Friday, March 5, 2010

Arizona Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton’s slow start continued against TCU as the Titans lost two out of three games for the second weekend in a row and lost the series to the Horned Frogs at Goodwin Field for the second straight season. Fullerton lost the first game 5-2 as their bats were throttled by Steven Maxwell and he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. After Saturday’s game was rained out, the teams split a doubleheader on Sunday with the Titans winning the first game 6-4 behind the hitting and pitching of Nick Ramirez before TCU came back to win the second game 8-1 when the Horned Frogs broke open the game with a five run sixth inning while Kyle Winkler shut down the Fullerton offense. The Titans rebounded against San Diego with an 11-4 midweek win and this weekend Fullerton hits the road for the first time season and will be traveling down to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats.

Andy Lopez led Arizona to the College World Series in 2004 and had the Wildcats in regionals in five out of six years and in a super regional in 2008 before a mediocre 30-25, 13-14 season in 2009. Things were pretty miserable for Arizona both on and off the field and Lopez cleaned house after the season with fifteen players leaving the program who had eligibility remaining in addition to having seven players leave the program after being drafted and/or graduating. With that type of attrition the result is the Wildcats have one of the youngest teams on the west coast with seventeen freshmen in the program. Arizona returns only four position players who saw regular playing time and four pitchers with pitched at least 35 innings last season. The expectations for the Wildcats are fairly low and they are being predicted to finish anywhere between fifth and eighth place in the Pac 10 and are expected to miss post-season play for the second straight season.

Arizona is 4-3 after getting their season off to a fast start by winning all three games at home against Utah Valley State, one of the lower level teams in the western region, by the scores of 8-1, 18-1 and 8-7. The Wildcats struggled last weekend while facing a better team when they lost both games to Long Beach with the third game of the series rained out. Arizona blew a late lead to lose 8-7 in the first game before losing 10-3 in the second game. The Wildcats faced UNLV in a midweek series and lost 12-10 in the first game before rebounding to win the second game 5-4 in 13 innings.


Arizona had one of the better lineups in the Pac 10 in 2009 and led the conference in BA, 2B’s, 3B’s and were 2nd in R’s, SLG % and SB’s. Unfortunately for the Wildcats most of the leaders of that offense have moved on and they have only a few contributors back from last season. Arizona has come out swinging the bats this season and are hitting .318 with five players hitting over .350, three of them returners from last season. The Wildcats did most of their damage against Utah Valley State when they hit .358 and scored 34 runs in that series and have hit .289 and scored 25 runs in their last four games against Long Beach and UNLV. Arizona will play little ball with by using the hit and run, stealing bases (13 in 7 games) and bunting (8 in the last 4 games). The Wildcats are also being patient at the plate and are averaging around five walks per game and doing a solid job of making contact and are striking out about five times per game.

The dimensions at Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium are spacious down the lines (360 ft), relatively short to the power alleys (378 ft) and standard (400 ft) to CF which means there tend to be lots of 2B’s and 3B’s hit there. Due to the ballpark dimensions and Tucson’s elevation (over 2000 feet above sea level) according to Boyd’s World the park factor is 126, which means the ballpark increases offense by 26% and significantly favor hitters, especially when the weather warms up and the ball travels well.

Arizona was a poor fielding team last season and made 76 errors and was eighth in the Pac 10 with a .965 fielding %. The Wildcats have shored things up some this year and are fielding better with a .972 fielding %.


Arizona had a pretty experienced infield last season but didn’t field well. This year the Wildcats have three players returning but only one of them played the same position last season and the defense has improved some.

C – Soph Jett Bandy (RH – .485/.514/.848, 3-11-1; ’09 – .299/.397/.500, 4-39-1) was the 3B last season and has moved to C and done a solid job against the running game (3-5 SB’s) but has struggled some at blocking pitches (8 WP’s/PB’s). He has been on fire to start the season and will hit either 4th or 5th as one of the power bats in the lineup with 3 of the team’s 5 HR’s, including a walk off grand slam in the third game of the Utah Valley State series, and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s. He went 2-7 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton. Bandy’s backup is JC transfer Jacob Meskin, who is 0-4 in two starts.

1B – SR Rafael Valenzuela (LH – .375/.484/.583, 0-8-1; ’09 – .277/.331/.411, 0-14-4) split time at 1B and DH last season and is doing that again this season but is limited defensively. Valenzuela went 7-13 against Utah Valley State and 2-11 the last four games. Bandy has started twice at 1B when Valenzuela has been the DH. Valenzuela does a good job of getting on base and bats 2nd.

2B – JR Bryce Ortega (RH – .143/.324/,143, 0-3-3; ’09 – .324/.429/.438, 3-33-16) was the starting SS last season but has been moved to 2B, which has helped improve Arizona’s infield defense. Ortega was predicted to contend for all-conf honors after leading the team in SB’s last season but he has gotten off to a very slow start. He has been the leadoff hitter every game and will work counts and leads the team with seven walks. Ortega went 0-8 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton.

SS – FR Alex Mejia (RH – .192/.300/.269, 0-4-0) is a good athlete in the middle infield but he has struggled at the plate with making the adjustment to D1 pitching. Mejia has batted 9th in every game.

3B – FR Seth Mejias-Brean (RH – .133/.278/.200, 0-2-0) and FR Robert Refsnyder (RH – .423/.483/.423, 0-6-1) have been splitting time at 3B with Mejia-Brean getting most of the starts and usually batting 8th. Refsnyder is a versatile player and a good athlete who was the QB on his HS football team. He has also been playing in the OF and has often switched over to 3B during games and usually hits 5th or 6th. Refsnyder went 8-17 the last four games.

Outfield and DH

Arizona returned only one OF from last season so they have been relying on incoming players to take over and the newcomers have been playing well.

LF – Soph Bobby Brown (LH – .333/.385/.583, 0-2-1) and Refsnyder have been splitting time in LF with Brown going 4-8 over the last four games. Brown usually hits in the lower part of the lineup and is the only other LH bat along with Valenzuela.

CF – FR Joey Rickard (RH – .367/.406/.667. 2-11-4) was the most heralded newcomer in the large recruiting class and he has delivered. He has hit 2 of the team’s 5 HR’s and is tied for the team lead in RBI’s. Rickard went 7-12 against Utah Valley State but is 4-18 over the last four games. Rickard is a good athlete in CF and leads the team in SB’s and has been hitting 6th or 7th.

RF – Soph Steve Selsky (RH – .424/.472/.485, 0-6-0; ’09 – .318/.386/.541, 7-21-2) is the only returning player in the OF. He went 8-14 against Utah Valley State and has gone 6-19 the past four games. Selsky usually hits 3rd and has good power, which is why he is projected to be drafted around the 10th round in June as a draft eligible soph. He went 3-6 in last year’s midweek series at Fullerton.

DH – JC transfer Josh Garcia (RH – .200 in 10 AB’s) is one of several players who will see time at DH, including Valenzuela, Brown and Refsnyder as Arizona rotates players at this position.


A major reason why Arizona ended up under .500 in conf games despite having a potent lineup was a pitching staff that ended up 9th in team ERA at 5.46 and allowed opponents to hit a conference worst .293. The pitchers also allowed the most 2B’s and 3B’s in the conference. Arizona lost their Friday SP, top middle reliever and closer to the draft after last season. The Wildcats allowed only one run in each of their first two games before allowing 41 runs in their next five games.


FRI – FR Kurt Heyer (RHP – 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 2 starts, 12 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 20 K, .304 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP) had an outstanding start against Utah Valley State when he allowed 1 R on 3 H in 6 IP with 13 K’s but struggled against Long Beach when he allowed 4 R on 11 H in 5 2/3 IP last Friday. Heyer has good stuff with very good control. He is the best pitching prospect in the recruiting class and helped lead Edison HS to the CIF D1 final, losing a 1-0 game to Capo Valley and 1st round draft pick Tyler Matzek.

SAT – Soph Kyle Simon (RHP – 1-1, 3.55 ERA, 2 starts, 13 IP, 11 H. 6 BB, 8 K, .239 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP) is the most experienced pitcher returning from last season (’09 stats – 3-5, 6.03 ERA, 19 apps, 11 starts, 75 IP, 106 H, 26 BB, 42 K, 2 HR, .305 BA, 12 HBP, 6 WP). He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but is a battler. Simon was very effective against Utah Valley State and allowed 1 R on 5 H and 1 BB in 8 IP but didn’t pitch well against Long Beach when he gave up 5 R on 6 H and 4 BB in 5 IP. In his midweek start at Fullerton last year he allowed 5 R on 7 H in 2 1/3 IP.

SUN – TBA. The most likely SP’s would be either FR RHP Stephen Manthei or JR RHP Daniel Workman. Both made midweek starts this week against UNLV. Workman was one of the more effective returning pitchers for Arizona (’09 stats – 3-1, 3.86 ERA,15 apps, 6 starts, 42 IP, 45 H, 13 BB, 25 K, 5 HR, .271 BA, 5 HBP, 3 WP). He was shelled by Utah Valley State for 6 R and 7 H in 1 2/3 IP. Manthei allowed 0 R in 4 1/3 IP in relief of Workman in that game and was scheduled to start the Sun game against Long Beach that was rained out. Manthei started the Tues game against UNLV and allowed 5 R without retiring a batter. Workman was effective in his Wed start against UNLV and allowed 1 R on 2 H and 4 BB in 4 1/3 IP.


Arizona has been scrambling for answers in the bullpen with so much roster turnover and the loss of their two most effective and experienced relievers from last season.

Soph Bryce Bandilla (LHP – ’09 stats – 3-3, 6.20 ERA, 26 apps, 6 starts, 49 IP, 51 H, 32 BB, 30 K, .280 BA, 2 HR, 11 HBP, 4 WP) was one of two experienced RP’s coming into the season and the projected closer due to his power arm although he has struggled with wildness. He blew the save against Long Beach when he allowed 3 R on 4 H in 2 IP. Bandilla struggled in his next outing on Tues against UNLV when he allowed 5 R on 5 H in 5 IP but did have 8 K’s.

JR Joe Allison (RHP – ’09 stats – 5-1, 4.66 ERA, 21 apps, 3 starts, 39 IP, 41 H, 11 BB, 21 K, .272 BA, 9 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP) is the other experienced RP but has been brought along slowly due to some minor injuries. He made his first appearance on Wed against UNLV and held the Rebels hitless in 1 2/3 IP in picking up the extra inning win. Allison has good control but his pitches tend to get too much of the zone and led allowed the most HR’s on the staff last season. He allowed 3 R on 5 H in 4 IP in his midweek start at Fullerton last year.

FR Nick Cunningham (RHP – 5 apps, 2.84 ERA, 6 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K) has been effective and earned the coaching staff’s confidence and leads the staff in appearances.

FR Tyler Hale (RHP – 4 apps, 6.48 ERA, 8 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 8 K) was projected to have a chance to be the closer due to his power arm but he has struggled out of the gate. He has allowed 2 R in each of his last 3 outings.

No other pitcher has made more than one appearance out of the bullpen and the only other LHP on the roster besides Bandilla is JR Matt Chaffee, who only threw nine innings last year.


Fullerton has gotten off to a slow start and is looking to get their first series win this weekend. It looked like the ballclub started to turn the corner in their midweek win vs. San Diego against a weekend SP who should be better than any of the SP’s that they will see this weekend, although he was very wild which helped out the Titan hitters.

Arizona is a very young team that got off to a fast start against an inferior opponent before having a bit of a reality check while going 1-3 when the level of competition improved.

Runs don’t figure to be hard to come by this weekend with the way that Arizona swings the bats at home and with the struggles that the Wildcat pitching staff has had in allowing over eight runs a game the past five games. The Titans should have the pitching advantage in this series if they don’t allow Arizona to gain confidence at home in a hitters ballpark.

Fullerton is a more well rounded club than Arizona and if the Titans pitchers are effective and the hitters are able to have a good approach at the plate and swing the bats the way that they did on Tuesday night then Fullerton should win two out of three games this weekend.

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