Thursday, May 20, 2010

Santa Clara Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton (34-15, 18-3) wrapped up the Big West championship last weekend with two weeks to go in the regular season with a sweep at Long Beach State (12-2, 8-0, 6-4) to improve their record to 16-1 over 17 games before having their seven game winning streak snapped on Tuesday in an 11-10 loss to LMU. The Titans have hit .378 and averaged nearly 10 runs per game over the last 18 games. The leading hitters for Fullerton in the sweep at Long Beach were Christian Colon (5-15, 2 HR, 8 RBI and his first career grand slam), Billy Marcoe (6-14, 5 RBI) and Carlos Lopez (5-13, 4 RBI).

The starting pitching for Fullerton was dominant for the second straight weekend with Noe Ramirez, Daniel Renken and Dylan Floro combining to hold Long Beach to three runs in 22 2/3 IP for a stellar 1.19 ERA. Ramirez allowed 1 R in 7 IP to set the tone for the weekend on Friday and Floro allowed 2 R in 6 2/3 IP to help finish off the sweep on Sunday but the highlight of the series was Renken throwing a complete game shutout to earn a share of Big West pitcher of the week honors, the second consecutive week that a Titans pitcher received that award. Fullerton is looking to bounce back after their midweek loss and get back to their winning ways in a non-conference series this weekend against the Santa Clara Broncos.

Santa Clara (21-27, 6-12) thought they would have a chance to improve on their 19-34, 6-15 record from 2009 despite losing six of nine hitters who had 100+ AB’s with almost all of their pitching staff returning from last season. However, the Broncos have been very inconsistent with their mostly new lineup leading the WCC in several hitting categories while the pitching staff has struggled and ranks near the bottom of their conference. Santa Clara has come up on the short end of seven series, including sweeps in WCC series by San Diego, Portland and St. Mary’s, with their only series wins coming against San Jose State and Princeton in non-conf series and Pepperdine and Gonzaga in WCC series.


Santa Clara didn’t expect to have one of the better offenses in the WCC after losing so many starters from 2009 but their younger players have come along quickly and they have gotten strong seasons from the three veterans in the lineup, although one of them is injured and will be out this weekend. The Broncos lead the WCC in scoring, averaging about seven runs per game, AVG (.320), OBP (.405), SLG (.464) and walks. Santa Clara is primarily a contact hitting and gap hitting team that is next to last in the conf in HR’s (with one hitter having 12 of their 32 HR’s) and have struck out the fewest times in the WCC, averaging a little over five strikeouts per game. Most of the Broncos don’t bunt much, with two hitters accounting for 16 of their 24 SAC bunts, and they do a good job of stealing bases when they run (44-58 SB’s).

As you would expect with an inexperienced team, Santa Clara has struggled defensively and has committed 67 errors for a .963 FLD %, which is 7th in the WCC, and turned only 27 DP’s. Much of the inconsistency has been due to the Broncos shuffling players around both in the infield as well as the outfield.


After losing most of their infielders from last season, Santa Clara has been starting mostly newcomers with the exception of their catcher.

C – SR #27 Geoff Klein (Both – .339/.427/.519, 5-42-2; ’09 stats – .379/.432/.547, 5-56-1) is the only veteran in the infield and has had a solid SR season at the plate as the cleanup hitter and is in the top ten in the WCC in H, RBI, TB, 2B, BB and OBP. Klein has had issues behind the plate and has allowed 62 WP’s/PB’s and baserunners are 55-69 on SB attempts.

1B – FR #17 Ryan Rieger (LH – .275/.326/.388, 0-12-1) was a part-time DH for most of the season but has moved into the lineup at 1B and hit 5th or 6th the last four games due to the season ending wrist injury to JR Curtis Wagner, who is leading the WCC in AVG (.404) and OBP (.533).

DH – FR #25 Pat Stover (RH –.297/.341/.436, 2-30-2) is a big guy with power potential who has played some 1B but has primarily been the DH and batted 5th or 6th. He has seen less time lately while hitting .172 in conf games.

2B – FR #10 Drew Ozanne (RH – .333 in 39 AB’s, 0-12-0) was a backup for most of the season but has moved into the lineup the last few weeks and usually hits in the lower part of the lineup. He has made four errors in limited play.

SS – JC transfer #6 Evan Peters (RH – .328/.399/.443, 2-21-1) has started every game and done a solid job while usually hitting 2nd. He does a good job of handling the bat and is tied for the team lead with 8 SAC’s. Peters has good range at SS but has made 13 errors.

3B – FR #7 Blake Leyva (RH – .299/.355/.315, 0-23-5) has been in the lineup most of the time but usually hits 8th or 9th because he doesn’t have much power (only 2 extra base hits). Leyva has played well defensively and only made two errors. Leyva and Ozanne could switch spots in the field this weekend during one or two games like they did at UC Davis on Wednesday.


Santa Clara has a more experienced outfield than infield with some reserves after returning from 2009 as well as having their best player from 2008 coming back from a medical redshirt.

LF – JR #8 Tommy Medica (RH – .386/.465/.580, 12-54-14; ’08 stats – .342/.438/.509, 5-56-1) was a U.S. national team member in 2007 as a catcher and was expected to be drafted in the first few rounds last June before suffering a season ending shoulder injury a couple of weeks into the season and taking a medical redshirt. He has returned this year as an outfielder and has returned with a vengeance. Medica bats 3rd and is in the top three in the WCC in AVG, SLG, OBP, HR, RBI, R, H, 2B, TB and SB so he obviously is the best player for Santa Clara and one of the best players in their conference.

SR #33 Patrick Terry (RH – .322/.363/.470, 3-18-2) has been getting more playing time lately in LF and hitting 6th and when he is in the lineup Medica will shift over to RF.

CF – FR #15 Matt Ozanne (RH – .396 in 48 AB’s, 2-13-3) has only been in the lineup for the last few weeks but has been on fire and provided a spark for the lineup in the leadoff spot.

RF – Soph #4 Lucas Herbst (LH – .323/.375/.422, 3-12-9; ‘09 stats – .212 in 66 AB’s) handles the bat well and is tied for the team lead with 8 SAC’s. He is also one of the faster runners on the team and is in the top ten in the WCC in 3B’s and SB’s. He was starting in CF until the emergence of Ozanne there.


Santa Clara expected to have a much improved pitching staff despite having a 6.31 team ERA in 2009 with just about their entire pitching staff returning. But, an inconsistent pitching staff has once again held the Broncos down and they are 6th in the WCC with a 5.90 team ERA. Santa Clara has some solid arms on their staff and are 2nd in the WCC in K’s but they are next to last in the conf in BB’s, have allowed teams to hit .318 and given up 37 HR’s (6th in the conf in both categories). One thing the Santa Clara pitchers will do is throw often to first to hold runners because they have picked off 23 runners so that will be a key area to watch with Fullerton looking to send runners often. The Broncos have an all RHP staff so there won’t be any switching going on this weekend to bring in LHP’s vs. LH hitters.


Fri SP – SR #9 Nate Garcia (RHP – 3-8, 6.31 ERA, 12 starts, 77 IP, 99 H, 35 BB, 98 K, .311 BA, 8 HR, 5 HBP, 10 WP) is a hard thrower who is 2nd in the WCC in K’s and expected to have a better SR season after being solid last year (’09 stats – 7-5, 4.33 ERA, 96 IP, 95 H, 30 BB, 96 K, .260 BA, 5 HR). He has had issues with his control and when he has gotten the ball over the plate, his fastball has often straightened out and allowed hitters to tee off. After a poor start at San Diego when he allowed 8 R in 5 IP, it looked like Garcia had turned the corner when he allowed 3 R in each of his starts against St. Mary’s and Gonzaga before he allowed 10 R in 6 IP in his most recent start against USF. Garcia has a good move to first and has picked off four runners but is slow to the plate and has allowed runners to go 18-22 on SB attempts over the last two seasons.

Sat SP – SR #1 Alex Rivers (RHP – 5-7, 4.43 ERA, 12 starts, 3 CG, 85 IP, 103 H, 30 BB, 69 K, .301 BA, 2 HR, 7 HBP, 9 WP) is a ground ball specialist who relies on control and spotting his fastball to get batters out and is in his second year as a SP (’09 stats – 4-4, 4.85 ERA, 78 IP, 79 H, 32 BB, 67 K, .271 BA, 6 HR). He has been Santa Clara’s best SP in conf games and threw a three hit shutout at Pepperdine and a CG at Gonzaga when he allowed 3 R. When Rivers hasn’t been sharp teams have been able to hit him and he allowed 9 R (4 ER) on 10 H in 6 2/3 IP in his most recent start against USF and allowed 13 R (10 ER) on 21 H in 12 2/3 IP in his two starts between his CG’s against Pepperdine and Gonzaga. Rivers also has a good move to first and has picked off five runners but when baserunners have gotten a jump, it has usually resulted in a stolen base because he has allowed 34-43 on SB attempts the last two years.

Sun SP – FR #30 Chris Mendoza (RHP – 4-5, 5.34 ERA, 13 apps, 10 starts, 1 CG, 62 IP, 84 H, 21 BB, 32 K, .328 BA, 3 HR, 9 HBP, 6 WP) doesn’t throw hard and relies on spotting his fastball and keeping the ball down to get hitters out. He had a good start at Gonzaga three weeks ago when he allowed 1 R in 8 IP but has started to wear down and in his three other conf starts he allowed 17 R (12 ER) on 27 H before allowing 7 R on 6 H in 2/3 IP in his start Wednesday at UC Davis. Baserunners are 6-8 on SB attempts against Mendoza.


Santa Clara has gotten solid results from their closer and main set-up man with an 18-1 record when leading after 7 innings and 18-0 when leading after 8 innings but when teams have gotten into their bullpen early and the Broncos have had to use other relievers, the results haven’t been good.

The closer is Soph #13 J.R. Graham (RHP – 1-1, 4.07 ERA, 21 apps, 4 saves, 24 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 18 K, .320 BA, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 WP) and he will usually only be used for one inning or so. The set-up man for Graham is SR #31 Steve Kalush (RHP – 2-0, 3.65 ERA, 17 apps, 25 IP, 27 H, 12 BB, 25 K, .281 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 4 WP), who has the best ERA and opps AVG on the staff and is usually available for 2-3 innings.

Other relievers that could see action this weekend are midweek SP’s FR #11 Jon Hughes (RHP – 2-2, 7.53 ERA, 13 apps, 7 starts, 43 IP, 54 H, 24 BB, 50 K, .305 BA, 6 HR, 6 HBP, 9 WP) and FR #21 Brock Simon (RHP – 1-2, 7.79 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 7 starts, 35 IP, 46 H, 12 BB, 22 K, .317 BA, 5 HR, 4 HBP, 6 WP), JR #38 Cory Hall (RHP – 2-0, 6.64 ERA, 15 apps, 20 IP, 34 H, 7 BB, 18 K, .358 BA, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP), FR #23 Rhett Nelson (RHP – 1-0, 7.59 ERA, 12 apps, 11 IP, 20 H, 2 BB, 6 K, .385 BA, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP), Soph #35 Jason Westerberg (0-1, 8.50 ERA, 16 apps, 18 IP, 24 H, 11 BB, 17 K, .316 BA, 2 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP) and Soph #39 Paul Twining (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 17 apps, 19 IP, 33 H, 12 BB, 20 K, .384 BA, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP).


With the Big West title all wrapped up, one would could draw the conclusion that there isn’t much motivation for Fullerton over the next two weekends but that isn’t be the case. The Titans still have quite a bit to play for with a strong chance to secure a bid to host a regional at Goodwin Field and a decent chance for a national seed, depending on how things play out with other teams that Fullerton is competing against for the last couple of national seeds.

Santa Clara has a puncher’s chance this weekend with an offense that has scored at least six runs in 27 games and some starting pitchers that have had their moments. But, their offense has been shut down by the solid pitching staffs of San Diego, Pepperdine and Portland so if the Fullerton SP’s continue to throw well they should have some success. And, despite the loss of Gary Brown, the Titans were still able to score ten runs against LMU and should still be able continue to put up a high number of runs this weekend against the Broncos pitching staff.

Fullerton has been on an extended 27-6 roll the last two months with three straight weekend sweeps at Goodwin Field while Santa Clara has struggled while losing four of their six WCC series and is only 6-12 on the road. The Titans should be able to take control of this series because they are the better team and if they are on their game and stay focused, Fullerton has a very good chance to sweep this series.

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