Sunday, June 21, 2009

Requiem for the Titans

By Don Hudson

"Sorry, buddy.....sheez.....someone left the cake out in the rain."

Of all the messages of condolence and comforting received in the aftermath of the Titans' "2 and BBQ" performance in Omaha, I think the one that said it best was that voice message from my good friend "Tempe Tim." Do you remember that schmaltzy 1968 ballad sung by Richard Harris (and later covered by Donna Summers and others and parodied by many) titled "MacArthur Park"? The essence is captured in these lines:

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again.....
Oh, no!

What a wretched feeling after the cake was left out in the Omaha rain. This was a great team that was a long time in the works. A roster composed of players from the recruiting efforts of the former and current coaching staffs, an amazing recipe of youthful pitching talent, mature leadership, speed, defense, power, great coaching, a high national seeding and favorable path to couldn't have asked for a more beautiful cake.

But don't let the bitterness of the destination spoil the beauty of the journey - it was truly a remarkable season and worthy of taking a few minutes to retrospect. The games are now long over and were televised live and have been analyzed by many more insightful than me, so let's skip past the details of the last two games and get right to the question.......


So what did we learn this year?

This team went 47-16; finished the regular season with the #1 RPI against a brutal schedule; swept arch-rivals Stanford and Long Beach State; went 8-1 on an epic 11-day southern road trip; had a Golden Spikes Award semi-finalist, an All-American pitcher and Co-Freshmen Pitchers of the Year in the Big West Conference. When they were good, they were as good as we've ever seen. The Titans were never challenged in the Regionals and Super Regionals - were we really that good or was it a cruel set-up for a good ol' fashioned Omaha come-uppance?

The question remains: "why?" Baseball is a cruel game and the answer may be nothing deeper than "they just played two lousy games at the wrong happens." I can accept that answer. But I know there are many other questions to be asked and lessons to be learned. I have the utmost confidence those questions will be asked and the answers carefully considered.

To me, one of the most joyous days of the year is when the team reports to practice in the fall. It's funny - I think I enjoy a sun-drenched October afternoon sitting in the stands at Goodwin Field watching old favorites return and new faces anxious to impress, along with a handful of parents and hardcore fans, even more than a humid day in Rosenblatt Stadium with many people watching the team for the first time with the tag unremoved from their crisp new "F" hat.

The "Midnight Madness" practice was very cool, as was the "First to Practice, Last to Play" mantra. I love unifying theme messages like that and I hope they continue. Part of what made this ride so dramatic was how quickly and loftily the team peaked, how it fell on its tailbone and how it was able to regroup after the USC debacle. The pre-season preparation cycle undoubtedly impacts the peaks and valleys of the season - no team goes wire-to-wire without challenges and low periods - so the necroscopy should include review of those cycles.

After watching the team all fall, during the unsupervised scrimmages in January and during the February sessions, I thought the team was ready to jump out in a hurry. Opening night at home against TCU gave us some valid and false hints of things to come. Daniel Renken pitched reasonably well, but the bullpen got lit up. Khris Davis struck out four times and some fans wanted him immediately dispensed under Matt Haegman's bus, while Nick Ramirez went 4-for-4 in his collegiate debut and fellow freshman Tyler Pill roped a walk-off pinch-double to give the Titans an exciting 7-6 win. But the pitching staff, with all its preseason uncertainty, gave us plenty of cause for concern, surrendering 19 runs and 29 hits in the next two games - both losses.
The ship was quickly righted with a sweep of Stanford the following weekend, sandwiched around a pair of Tuesday wins at San Diego State - a nice way to get ready for the 11-day junket and the start of "Moustache March." In the Stanford finale, Khris Davis hit three home-runs and an indication of the breakout season he was about to enjoy became evident.

The southern trip began in Hattiesburg, MS, against the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles - red-hot at that time and subsequently a CWS participant. The Titans put on the greatest three-game display of baseball I have ever seen at any level. The Titans played big ball, small ball and hidden ball. The hitting was spectacular, but the pitching, defense and base-running were on par. But much more than the on-field clinic given by the Titans, the off-field hospitality of the USM fans is what I will remember most about this series in the years to come.....along with that incredible BBQ restaurant.

The sizzling play continued on Tuesday night in a 15-5 rout of Texas A&M and their passionate student body of hecklers and ice-throwers. It was a 'coming out party' of sorts for Noe Ramirez, who had already established his physical skills on the mound, but this game demonstrated his ability to perform in the utmost hostile environment.

From there, the Titans went to Stillwater, Oklahoma for pairs of games against the University of Rhode Island and host Oklahoma State. The Friday action was played in blustery cold, windy weather - the wind chill factor was in the low 20's - and I will always remember Coaches Bergeron and Lindgren refusing to give in and wearing short sleeves without jackets in the coaching boxes. The Titans pummeled URI, 17-3, for their fifth consecutive game scoring double-figure runs, before beating OSU, 8-4, in the nightcap. The Titans lost a game (finally) to Oklahoma State before winning a tight game against URI to end the trip a remarkable 8-1 and with the fans back home declaring them better than the 1995 juggernaut.

The first signs of trouble showed up the following weekend against Oral Roberts University. The Titans swept the three games, but there was a discernible reduction in energy and focus vs. what happened on the road trip. It was understandable - after being on the road with just 25 players and the coaching staff, it was inevitable the bonds would loosen upon returning home and to "normal" routines, like classes, friends, families, etc. But - what the heck - the team was winning nearly every game, it was ranked #1 in most polls, it had an historically superb RPI and even overcame a tough Friday loss and won its Big West Conference opening series at that graveyard out in Riverside, spanking the Highlanders 18-1 in the Sunday finale.

The winning continued when the Titans went to Tempe, Az and won the opener of a two-game set, 7-5, behind Jared Clark's home run and double, Gary Brown's three hits (including two doubles) and Joe Scott's two clutch RBI singles. By this time, Nick Ramirez' bat was starting to cool off, but he began moving up the bullpen depth chart with impressive performance after impressive performance. Against ASU, he pitched 4 1/3 inning of brilliant no-hit shutout relief.

But, alas, the calendar flipped to April and the moustaches were shorn - despite a record of 12-1 during the 21 days the crumb catchers were present and an overall 14-2 record in March. Years from now, they'll still be second-guessing the group shave that happened after the ASU win. The Titans lost the next day - their offense flushed down the sink with the whiskers, as they managed just five singles in a 3-1 loss. They lost 5 of 6 games, including 2-of-3 at home to BWC rival UC Irvine, digging themselves into an insurmountable Conference hole from which they would never dig themselves out. The hitting was weak, the bullpen was porous and the base-running ran the team out of innings time after time.

Coaching baseball is an awesome job. When the play works, you are heralded for "willingness to gamble," "aggressiveness," "knowing your personnel," and "outsmarting Murphy." But when those same decisions don't work, the fans behind the dugout or some idiot blogger with too much time on his hands questions your sanity, knowledge, fitness for duty and family heritage. What made it all the more frustrating was having seen how special this team could be when they were all on the same page. A lifeless 8-3 home loss might have seemed like the end of the world at the time, but it could not prepare any of us for what was about to happen.

There are no words adequate to describe the feelings that awful Thursday afternoon at Cal State Northridge as we learned of the tragic accident that left our friend, Jon Wilhite, fighting for his life, and which killed Courtney Stewart, Henry Pearson and Nick Adenhart. People sometimes marvel that I can vividly remember minute details of a baseball game without writing notes, yet I doubt I could have told you the score or even who was ahead as that game was played. In my blog that day, I wrote: "Eyes were full of tears, people hugged and prayed and held out hope that the next text message received would the one to let us know that everything was going to be okay."

Somehow, the Titans took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the bullpen snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and let the Matadors tie it up. Darkness caused the game to be suspended in the twelfth inning, but Northridge prevailed the next day when it was completed.

Pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in what had to be the most awful circumstances to be worried about some dumb baseball game, the Titans came back and won the next two games, including an 8-0 complete game shutout in the finale by Tyler Pill. (It seemed great at the time, but a month later we would be looking back and wondering why a freshman was allowed to throw so many innings, particularly in one-sided games that the bullpen could have used the work.)

Things looked up after winning the final two at Northridge and at USC, 9-2, with the support of a Diamond Club bus trip to Dedeaux Field. But the end of ugliness was nowhere in sight. With a couple players sitting out the weekend because of team academic rule infractions, the Titans faced the University of the Pacific Tigers - a team they had beaten nineteen consecutive times. On Friday night, the Titans had the game in hand, 4-1, going to the top of the ninth inning. But for the second consecutive series opener against a perpetual BWC cellar dweller, the bullpen imploded and the Tigers broke the losing streak, 5-4. I don't think I've ever been as stunned or angered by a loss. For good measure, the Tigers banged out eighteen hits against Tyler Pill (who suffered his first collegiate loss after six wins) and the bullpen in the second game and won 14-10, to clinch the series. The Titans saved a modicum of dignity on Sunday with an 8-3 victory that started a six game winning streak. The team looked good in mid-week wins over San Diego and Pepperdine, but never really got it together in a road sweep of the hapless UC Davis Aggies the following weekend. The pitching was good against a bad-hitting opponent, but the offense was shaky, players lost track of game situations, and they just generally did not look like an Omaha-bound team.

The straw that broke the camel's back came the following Tuesday against USC, a team going nowhere with nothing to play for. The Titans got their asses handed to them, 9-3. The pitching was atrocious, the defense was uncharacteristically bad, there was lack of hustle, no timely hitting and a situation just seeming ready to explode. I was too embarrassed to blog: Samuel Chi wrote a one-sentence recap of the game: "Not to take anything away from the Trojans, but have the Titans played a worse game this season, including the Pacific series?"

Rumors abounded of cliques and divisions within the team and a certain amount of strife, which one would expect from such a capable team in such a funk. The Thursday practice was replaced by a "let's get everything out on the table" meeting, which concluded with some words of encouragement by noted sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza.

It did not take long to see the results of that meeting. The Titans came out Friday night fired up and hustling and played a great all-around game, beating the UCSB Gauchos, 7-2. After sweeping Santa Barbara, they took two mid-week games against the Arizona Wildcats before heading to San Luis Obispo to take on the #13-ranked Cal Poly SLO Mustangs. The Titans ran their winning streak to seven games in taking the first two games before losing on Sunday afternoon.

The excellent play continued with the Titans taking 2-out-of-3 in a split-series against the UCLA Bruins, their opponents in the 2007 Super Regionals and the 2008 Regionals. A team left for dead in the discussions about national seeds when losing games to Northridge, Pacific and USC, the robust turn-about put the Titans back in the running. A strong showing against the team's final opponent just might get us over the hump - bring on those Dirtbags!

In the Friday opener against Long Beach State, Renken made the Dirtbags look like Little Leaguers. (Oops, sorry - those were actual Dirtbag Little Leaguers - my bad.) But he did grit out eight innings and a win as the Titans gained a close 4-3 win. Things were not as close on Saturday, as senior sluggers Jared Clark and Joe Scott went deep in a 7-1 win behind Noe Ramirez, who retired nineteen consecutive hitters after a little early trouble. The home run was Scott's first in 180 games and 439 at-bats with the Titans. The crowd went bananas when the laser left his bat: no doubt about it!

The Titans honored the seniors on the final day of the regular season: Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Dustin Garneau, Matthew Fahey, Jeff Newman, Shevis Shima and Jake Silverman. The celebration was moving and inspired the team to a 15-3 thrashing of the Dirtbags.

The Titans finished the regular season 42-14 and won 23 of their final 27 games, which vaulted them to a #2 national seeding when the NCAA brackets were announced on Memorial Day weekend. While some will point to the team meeting following the USC loss as turning around the season, most of us experts are quite certain it was the return of the moustaches. The Titans were also inspired about the remarkable survival and recovery by Jon Wilhite: not a day goes by when most of us don't read the family's journal and shake our heads in wonderment and awe.

Facing a Regionals field of Utah, Gonzaga and Georgia Southern, the Titans smoked their way through the first round of the playoffs. The team batted .476 and scored 41 runs in the three-game rampage. Khris Davis hit four home runs, while Dustin Garneau won Most Outstanding Player honors by hitting .583, allowing no stolen bases and making more stunning kick saves than Ken Dryden his senior year at Cornell. The mound trio of Noe Ramirez, Daniel Renken and Tyler Pill all performed well.

The Titans faced a much tougher opponent in the Super Regionals, but the results were about the same. The Louisville Cardinals showed up with their red mohawks and a lot of optimism after winning the Big East regular season and conference tournament plus their Regionals. But Daniel Renken pitched the first complete game shutout of his career in winning the opener, 12-0.

In Saturday's second game against Louisville, the Titans were inspired by the return to Goodwin Field of Jon Wilhite (photo courtesy Bryan Crowe) and his family and friends - was there any way they could possibly lose this game? The Titans used their speed (five stolen bases in the first two innings) to take a quick lead they would never surrender. Noe Ramirez gave them eight innings of outstanding pitching and received excellent offensive and defensive support from his team in the 11-2 Omaha-trip-clinching victory.

So it was on to Omaha and a Saturday date with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Controversy immediately surrounded Coach Dave Serrano's decision to start Noe Ramirez in the opener, rather than Daniel Renken, normally the team's opening-game ace. I can understand and (to a degree) agree with the rationale that "we're trying to win the whole thing, not just the first game." Had the Titans won the opener, they would have had their #1 guy against LSU, perhaps the best team in the field. It was a gamble that didn't pay off......kind of like when I went to the casino in Council Bluffs my first night in town with a game plan to be at the poker tables for nearly two weeks. On the very first hand, I was dealt pocket jacks and made a big raise. The fellas from Louisiana and Virginia got out of the way, but the old buzzard from Arkansas called me. When another jack came out on the flop, I went all in.....and lost my entire two week bankroll when that damn Razorback drew to a flush on the river. In hindsight, it was probably an unnecessary gamble and it backfired on me big-time, but I'm going to learn from it and be a better player next time I am back in Council Bluffs.

Dave's gamble backfired also and the Titans lost the opener, 10-6. After a day off, they played an elimination game against the Virginia Cavaliers, a team that had already proven their mettle by beating SDSU phenom Stephen Strasburg and the #1-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters (twice) in the Regionals. The Titans took a quick 2-0 lead on a home run by Dustin Garneau, but Renken surrendered four runs in the second inning and the Titans could never catch up again. Remarkable stat: the four earned runs off Renken that inning were more than he had allowed in any game all season. Second remarkable stat: Fullerton trailed only 1 out of 45 innings in the Regionals and Super Regionals, but 17 out of 18 innings played in Omaha.....ouch!
Epilogue and Personal Thoughts

It was a great year...regardless of the disappointing ending. This was the 35th season of Division I baseball at Fullerton and the 16th CWS appearance - there are very few programs that would not trade places with us in a heartbeat. There were great wins (sweeps of Stanford and Long Beach State; the clinic in Hattiesburg; shutting up those raucous students at A&M and obliterating the Regionals and Super Regionals) and horrible losses (Northridge, Pacific twice, USC and, of course, the World Series games.)

But not every team ends their season with a dogpile, no matter how compelling the slogan or how talented the team. This was a team that made it one step farther than last year, but not as far as it was capable.

A lot of great things happened. Jared Clark put a cap to a sterling career here with great leadership and 82 RBI to go along with his .363 average and 12 home runs. Davis finally had the monster year: .328/16/58 with 17 stolen bases - he had the unenviable task of replacing Erik Komatsu and he did about as well as anybody could have hoped. Felly hit .396 and continued to be a great all-around player in the Titans' style of offense and defense. Sophomores Colon and Brown had great seasons and should be serious candidates for pre-season All American honors in 2010. Dustin Garneau and Joe Scott had great senior seasons. Garneau and Marcoe combined to throw out 30 of 53 would-be base stealers. I think we were all so busy being mad at Joe his first two seasons as a starter for not being Justin Turner or Blake Davis that we didn't really realize just how good a player Joe Scott was. Jeff Newman beats you a dozen different ways that don't show up in the boxscore. How can you not love watching Joey Siddons play?
When the final Baseball America rankings are announced next Monday, the Titans are likely to be in the Top 10 for the seventh consecutive season - the longest such current streak. Small solace for "2 and BBQ", but surely affirmation of the enduring success and prominence of the Fullerton baseball program.

I love the pitching staff potential for next year. This year, the freshmen and sophomores had a record of 39-10 - that gives us plenty to look forward to next year. The inexperience in Omaha of this year's starting rotation could be the experience in Omaha of next year's starting rotation.

With all the seniors and draft-eligible juniors, there are a lot of holes to fill next year, particularly in the position spots. But the core of Colon, Brown, Nick Ramirez, Joey Siddons, Billy Marcoe and Tyler Pill gives the Titans some good returning bats, while we'll get to see what red-shirts Matt Orloff, Cody Collins, Wes Borba and Austin Kingsolver can do next year. Plus we had two highly heralded bats on medical red-shirts last year: Corey Jones and Carlos Lopez. We won't know until after the August 17th pro signing deadline which of the signees will make it to campus, but it seems like Coach Brown and the staff have done another great job in recruiting.

To add a couple personal notes, I thoroughly enjoyed this season, particularly for the old friendships nurtured and the new ones founded. Through this blog and my "moonlighting" job as editor of the "Tuffy's Titans" newsletter, I got to spend time with some great people around the Titan Nation. Some were subjects of interviews and others were people that were there to cheer with when times were good, to cry with when they were tragic, to frown with when we played like crap and to exalt with when the team turned it around. I got to see this program closer than I ever had before and I am as impressed with the people behind the scenes every bit as much as those we cheer for on the field and in the dugout.

The feedback of the readers has been great - I appreciate it when this stuff pleases you as well as when it makes you wretch. Keep those cards and letters coming.

I especially enjoy the parents I have met and become close friends with. I make it a point never to give you a 'shout out' by name, lest anybody think your kid will get preferential treatment in this kangaroo press, but your support and friendship means a great deal to me. Early this year, parents of a new player came up to me and said, "Don, we really appreciate all the nice things you say about our son." I replied, "I just write what I see. I only hope you'll appreciate my honesty as much when he is not doing as well."

There are also great people scattered throughout every baseball program in the country. The people in Hattiesburg were great - it was so cool meeting the "Easy Eagle Rider", Butch Davis, the guy that drove his motorcycle from Mississippi to California last year to see Southern Miss play in Fullerton. Meeting fellow college baseball bloggers "Doctor Dan" and Eric Sorenson was also a personal highlight for me this year.
My thanks to the publishers of "" and "" for giving me a place to publish my ramblings. Last year I made my debut with the recaps. This year I bought a camera and learned how difficult it is to do what the pros like Matt Brown and Bryan Crowe do. I vow to get better - it is a crazy high when I see something of mine with a photo credit somewhere in cyberspace.

All in all, it was a successful year and I extend my thanks to the players, coaches, administrators and friends of the program that makes it such a great thing to be a part of. I can hardly wait until that sunny day this October when a dozen of us gather in the stands to take our first look at the 2010 ball!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Post-Game Show

The Titans celebrate their Super Regional victory and then gather around coach Dave Serrano to discuss the tasks ahead. A special appearance by Jon Wilhite, less than two months from the tragic car accident that nearly killed him, made the moment all the more inspirational.

(Video courtesy of Rosco)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Second National Championship: 1984

Capping off a school-record 66-win season, the Titans once again emerged from the loser's bracket to win the College World Series, beating Texas and former major leaguer Greg Swindell in the title game, 3-1.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First National Championship: 1979

In only their fifth season in Division I, the Titans advanced to the College World Series and emerged from the loser's bracket to win their first national championship, defeating Arkansas in the final game, 2-1.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Origins of Titans Baseball

As the Titans gear up for their 16th trip to Omaha, seeking their fifth national championship, let's look back at how it all got started. The humble beginning, back in 1973, with a guy named Augie Garrido:

To Be Continued ...

Sunday, June 7, 2009




By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans attained another significant milestone yesterday in its quest for a fifth national championship: they completed their Super Regional sweep of the Louisville Cardinals and thus qualified for a College World Series in Omaha next Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. After winning the Friday opener on the strength of Daniel Renken's complete game shutout, 12-0, the Titans rode the arm of freshman Noe Ramirez and their blistering pressure offense to thoroughly overwhelm the Cardinals, champions of the Big East Conference, by an 11-2 margin.

On Friday evening, the Titans sent ace Renken against the Cardinals #2 starter, Dean Keikhefer, in deference to the recent heavy workload (two appearances in both the Big East Conference tournament and the Regionals) of Louisville's #1 guy, Justin Marks - considered a potential first-round selection in the MLB draft starting Tuesday. Kudos to Louisville Coach Dan McDonnell for placing the welfare of his school's all-time leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts ahead of the short-term strategy to win the series opener.

The Cardinals have an aggressive hitting philosophy: "Hit the fastball, no matter which pitch it is." They have had a very successful run using a philosophy that has hitters swinging the bat as soon as they leave the on-deck circle, whether it is the first pitch of an at-bat or the count is 3-0. Live by the sword....die by the sword.

Renken did a great job taking advantage of the Cardinals' aggressive (perhaps "overanxious") hitting style, with the quintessential example being the third inning: three straight hitters swung at the first pitch and each hit an easy flyball or pop-up. Already in a three-run hole, you could just sense the wind leave the Louisville sails after the three-pitch third inning.

His pitch count aided by the first-ball swinging, Renken recorded the first complete game shutout of his career, using just 98 pitches to record ten strikeouts, fourteen fly-outs and just three ground-ball outs. It was a great performance in a much-needed 'statement game.'

The Titans gave Renken the early lead with three first inning runs, started when Christian Colon singled (and stole second) and Gary Brown was hit by a pitch. After Josh Fellhauer bunted both runners along (call it a sacrifice, but only an excellent play by 3B Chris Dominguez prevented a beautiful bunt from being a hit), Clark continued his RBI rampage with a two-run double near the leftfield line. Khris Davis then hit a line-drive that momentarily froze Clark (to see if the leaping shortstop could snare it), but when the centerfielder took his time fielding the ball, Coach Bergeron kept Clark motoring and he scored the third run. The inning could have been much bigger except for an absurd call (as demonstrated by multiple TV replays) by umpire Mark Chapman that Dustin Garneau had interfered during a stolen base attempt by Davis.

While the 3-4-5 hitters for Louisville (Andy Clark, Chris Dominguez and Phil Wunderlich) came into the game with statistics resembling the famous Jim's Steele Sports slow-pitch softball powerhouse, Fullerton's 3-4-5 trio of Fellhauer, Clark and Davis went 9-for-12 with seven RBI, two doubles and a home run (Felly). Overall, the Titans racked up sixteen hits, along with six hit-batsmen and three stolen bases.

The cards all seemed lined up for Louisville on Saturday: they were designated the home team and they had their ace, Justin Marks, on the bump. But the pressure offense of the Titans got to him and had a stultifying effect on the Louisville defense: the speed of the game played by the Titans is several turbo-notches above Big East teams.

Colon led off the game by getting plunked with a pitch and his big leads unsettled Marks, who was called for a balk - which really seemed to get into his head. He is a lefty pitcher without a slide step, which was the Titans' gateway drug to grand larceny. Gary Brown dropped down a bunt and Marks ended up on his keister as he slipped trying to pick it up. After Brown stole second uncontested, Felly ripped a base hit into rightfield to plate the game's first run. Felly continued the aggressive onslaught on the basepaths, but he seemed like a dead duck when Marks threw over to first after an early break on a steal attempt and the first-baseman relayed the ball to SS John Dao well before Felly arrived. But Dao held the ball in his mitt around shoulder-high, perhaps thinking they were playing tag and Felly was "it." But Felly simply slid low and there was no tag: nobody out, a run in already, runners on second and third, Clark coming up - blood in the water!

Clark delivered - some news story there, eh? - with a two-run double to make it 3-0. One out later, Clark broke early to steal third just as Marks made a pick-off throw to second. 2B Adam Duvall could not get the ball out of his mitt and Clark stole third without a throw. The extra base allowed him to score the fourth run on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Garneau. There were no errors in the inning, but clearly the Cardinals defense was tight and did not handle the pressure well - they even seemed rattled by heckling from the Fullerton student section and gracious offers to borrow bigger gloves.

Unlike his first start last weekend in the Regionals, Noe Ramirez showed no sign of early game jitters, as he retired the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first inning. The Titans added one more run in the second inning, and could have had even more but for a tremendous relay throw to retire Joe Scott after he led off with a double and tried to score on Joey Siddon's single to rightfield. Siddons then stole second AND third and scored on Brown's infield single.

Chris Dominguez, another likely high draft choice this week, led off the second inning and continued the habit of swinging at first pitch fastballs - and he absolutely crushed one to put the Cardinals on the scoreboard for the first time in the series. After looking clueless the night before striking out three times, he seemed pretty happy for a guy trailing 5-1 after losing 12-0 the previous game. He crawled around the bases, pumping his hand to the crowd and making other gestures best not shown. Pure hot dog stuff. The crowd got all over him and - next to the standing ovations as each senior made their curtain call at-bat late in the game - the biggest cheers from the boisterous throng were for his every failure thereafter.

Marks shut the Titans out in the third and fourth innings, but he was not fooling anybody. In the third inning, each out was a scalded line-drive. While Noe dominated the rest of the Louisville batting order, he was touched up again by Dominguez for a long home-run in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 5-2. Fortunately, Noe had induced a 4-6-3 double-play on the hitter prior to Dominguez, elsewise the damage could have been much worse.

The Titans took advantage of sloppy pitching in the fifth inning. Marks hit Fellhauer with a pitch to start the inning, and then walked Clark and Davis. Dustin Garneau hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2. After Davis stole second, DH Shevis Shima walked on four pitches from relievr Derek Self. But Self retired the next two hitters and left the bases loaded.

From that point on, Noe Ramirez dominated the game. Perhaps the last gasp for the Cardinals was when Andy Clark drew a walk and Dominguez came up looking for his third dinger and a chance to cut the deficit to just two runs......the crowd went ballistic when Dominguez went down on strikes.

A five-run outburst in the seventh inning put the game out of reach and got the travel agents looking for hotel rooms in Omaha. (By the way, if anybody booked a room in Omaha and can't go, let me know!) Jared Clark led off the inning with another tape measure home run to left-centerfield. One out later, Dustin Garneau dropped a bunt that Dominguez could do nothing but slather with mustard and stick it in his pocket. After Shima followed with another beautiful bunt single, Joe Scott executed a perfect hit-and-run and drilled a base hit through the vacated right ride of the infield, scoring Garneau and sending Shima to third. After an error on an RBI groundball by Siddons allowed him to reach base, Colon punctuated the offense with a two-run double.

With the outcome of the game and series no longer in doubt, all that was left was to give proper send-offs to the seniors each time they came up for what would inevitably be their last career at-bat at Goodwin Field and to celebrate when the final out was recorded. Clark nearly made it a storybook finish as he belted one deep that looked gone at the crack (er, ping) of the bat, but it died out in the power alley for a long out.

Heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Titans led 11-2 and Noe Ramirez had a pitch count of just 98: he had retired eight in a row and was just five hitters over the limit. He had struck out ten hitters in the biggest game of his fledgling career. I loved that Coach Serrano sent him out to the mound at the start of the inning so he could receive a much deserved standing ovation when Nick Ramirez came in to finish it out.

Like many lockdown closers when brought into lopsided non-save situations, Nick did not have his usual sharpness. He retired the first batter he faced and elicited a huge dose of euphoria when he struck out the villainous Dominguez, but he then teased the ready-to-celebrate dugout and crowd by allowing the next three hitters to reach on a walk and two singles. But when John Dao lifted a lazy foul pop-up to Jared Clark, the ticket to Omaha had been punched.

So what did we learn this weekend?

Even when seasons at Goodwin Field end as triumphantly as this one, it always leaves me sad the next day to think that we won't be sitting in our pews at our baseball shrine until next season. It seems like just yesterday I was watching the end of the famous Midnight Madness practice at 4 o'clock in the morning on February 1st and thinking this team had a chance to be very special. The journey is not over and the mission is not yet accomplished, but it has been a very successful season so far and we are positioned as well as we could have possibly hoped.

I loved the standing ovations for the seniors making their Goodwin Field swansongs yesterday. It was very moving when Jared Clark, Joe Scott, Dustin Garneau, Matthew Fahey and Shevis Shima each batted for the last time. (Jeff Newman entered the game defensively and missed out on some of the love because he did not get to bat.) I get the tradition and I think it is a great one - just like Senior Day, it is a special tribute to those guys that come back for their senior years to complete their educations and try for another national championship.

But I always feel badly that the juniors - because of the uncertainty whether they will return or not - don't also get standing ovations to what is likely their last game at Goodwin Field. One of my best memories ever was being part of the standing O's for seniors Justin Turner and Danny Dorn at the end of the 2006 Super Regionals clincher against Missouri, but I wished then that Brett Pill and Blake Davis had also received the same sendoff. Watching Josh Fellhauer just prior to the first inning yesterday afternoon, you just knew that if it was to be his last game at home, it was going to be successful. He and Khris Davis may have played their Goodwin Field finales - if so, this is my personal ovation to them.

Since the midweek meltdown against USC that resulted in the air-clearing team meeting, the Titans have won all fifteen games played at home since then. It's hard to believe we were actually beginning to wonder how to take advanatge of playing at home when most of the success at that point had been on the road.

Having Jon Wilhite in the house to inspire his former teammates was the piece de resistance. What a remarkable family and an inspiration for all.

The Titans are not going to be getting much credit in national college baseball cyberspace this week because of the favorable draws they received in the Regionals and Super Regionals - a path they worked very hard to earn by attaining the #1 RPI and the #2 seed. But once they reach the big stage at Rosenblatt Stadium, I believe the rest of the country will come to realize just how good this team is. Coach Bergeron's arsenal of offensive weapons includes speed, power, bunting, high averages and an energy that applies pressure to opponents that makes good teams play like bad teams. the defense has been superb and the pitching just great: the Cardinals batted just .129 as a team this weekend. The Titans have stolen 15 bases in the post-season while allowing zero. Don't expect blowout scores like we have enjoyed the past couple weekends, but this team has a very legitimate chance to go all the way.

Let's get ready for some epic battles in Omaha. This is one of the strongest fields I've ever seen. Omaha, here we come!!!

On to Omaha!

The final out of the Titans' 11-2 victory over Louisville in the Super Regional, sending Fullerton to Omaha for the 16th time:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Daniel Renken's 3-Pitch Inning

Withe the Titans up, 3-0, in the third inning, starter Daniel Renken needed just three pitches to dispatch Louisville in Fullerton's eventual 12-0 win in Game 1 of the Super Regional.

Post-Game Interviews (Fullerton Super Regional)

Titans coach Dave Serrano and players talk about their 12-0 victory over Louisville in Game 1 of the Fullerton Super Regional:

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Titans' Road to Omaha

Wonderful video capping the Titans' 2009 season, so far ...

Taste of Victory

We have unearthed a good deal of Fullerton baseball highlights from over the years, including rare championship footage from 1979 and 1984 teams, as well as highlights from recent years. They will be featured here throughout the postseason.

To whet your appetite, here's the final outs of the Titans' dramatic regional victory over UCLA from 2008:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fullerton Super Regional Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan
(Courtesy Titan Central)

Louisville Cardinals

Overall Record – 47-16
Conference Record – 19-7 (1st place)
RPI/ISR/SOS – 16/24/89
Record against regional teams – 8-5
How they qualified for a regional – Won the Big East Conference Tournament (Cincinnati 12-2, Notre Dame 12-2, 5-6, 7-6, UConn 11-3)
How they qualified for a super regional – Won the Louisville Regional (Indiana 8-2, Middle Tennessee State 3-2, Vanderbilt 4-8, 5-3)

Season Summary

Louisville came into this season with high expectations after returning most of the team that went 41-21 in 2008 and was the runner-up in the Georgia Regional in a rebuilding year after going to the College World Series in 2007. The Cardinals were ranked in the top 25 in every major pre-season poll before going on the road to Florida to start the season and were swept in a three game series in Gainesville. Louisville took advantage of a soft schedule to rebound from that series to go 28-8 before losing a home series to Notre Dame. That series was a wakeup call for the Cardinals because they have gone on an 18-3 streak heading into the super regional at Fullerton.

Louisville has a powerful offense that is in the top 30 in the country in both scoring and HR’s but they aren’t just a station to station team. The Cardinals are also in the top 40 in the nation in SB’s and have five players with 12+ SB’s. Louisville has a field turf playing surface so they used their good team speed to their advantage to go 27-7 at home. The Cardinals don’t bunt much unless it is an obvious situation with one of their lesser hitters and most of them will be aggressive and come out swinging, although the do have solid plate discipline and average about 4 BB’s per game and are in the top 10 in the country in HBP’s.

Louisville is a balanced team because they also have a solid pitching staff led by one of the better Fri SP’s in the country. The Cardinals have a deep pitching staff and have nine pitchers that they can rely on to be productive. Louisville is in the top 20 nationally in ERA, H/9 IP and BB/9 IP and in the top 40 in K/9 IP. The Cardinals are 33-2 when leading after 7 innings and 37-1 when leading after 8 innings.


Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 96 (decreases offense by 4%). Standard dimensions, field turf helps infielders.
Batting Average – .312 (NCAA ranking - 94)
Runs Per Game – 8.3 (29)
Home Runs – 83 (28)
Stolen Bases – 90 (40)
Slugging Percentage – .490 (52)
Walks – 256 (59)
HBP’s – 104 (10)
Sac Bunts – 30 (162)

Batting Order

LF – Soph Josh Richmond (RH – .316-7-31-5). Went 6-16 with one HR and two 2B’s in the regional.

2B – JR Adam Duvall (RH – .335-11-31-12). One of the guys that makes their offense go. Ranked 3rd in the country with 83 R’s and in the top 40 with 17 HBP’s. .569 SLG %.

1B – JR Andrew Clark (LH – .356-9-55-1). 4th in the country with 82 R’s. 8th in the country with 54 BB’s. Team leader with .490 OBP. .576 SLG %.

3B – JR Chris Dominguez (RH – .348-23-80-19). Big East player of the year the last two seasons. Ranked in the top ten nationally in HR’s, RBI’s, R’s and total bases. Team leading .715 SLG %. 4th round pick in 2008 draft and likely to go higher next week.

DH – Soph Phil Wunderlich (LH – .372-18-78-4). Provides good protection in the lineup for Dominguez. Ranked in the top 40 nationally in HR’s, RBI’s, total bases and HBP’s. 2nd on team with .690 SLG %.

RF – FR Ryan Wright (RH – .336-5-66-12). Good run producer who had the key three run HR in the regional clinching win.

C – JR Jeff Arnold (RH – .251-3-32-13). 3rd on team in SB’s. In the lineup for his defense and handling of the pitching staff.

SS – SR John Dao (RH – .253-0-22-3). Key RBI triple in the regional clinching game. Hit .356 in 2008. In the lineup for his defense.

CF – Soph Drew Haynes (LH – .213-0-13-17). Leads team with 8 SAC bunts (had 15 SAC’s in 2008) and is 2nd on team in SB’s.


Fielding .969 (55) – 78 errors. Solid defensively up the middle with Dao and Duvall, who have combined for 20 E’s. Clark (7 E’s) and Dominguez (23 E’s) are big guys who have had issues on the corners. Haynes and Wright have good speed in the OF.
Double Plays – 58 (29). Solid middle infield is helped by playing on field turf.
Stolen Base Attempts – 40-57 against Arnold.
WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 35, very good at blocking pitches.


ERA – 4.14 (19)
BA – .290
HR – 57
H’s/9 IP – 8.9 (18)
BB’s/9 IP – 2.8 (14)
K’s/9 IP – 8.2 (32)

Starting Pitchers

JR Justin Marks (LHP – 11-2, 3.40 ERA, 17 apps, 15 starts, 1 save, 101 IP, 79 H, 32 BB, 125 K, .218 BA, 5 HR, 9 HBP, 2 WP). Big East Conf pitcher of the year. Projected to go in the first 3-4 rounds of the draft next week. School career leader in wins and strikeouts. Has a low 90’s fastball, curveball, slider and changeup and solid command of each. 8th in the country in K’s. 1.99 ERA in his last 23 IP with 31 K’s. 10-18 SB’s. Has picked off two runners.

Soph Dean Keikhefer (LHP – 6-4, 4.56 ERA, 17 apps, 12 starts, 73 IP, 87 H, 21 BB, 60 K, .300 BA, 3 HR, 13 HBP, 5 WP). Has been effective lately and allowed 3 R or less in each of his last three starts (3.05 ERA) against South Florida, Notre Dame and Middle Tennessee State in the regional. Leads the staff in HBP’s. 5-7 SB’s.

Soph Bob Revesz (LHP – 4-2, 4.48 ERA, 22 apps, 9 starts, 1 save, 60 IP, 73 H, 12 BB, 28 K, .300 BA, 4 HR, 4 HBP, 4 WP). Groundball pitcher who doesn’t throw hard and benefits from pitching his home games on the field turf. Has not gotten out of the fifth inning in four of his last five starts and could be replaced this weekend. 5-10 SB’s.

FR Tony Zych (RHP – 6-2, 3.25 ERA, 21 apps, 3 starts, 2 saves, 44 IP, 38 H, 10 BB, 31 K, .235 BA, 8 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP). Midweek SP who has been very effective in two post-season starts – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R allowed against UConn in the Big East tournament championship game and 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R against Vanderbilt in the regional clinching game. One of the harder throwers on the staff. Has had trouble with leaving the ball up and leads the staff in HR’s. 3-5 SB’s.

Relief Pitchers

Soph Gabriel Shaw (RHP – 3-1, 3.78 ERA, 28 apps, 3 saves, 50 IP, 46 H, 12 BB, 46 K, .245 BA, 7 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP). Part of a closer by committee, with all three saves coming in the last four weeks. Hard thrower and sometimes leaves the ball up and is 2nd on the staff in HR’s allowed.

FR Derek Self (RHP – 7-0, 3.25 ERA, 21 apps, 2 starts, 1 save, 44 IP, 42 H, 13 BB, 34 K, .249 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP). Has been part of the committee finishing games. Able to throw several innings (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R against MTSU in the regional and 6 IP, 2 R against Cincinnati in the Big East tournament).

SR Gavin Logsdon (LHP – 2-0, 4.24 ERA, 28 apps, 1 save, 34 IP, 39 H, 9 BB, 30 K, .285 BA, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP).

Soph Neil Holland (RHP – 0-0, 3.68 ERA, 15 apps, 1 start, 1 save, 22 IP, 24 H, 10 BB, 24 K, .289 BA, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP).

Soph Tyler Mathis (RHP – 1-3, 5.28 ERA, 13 apps, 2 starts, 29 IP, 23 H, 13 BB, 28 K, .215 BA, 1 HR, 11 HBP, 1 WP).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Titans Sweep Regionals


By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans did what they needed to do last night at Goodwin Field, defeating the Utah Utes, 16-3, to clinch their Regional championship. With the win, the Titans advance to Super Regional action against the winner of Monday's Vanderbilt vs. Louisville match-up.

Khris Davis led the 21-hit attack with three hits - including two home runs - and Tyler Pill (11-3) went eight strong innings in recording the victory.

The Utes earned the right to play a rematch with CSUF after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 9-7, in the afternoon's elimination game. The double-elimination format, with Utah playing their fourth game in three days, left their pitching cupboard bare, so they selected "crafty" lefthander Steven Streich, making his first career start.
The designated visiting team, Fullerton, put Streich on the ropes immediately. Christian Colon led off with a walk and Gary Brown bounced a single through the left side of the infield. Third batter Josh Fellhauer surprised the Utes with a perfect drag bunt past the pitcher to load the bases with nobody out. Jared Clark then smashed a groundball that 3B Nick Kuroczko fielded within a few feet of the bag, stepped on third for the force-out and threw to second base. The second-baseman took the throw for the force-out that made it a run-scoring double-play, but he did not attempt a throw to first for an around-the-horn triple play.
Hope sprung brightly for the Utes when Streich posted a zero in the top of the Fullerton second inning - equalling the number of goose-eggs the Utah pitching staff managed Friday night against the Titans. But Pill was more than equal to the task of maintaining his team's slim 1-0 advantage.
The Titans took advantage of a Utah error in building on their lead in the top of the third. Christian Colon singled and advanced to third base on a throwing error on an attempted force-out following Brown's groundball to the first-baseman. After Brown stole second uncontested, Fellhauer banged a base-hit into right-centerfield scoring both runners. Felly was gunned out at second on a great throw from CF Cooper Blanc, but his hit gave the Titans some breathing room at 3-0. (Click to enlarge this pic: it is a great look at a tag-out.)
After another scoreless frame by Pill, Khris Davis got the Titans going in the fourth inning with a leadoff home run. After Dustin Garneau walked, DH Shevis Shima pushed a perfect bunt for a base hit. After a Joe Scott sacrifice advanced both runners, Joey Siddons rammed a base hit up the middle through a drawn-in infield to make it 6-0. Siddons stole third and scored on Brown's double.
Utah's C.J. Cron hit a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the fourth to make it 8-1, but the Utes never got closer. Fellhauer led off the fifth with his third consecutive single and raced around to score on Jared Clark's double. Streich was replaced by reliever Robert Chimpky, who was unable to get the monkey off the back of the Utah pitching staff. Clark went to third on Davis' infield single and scored on Garneau's sacrifice fly. Davis later scored on a wild pitch. Scott got the rally recharged with a double deep to leftfield and scored on an RBI single by Siddons. Perhaps the best indicator of how well this game was going for Utah was when the count to Colon reached 3-2 with two outs and the first-baseman moved away from the base. Chimpky made a perfect pickoff throw to first - but the only people anywhere near it were Colon and the umpire and neither of them had a glove. Siddons advanced to second on the error and scored the fifth run of the inning when Colon singled to make it 12-1.
From that point on, both coaches substituted liberally. Khris Davis homered again in the eighth inning - his second of the game and fourth in three games.
Pill went eight solid innings in earning the win. After pitching a couple complete games earlier in the season, he had much shorter outings in recent starts against Cal Poly, UCLA, Pepperdine and Long Beach State, so I'm guessing he stayed in despite the lopsided score in order to "stretch him out" for upcoming action. Pill allowed seven hits and two earned runs, while striking out nine and allowing no walks or hit batters.
Colin O'Connell pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close it out.


So what did we learn this weekend?

It is going to take much better teams than faced this weekend to beat the Titans. There was something to like about each of the other teams - Georgia Southern's hitting, Gonzaga's defense and Utah's spunk - but none were complete enough to give the Titans a real challenge.

Congratulations to senior Dustin Garneau for being named the Regional's Most Outstanding Player and to the seven Titans named to the All-regional team:

  • Dustin Garneau (.583 average led team, three RBI, six runs scored, 5-for-5 performance in the winners bracket finale, no stolen bases allowed and enough kick saves to win the Vezina Trophy)

  • Jared Clark (.500 average, three doubles, 4 RBI and more scoops than Baskin-Robbins on a summer day)

  • Joey Siddons (.500 average, seven RBI, three multi-hit games, stellar defense at 3B)

  • Khris Davis (.467 average, four home runs, eight RBI, six runs scored)

  • Gary Brown (.467 average, three doubles, two stolen bases)

  • Tyler Pill (1-0, 2.25 ERA, nine strikeouts, won Regional clincher)

  • Noe Ramirez (1-0, 2.57 ERA, eight strikeouts)
The Titans led the Regional in most significant team and individual statistical categories. Just some of the highlights:
  • Batted .476 as team and scored 41 runs in three games

  • Khris Davis led all players in home runs, RBI and runs scored (tied).

  • Best team ERA: 2.33. (Gonzaga was second at 8.44.)

  • Brown and Clark were co-leaders in doubles with three each, while Scott was a co-leader in triples with two. (While paling, perhaps, to Davis' 1.267, Scott had a 1.000 slugging percentage this weekend.)
Those are all just numbers that won't mean a hill of beans later in the tournament against higher caliber teams. But the one thing the team can always control is attitude, hustle and teamwork. Those things were on display in abundance all weekend. I always enjoy getting the opinion of seasoned baseball observers that don't see the Titans very often and are more objective than me and probably you. My buddy "Tempe Tim" was in town this weekend and the things that stood out to him the most were the hustle and executing the fundamentals. Perhaps the play that stands out the most in his mind was Friday night when the Titans were leading by two touchdowns, yet RF Gary Brown was still diving face-first onto the warning track in pursuit of a foul ball.

Lastly, congratulations to Coach Dave Serrano (shown here intensely scouting his upcoming opponent) for his 200th career victory as a head coach in Division I baseball. I'm sure the personal milestone last night meant far less to him than the team's accomplishment of winning the Regionals.

Good luck to the Titans next weekend in what should be a very competitive Super Regional best-of-three series. We're just two wins away from the enxt step in the journey: "First to Practice, Last to Play."