Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pacific Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton (25-13, 10-2) has continued to take care of business and their winning streak is now up to seven games and they have also won 13 of 15 games overall since the start of conference play. The Titans welcomed Pepperdine and Cal Poly to Goodwin Field last week and won all four games (12-5 against Pepperdine and 8-6, 11-3 and 9-2 against Cal Poly) while hitting.388 and averaging 10 runs per game to stay in first place by two games in the Big West. Leading the way for Fullerton were the Big West player of the week Nick Ramirez (9-14, 0 HR, 5 RBI), Gary Brown (9-18, 0 HR, 7 RBI), Tyler Pill (7-15, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Joey Siddons (7-15, 1 HR, 5 RBI). The Titans received good starts on the mound from Daniel Renken (3 R allowed in 8 2/3 IP) and Tyler Pill (five shutout innings) against Cal Poly and eight innings of relief in three appearances (2 R allowed) from Dylan Floro. Fullerton continued to score runs in bunches on Tuesday at San Diego and needed to in a 13-10 comeback win with a two out, nobody on base rally in the 9th inning that was started by Richie Pedroza, who had four hits in the game, and finished by the game winning grand slam by Carlos Lopez. The Titans look to continue their hot streak this weekend as they travel up to Stockton to take on the Pacific Tigers.

Pacific (25-14, 7-5) went 21-32, 9-15 in 2009. That wouldn’t be a positive season for most programs but considering the Tigers won only 30 games overall and 8 conference games the previous two years, Pacific showed quite a bit of improvement that has carried over into this season. The Tigers had a dramatic hitting and fielding turnaround in 2009 and have six starting position players returning (along with a four year starter who redshirted in 2009) and a much improved pitching staff with several quality JC transfers. Pacific has won nine of their ten weekend series with their only series loss occurring at Long Beach State in their first conference series. The Tigers series wins include San Francisco, Nevada and USC (all at home) in non-conf series and UC Riverside (home), UC Irvine (away) and Cal State Northridge (home) in Big West series. Pacific has shown some tenacity the last two weekends after losing on Friday against Irvine and Northridge but coming back to win on Saturday and Sunday in both series.


Pacific was easily the worst hitting team in the Big West in 2007 and 2008 (averaging 4.5 runs per game and hitting .265 two years ago) but with most of the same players hit .322 (.332 in Big West games) and averaged seven runs per game, which is a credit to the coaching of Ed Sprague and assistant coach Don Barbara in his first year at Pacific. The Tigers have continued to hit well and are batting .329 (2nd in the conf) and averaging 6.5 runs per game (4th in the conf), although those numbers have tailed off during the conference season with Pacific hitting .301 and averaging 4.8 runs per game in Big West games with the Tigers scoring four runs or less in 7 of 12 conf games. Pacific doesn’t score their runs by powering up with the long ball (7th in the Big West with 21 HR’s) but puts pressure on the other team by making contact and hitting line drives from gap to gap (.456 SLG – 4th in the conf). Their game on Wednesday against Santa Clara is a prime example of this type of offense because the Tigers had 20 hits in a 12-7 win and 19 of them were singles. Pacific was at the bottom of the Big West in 2009 when it came to playing little ball with bunting and stealing but this year they are 4th in the conf in SAC bunts and 5th in SB’s. The Tigers are only 6-14 on SB attempts in Big West games but have laid down 15 SAC bunts in 12 conf games.

Pacific’s improvement last year with their position players wasn’t limited to what they were doing at the plate. The Tigers made 235 errors in the 2007 and 2008 seasons and cut that number down to 70 errors last year. Pacific is fielding even better this season and they are 2nd in the Big West with a .973 FLD %. The Tigers are very good defensively up the middle at C, 2B and SS (they have turned ten more double plays than anybody else in the Big West) and their corner infielders are also solid. Their outfield defense has been average.


Pacific has the most experienced infield in the Big West. The only starter that they lost from 2009 was 2nd team all-conf C Kurt Wideman and he is being replaced by a three year starter at C who redshirted last season.

C – SR #8 Joe Oliveira (RH – .315/.403/.408, 1-18-10; ’09 – medical redshirt) was 1st team all-conf in 2007 and honorable mention in 2008 but didn’t play last season due to an injured labrum in his shoulder. He is in his fourth year as a starter and is in the school’s all-time top ten in career G, AB, H and R. Oliveira got off to a bit of a slow start after taking last year off but has started hitting well with a .366 AVG in conf games and he drove in all four runs in their win last Sat against Northridge. He usually bats 9th but has hit 6th in the last three games. Oliveira doesn’t have much power but he is a very patient hitter (8th in the conf in BB) who handles the bat well and has six SAC’s. He does a very good job at blocking pitches, allowing the second fewest WP/PB in the conf, and is solid at throwing out runners (26-40 SB’s). Oliveira is 4-27 in his career against Fullerton.

1B – JR #32 Brian Martin (LH – .395/.449/.448, 0-27-0; ’09 - .333/.409/.484, 3-31-0) was a solid hitter in 2009 but has really taken off this year and is in the top ten in the conf in AVG (4th), H (2nd), 2B (5th) and OBP (8th). He doesn’t have much power but is a consistent line drive hitting machine in the 3rd spot in the lineup. Martin has gotten even hotter in Big West games and has gone 12-23 the last two weekends against Irvine and Northridge. He is a good defensive player and one of the better 1B’s in the conf. Martin was 4-12 at Fullerton last season and is 5-21 against the Titans in his career.

2B – JR #7 J.B. Brown (LH – .417/.434/.556, 4-24-3; ’09 – .378/.421/.550, 7-58-3) struggled as a FR both offensively and as a SS but was one of many Pacific players who showed drastic improvement in 2009, improving his AVG well over 100 points, and he was 2nd team all-conference after finishing in the top ten in AVG, SLG, H, RBI and TB. As good as Brown was last season, he has been even better this year and is in the top ten in the conf in AVG (2nd), H (3rd) and TB (7th) while batting 5th. The one thing that Brown doesn’t do well at the plate is show much patience because he has only walked three times. Because he is a former SS, Brown has outstanding range at 2B and easily leads the other 2B’s in the conf in total chances. He was 4-14 at Fullerton last season and is 5-21 against the Titans in his career.

SS – SR #2 Ben Gorang (RH – .286/.336/.345, 0-13-3; ’09 – .285/.338/.403, 3-28-3) is the glue that holds Pacific’s infield together and a big reason why they have shown major improvement on defense over the last two seasons. Gorang doesn’t have much pop in his bat and isn’t patient at the plate with only 7 BB’s but usually makes contact and is 2nd on the team with 7 SAC’s. He will usually hit 8th. Gorang was hitting over .300 before conf play started but is only hitting .167 in Big West games. He was 2-9 at Fullerton last season.

3B – SR #3 Mike Walker (LH – .353/.409/.569, 7-35-3; ’09 – .345/.424/.497, 6-34-3) was a productive hitter in 2009 and 2nd team all-conference but this year he has really taken off as the cleanup hitter and is in the top ten in the Big West in HR (4th), RBI (4th), TB (4th), R (5th), H (6th) and SLG (10th). Walker is in the school’s all-time top ten in career HR, RBI, H, TB and 2B. He struggled at Irvine two weeks ago (2-11) but bounced back against Northridge by going 5-11. Walker has a big swing and leads the team and is 8th in the conf in K’s. He has good range and leads all Big West 3B’s in total chances but has made nine errors. Walker was 4-12 at Fullerton last season and is 5-22 against the Titans in his career.


Pacific graduated two of their OF’s (including 2nd team all conf utility player Joey Centanni) so they have relied on a couple of reserves from last season to move into the lineup.

LF – SR #1 Matt Fuson (RH – .275/.322/.363, 1-14-3; ’09 – .196 in 46 AB’s) and JC transfer #24 Matthew Carvutto (RH – .275/.306/.362, 0-11-0) have split playing time in LF. Neither has much pop in his bat but they have combined to provide decent RBI production. Both have struggled in Big West play and combined to hit .167 (6-26) and whoever is in the lineup will likely be hitting 9th.

CF – Soph #11 Brett Christopher (Both – .313/.380/.503, 4-28-5; ’09 – .222 in 27 AB’s) barely played in 2009 with some solid players in front of him. This year he has gotten a chance to contribute and has made the most of it. Christopher is on a nine game hitting streak, will hit 2nd and does a good job of getting rallies going with his speed (tied for 2nd on the team in SB’s, 3rd in the conf in 3B’s) and by moving runners over and leads the conf with 8 SAC’s. He has gotten hot during Big West games and is hitting .383 during conf play with a team leading 15 RBI.

RF – JR #15 Nick Longmire (RH – .280/.397/.448, 4-21-5; ’09 – .385/.448/.596, 6-37-8) is the best athlete and draft prospect on the team and played like it in 2009 when he was 1st team all-conf, hitting .423 in Big West games, and was in the top ten in the conf in AVG, SLG, OBP, R, H and TB. Longmire is in the school’s all-time top ten in career R, H and TB. He has struggled this season (2nd on the team with 26 K’s) and is not playing at nearly as high of a level but he has done a good job as the leadoff hitter of getting on base and leads the Big West in BB’s and is 7th in R’s. Longmire has good speed and is tied for 2nd on the team in SB’s. He was 6-14 at Fullerton last season and is 9-24 against the Titans in his career.

DH – FR #20 John Haberman (LH – .382/.400/.500, 0-22-0) was on fire to start the season and hitting well over .400 for most of the non-conf portion of the season before cooling off once Big West games started and is hitting only .260 in conf games. He doesn’t have much patience at the plate with only four walks and doesn’t have much power but he is a contact making, line drive machine. Haberman will usually hit 7th.


The one area of the team that Pacific didn’t improve in last season was the pitching staff, which had a team ERA of 6.36 that was 8th in the Big West and kept the team from having more improvement with what was going on with the position players. Centanni was usually the only reliable SP for most of the season so to say there were many question marks going into this season would be an understatement. Pacific loaded up on JC transfers who have contributed right away and the result has been the staff ERA tumbling down almost 1 1/2 runs per game to 4.97, which is good enough for 4th in the Big West, with their five leaders in IP having a solid 3.88 ERA. The Tigers pitchers have usually done a good job of working down in the strike zone and getting ground balls and letting their good fielding infield do the rest. Pacific’s pitchers pitch to contact and are only 7th in the conf in K’s and have allowed the second highest AVG at .302, including .325 in conf games.


Fri – JC transfer #35 Marcus Pointer (RHP – 6-2, 4.52 ERA, 10 starts, 70 IP, 63 H, 29 BB, 45 K, .249 BA, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP) has been solid as the #1 SP and is 3rd in conf in W and IP and 5th in opps BA. Pointer was outstanding in his first five starts, winning each of them with a 2.06 ERA. He has struggled over his last five starts with a 7.20 ERA although two of them were solid when he allowed 1 R in 8 IP in a win at Long Beach and 4 R (3 ER) in a CG loss at Irvine while he allowed 24 R in his other three starts, all at home (San Jose, Riverside and Northridge last weekend when he allowed 8 R and 12 H in 6 2/3 IP). Pointer throws a fastball in the mid-80s, a changeup that he throws at any point in the count, a curveball to keep hitters off-balance and a slider as an out-pitch against RH hitters. He has allowed runners to go 6-8 on SB attempts.

Sat – SR #21 David Rowse (LHP – 7-0, 4.57 ERA, 10 starts, 65 IP, 82 H, 13 BB, 37 K, .320 BA, 6 HR) pitched primarily in relief last season (’09 stats – 3-2, team leading 3.99 ERA, 15 apps, 5 GS, 47 IP, 64 H, 19 BB, 20 K, .323 AVG) before making starts in the final three conf series with a 1.64 ERA in those starts. He has carried that success over to this year and leads the Big West in wins and is 6th in IP. Rowse has good control and mixes speeds but he doesn’t throw hard and pitches to contact, generating lots of ground balls but also allowing batters to hit .320, including .355 in Big West games. After allowing 13 R and 28 H in 16 IP in his first three conf starts, Rowse bounced back last weekend to shut down Northridge and only gave up 1 R on 5 H in 7 IP. He has done an outstanding job of controlling the running game and easily leads the Big West with seven pickoffs and only allowed one SB in five attempts. Rowse did not pitch at Fullerton in 2009 and has allowed 7 R in 5 IP in three apps in his career against the Titans.

Sun – JC transfer Jake Hummel (RHP – 5-2, 3.30 ERA, 3 saves, 14 apps, 7 starts, 60 IP, 63 H, 19 BB, 35 K, .270 BA, 5 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP) started out the season as the closer and will usually be available on Fridays to throw an inning in middle relief if necessary. He was moved into the rotation a few weeks into the season and has usually done well and is 6th in the Big West and 8th in opps AVG. Hummel has been the most consistent SP during conf games with a 3.07 ERA with wins against Northridge (7 1/3 IP, 4 R, 11 H) and Irvine (7 1/3 IP, 2 R, 10 H) and a no decision against Riverside (6 IP, 1 unearned R, 8 H). He is another ground ball specialist who had only given up 2 HR’s before his start last week in windy conditions and allowed 3 HR’s to Northridge. Hummel has done a good job at holding runners and they are only 3-7 on SB attempts against him.


Pacific doesn’t have a deep bullpen but they have gotten solid work out of their primary set-up man and the two pitchers they have used in the closer position.

Closer – SR #41 Hunter Carnevale (RHP – 3-3, 2.88 ERA, 4 saves, 17 apps, 2 starts, 50 IP, 51 H, 10 BB, 41 K, .274 BA, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 0 WP) made two solid starts during non-conf games and was primarily a middle reliever until Hummel was moved into the Sun SP spot and he has taken over as the closer with some of the better stuff on the pitching staff. He has been pitching very well over the last three weeks, throwing 11 scoreless innings including a 5 2/3 IP appearance at Irvine, and is 2nd in the conf in ERA, 3rd in saves and 4th in appearances. Runners are 7-10 on SB attempts against Carnevale. He has allowed 13 R in 11 IP in two starts against Fullerton.

JC transfer #25 Robbie Richardson (RHP – 1-2, 3.71 ERA, 2 saves, 15 apps, 27 IP, 29 H, 8 BB, 12 K, .302 BA, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP) is a control specialist who has been the most reliable option to get the ball to the closer. He will be the RP most likely to be brought into games this weekend in the 6th or 7th inning unless Pacific is using Carnevale to try to get a multiple inning save.

Pacific doesn’t have too much faith in any of their other relievers to get outs in key situations because their other relievers all have ERA’s over 7. The LHP specialist is SR #22 Jamie Niley (0-0, 15.12 ERA, 10 apps 8 IP, 13 H, 12 BB, 3 K), who threw well last season at Fullerton in two appearances (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 8 K). LHP John Haberman has also pitched out of the bullpen (1-1, 7.97 ERA, 7 apps, 20 IP, 26 H, 12 BB, 17 K) but hasn’t made an appearance in a conference game. The other RHP’s are JR #29 Thomas Berolzheimer (0-0, 9.64 ERA, 7 apps, 5 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 3 K), who was the closer in 2009 and had 5 saves, and SR #45 Casey Neimeyer (1-2, 7.45 ERA, 19 IP, 35 H, 4 BB, 10 K),


Both Fullerton and Pacific come into this series playing very confidently with the teams combining to win 13 of 14 series over the last seven weeks. The Titans have been steamrolling through teams with 7 of their 10 Big West wins coming by 5+ runs while the Tigers have been playing closer games with 5 of their 7 conf wins coming by 3 runs or less.

Pacific has some good intangibles going for them this weekend. The Tigers are 6-0 in home series and there are expected to be record crowds at Klein Field. Pacific won’t be intimidated by seeing the Titans across from them in the other dugout after winning last year’s series at Fullerton. The Tigers are looking to make a run at getting into a regional for the first time ever and will be very motivated this weekend because this is probably the biggest series in the history of their program.

Both teams have shown the ability to put up big numbers at the plate with two of the best hitting teams in the Big West. A key to winning this series is going to be which pitching staff can hold down the other team’s offense. These are the two best fielding teams in the Big West so there don’t figure to be too many extra outs given to the other team and any that are will be a bonus.

Fullerton has had the better overall pitching staff but that advantage has been diminished due to the injury to Noe Ramirez and the affect that has had on changing the roles for some of other the pitchers. Pacific has pitched much better this season but they have been up and down during Big West games and if they are going to win this series they are going to have to be more consistent.

Fullerton is going to have to bring their A game this weekend to win this series and the best way for the Titans to do that is by jumping on the Pacific pitching staff early. If Fullerton is able to do that the Titans have a strong chance of winning this series despite the issues with their pitching staff. If Pacific’s pitchers are able to hold the Fullerton offense down and the Tiger hitters are able to put some runs up on the board for Pacific to jump out to leads, the Tigers will have a good chance of winning this series.

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