Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Five Titans Arms Blank Aztecs

By Don Hudson

On a frigid evening at Goodwin Field, the Cal State Fullerton Titans rode the strength of five pitchers tossing a combined three-hit shutout and defeated the San Diego State Aztecs, 3-0. It was a major reversal of style from Sunday’s wild 11-10 affair versus the TCU Horned Frogs.

Dave Birosak started for the Titans and was the winning pitcher on a designated staff day when he set the Aztecs down in order and the Titans plated a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff single by Michael Lorenzen, a sacrifice by Keegan Dale and an RBI single by J.D. Davis on a short flyball that landed in “no man’s land” in rightfield. (In a designated staff game, the rule is waived that requires a starting pitcher to pitch at least five innings to be eligible for a win.)

Dmitri DeLaFuente followed Birosak and was stellar for three innings, allowing no hits, one walk and striking out four Aztecs. Tyler Peitzmeier (51, right) entered the game in the top of the fifth with the Titans holding a slim 1-0 lead and promptly surrendered a leadoff single, the Aztecs’ first of the game. A sacrifice and a passed ball placed the tying run on third base with just one out, but Peitzy struck out the next two batters on an assortment of pitches.

The Titans added an insurance run in the fifth inning to make it 2-0. Austin Kingsolver led off with a beautiful bunt single, advanced to second on a hit-and-run groundout by Chad Wallach and scored on an RBI single by Lorenzen. The Titans added a third run in the sixth inning on a single by Carlos Lopez, a walk to Austin Diemer and an RBI single by Matt Chapman, his first official hit as a Titan.

After 2-1/3 sharp innings by Peitzmeier, he handed the ball to Willie Kuhl (25, right), who made his memorable debut on Sunday by tagging out two runners at the plate and striking out another in his inning of work, earning him a save against TCU. Kuhl had an excellent outing, retiring the first seven batters he faced. It would have been eight straight and a save, but an error with two outs in the ninth inning extended the game, which was followed by a double that brought the tying run to the plate. Lorenzen was summoned from centerfield and quickly notched his third save, inducing a foul-out to Kingsolver in leftfield.

Lorenzen led the way offensively with three hits and his sixth stolen base of the season. Matt Orloff doubled for his first hit of the season.


So what did we learn last night?

We learned that you’re only kidding yourself if you think you learned something. Do you ‘learn’ from Sunday’s game that your young pitching staff is going to get beat up badly or do you ‘learn’ a couple days later that those same guys are the reincarnation of the 1965 Dodgers (Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen, Podres, Perranoski)? Don’t conclude too much from either game: each is just a data point along the journey.

Another data point: TCU arrived with a team batting average of .205 and went home hitting .276. Conversely, San Diego State was hitting .301 as a team at 6:00 last night and were down to .281 by 8:30. TCU banged out 16 hits on Sunday and scored ten runs (in eight innings) and went home and lost last night to Texas State, 1-0 – they were shut out at home by Texas State Bobcats of the Southland Conference! Does any of this make sense?

I was very encouraged by the back-to-back strong performances of freshmen Tyler Peitzmeier and Willie Kuhl. Last night, they each worked 2-1/3 innings and struck out three apiece, while surrendering the three Aztecs hits. Minus an error with two outs in the ninth inning, SDSU would have had only two hits and Kuhl would have notched back-to-back saves.

I was also very happy to see the quick turnarounds made by Dave Birosak (38, right) and Dmitri DeLaFuente (44, below), who combined for four hitless shutout innings last night, after getting hit hard on Sunday. Kudos to the coaching staff for giving them the opportunity to get right back up on the horse. On a cold, breezy night, the Titans’ pitching staff displayed excellent control, allowing just one walk.

Freshman Clay Williamson made his debut last night, the 27th player used so far this season. The left-hand-hitting outfielder was allowed to swing away in both of his plate appearances that have in the past been automatic bunt situations; e.g., runner on first in a close game and nobody out. I applaud the confidence displayed in the team’s ability to hit and firmly believe there will be dividends down the road as the young hitters benefit from the experience of being allowed to swing the bats. But I’m starting to hear the murmurings you never thought you would hear at Goodwin Field: “I wish we bunted more.” Personally, I like when the team is not so predictable.

The official game time temperature was listed at 56 degrees, but between the wind-chill factor and the cold plastic seats, it reminded me of going to Buffalo Bills games back when I lived in lovely Rochester, NY in the early ‘80s. I was sooooooo happy to see the vendor selling hot chocolate in the stands on Saturday and Tuesday nights – that man is a saint!
The Aztecs remain without head coach Tony Gwynn, who underwent a 14-hour surgery on Valentine’s Day to remove a malignant tumor from inside his right cheek. He had another major cancer surgery 18 months ago, which he has attributed to his addiction to chewing tobacco: Gwynn chewed all twenty years he played and for a decade afterwards. I love baseball and the many traditions and rituals that go with it, but if there was one thing I wish would change, it is the habit of chewing tobacco. I hate seeing high school and college players risking their long-term health with such an addictive substance.

Hope to see you out at the ballpark today – looking forward to Koby Gauna’s first start as a Titan against Jason Gill’s Loyola Marymount Lions.

1 comment:

TitaNation89 said...

My ears are burning, Don.

Yes. Mine may be one of the voices that you hear calling for more bunts in “traditional sacrifice bunt” situations. To be fair, I simply pointed out that (when we DO try to lay down a sacrifice bunt) it is important to actually execute effectively. I was not advocating more bunt-for-base hit attempts (although I feel there is a place for that). I think we have already broken up a No-Hitter with a bunt single. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, though.

Hook may have other reasons for swinging away in close games with a runner on 1st and one or no outs. I am ok with that. I trust Hook. This year’s Titans include several high-potential / low-experience players. In February, gaining experience may more valuable to gaining wins. But, based on the first few games, it appears that we could use some experience executing the sacrifice bunt, too.

I am excited about the 2012 Titans. At the same time, I expect us to win without the long ball –just like last year. Executing the fundamentals will be important. Very important. Right?

Thanks, Don! We appreciate you.