Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cal State Northridge Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton (38-15, 18-3) already had the Big West conference championship wrapped up going into last weekend’s non-conference series with Santa Clara but the Titans didn’t play like they didn’t have anything to play for in sweeping the Broncos by scores of 8-0, 6-4 and 18-11. Leading the way at the plate for against Santa Clara were Carlos Lopez (7-12, HR, 8 RBI), Corey Jones (6-9, HR, 5 RBI), Richie Pedroza (6-13, 2 RBI) and Tyler Pill (5-8, HR, RBI). The Titans won their fourth game in a row and 20th in their last 22 games on Tuesday night with a 5-2 victory against #7 UCLA to win both midweek games the teams have played this season. The win over UCLA could potentially have major implications when the NCAA announces the regional field next Monday. Fullerton is hitting .383 and averaging 9.4 runs per game during their 22 game run. Jones (16 games), Pill and Nick Ramirez (11 games) have lengthy hitting streaks going and Pedroza had his 16 game hitting streak snapped against UCLA.

The starting pitching for Fullerton wasn’t quite as dominant against Santa Clara like it was the previous two weekends but they did more than enough to put the Titans in position to win all three games. Daniel Renken was solid on Saturday and won his eighth consecutive start in allowing four runs in eight innings but the highlight of the weekend was Noe Ramirez throwing eight shutout innings on Friday, allowing only four hits and no walks with 11 K’s, and he won the Big West pitcher of the week award, the third straight week that Fullerton has had a pitcher receive that week honor. The Titans will get ready for regional play by finishing their regular season this weekend at Goodwin Field with a Big West series against the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

Cal State Northridge (29-24, 9-12) thought they had a chance to be better after finishing next to last in the Big West in 2009 with an experienced roster returning both at the plate and on the mound. The Matadors have already clinched a winning record for the first time in Steve Rousey’s eight year tenure as the head coach and by winning a game this weekend can also get into double digits in conference wins for the first time under Rousey. Northridge was on a 10-2 run against the soft part of their non-conference schedule going into Big West play before receiving a dose of reality when they were swept at home by UC Irvine. The Matadors played inconsistently after the Irvine series and lost four of their next six series, including getting swept at Riverside two weeks ago, but Northridge has been on a roll recently in winning five of their last six games including a sweep last weekend at home of Long Beach State.


Northridge was a poor hitting team in 2009 when they hit .270 with a .359 OBP and .373 SLG % while averaging six runs per game and hitting only 32 HR’s (7th or lower in the Big West in each of those categories) despite playing in the best hitters park in the conference. The Matadors lost their best hitter from last season and a couple of other starters but figured they should be better offensively and they definitely have been with a .308 AVG, .384 OBP and .462 SLG % while averaging seven runs per game and hitting 49 HR’s (2nd or 3rd in the Big West in each of those categories). Northridge will work counts and swing for the fences because they are also 3rd in the conference in walks and strikeouts. The Matadors won’t bunt much with only 24 SAC’s this season (13 by two players) but they will try to run when they get on base and trail only Fullerton in the Big West with 83 SB’s and are efficient when they run with a 78% success rate.

Northridge traditionally has one of the poorer defensive teams in the Big West and that is the case again this season because the Matadors are last in the conference with 85 errors and a .959 FLD % after making 100 errors for a .956 FLD % in 2009. Northridge made at least four errors in seven straight series (six errors in four of them) before making only two errors in last weekend’s sweep of Long Beach. The middle infield defense for the Matadors has been pretty solid with only 14 errors by their starters but a major issue for Northridge has been the pitchers hurting their own cause by making 19 errors.


Northridge returned experienced players at each position except behind the plate, although there has been shuffling around at a couple of positions.

C – JC transfer #31 Dominic Piazza (LH – .292/.351/.358, 1-17-0) has taken over behind the plate after both C’s from 2009 moved on and he has done a decent job hitting and on defense. He will usually hit 8th and has gone 4-11 in his three starts over the last week. Runners are 33-43 on SB attempts against Piazza and Northridge has allowed 42 WP’s, the 3rd fewest in the Big West. FR #14 Marty Bowen (RH – .276 in 58 AB’s) has started 12 games and will probably start once this weekend.

1B – JR #30 Dominic D’Anna (LH – .348/.426/.552, 8-47-2; ‘09 stats – .326/.410/.587, 7-32-0) has struggled with injuries in his first two years (missed the last 20 games in 2009) but has played in every game this season and been a productive hitter, ranking in the top ten in the Big West in HR, RBI, 2B and BB and he has a solid 26-32 BB/K ratio for a power hitter. D’Anna is the cleanup hitter and has gone 8-23 with 4 RBI over his last five games. He is a solid athlete around the 1B bag and does a good job on defense. D’Anna went 4-13 with an HR and 6 RBI in last year’s series against Fullerton.

2B – JR #17 Ryan Pineda (RH – .333/.404/.621, 16-66-24; ’09 stats – .294/.385/.500, 10-44-2) was the Big West FR of the Year in 2008 and has moved all over the diamond his first two seasons, playing 3B, 1B and OF, before settling in at 2B this year. He hits 3rd, has been one of the best players in the conference and leads the Big West in HR and RBI and is 2nd in SB. Pineda is also in the top ten in the conference in R, H, TB and SLG. The only thing that Pineda struggles with is striking out and he is 7th in the Big West with 43 K’s. Pineda has been swinging a hot stick over the last four games, going 8-18 with 2 HR and 8 RBI. Despite playing 2B for the first time, he has been solid defensively and committed only six errors for a .973 FLD %. Pineda went 3-13 in last year’s series against Fullerton and is 7-26 in his career against the Titans.

SS – JR #2 TS Reed (RH – .319/.371/.388, 0-23-11; ’09 stats – .234/.317/.266, 0-9-7) is in his third year as a starter in the middle infield, starting at 2B as a FR and at SS the last two seasons. Reed will hit 9th, has good speed (10th in the Big West in SB) and leads the team with 7 SAC’s. He does not have much power with only 7 extra base hits. Reed has good range and has been solid defensively, making only eight errors for a .962 FLD %. He went 2-13 in last year’s series against Fullerton and is 5-26 in his career against the Titans.

3B – JR #28 Justin DeMarco (RH – .311/.416/.480, 5-27-3; ’09 stats – .246/.338/.322, 2-18-3) has been one of the most improved players offensively and is very patient at the plate (3rd in the Big West in BB) with an outstanding 29/21 BB/K ratio. DeMarco has moved over to 3B after playing most of the time at 2B in 2009. He will usually hit 6th or 7th and has cooled off recently, going 1-16 in his last four starts. DeMarco is 2nd on the team with 6 SAC’s. He has struggled with the move to 3B and is 4th in the Big West with 14 errors and has a .908 FLD %. DeMarco went 2-11 in last year’s series against Fullerton and is 3-21 in his career against the Titans.

JC transfer #1 Brad Decater (RH – .337/.427/.523, 4-23-2) has played occasionally at 2B and 3B. Decater has been a productive hitter when he has been in the lineup but is a poor defensive player (6 E’s, .850 FLD %).


Northridge lost their main CF from 2009 but returned players who have experience at playing all three OF positions.

LF – JC transfer #11 Ridge Carpenter (RH – .298/.374/.399, 2-30-19) has excellent speed (3rd in the Big West in SB) and has very good range in LF. He usually hits 6th or 7th and was swinging a hot bat against Long Beach, going 6-10 and scoring 6 R’s last weekend. Carpenter does have trouble making contact and leads the conference with 54 K’s.

CF – Soph #51 Drew Muren (LH – .294/.393/.406, 3-21-11; ’08 stats – .270/.317/.351, 1-14-2) was a medical redshirt in 2009 but has done a solid job as the leadoff hitter and leads the team with 12 HBP. He also has good speed (10th in the Big West in SB), covers ground well in CF and has a solid arm (came into Northridge as a P/OF). Muren also struggles with making contact and is 5th in the conference with 45 K’s.

RF – SR #25 C.J. Belanger (LH – .369/.438/.576, 4-42-5; ‘09 stats – .233/.332/.294, 0-12-6) was a part-time starter the three previous seasons before securing a full-time spot in RF as the #2 hitter in the lineup. He has been a key hitter during Northridge’s recent surge, going 10-17 over the last four games with an HR and 10 RBI to move into the top ten in the Big West in AVG. Belanger also has good speed, is in the top five in the Big West in 3B’s and has experience playing CF so he has good range for a RF. He went 1-8 in last year’s series against Fullerton and is 5-30 in his career against the Titans.

DH – FR #15 Alex Muren (RH – .270/.378/.514 in 37 AB’s, 1-6-0) barely played all season but has been in the lineup the past five games, going 3-17 over the last week.

FR #7 Nate Ring (RH – .308/.382/.486, 2-16-3) has been the 4th OF and was splitting time at DH with Decater before Muren was moved into the DH spot last week.


Despite being next to last in the Big West standings in 2009, Northridge had some solid pitching numbers and they were 4th in the Big West with a 4.97 ERA. The Matadors returned pitchers who started 41 of 56 games last season and expected to do as well or better on the mound but they have regressed with a 5.76 ERA (7th in the conf), have given up 54 HR’s (last in the conf). and have allowed opponents to hit .300 and none of their SP’s have an ERA under 5.00. Northridge lost several key relievers from last season but their closer has stepped up to do a solid job. The Matadors will throw often to 1B to hold runners close but after being one of the leaders in the nation with 32 pickoffs they have only picked off 10 runners this season.


Fri SP – SR #13 Billy Ott (RHP – 2-1, 5.79 ERA, 3 saves, 19 apps, 3 starts, 56 IP, 67 H, 24 BB, 31 K, .305 BA, 7 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP) was one of Northridge’s SP’s last year (’09 stats – 1-4, 5.83 ERA, 17 apps, 10 starts, 76 IP, 88 H, 20 BB, 51 K, .292 BA, 8 HR) but was working primarily as a long reliever this season before moving into the rotation last week and he held down Long Beach for 7 2/3 IP, allowing 2 R on 9 H. He is a strike thrower who has allowed only 1 BB in 16 IP over his last three appearances. Ott’s longest relief outings before last week were 5 IP (4 R, 8 H) against Irvine and 4 1/3 IP (3 R, 4 H) against UCSB. He has not done a good job of holding baserunners (8-9 SB’s). Ott allowed three runs in the only inning he has pitched against Fullerton.

Sat SP – Soph #4 Justen Gorski (RHP – 4-2, 5.89 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 3 starts, 44 IP, 59 H, 15 BB, 26 K, .326 BA, 5 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP) was a swingman last season (’09 stats – 1-4, 5.29 ERA, 13 apps, 5 starts, 34 IP, 43 H, 6 BB, 18 K, .316 BA, 4 HR) and was also working primarily as a long reliever before going into the starting rotation two weeks ago. He got an early hook at Riverside after allowing 3 R in 4 1/3 IP but had a strong start against Long Beach last week when he went 7 IP and allowed 2 R on 7 H. Gorski is also a strike thrower and he didn’t allow any walks against Long Beach. He does a good job of holding baserunners (2-6 SB’s). Gorski allowed 5 R on 8 H in 5 1/3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

Sun SP – TBA.

JR #32 Ryan Juarez (RHP – 3-6, 5.06 ERA, 14 starts, 1 CG, 80 IP, 96 H, 28 BB, 53 K, .288 BA, 10 HR, 5 HBP, 8 WP) has been in the rotation most of the last three seasons (’09 stats – 7-5, 4.89 ERA, 14 starts, 85 IP, 95 H, 30 BB, 37 K, .291 BA, 7 HR) and was the Fri SP most of the season and after allowing 1 R in a CG win at Pacific had a 3.77 ERA. Since then, he has gotten progressively worse and allowed 22 R in 14 IP over his last four starts, including 5 R in 4 2/3 IP against Long Beach. Juarez has been the Sun SP the last three weeks. He also has very good control but has had trouble with getting too much of the plate and giving up HR’s. Juarez does a poor job of holding baserunners (9-11 SB’s). He was effective in his start against Fullerton last season when he allowed 3 R on 7 H in 7 1/3 IP after allowing 7 R on 8 H in 4 2/3 IP in his start against the Titans in 2008.

JR #24 Paul Tremlin (RHP – 6-6, 5.82 ERA, 17 apps, 12 starts, 1 CG, 68 IP, 74 H, 25 BB, 50 K, .279 BA, 12 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP) leads the staff in wins for the second straight season (’09 stats – 7-1, 5.48 ERA, 20 apps, 6 starts, 48 IP, 53 H, 15 BB, 43 K, .277 BA, 3 HR) and was also in the rotation most of the season before being taken out before the Long Beach series after he allowed 11 R in 2 IP in his start at Riverside. He had been fairly effective in four starts before that, allowing 10 R in 27 IP, including a CG win against UC Davis when he allowed 1 R. Tremlin is similar to Juarez because his big issue has been getting too much of the plate with his pitches and giving up too many HR’s. He does a solid job of holding baserunners (5-10 SB’s). Tremlin has allowed 2 R in 4 IP in three appearances in his career against Fullerton.


Northridge has a good closer and they been willing to the bullpen early and often with seven pitchers having double digit relief appearances. The Matadors are 24-0 when leading after six innings so if they get out to a lead it won’t be a good sign.

The closer is SR #12 Jimmy Jolicoeur (RHP – 5-1, 3.83 ERA, 4 saves, 27 apps, 2 starts, 54 IP, 44 H, 20 BB, 38 K, .223 BA, 9 HR, 10 HBP, 5 WP) who has a good arm (2nd in the Big West in opps AVG among eligible pitchers) and would be able to go 2-3 IP to finish off a game. He has made two starts, going 6 IP (1 R, 5 H) against Bakersfield and 4 1/3 IP against UC Davis (4 H, 6 R). Jolicoeur threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win in extra innings last Friday against Long Beach. The one area that he has had trouble with is giving up the long ball because he is a fly ball pitcher. Jolicoeur allowed 1 R on 2 H in 1 2/3 IP in two appearances against Fullerton last season.

Northridge doesn’t have a designated set-up man, although whoever doesn’t start on Sun between Tremlin and Juarez would be likely to be one of the first relievers to come into a game along with SR #10 Brian Longpre (RHP – 2-1, 4.29 ERA, 23 apps, 36 IP, 53 H, 11 BB, 26 K, .351 BA, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 2 WP), who threw five innings (12 H, 7 R, 2 ER) on Monday against San Diego in his longest outing of the season.

Other relievers that could see action this weekend are midweek SP JC transfer #27 Shawn Wilyman (RHP – 1-4, 6.36 ERA, 18 apps, 7 starts, 52 IP, 65 H, 24 BB, 30 K, .316 BA, 6 HR, 6 HBP, 10 WP) and southpaws FR #14 Trevor Fredrickson (LHP – 0-0, 3.55 ERA, 13 apps, 13 IP, 15 H, 5 BB, 6 K, .294 BA, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 4 WP) and FR #26 Jacob Petersen (RHP – 1-0, 6.88 ERA, 14 apps, 17 IP, 20 H, 3 BB, 13 K, .290 BA, 5 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP).


The long and winding road that has been the regular season for Fullerton reaches the finish line this weekend. The Titans started out about as poorly as possible by winning only seven of their first sixteen games. Fullerton has gone 31-6 since then by finishing up their non-conference schedule in strong fashion and dominating the Big West conference. The Titans are going to have to make sure they don’t overlook Northridge this weekend because they still have a chance of securing one of the eight national seeds.

Northridge brings an offense into Goodwin Field that has the potential to create all sorts of problems for the Fullerton pitching staff. The Matadors have been red hot at the plate and have scored 53 runs the last six games. However, because Northridge has several hitters that are prone to striking out they are also vulnerable to being shut down like they were in series losses to Irvine, Riverside, Pacific and Bakersfield when they averaged barely over three runs per game. Northridge’s offense also usually hasn’t been as good away from their home ballpark.

Fullerton’s offense has been on fire over the last 22 games and even in the two games that they lost during that stretch the team scored ten runs each time. Northridge pitched well against Long Beach last weekend but over the course of the season they have tended to give up runs in bunches. The Matadors also play poor defense and with the way that the Titans have been hitting, that isn’t a good combination.

The key to this weekend is going to be the approach that Fullerton takes to this series. Northridge has only gone 2-7 against the Titans the last three years but three of the losses were by one or two runs so the Matadors have been competitive most of the time. If Fullerton comes out flat they will have their hands full and Northridge will give them trouble. If the Titans come out with the focus that they have shown over the last two months then Fullerton should win what looks like it could be a high scoring series between two of the best offenses in the Big West.

No comments: