Friday, April 23, 2010

Cal Poly Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton continued playing a solid brand of baseball last weekend as the Titans went up to UC Santa Barbara and won two out of three games against the Gauchos. After losing a 5-3 decision to tough LHP Mario Hollands on Friday, Fullerton broke out the bats and won their next two games 17-3 and 6-1. The Titans hit nine HR’s in the series and the leaders of a balanced attack were Big West player of the week Gary Brown (7-14, 2 HR, 6 RBI), Nick Ramirez (8-13, 3 HR, 4 RBI), Christian Colon (6-14, 3 HR, 7 RBI), Carlos Lopez (6-12, 3 RBI) and Tyler Pill (6-13, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Fullerton also received solid starts from Daniel Renken (3 R, 7 H with 8 K in 6 IP) and Tyler Pill (1 R, 3 H with 11 K in 8 IP) to allow the Titans to come back from a Friday loss for the second week in a row to win the series. After beating Pepperdine 12-5 on Tuesday the Titans have won 14 out of 18 games and have gone 15-3 over the last six weekends as they play their first weekend series at home in the last three weeks against the Cal Poly Mustangs.

Cal Poly (10-23, 3-6) finished 37-21 and in third place in the Big West in 2009, qualifying for a regional for the first time after near misses in 2005 and 2007. The Mustangs expected to make a run at getting back into post-season play despite losing three key players in their lineup (INF/OF Adam Buschini, CF Ryan Lee, SS Kyle Smith) with an experienced lineup and several starting pitchers returning. However, things have not gone as planned in SLO and this season has turned into a disaster. Cal Poly has not won a weekend series and were swept by UCLA and Houston and lost two out of three games to USC, USF and Cal. The Mustangs have also lost two out of three games in each of their Big West series (at UC Riverside, vs. UCSB and at Cal State Northridge) but despite going 4-17 after a 6-6 start they haven’t quit because Cal Poly has lost a one run game in each conference series that ended up being the deciding game in each of those series.


Cal Poly had one of the best offenses in the Big West in 2009 and expected to again have a productive lineup despite losing Buschini, Smith and Lee but that hasn’t come close to happening this year. The Mustangs were 1st or 2nd in the Big West in just about every major offensive category last season but they are currently last in the conf in AVG at .277, including .259 in conf games, after hitting .325 in 2009. Cal Poly was 2nd in the Big West in scoring last season but are only 6th in runs and have been limited to five runs or less in about half of their games. The Mustangs will work counts and see lots of pitches because they lead the conference in walks but they also aren’t making enough contact because they have 40 more strikeouts than any other Big West team. Cal Poly has also struggled to hit for power and is 6th in the conference in HR’s and 7th in SLG. The Mustangs usually will not play much little ball by bunting (two hitters have about half of their 21 SAC bunts) or stealing although they will take advantage of a team who is weak at stopping the running game and they stole seven bases last Sunday at Northridge.

Cal Poly was doing an adequate job on defense during the non-conf part of their schedule but things have gone south with their gloves recently. The Mustangs have committed 19 errors in the last ten games that have contributed to 18 unearned runs. Cal Poly’s FLD % is down to .965 (7th in the Big West) and they have committed 44 errors. They have inexperienced players on the corners, limited range in the middle infield and OF’s with solid range.


Cal Poly returned three starters around the infield but some injuries and lineup decisions have resulted in some players being shuffled around playing out of position and a weaker all-around defense than last season.

C – JC transfer #14 Elliot Stewart (RH – .227/.271/.348, 2-6-0) and Soph #12 Jordan Hadlock (RH – .319/.396/.383, 0-6-1; ’09 – 3-14) have been splitting time recently with Hadlock playing most of last weekend after Stewart was injured after one AB. If Stewart is able to play he will be in the lineup. Either would be likely to hit 6th or 7th. Hadlock was going to redshirt in 2009 but had to start against Fullerton due to injuries to the first two C’s and went 2-8 in the series.

1B/DH – SR #24 David Van Ostrand (LH – .282/.311/.412, 1-15-0; ’09 - redshirt) was splitting time in the lineup but has started 9 of the last 10 games due to injuries to other players. He is on a seven game hitting streak and has the best AVG on the team in conf games at .323 but is not a patient hitter and has only walked four times. Van Ostrand will usually hit 5th. He does not move well at 1B and has made eight errors.

SR #15 Ross Brayton (RH – .318/.356/.427, 2-21-1; ’09 – .393/.445/.518, 1-28-0) was honorable mention all conf as the starting catcher in 2009 but was moved to 1B after the first few weeks of the season. He has not hit as well as he did last year but he has been solid and is 2nd on the team in AVG and usually hits cleanup. Brayton has not started the last five games and was only available to pinch-hit last weekend. He is questionable for this weekend but if he can play 1B then Van Ostrand would start at DH. Brayton was injured and missed last year’s series against Fullerton.

DH – JR #31 D.J. Gentile (RH – .196/.361/.261, 0-9-1; ’09 – 304/.386/.459, 5-41-0) received regular playing time in 2009 but hasn’t played much this year until recently due to injuries to other players and has started the last seven games at DH. Gentile has not hit well but he is patient and has walked 10 times in 46 AB’s and hit 5th in all three games last weekend. He is 1-11 in his career against Fullerton.

2B – Soph #8 Matt Jensen (RH – .272/.374/.472, 2-29-2; ’09 – .375/.493/.650, 9-53-2) was the Big West FR of the Year in 2009 and 1st team all-conf despite missing the last fifteen games of the season (including the Fullerton series) because of a broken collarbone. He has been invited to try out for Team USA this summer, was drafted in the 11th round out of HS and is projected to go in the first few rounds of the 2011 draft. Jensen has been pitched around often this year and he is a patient hitter (2nd in the conf with 21 BB’s) but he has often chased pitches to try to generate some offense, resulting in much less power but he is still 6th in the conf in RBI. Despite not hitting as well as he did last year, Jensen is one of the most dangerous hitters on the team and will hit 3rd. Jensen has improved defensively from last year, making only two errors in the first 27 games before making two last weekend, but has average range.

SS – JR #20 J.J. Thompson (RH – .202/.350/.333, 2-9-1; ’09 – .292/.338/.439, 7-41-2) is another player who has not hit as well as he did in 2009 and he has been hitting either 8th or 9th. Thompson is a patient hitter who is tied for 2nd on the team in walks but is 2nd in the Big West in K’s and was 3rd in the Big West in K’s in 2009. He was the starting 3B last season, did not field well and made 15 errors. Thompson has struggled with the switch to SS, has limited range and has made 8 errors. He is 5-23 with an HR in his career against Fullerton. JC transfer #2 Mike Miller (RH – 4-25) has seen some time at SS and is a better defensive player but would be in the lineup primarily for his glove.

3B – FR #1 Evan Busby (Both – .253/.404/.313, 0-15-3) has been in the lineup almost every game hitting 8th or 9th. He doesn’t have much pop in his bat but is patient and is tied for 2nd on the team in BB’s. Busby is 2nd on the team with four SAC bunts. He has solid range at 3B but has struggled with consistently making plays and has made seven errors.


Cal Poly lost their CF from last season but returned three other OF’s who played regularly and have had a FR making a solid contribution.

LF – SR #5 Luke Yoder (RH – .315/.392/.591, 6-19-5; ’09 – .301/.416/.528, 9-40-9) is a four year starter and has been one of their most productive players. He is in the top ten in the conf in HR, SLG and 3B and gives Cal Poly power in the leadoff spot. Yoder has been one of the hotter hitters on the team and went 6-12 last weekend. He is one of the most patient hitters in the Big West and was 2nd in the conf in BB’s in 2009. Yoder also has an all or nothing swing and he led the Big West in K’s in 2009 and is 3rd this season. He has a good power/speed combo and was drafted in the 33rd round in 2008 as a draft eligible Soph but wasn’t drafted last year. Yoder is 5-16 with an HR in his career against Fullerton.

CF – SR #11 Adam Melker (LH – .290/.356/.430, 2-12-3; ’09 – .282/.387/.388, 0-26-3) is another player who has seen regular playing time for four years. He doesn’t have much pop in his bat and had only one HR in his career going into last weekend but he hit two HR’s at Northridge and went 5-9 for the weekend to raise his AVG by 25 points. He is a good bunter and was 3rd in the Big West in 2009 in SAC bunts and leads the team with six. Melker is a solid defensive player who has played all three OF positions in his career. He is 10-31 in his career against Fullerton.

RF – Soph #23 Bobby Crocker (RH – .304/.377/.440, 3-28-12; ’09 – .323/.419/.488, 5-24-10) is one of the better athletes on the team and is projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds in 2011. He has usually hit 2nd to combine with Yoder to give Cal Poly two SB threats at the top of the lineup and he is 4th in the conf in SB’s. Crocker has been a productive hitter and is 7th in the conf in RBI. He is also able to play CF with his good speed.

FR #19 Ryan Haniger (RH – .337/.409/.531, 4-20-3) got off to a great start in his FR season, leading the team in AVG and 2nd in SLG. He has missed the last five games with back problems and is questionable for this weekend. Haniger was drafted in the 31st round but decided to go to school and looks like a good prospect for the 2012 draft.


Cal Poly’s lineup was the strength of their team last season as the Mustangs hit their way to a regional. The pitching staff kept the team in games but usually wasn’t expected to carry the load for Cal Poly with a 5.95 team ERA that was 7th in the Big West. The Mustangs anticipated that their pitching staff would be better with all of their SP’s returning along with the expected return of Steven Fischback, their Friday SP in 2008, from a medical redshirt. But, things haven’t turned out the way that Cal Poly planned with Fischback unable to pitch and Mason Radeke, 6-2 as a FR in 2009 and 3-1, 2.96 ERA in four starts, missing the last six weeks. As a result, the staff ERA has gotten even worse this season and the Mustangs are last in the Big West with a 6.50 ERA. One of the main problems for Cal Poly has been allowing too many runners to get on base because they are next to last in the Big West in walks, last in AVG at .315 and they have also allowed the most extra base hits in the conf.


FRI – JR #27 Matt Leonard (LHP – 0-4, 4.25 ERA, 9 starts, 53 IP, 69 H, 13 BB, 27 K, .309 BA, 5 HR, 4 HBP, 5 WP) has been pitching better than his 0-4 record would indicate. He did not throw well in his first four starts but in his next four starts he had a 1.63 ERA and allowed 27 H in 28 IP against Cal, UCLA, Riverside and UCSB before allowing 6 R (3 ER) on 7 H and 4 BB in 4 IP last weekend at Northridge. Leonard is a finesse pitcher who relies on control and keeping the ball down and when his control is off or he gets the ball up is when he will give up the most damage and he has allowed 24 extra base hits. Leonard was the Sat SP last season (5-3, 7.68 ERA, 14 starts, 78 IP, 98 H, .317 AVG, 10 HR). He didn’t do a good job at holding baserunners in 2009 (15-20 SB’s) but has been much better this season (3-8 SB’s). Leonard allowed 5 R (4 ER) and 9 H in 6 IP in his start against Fullerton last year.

SAT – SR #44 DJ Mauldin (RHP – 2-1, 8.02 ERA, 9 apps, 6 starts, 34 IP, 48 H, 27 BB, 20 K, .343 BA, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 8 WP) was the Fri SP in 2009 (5-5, 4.75 ERA, 14 starts, 108 IP, 135 H, 31 BB, 65 K, .317 BA, 5 HR) but was not throwing well going into the season and started out in long relief. He was moved into the rotation after Radeke got hurt and has been inconsistent in allowing at least four runs in every start except for a good outing at Riverside when he allowed 2 R (1 ER) in 6 IP. Mauldin was a workhorse for Cal Poly in 2009 and was 3rd in the Big West in IP but his stuff hasn’t been the same this year and his control has been bad. He has allowed 14 R (11 ER) on 17 H and 8 BB in 11 IP in his last two starts against UCSB and Northridge. Baserunners are 14-19 on SB attempts against Mauldin the last two years. He allowed 4 R and 8 H in 5 2/3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

SUN – JC transfer #17 Eugene Wright (RHP – 1-2, 4.62 ERA, 12 apps, 2 starts, 37 IP, 37 H, 14 BB, 31 K, .257 BA, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP) was pitching in middle relief up until two weeks ago while Cal Poly went thru a couple of other unsuccessful options in the Sunday SP spot. After some good work out of the bullpen he was moved into the rotation against UCSB. Wright threw well and allowed only one run in six innings against the Gauchos before tiring and giving up five runs in the 7th. He threw well again last week at Northridge and allowed 3 R (0 ER) and 6 H in 6 1/3 IP. He has been the toughest pitcher to hit on the staff with the lowest AVG. Wright has also done a good job of holding runners and allowed only 2-5 SB’s.

Soph #34 Kyle Anderson (LHP – 1-4, 9.78 ERA, 7 starts, 39 IP, 65 H, 11 BB, 19 K, .380 BA, 5 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP) was in the weekend rotation most of the season but has been moved to the midweek SP spot. Cal Poly didn’t have a midweek game this week and doesn’t have one next week so he will be available out of the bullpen.


The bullpen was a strength for Cal Poly last season with three reliable options that the Mustangs went to often to bail out the SP’s and finish off games. This season the bullpen has been a major weakness with only one of those relievers returning and blown leads costing Cal Poly games in each of their one run losses in conference games.

SR #28 Mark DeVincenzi (RHP – 0-2, 6.48 ERA, 2 saves, 12 apps, 17 IP, 18 H, 10 BB, 17 K, .273 BA, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP) has been the closer and is the only reliever returning who was relied on late in games and led the Big West in 2009 in appearances (’09 – 6-1, 4.26 ERA, 31 apps, 57 IP, 65 H, 21 BB, 55 K, 1 HR). He relies on a power sinker but hasn’t had control of that pitch this season, which has left him with only a fastball to get hitters out and the results haven’t been good. DeVincenzi blew saves against Riverside and UCSB and didn’t pitch last weekend despite all three games at Northridge being close ones. He has allowed 3 R in 5 1/3 IP in three appearances against Fullerton in his career.

Soph #39 Jeff Johnson (RHP – 2-3, 9.13 ERA, 14 apps, 24 IP, 28 H, 11 BB, 35 K, .286 BA, 4 HR, 1 HBP, 5 WP) is the hardest thrower on the staff but hasn’t had good command of his pitches most of the season. He threw well against Riverside (4 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 7 K) and UCSB (3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 7 K) to get both wins for Cal Poly in those series but lost last Friday’s game at Northridge when he allowed 2 R in the bottom of the 8th and didn’t pitch in the other two games when both were decided late.

JR #35 Frankie Reed (LHP – 0-4, 7.58 ERA, 14 apps, 2 saves, 19 IP, 31 H, 12 BB, 14 K, .360 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP) is the only LHP likely to pitch in relief. He took the loss last Sat when he allowed 3 R in the 8th after throwing three scoreless innings and came back on Sun for the save with 1 2/3 scoreless IP.

FR #30 Joey Wagman (RHP – 1-2, 6.90 ERA, 10 apps, 5 starts, 30 IP, 39 H, 23 BB, 23 K, .317 BA, 2 HR, 6 HBP, 7 WP) has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen but looks like he has settled in as a reliever. He allowed 2 R (1 ER) on 4 H in 3 IP but the key was not allowing any walks because his control has been poor all season.

JR #26 Tommy Erlin (RHP – 0-0, 9.72 ERA, 7 apps, 8 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 9 K, .378 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP) is the only other reliever likely to see any action this weekend after having one appearance in each conf series.


Fullerton will go into the series with Cal Poly heavily favored to take at least two games like they were in last weekend’s series at UCSB. The Mustangs have been more competitive recently but they are still finding ways to lose games. The Titans were finding ways to lose games in the first three weeks but have been finding ways to win them since their poor start.

The only way that Cal Poly is going to win this series is if Fullerton lets the Mustangs jump out to early leads and have their SP’s keep low pitch counts and stay in games for extended innings. If Fullerton’s SP’s hold down Cal Poly early in games and the hitters put some numbers on the board early, the Titans should win at least two games if not all three. Cal Poly’s offense has put up some numbers against mid-level pitching but has been held down by solid pitchers and their bullpen has usually not been able to hold anybody down.

Fullerton could have trouble in the first game of the series due to the questionable status of Noe Ramirez and the way that Matt Leonard had pitched in his four starts prior to last weekend. The Titans would be prohibitively favored in the other two games with the way that Renken and Pill have been pitching the last two weeks. Fullerton’s pitching staff does match up well with the mostly RH hitting Cal Poly lineup that is 5-7 against LH SP’s but only 5-16 against RH SP’s.

Fullerton has to make sure they do not overlook Cal Poly this weekend. The Titans usually play well against the Mustangs and have only lost one series to Cal Poly since they moved up to Division I in the mid 1990’s. If Fullerton continues to play like they have been the last six weeks then the Titans should win at least two games at home this weekend, if not all three.

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