the box with just one out in the fifth inning following two doubles and a single that gave TCU a 4-3 lead. Michael Morrison entered the game and looked sharp, striking out two after plunking the first batter he faced.

When Morrison pitched a crisp 1-2-3 sixth inning, it looked like the storm had passed and things had settled down. Au contraire, mon frere: this was the dreaded Saturday night special about to unfold. After the Titans tied the score at 4-4 in the last of the sixth on a Felly bunt single and another sharp double by Nick Ramirez, Carruthers led off with a single (0-2 pitch) to left field and Morrison's control appeared to disappear on a four-pitch walk. Things looked up when Garneau caught the lead runner at third base on the front end of an attempted double steal, but Chris Ellington tied the score on a double (1-2 pitch) over the third base bag.

Tie score, runner on second, one out: pretty easy decision, eh? Intentionally walk the next hitter (Curry) and set up the double play situation. Unfortunately, Morrison's first offering on the intentional walk sailed way over Garneau's head and Ellington advanced to third on the wild pitch. The second pitch came all too close to the plate and crossed up Garneau, also sailing to the backstop. (Fortunately, the ball ricocheted favorably for Fullerton and the runner could not advance.) Morrison struck out the next hitter following the IBB, but he uncorked another wild pitch to give TCU a 6-4 lead.

The Titans' offense responded with a run in the bottom of the seventh on a Gary Brown triple and RBI grounder by Newman, who reached on an error. TCU worked out of the jam by inducing a double-play ball from Colon and a Clark strikeout.

Kevin Rath took the bump for Fullerton in the eighth inning and he surrendered a run on a walk, two groundouts and a single by Carruthers: his third hit of the evening on 0-2 pitches.

Trailing 7-5 entering their half of the eighth inning, the Titans scored once on a single and two stolen bases by Fellhauer (I would have ruled the second one "defensive indifference") and an error.

Rath came out for the ninth inning, charged with maintaining the one run deficit. He walked the leadoff man and was aided by a pretty 'round-the-horn double play started by Brown and turned nicely by Shima. Unfortunately, the momentum of the douple-play was short-lived, as Matt Curry drove Rath's next pitch over the fence, the trees and the 57 Freeway. The Titans went quietly in the ninth inning to absorb their first loss of the season by a score of 8-6.


So what did we learn last night?

The pitching staff still has a long way to go. Witten was hit hard and he and Morrison each had two wild pitches. Two balls thrown off the backstop during an intentional walk. Five hits (out of TCU's eleven) were on 0-2 or 1-2 counts. Five walks and three hit batsmen. Zeros in just four of the nine innings pitched.

The offense has some work to do also. There were twelve strikeouts last night and some very feeble swings chasing pitches far out of the strike zone.

On the positive side, Nick Ramirez continues to crush the ball (6-8 in two games); Felly also has five hits already. After his four-whiff night Friday, it was great to see Khris Davis come out Saturday with a homer and single: he is batting 1.000 when he puts the ball in play. Garneau threw out a couple would-be base stealers and both Fellhauer and Newman made a couple good defensive plays in the outfield.

I'm really looking forward to today's battle of heralded freshmen pitchers. Let's win today and take something positive into our upcoming games against San Diego State and Stanford.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Won and 'Oh'


By Don Hudson

The Titans won a hard-fought battle with a walk-off pinch-hit double by Tyler Pill in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday night, with Fullerton prevailing by a 7-6 score over TCU. There were several encouraging performances, as well as a few reminders that there is a big difference between 'high expectations' and 'high performance.'

Daniel Renken started and pitched 5 2/3 reasonably strong innings, tarnished only by two solo homers that knocked even more lights out of the Goodwin Field scoreboard. Renken and the Horned Frogs' Tyler Lockwood locked up in a scoreless pitchers' duel through three innings before Jason Coats gave TCU a 1-0 lead with a two-out homer to left field. The Titans responded in the bottom half of the fourth inning with a solo tally on a single by Jared Clark, a passed ball and a two-out RBI single by freshman DH Nick Ramirez.

Shortstop Taylor Featherston gave TCU a 2-1 lead with a long home run to left field in the top of the fifth inning. Once again, the Titans responded promptly with a tying run in their half of the frame: Joe Scott walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a single by Gary Brown. Jeff Newman followed with a successful safety squeeze to knot the score at 2-2.

Renken breezed through the first two batters in the sixth inning before allowing a single by Matt Curry on his 89th pitch of the evening. With Coats coming to the plate, the chess game began in earnest between coaches Serrano and Schlossnagle: when Dave headed to the mound, the 2,155 assistant coaches in attendance assumed it was simply to discuss how to pitch Coats, lest the ball leave the yard again - but Dave waved towards the bullpen for Travis Kelly. After Coats roped a single, Kelly worked out of the jam by inducing an infield pop-up that seemingly entered the flight path of a French satellite. Schlossnagle went to his bullpen in the bottom of the sixth and the score remained tied after Fellhauer singled and was thrown out stealing (for the second time in the game) and Khris Davis struck out, the third of the night for him en route to the golden sombrero.

The Horned Frogs came out ripping at Kelly's offerings in the seventh inning, with two solid hits putting runners at the corners with nobody out to greet reliever Kyle Mertins. He surrendered an RBI single to Corey Steglich and a sacrifice fly gave TCU a 4-2 lead.

Trailing by two runs following "Take me Out to the Ballgame," the Titans rallied once again. Nick Ramirez led off with another sharp single (he was 4-4 in his dazzling debut) and Garneau was plunked by a pitch (one of four Titans' HBP) to place the tying run on base. Joe Scott did his job with a sacrifice bunt, made better than dreamed when pitcher Steven Maxwell's throw sailed into Riverside County. Ramirez scored on the play and Garneau came in to tie the score at 4-4 on a sacrifice fly by Gary Brown. Newman reached base again on a HBP. With Newman running on a hit and run, Colon smacked a hard single past the moving infielder: Scott scored from third base and Newman scored all the way from first on the single, with the aid of Coach Bergy's aggressive waving him around and catching TCU off guard. Although the Titans took a 6-4 lead, the inning could have been much bigger: Colon was picked off, followed by a Clark walk and a Fellhauer single. Davis struck out, leaving the menacing Ramirez in the on-deck circle, to end the bottom of the seventh inning.

Mertins pitched a stellar 1-2-3 eighth inning for the Titans. Fullerton threatened again in the last of the eighth inning when Ramirez led off with a double. After pinch-runner Shima was bunted to third base and Scott was hit by a pitch, Brown hit a chopper along the third base line that Matt Carpenter made a nice 'do or die' play on: there was no chance to nab the speedy Brown at first, but he made an off-balance throw home to nail Shima.

The coaching wheels continued to grind. Do you bring your closer in to start the ninth inning with a two run lead when the guy out there looked so great in the eighth? Mertins was allowed to start the ninth inning: a leadoff walk and a hit batter put the tying runs on base with nobody out before Ryan Ackland was summoned. After an infield ground-out moved both runners into scoring position, Ben Carruthers hit a towering blast towards the left field corner: perhaps a home run in the earlier innings, but a game-tying double nonetheless in the cool, damp ninth inning air. The cat-and-mouse game continued between Serrano and Schlossnagle - both excellent coaches - Ackland struck out Coats to leave the bases juiced after a pair of intentional walks.

Colon led off the ninth inning with a HBP and advanced to second base on a wild pitch, which led to an intentional pass for Jared Clark. With Fellhauer at the plate (three hits already) and the on-deck hitter with four K's on the night, do you have Felly bunt? If you are TCU, what do you do with the next batter if there is a successful sacrifice? Felly laid down a pretty good bunt, but pitcher Marshall fielded it cleanly and threw a pea to third base to force out the lead runner. As Davis looked towards the coaching box for the signs, freshman Tyler Pill emerged from the dugout and put on his helmet and his best "What, me worry?" look. When the count went to 2-1, Pill hammered a shot deep into the gap over the head of the center-fielder. Clark trotted home easily with the winning run before the Titans swarmed out of the dugout to congratulate Pill.


So what did we learn here tonight? You could not help but be impressed and encouraged with the way Nick Ramirez swung the bat: his three singles and one double in four at-bats were all hit hard. When you add in Pill's hit, it is great to see two true freshmen combine for a 5-5 night at the plate.

Fellhauer had three hits and provides great protection in the line-up behind Clark. This isn't exactly breaking news, but it was nice to see him get off to a good start.

None of the pitchers was flawless, but each got some key outs. Notwithstanding the two intentional walks by Ackland, Fullerton pitchers allowed only one other walk Friday night.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the game is that whenever the opponent scored, the Titans immediately responded. You could feel that the Titans confidence never waned the three times they fell behind this quality opponent.

On the "things could have been better" side of the ledger, the aggressive offense resulted in five "unforced" outs on the basepaths: Ramirez out at second after his single; Colon picked off first; Fellhauer out stealing twice (although one looked like a possible missed sign on a hit and run); Brown out at third base after rounding the bag wide on an infield hit by Colon. In the long run, the aggressive style will produce many more runs than it prevents, but tonight came up short.

The bullpen allowed four of the five inherited runners to score. This is going to be a situation that will be interesting to see develop. Inherited runners stranded in June are much more important than in February.

It will also be important to see how Fellhauer is protected by the #6 slot in the batting order.

Tonight should be another interesting game and a chance to see a pitcher considered key to an Omaha run. Not only will you get to see two excellent teams and their coaches, but I can't wait to see Mike "Crappy" Gilmore's first home plate umpiring assignment since his debacle last year down at Blair Field.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Midnight Madness

By Don Hudson

"The first team to practice and the last team to play" is the rallying cry for the 2009 edition of the Cal State Fullerton Titans baseball team. Things got underway one minute past the stroke of midnight this morning and ended eerily at the exact prescribed time of 4:00 a.m. just as fog began to engulf the field.

The crowd began to trickle in just after 11:0p.m. and was greeted by the hospitality of the Diamond Club. Many thanks for their generosity and tireless efforts: the sausages, tri-tip, snacks, coffee and hot chocolate were very much appreciated by the hearty attendees, especially as the evening temperature continued to dip. As midnight approached, people started to arrive in waves: I'm not sure the headcount, but it appeared to be on the order of a couple hundred people at the peak.

After a little over an hour of warming up, stretching and batting practice (when is the last time you sat and watched B.P. at one o'clock in the morning?), the scrimmage began. The match featured the presumed starting team (home) vs. substitutes (visitors).

Home: Garneau (C), Clark (1B), Scott (2B), Brown (3B), Colon (SS), Newman (LF), Fellhauer (CF), Davis (RF), Nick Ramirez (DH).

Visitors: Marcoe (C), Harkey (1B), Orloff (2B), Shima (3B), Moore (SS), Siddons (LF), Kingsolver (CF), Fahey (RF), Corey Jones (DH).

Tyler Pill (home) and Michael Morrison (visitors) were the starting pitchers.

After a quick first inning on the hill by Pill, the home team posted three quick runs. Gary Brown led off with a walk and the rest of the inning featured base hits and larceny of all types: straight steals, delayed steals and double steals. It should be a portent of the type of pressure Coach Bergy will apply on opposing pitchers, catchers and defenses. Brown in particular seemed to be on base all night long (all morning, I should say).

The most outstanding player was Tyler Pill, who pitched five strong shutout innings. He used a variety of speeds and locations and seemed to have command throughout, even on the few times he fell behind in the count. As the home team stretched its lead to 8-0 and the clock was somewhere between 2 and 3, the crowd thinned out - perhaps more because of coldness than fatigue. (I wish I was as well prepared as Troy Brown with his portable heater and Dunkin Donuts thermos.) The visitors made a late rally and ended up on the short end of an 8-5 final score.

Right on cue, the game ended at 4:00. How often do you see the scoreboard lit up (albeit missing a few bulbs) to say "4:04 A.M."? HereWeGoTitans looked as fresh as a daisy and was ready for the second game of a double-header. As for me, I wish I could say I was fooling around and closed my eyes for that last picture; it wasn't until I looked this morning that I realized how exhausted I was. Nevertheless, I believe this was a great event and hopefully the start of what will become a Titans tradition.