Friday, March 30, 2012

Titans Split With Sun Devils

By Don Hudson

In a mid-week showdown between two perennial Division 1 college baseball powerhouse programs, the evenly matched Cal State Fullerton Titans and Arizona State University (ASU) Sun Devils split a pair of games this week at Packard Stadium in Tempe, AZ. The games were the final tune-up for the Titans before they begin Big West Conference action at home on Friday night against the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

Game 1: “Are We Ever Gauna Hit?”

Sun Devils 1, Titans 0

The Titans wasted numerous early opportunities, as they erased runners and destroyed rallies by grounding into three double-plays in the first five innings and lost another runner on a busted steal attempt. After posting seven hits in the first 4-1/3 innings, the Titans were no-hit the rest of the game by a triumvirate of ASU relievers. With their offensive ineptitude, the Titans were shut out for the second consecutive game and squandered a brilliant pitching performance by Koby Gauna and relievers Dimitri De la Fuente and Dave Birosak.

It was only the third time since the inception of the Titans Division 1 program in 1975 that they had been shut out in consecutive games. The first occurrence was in the 1982 College World Series (versus Wichita State and Maine) and the most recent was in 1997 (a pair of 2-0 losses at USC and at UCSB).

After the shutout in the final game against Oral Roberts, the Titans came out with a new-look line-up which included Richy Pedroza leading off and playing second-base; Anthony Hutting moved up to second; Michael Lorenzen and Carlos Lopez in the 3-4 spots; J.D. Davis was the designated hitter; and Anthony Trajano inserted at shortstop, with Matt Chapman shifting to third-base.

Pedroza led off the game against ASU starter Zak Miller with a crisp single to rightfield, but was erased on the first of the double-plays. Similarly, Lopez singled to open the second inning, but the Sun Devils again turned the double-play to avoid an early deficit.

Meanwhile, Gauna gave the Titans good pitching on its side. He threw a 1-2-3 first inning and his defense supported him with a 5-4-3 double-play in the second inning after he had allowed a leadoff walk. The Titans turned another deuce in the third inning after a leadoff single, the first of the game allowed by Gauna. Fullerton got a break when Drew Stankiewicz hammered a triple to leftfield but was ruled out on appeal for missing first-base.

The futility continued for the Titans in the fourth inning. With one out, Lorenzen singled, but was thrown out from here to Quartzsite trying to steal second-base. The Devils pitched out, Lopez took the pitch and Lorenzen looked back towards the plate as though he thought it was a hit-and-run. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a hit-and-run or not: it looked like it, but I’ve heard otherwise. Regardless, Lorenzen was erased. Lopez then belted a ball deep off the wall in right-centerfield for a double that would have easily scored Lorenzen from first. But after already grounding into two DP’s and having a relatively slow batter at the plate, it’s hard to fault the effort to make something happen in what was already shaping up as a low-scoring pitchers’ duel.

After Gauna threw a 1-2-3 fourth inning, the Titans had another chance to take a lead kiboshed by a double-play. Davis hit a one-out double into the gap in right-centerfield – he went with the pitch and hit it hard. Trajano hit a hard bouncer toward third-baseman Stankiewicz – which caused Davis to hold up to see whether or not he would have a play, lest he remove himself from scoring position by running into an out at third. The ball scooted over Stanky’s head into leftfield for a single, but third-base coach Chad Baum held up Davis. I think the runner and coach both played it right, but the ball was not handled very swiftly by the Sun Devils and Davis might have made it had he been sent. ASU went to the bullpen and brought in Robert Ravago a strikeout pitcher who induced catcher Chad Wallach to hit the ball up the middle for an easy 4-6-3 double-play to end the threat.

Things got interesting in the bottom of the fifth inning. ASU clean-up hitter Abe Ruiz, usually a dead pull hitter with great power (7 home runs already this year) hit a great pitch by Gauna to the opposite field for a base hit – nothing more you could ask from your pitcher. But then Gauna hit the next batter (casually leaned into the pitch and smugly took his base). The next batter put down a good bunt, fielded cleanly by Chapman, but Pedroza simply muffed the catch covering first-base and the bases were loaded with no outs. With memories of Gauna’s mid-inning stumbles vs. USC and Washington State still fresh in memory banks, my stomach was probably as queasy as Casey Watkins’, who had food poisoning and was unable to play in the series.

But Gauna stepped up big-time. The next batter popped out to Trajano in short leftfield – no chance for the runners to advance. The next batter hit a high chopper towards the mound – the kind where the pitcher can’t do anything except plea “Please come down sometime soon!” The ball came down in time for Gauna to throw home for the force-out of the lead runner. The next batter grounded to shortstop to complete the Houdini-esque escape by Gauna.

The Sun Devils did finally post the game’s first – and ultimately only – run against Gauna in the sixth inning, making him a hard-luck loser. The Sun Devils’ leadoff hitter, Andrew Alpin, touched Gauna for a double down the rightfield line, which brought Dimitri De la Fuente from the bullpen. The Titans got a break when the next batter popped out to Wallach attempting to bunt, but Alpin stole third and was driven in on an RBI-single by Joey DeMichele.

There’s nothing left to talk about offensively for the Titans in this game. They went 1-2-3 in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They would have also gone 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, except Lorenzen reached base on a passed ball when he struck out with what should have been the game’s final out. The Titans had an unexpected pardon from the governor, but the dangerous Lopez grounded out to end the game.

Lopez and Trajano each had two of the Titans’ seven hits. Gauna, De la Fuente and Birosak limited the Sun devils to just five hits, but it wasn’t enough, as the Titans’ string of scoreless innings was extended to nineteen innings.

Game 2: “We’re Now Playing for the Bus Ride Home!”

Titans 9, Sun Devils 5

Something had to change. Anything. With nineteen scoreless innings behind them and a 375-mile bus ride ahead of them, it was imperative for the Titans’ offense to make something happen in the series finale on Wednesday, lest the trip home seem like 750 miles.

Some things did change. In perhaps the most visible change, Rick Vanderhook was stationed in the third-base coach’s box, a sight quite familiar to Titans’ fans for many years but the first since becoming head coach. Strategy or just trying to shake up the luck? Your guess is as good as mine.

Both teams took the field Wednesday evening with heavy hearts after learning of the passing of music legend Earl Scruggs. The famous banjo player and his partner, Lester Flatts, wrote and played many classics, but were best known for the epic “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.” Frankly, I would have completely understood had the game been cancelled.

But the game wasn’t cancelled and the “new” third-base coach immediately brought an end to the nineteen inning scoring drought.

Pedroza led off with a single, as he had done in the opener. But with the wounds still open from the previous game’s double-plays, the Titans had Trajano hit-and-run, which advanced Pedroza into scoring position on a groundout. Lorenzen then dropped a single in front of the rightfielder, who was playing somewhere near the Maricopa County line, scoring Pedroza with the game’s first run.

Freshman left-hander Tyler Peitzmeier started for the Titans, perhaps chosen because the three best hitters in the ASU line-up hit left-handed and the breeze was once again blowing out towards rightfield. The anticipated starter was J.D. Davis, who warmed up a couple times during the game but was never summoned. Peitzmeier allowed a single to DeMichele in the first inning, but retired the dangerous Ruiz on an assortment of breaking balls.

The double-play bug came back in the second inning. Davis and Austin Kingsolver had back-to-back singles, but Wallach grounded into a double-play. There was a momentary discussion between Vanderhook and the umpiring crew after Kingsolver was ruled to have interfered at second-base, which was a moot point because ASU easily retired Wallach at first despite Kingsolver’s hard slide resulting in an off-target throw to first.

ASU had Peitzmeier on the ropes in the second inning, as the first four batters all hit the ball hard: single, line-out to rightfield, single and RBI-single. But the ninth hitter in the line-up, Tucker Esmay, whose father just happens to be the head coach, failed to get a sacrifice down and then hit into an inning-ending double-play.

The Titans had a runner in scoring position in the third inning (Trajano had reached on an infield single and went to second on an overthrow), but Lorenzen and Lopez were retired and it looked like “more of the recent same” for the Titans: double-plays and stranded runners. Fortunately, the tide was soon to turn to the better.

After Peitzmeier breezed through an impressive 1-2-3 third inning, the Titans posted their first crooked number in a while and opened up a 4-1 lead. One-out singles by Chapman and Davis opened the door to the ASU bullpen. After both runners advanced on a passed ball, Kingsolver delivered a clutch RBI-single to make it a 2-1 lead and alertly took second on the play, as third-baseman Esmay appeared to be out of position and there was no cutoff man. The base-running play was HUGE, as Wallach grounded the next ball to shortstop for what would have been an easy inning-ending DP, but instead it scored a run and kept the inning alive for Pedroza, who lined a base hit to drive in the third run of the inning.

After Peitzmeier again tormented the slugging Ruiz with off-speed stuff and got him out to open the bottom of the fourth, pitching coach Kirk Saarloos went to the bullpen for freshman Willie Kuhl to face the predominantly right-handed middle of the ASU batting order. When he retired both batters he faced in the inning, the Titans seemed on the verge of breaking the game open.

Lorenzen led off the top of the fifth with a single and went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout. But momentum seemed to shift back to ASU when reliever Alex Blackford struck out Velazquez and Chapman to strand the runner at third.

Kuhl was in hot water in the fifth inning when he gave up a leadoff single and stolen base. Esmay failed to bunt and then struck out, turning over the line-up to the dangerous foursome at the top. Aplin hit a flyball deep to right-centerfield – a ball you expect The Cowboy to catch in his sleep – but Lorenzen broke in, stumbled momentarily and the ball sailed over his head for an RBI-double that made it 4-2, bringing the tying run to the plate with the heavy guns behind him. Kuhl was equal to the task, striking out Deven Marrero and getting DeMichele to fly out.

After the Titans left two runners on base in the sixth (Kingsolver’s third hit and walk to Pedroza), it looked like Uncle Mo had completely shifted to ASU. But Kuhl came out and pitched an electrifying inning, striking out the side.

With the game close, ASU brought Ravago in to pitch – he had faced seven batters and recorded eight outs (including DP erasing inherited runner) the night before. As is often the case when you see a reliever for the second time in a series, he was not as effective this game. After Lopez walked, freshman Clay Williamson pinch-hit for the slumping Velazquez and lined a base-hit up the middle. After Austin Diemer pinch-ran for Williamson, Chapman stroked an RBI-single and advanced into scoring position by taking second on the throw. Once again, the extra base taken was pivotal in staying out of double-play situations. Without a double-play situation, the ASU infield was drawn in to face Davis, who grounded to second-base to drive in Diemer to give the Titans a 6-2 lead.

After his brilliant sixth inning and with a four-run cushion, Kuhl took the mound again for the seventh inning. The first batter he faced crushed a ball that looked like it would leave the yard, but Lorenzen grabbed it just in front of the fence for the first out. After issuing a two-out walk, the Titans turned to Grahamm Wiest, who had pitched 8+ innings against ORU in his return to the weekend rotation. Wiest wasn’t getting many strike calls on his low pitches, so things got interesting after a passed ball and a walk, but Marrero grounded out to end the threat.

Things got hairy in the bottom of the eighth. Wiest came out to start the inning on a night he seemed to be elevating the ball. The bases were quickly loaded on a single by DeMichele, a double by Ruiz and a hit batsman. Wiest then induced a 4-6-3 double-play, scoring one run. But ASU wasn’t done, as catcher Max Rossiter got a clutch two-out RBI-single, making it 6-4 and bringing Lorenzen in from the outfield to try for a four-out save. Things got more tense when Lorenzen threw a wild pitch that Wallach could not find – Lorenzen had to run in to retrieve the ball, but not before Rossiter had advanced two bases. (It’s never a good thing when a catcher easily advances two bases on a pitch, especially when the tying run was at the plate and he only needed to take on base to get into scoring position.) But the next batter grounded out to Trajano to end the threat.

The Titans took their two-run lead to the ninth inning hoping to push across at least one insurance run. Lopez led off with a single and Diemer attempted to sacrifice him into scoring position. But Diemer’s bunt was a beauty to behold; it hugged the first-base line, not seeming inclined to roll towards either side of the line as it slowly made its way towards the bag. ASU pitcher Matthew Dunbar was in “no man’s land” and finally grabbed the ball and tried to “sell it” that he had picked it up in foul territory – but plate umpire Darren Hyman was having no part of it and emphatically pointed fair. Dunbar must have had something interesting to say, as Hyman quickly gave him the “Heave ho!” ASU then brought in its closer, Jake Barrett, who had dominated the night before, to replace Dunbar. After an unlimited warm-up period, Barrett threw away Chapman’s sacrifice, as the ball sailed into rightfield and Lopez scored, while Diemer and Chapman ended up in scoring position. Barrett threw a wild pitch that scored Diemer before giving up an RBI-single to Ivory Thomas. The Titans had opened up a 9-4 lead.

The extra margin made the bottom of the ninth considerably more comfortable. In a classic power-versus-power match-up, Ruiz belted a double off Lorenzen to make it 9-5: it was the first run allowed by Lorenzen in his ten-game collegiate pitching career. But Lorenzen struck out the next batter to end the game and notch his ninth save of the season.

In breaking the scoring drought, the Titans banged out eighteen hits – all singles! Kingsolver played a tremendous game and led with three hits, along with Pedroza, who also made a couple of superb defensive plays. Lorenzen, Lopez, Chapman and Davis also had two hits each for the Titans. Trajano also played a steady defensive game, successfully handling all nine chances. They weren’t spectacular plays, but he actually outplayed his shortstop counterpart, Marrero, who is the defending Pac-10 (as it was called last season) Defensive Player of the Year.


So what did we learn from this series?

One of the biggest differences between the Game 1 loss and the Game 2 win was hitting into double-plays. The avoidance of double-plays is a result of several factors: getting runners on base (obviously); bunt, hit-and-run or hit away strategy and execution with no outs; base-running (stealing or taking extra bases) to avoid double-play situations. I look at hitting into double-plays with no outs as much more sinful than with one out. With one out, the strategy to hit away is clear-cut and it is then simply a matter of execution whether the hitter avoids DP jeopardy. But hitting into a double-play with no outs means that the sacrifice or hit and run were either eschewed or not executed.

Of the three double-plays the Titans hit into in the series opener, the ones in the first and second inning both came with no outs and immediately erased the leadoff runner who had just reached base. ASU has a potent offense (including 20 home runs prior to the series) and there was a good breeze towards rightfield, so playing for a big inning early made sense, but it was a lack of execution combined with strategy that led to the twin-killings. The DP in the third inning came with one and runners at the corner: clearly not a bunting situation. Nothing the coaches can do but hope the batter gets the ball out of the infield.

CSUF grounded into one double-play in Game 2 (they also had a strike’em-out-throw’em-out DP against them to end the ninth inning.) But it might have been an entirely different outcome without the alert and aggressive base-running by Kingsolver and Chapman to take the extra base and avoid double-play situations. Each of their efforts was followed by run-scoring groundouts that would have likely been inning-ending double-plays.

Drew Stankiewicz de-committed from the Titans after the coaching change and told the local press (East Valley Tribune, August 8, 2011 article) that he has chosen ASU because, “I want to win. I want to go to the College World Series.” Good luck with that in 2012 – enjoy watching the playoffs on TV! When he was called out for missing the base in the opener and then benched the next night so Coach Esmay could play his .188-hitting son at third-base, I didn’t actually feel all that badly for him.

The performance by Gauna with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth inning of Game 1 was very impressive and encouraging. His recent trend had been to be dominating for several innings before getting hit around, usually after an error had been made behind him. It had this ‘déjà vu all over again’ feeling to it after the bases were loaded when Pedroza muffed the throw on the sacrifice. But Gauna stood his ground and got stronger, not weaker, when the pressure got cranked up. It was a nice sign of developing as a Division 1 pitcher right before our eyes.

The absence of Christian Coronado, who has been on the shelf since leaving the series opener against Texas A&M with an injury, is pressing the Titans’ bullpen. Dimitri De la Fuente has been incredible, but there is a risk of turning him into the Titans’ version of “Everyday Eddie” Guardado. I wasn’t surprised the Titans used a weekend starter to get an out or two on a regular “throwing day”, but I was surprised when Wiest returned to the mound for the eighth inning in the second game after he finished out the seventh. Davis had been throwing and I assumed he was going to be brought in as a bridge to the closer.

Depending on whether or not the 2013 season includes a trip to ASU (either regular- or post-season), this may have been the last time the Titans ever play at Packard Stadium, the vaunted home of the Sun Devils since 1974. In 2014, ASU will begin playing its home games at the new Chicago Cubs spring training facility in nearby Mesa, AZ. ASU signed a 30-year contract to play at the new facility, which will include a $2 million locker room and practice facility built for the Sun Devils. The team will not pay rent on the facility until its revenues from tickets, concessions and parking exceed $1.1 million. The university will pay $1 per year to lease a 3.2 acre lot to be used for parking, with all revenues retained.

I’ve heard rumors that Packard Stadium will be torn down and the land used for campus buildings. I hate such desecration. The same thing happened this year to my second favorite college baseball team, the University of La Verne Leopards, who lost their home field when the land-locked university could no longer accommodate its growth without better utilization of its limited land. The venerable Ben Hines Field was demolished to build a parking lot and dormitories – and the Leos became an itinerant baseball team. (Trust me – ULV did not have as sweet a contingency plan lined up as ASU had.)

No matter how great the new facility is – which this one will doubtlessly be – there is always a sense of loss when the old is retired. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for playing in modern, comfortable facilities. A lot of my childhood dreams happened at the old Boston Garden and it was hard to see it closed – but it was time. I also think Fenway Park is a dump that should be replaced by a modern facility, just as the Yankees did with Yankee Stadium. But there is still that sense of loss. Packard Stadium has been the home to a great collegiate baseball program under some of the game’s greatest coaches ever – no, Pat Murphy, I’m not talking about you. It is cozy (one might say ‘cramped’ if you ever tried to get from the center of your seating row to the aisle during the game) and parking is free. The general admission seating in the berms is great if you have the foresight to bring something to sit on.

There are a couple extra niceties playing at ASU in March. The first is that many of the fans at the ASU games are “snow birds” from the Mid-West or other cold climate cities on vacation to watch their favorite teams in spring training games. Universally, those fans (who are often seeing Division 1 baseball for the first time) express great admiration for the college game – how well it is played, the intensity and the passion. Also, because spring training is ongoing locally, you get to see several former Titans in the stands. Nick Ramirez was behind the batting cage on Tuesday (BTW: his hand surgery went fine the following day.) I saw Reed Johnson, Jared Clark, Dustin Garneau and others while I was there.

I would love to see the ASU series become a weekend series, hosted by each team in alternate years, as it used to be with Stanford. Without Murphy there, it’s much harder to hate them, but much easier to respect them. The two-game mid-week formula, which has resulted in splits for the past several years, is fun, but not very meaningful in that neither team gets to see how well it would do against the other’s front-line pitching. ASU’s starting pitcher in the second game had pitched only three innings previously.

It was ironic timing that Lisa Love was fired while we were in town. She was ASU’s Vice President of Athletics who had laid the hammer down on Murphy, not only firing him, but having campus security escort him off the premises. But did she wait too long? The buck stops at her desk when the NCAA comes down on the university for “lack of institutional control.” She botched the hiring of a football coach (actually, two: Dennis Erickson and Todd Graham) and a basketball coach (Herb Sendek). It’s a tough business and with revenues dropping, your basketball and football programs in the toilet, the baseball program ineligible for post-season and – gasp! – your rivals from Tucson starting to gain market share in the Phoenix metropolitan area through slick use of social media and contemporary marketing tools – it was probably time for her to go. But I still feel sorry to see the person who chopped off Murphy’s nuts being shown the door. But it’s a business.

So now we’re down to conference action - it’s been a very interesting season so far. Nothing is easy. Let’s hope that all this pre-conference experience gained from playing top-flight competition will help launch the Titans to a fast start in BWC action.

Go Titans!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cal State Northridge Series Preview

Cal State Northridge at Titans (Goodwin Field)
Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 6 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. PT

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton continued their seven game homestand against Oral Roberts after splitting four games the previous week when they lost the midweek game to Washington State 8-7 in 11 innings and won the series against their rivals from Long Beach State by winning a doubleheader by identical 2-1 scores on Friday before losing 7-2 on Sunday. The Titans won the first two games against Oral Roberts by scores of 7-1 and 5-3 before dropping the final game of the series 3-0.

Unlike when Long Beach scored first in all three games of last week’s series, Fullerton got on the scoreboard first on Thursday when Carlos Lopez singled with two outs and Anthony Hutting tripled him in. The Titans stretched the lead in the third when Michael Lorenzen singled to lead off the inning, advanced to second on a SAC by Richy Pedroza and scored later in the inning on a wild pitch. Fullerton extended the lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Pedroza led off with a walk and scored later in the inning on a single by Anthony Trajano. After Oral Roberts broke up the shutout in the sixth, the Titans put the game away with a four run seventh. Lopez and Hutting singled with one out and Trajano was hit by a pitch. It looked like the inning would end on a two out grounder by Greg Velazquez to first but the ball went thru the 1B’s legs for a two run error and Derek Legg followed that up with a two run single. All of those runs were more than enough for Dylan Floro, who scattered eight hits over eight innings in allowing only one run and struck out six batters in improving his record to 3-2. Lopez had three of the Titans nine hits on the night.

Oral Roberts got off to a 1-0 lead on Friday by getting the first three batters of the game on base and Fullerton starter Kenny Mathews almost got out of the inning before a two out squibber found a hole to score a run. The Titans tied the game in the third when Lopez singled, Velazquez singled him to third and Trajano’s SAC bunt was successful to score Lopez. Fullerton took the lead in the fourth when Legg singled, advanced to second on a balk and was singled in by Lorenzen. The Titans increased the lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Ivory Thomas was hit by a pitch and eventually was singled in by Casey Watkins. Mathews was replaced in the sixth when the Golden Eagles had a rally going but Dimitri DeLaFuente struck out the first batter he faced to difuse the rally. Fullerton padded the lead in the seventh with two insurance runs when Velazquez singled with two outs, Trajano doubled, Velazquez scored on a wild pitch and Matt Chapman singled in Trajano. The Titans would need those insurance runs because Oral Roberts got the first two runners on base in the eighth against DeLaFuente and after a walk by Tyler Peitzmeier loaded the bases, Lorenzen was summoned in from CF. He allowed two of the runners he inherited to score but got out of further trouble and finished off the game with a scoreless ninth for his eighth save as Mathews improved his record to 3-0 after allowing one run on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 IP with 11 K’s. Lorenzen and Chapman led the eleven hit attack with three hits each.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

College Baseball BCS (March 27)

By Samuel Chi

Imagine a BCS for college baseball ...

OK, check that, it'll probably make you barf. But let's say we can import the concept of the BCS standings for college baseball, at least for regular season use.

Why? Because as popularity of the game increases, there's more information than ever at our fingertips. There are five major polls and two credible ratings systems that we have to get through each week. Each poll and computer ranking is unique, but none is so superior that we can disregard all others.

As the BCS Guru during the other part of the year, I'm of course intimately familiar with the BCS standings and its inner-workings. To be sure, the standings are flawed (which I won't get into now), but it's not completely without merit. First and foremost, it blends the elements of human subjectivity and computer objectivity. It's the eyeball test meets the cold-hard data.

So I've decided to use the concept but flip it on its head. The problem with the current BCS standings is that there's too much human influence but no transparency. With that in mind, I've decided to return the primacy to the computers, which only makes sense because if anything, the college baseball polls are even more subjective and biased than college football polls.

What I come up with is the following formula with two-thirds of the standings involving computer rankings and the other one-third human polls:

* RPI (1/3) - As compiled at Boyd's World, the tool that the selection committee relies most heavily on to determine postseason seendings and berths

* Iterative Strength Ratings or ISR (1/3) - This is Boyd Nation's own computer ratings, which is less biased than the RPI and gives more weight to strength of schedule

* Five polls (1/3) - Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, Perfect Game USA, USA Today Coaches Poll and NCBWA, with the lowest ranking for each team discarded

We only include teams that appeared in the top 25 in at least one of the above components. Thus, if a team is not ranked by any of the polls or does not appear in either computer rating's top 25, it will not be part of the standings. With that in mind, here's our inaugural College Baseball BCS Standings:

(Click to enlarge)

A few observations from our first rankings:

* More than anything, this weeds out teams that are grossly overrated in human polls. Case-in-point is Georgia, which is No. 18 on two polls but not in the top 25 here.

* RPI and ISR ratings fluctuate more in the early part of the season, which is why just like the BCS standings, we waited until about the halfway point of the season to unveil our first standings. The computer ratings are from Monday, the same day the polls come out, to provide a clear cutoff and some consistency.

* The strength of the conferences is in clear display here, the most notable being the continuing decline of the Big West Conference, which does not have another team in the rankings besides Cal State Fullerton. As it is, this does not bode well for the Titans as they enter conference play.

* Complete breakdown by conference among the 40 ranked teams: SEC (9), ACC (8), Pac-12 (6), Big 12 (4), West Coast (3), Conference USA (2), Southland (2), Big Ten (1), Big East (1), Big West (1), Big South (1), Missouri Valley (1), WAC (1).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Titans Take Fifth Straight Weekend Series

By Don Hudson

The Cal State Fullerton Titans completed a seven game homestand, in which they went just 4-3, by winning two-out-of-three from the Oral Roberts University (ORU) Golden Eagles this weekend. They will now embark on a two-game road trip to Arizona State, their last tune-up opportunity before returning home to begin Big West Conference play next weekend against the Cal State Northridge Matadors. With the series win, the Titans maintained their lucky #13 position in the Baseball America rankings.

Game 1: “Lopez and Floro Reward the Titans’ Faithful”

Titans 7, Golden Eagles 1

The Titans scored four unearned runs in the seventh inning, breaking open a close game, and rode the strong pitching of Dylan Floro and the three hits of Carlos Lopez to a solid 7-1 win in the Titans’ final non-conference weekend series of the season. It was Lopez’s fourth consecutive multi-hit game.

Last weekend against Long Beach State, the Titans got zero runs scored from the top three spots in their batting order – the revamped line-up in the ORU series opener scored four runs from the top three in the batting order, although the Titans continued the recent trend with 10 runners left on base.

The Titans got on the board in the first inning on an infield single by Lopez and an RBI triple to left-centerfield by Anthony Hutting. A potentially larger inning was averted by the Golden Eagles, who turned a 4-6-3 double-play before the run-producing hits.Floro allowed solo singles in the first and second innings, but then went into lockdown mode: he did not allow a base-runner in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Meanwhile, the Titans had added solo tallies in the third and fifth innings to take a 3-0 lead. Aided by the wildness of ORU starting pitcher Kurt Giller, who had two walks and two wild pitches, the Titans scored in the third inning. Lorenzen led off with the only hit of the inning and advanced on a sacrifice by Richy Pedroza, a flyball and alertly scored when a pitch in the dirt bounced just slightly past the catcher. The fifth-inning tally came on a walk to Pedroza, a hit-and-run groundout and a clutch two-out RBI single by designated hitter Anthony Trajano – vintage 2011 stuff for him.

The Titans led 3-0 after five, but it felt like a 6-0 lead as Floro was mowing effortlessly and the Titans had left seven runners aboard. The reality of the game’s closeness was underscored in the top of the sixth inning when ORU scored on a single and a two-out double nearly hauled in by Hutting, tightening the score to 3-1. Floro induced a groundout to shortstop Matt Chapman to avoid further damage.

The Titans finally posted a crooked number in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Pedroza was robbed of a hit on a dazzling play by ORU second-baseman Cam Schiller, Lopez singled on a similar play. A single by Hutting and a Trajano HBP loaded the bases with two outs for Greg Velazquez, who hit an easy roller towards first-base. Fortunately for the Titans, Jared Schlehuber did a perfect Bill Buckner impersonation and the ball went through his legs, allowing two unearned runs and giving the Titans some breathing room. The lead was extended to 7-1 when Derek Legg scorched a two-run single up the middle.

The Golden Eagles began making better contact against Floro in the eighth inning, when he surrendered three solid hits. Fortunately for the Titans, there was a double-play in between and a line drive right at second-baseman Legg to end the inning scorelessly. The Titans tried to extend the score in the bottom of the eighth when Lorenzen walked and went to third on a hit-and-run single by Lopez. I don’t know the magic formula for when the team with a big lead is supposed to shut it down and play station-to-station baseball, but ORU skipper Rob Walton seemed to take umbrage with the Titans’ choice to hit-and-run with a 7-1 lead late in the game.

Floro pitched eight innings, scattering eight hits and just one walk. Dimitri De la Fuente pitched a scoreless ninth inning, which ended on a crisp around-the-horn double-play. Lopez led with three hits, while Hutting had two. Besides his hit and two RBI, Legg also walked and was hit by a pitch: at that point, he had reached base in 17 of his last 29 plate appearances.

Monday, March 26, 2012

West Coast Midseason RPI Report (March 26)

By FullertonBaseballFan

The RPI is starting to become relevant now that everybody has played about 20-25 games and conference play has started in most conferences or will be doing so this week. This is a good time to do a "mid-season" report with some commentary on where the five western conferences stand at this point in terms of the post-season.

Big West
Fullerton 15 - 14-8
Cal Poly 57 - 16-8
Irvine 64 - 14-8
Long Beach 101 - 8-14
Riverside 108 - 7-10
UCSB 122 - 11-11
UC Davis 130 - 10-9
Northridge 146 - 11-13
Pacific 205 - 7-16

Commentary - It looks like the Big West will get no more than three regional bids and most likely will end up with two regional teams. Fullerton is positioning themselves to be a regional host with a strong run during the conference season but has lots of work to do to be a national seed.

Stanford 2 - 15-2, 2-0 (3rd game vs. USC today)
UCLA 4 - 17-4, 4-1 (3rd game vs. WSU today)
Arizona 17 - 18-7, 4-2
Oregon 30 - 15-6, 3-3
OSU 32 - 15-7, 4-2
Washington 40 - 15-7, 2-1
USC 46 - 13-8, 1-4 (3rd game at Stanford today)
Cal 97 - 13-9, 1-5
WSU 107 - 10-10, 1-4 (3rd game at UCLA today)
Utah 190 - 7-15, 3-3

Commentary - The Pac 11 will probably end up with five or six teams in regionals and if there are two national seeds from the west (last year there weren't any, most years there are 1-2) they will likely be Stanford and UCLA.

P'dine 19 - 16-8
Gonzaga 24 - 16-6
San Diego 47 - 20-6, 2-0 (3rd game today vs. Santa Clara)
BYU 50 - 9-9, 4-2
Santa Clara 52 - 13-6, 0-2 (3rd game today at USD)
Portland 92 - 12-5, 1-2
St. Mary's 110 - 14-8, 1-2
USF 113 - 12-13
LMU 160 - 8-12

Commentary - There isn't much dispute that the WCC has been the second best conference in the western U.S. in 2012 with five of their teams having better RPI's than the next two Big West schools. The WCC has been a one bid the last three years but looks like a three bid conference this season.

New Mexico State 16 - 21-8
Fresno State 59 - 13-10
Hawaii 67 - 14-11
Nevada 77 - 12-9
La. Tech 141 - 11-11
San Jose State 172 - 10-11
Sac State 220 - 12-13

Commentary - The WAC could end up getting two regional bids if NMSU can continue to play well in WAC games and they end up keeping their RPI under 50. If they don't, the WAC will be a one bid conference. The WAC looks comparable to the Big West, which shows you how far the level of competition in the Big West has fallen.

TCU 39 - 12-9, 1-2
New Mexico 76 - 10-11, 5-1
San Diego State 129 - 10-15, 0-3
UNLV 207 - 11-13, 1-5
Air Force 241 - 6-15, 2-1

Commentary - The only way two teams from this conference get into regionals is if somebody upsets TCU in the conference tournament, which is what it took last season to get two teams into the regionals.

Bakersfield 157 - 7-14
Seattle 183 - 11-9

Commentary - Bakersfield made lots of noise last year they should have been one of the last teams included in the regional field. That won't be the case this season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oral Roberts Series Preview

Oral Roberts at Titans (Goodwin Field)
Thursday 6 p.m., Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 6 p.m. PT

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton has played one of the tougher schedules that anybody has faced thus far with three series in the first four weekends against teams that were ranked in the top fifteen nationally when each series was played. The Titans returned to Goodwin Field last week after splitting four games on the road with a midweek loss at USC and a series win at #5 Texas A&M and once again split four games after losing the midweek game to Washington State 8-7 in 11 innings and winning the series against their rivals from Long Beach State by winning a doubleheader by identical 2-1 scores on Friday before losing 7-2 on Sunday.

Fullerton jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Washington State in the third on an Ivory Thomas walk (one of his three walks), a double by Derek Legg, a two run RBI single by Michael Lorenzen and an RBI single by Richy Pedroza. It looked like Koby Gauna might have a chance to make the lead stand when he took a 3-1 lead into the sixth before the floodgates opened when an error extended the inning and the Cougars followed that up with a single, a three run HR and two doubles to take a 6-3 lead. J.D. Davis singled to lead off the sixth and eventually scored on a SF by Thomas in the bottom of the inning. WSU extended the lead to 8-4 in the seventh before Fullerton rallied for four runs to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Lorenzen tripled, Carlos Lopez singled him in, Matt Chapman followed with a single, Pedroza bunted the runners over, Davis hit a SF and pinch-hitter Anthony Hutting hit a two run HR to tie the game. The game remained tied until the Cougars scored a run in the top of the eleventh and the Titans were held off the scoreboard for the fourth straight inning to end the game.

Fullerton and Long Beach decided to play a doubleheader on Friday with rain likely to wash out the game on Saturday and that forecast was accurate. The Dirtbags got off to a lead when they scored in the second and the Titans experienced nothing but frustration over the first seven innings as they stranded ten runners without scoring a run. Dylan Floro was dominant after allowing that run in the second inning and didn’t allow another runner to get past second in throwing eight strong innings. Long Beach was able to keep Fullerton off of the scoreboard until the bottom of the eighth when Legg was hit by a pitch with two outs, pinch-hitter Greg Velazquez singled, Ivory Thomas hit an infield single and Pedroza drove in two runs with a full count single to center. Lorenzen came in from CF to throw a scoreless ninth for his seventh save and Floro evened up his record at 2-2 with the win. Fullerton had twelve singles in the game with four players each getting two hits.

Long Beach once again scored first in the nightcap when they took advantage of some wildness from Fullerton starter Kenny Mathews to score a run in the top of the fourth. Fullerton came back to score twice in the bottom of the inning when Lopez and Hutting got on base via infield singles, Velazquez walked, Legg was hit by a pitch to score one run and Chad Wallach hit a SF to score the second run. Mathews was dominant and the run that scored was the only runner to advance past second as he threw 7 2/3 innings and allowed five hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Grahamm Wiest retired the final four hitters for his first save and Mathews improved his record to 2-0 with the win. Lopez was the only Titan with two hits in the game.

Long Beach’s record stood at 5-12 after the two one run losses with ten of their losses coming by one or two runs and having lost to Fullerton for the 14th time in fifteen games and they hashed out their frustrations in a team meeting on Saturday. The Dirtbags started the scoring for the third straight game with a run in the top of the first but it looked like their frustrations might continue after the Titans scored in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 2-1 lead. Lopez doubled and Velazquez singled him in for the first run and Thomas’ RBI double in the fifth gave Fullerton the lead. Davis started and threw four effective innings and was relieved by Gauna, who threw a scoreless fifth before the wheels fell off in the sixth when Long Beach scored six runs on five singles, three of which didn’t leave the infield, two walks, an error and a passed ball. Three Dirtbag relievers held the Titans off of the scoreboard over the last four innings and Fullerton only scored two runs in the game despite having fifteen baserunners. Lopez and Thomas each had two hits with Lopez doubling for both of his hits.

Fullerton is probably happy not to have a midweek game after losing the previous two and will continue their homestand at Goodwin Field this weekend with a series against Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles will be making their second visit to Fullerton in four years and were swept in their previous trip out west in 2009. Oral Roberts has gotten off to a slow start with an offense that has had trouble scoring runs after losing several of the major contributors from their offense last season.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
  • Current Record – 9-10
  • Overall Record in 2011 – 39-22
  • Conference Record in 2011 – 21-7 (1st – regular season); Won Summit League Tournament
  • Post-Season – 2nd in Fort Worth Regional (L 2-10 vs. TCU, W 7-0 vs. Oklahoma, W 8-4 vs. TCU, W 7-2 vs. Dallas Baptist, L 9-11 vs. Dallas Baptist)
  • Current RPI/ISR – 126/109. 2011 RPI/ISR – 82/89
  • Current and Pre-season rankings – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 1st by the Summit League coaches, Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball today

2011 Review and 2012 Summary

Oral Roberts has consistently been one of the better mid-major conference teams over the last decade and has won the Summit League championship every season since 1998. Rob Walton has been the head coach since 2004 and the Golden Eagles have averaged 41 wins a season since he took over. Oral Roberts has won at least one game in a regional in each of the last four years, finishing as the runner-up in their regional twice, and won their regional in 2006 before being eliminated in the Super Regional at Clemson. Oral Roberts had to make an adjustment in 2011 to the BBCOR bats after hitting over 100 HR’s in 2010 and as a result they got off to a slow start at 9-11 and scored four runs or less eleven times before starting to hit their stride offensively during their conference schedule. The Golden Eagles got hot down the stretch and went 16-3 heading into their regional and after losing their first game to TCU, they won the next three games against Oklahoma, TCU and Dallas Baptist and led the championship game 8-0 after the first inning but their offense was stifled after that, their pitching wore down and Dallas Baptist eliminated them 11-9.

Oral Roberts usually has one of the more powerful offenses and hit at least 75 HR’s per season from 2008-2010 before the new bats were implemented in 2011. The Golden Eagles developed a solid offense after the adjustment period to the BBCOR bats during the non-conference schedule but weren’t as dynamic as previous teams were. Oral Roberts led the Summit League in HR’s with 46 and were second in scoring and SLG. The Golden Eagles didn’t run much with only two players having more than five SB’s and both of them have moved on. Oral Roberts would play for one run at a time and led their conference in SAC’s with four players having at least seven SAC’s.

Oral Roberts usually has a solid pitching staff but that wasn’t the case in 2010 when their staff ERA was 6.07 but they were vastly improved on the mound last season and their staff ERA of 3.50 was their best in four seasons. The Golden Eagles had four pitchers who were named first or second team all-conference and they led the Summit League in ERA, AVG and K’s. Oral Roberts pitchers were a bit on the wild side and they were only sixth in the conference in walks and had a BB/K ratio of less than 2-1. The Golden Eagles had a deep bullpen with five relievers making at least twenty appearances and they were 30-2 when leading after six innings.

Oral Roberts traditionally challenges themselves with a strong non-conference schedule because they know that they need to do that with the conference that they play in and they have gone 43-46 in non-conference games the last three seasons. This year is no different because the Golden Eagles started their season with a series at Baylor where they were swept and after going 5-1 in series at home with Eastern Michigan and Alcorn State, they played a tournament at Alabama where they lost to Louisville and East Carolina before beating the Crimson Tide. Oral Roberts has also played six games against two of the better teams from the Missouri Valley, splitting midweek games with Wichita State and losing three out of four games against Missouri State last weekend, going 1-1 at home and 0-2 on the road in that split series.

Oral Roberts lost four of their six leading hitters from 2011 and has gotten off to a very slow start at the plate. The Golden Eagles have scored three runs or less in seven of their last eight games and 13 of 19 games overall. The offensive troubles for Oral Roberts have been especially bad on the road, where they have scored only fifteen runs in their eight weekend games. Five of the six games in which the Golden Eagles have scored 5+ runs were against Eastern Michigan and Alcorn State. Oral Roberts has only hit .223 in their games against teams other than Alcorn State. They have hit 19 HR’s but eight of those also came against Alcorn State. The Golden Eagles haven’t been running much with five SB’s in their games that weren’t played against Alcorn State and have averaged about a SAC bunt per game.
Oral Roberts returned six of the eight pitchers who threw at least thirty innings in 2011 so they figured to have a deep pitching staff again this season. The Golden Eagles have allowed four runs or less in 12 of 19 games but have had some inconsistency despite a solid 3.27 ERA. Oral Roberts had an injury to one of their SP’s that shuffled their rotation and they have had trouble finishing games late and are 3-6 in games decided by one or two runs.

  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 99 from 2008-2011 (decreases offense by 1%)
  • Batting Average – .251 in 2012, .223 without Alcorn State series. .288 in 2011 (5th in the Summit, 102nd in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 4.8 in 2012, 3.6 without Alcorn State series. 6.1 in 2011 (2/82)
  • Home Runs – 19 in 2012, 11 without Alcorn State series. 46 in 2011 (1/29)
  • Stolen Bases – 10 in 2012, 5 without Alcorn State series. 51 in 2011 (5/216)
  • Slugging Percentage – .397 in 2012, .344 without Alcorn State series. .418 in 2011 (2/66)
  • Walks – 61 in 2012, 41 (2.6 per game) without Alcorn State series. 270 (4.5 per game) in 2011 (1/26)
  • HBP’s – 9 in 2012. 53 in 2011 (4/148)
  • Strikeouts – 139 in 2012, 7.3 per game. 359 (5.9 per game) in 2011 (2/x)
  • Sac Bunts – 16 in 2012. 62 in 2011 (1/34)



Oral Roberts lost three of their infielders who made most of the starts at 1B, 2B and 3B and returns their SS and C. They brought in recruits to start at 3B and SS, moving the SS over to 2B, and have a part-time starter taking over at 1B.

C – JR #4 Bennett Pickar (RH – .300/.403/.317, 0-7-0. ’11 – .193/.309/.280, 2-14-0) is in the lineup for his ability to handle the pitching staff. He hit poorly in 2011 but stayed in the lineup due to his defense. Pickar has been hitting much better this season and went 5-12 last weekend against Missouri State. He is expected to contend for all-conference honors. Pickar has trouble making contact and struck out 40 times in 2011 and is second on the team with 18 K’s this season. He led the team with 13 SAC’s in 2011 but has only one SAC bunt thus far. Pickar has hit 7th most of the time and occasionally hit 8th or 9th. He was drafted in the 15th round out of HS and is expected to be drafted around that range against this June.

1B – SR #15 Jared Schelhuber (RH – .328/.425/.627, 5-10-1. ’11 – .337/.436/.470, 2-18-1 in 83 AB’s) hit well when he got a chance to play in 2011 (24 starts) but didn’t drive the ball much for a guy his size and only had seven extra base hits. He has already hit five HR’s (three against Alcorn State) and leads the team in AVG and SLG. Schelhuber has a solid approach at the plate and has a very good 10/9 BB/K ratio. He has been in a bit of a slump and gone 6-27 with no HR or RBI the last eight games. Schelhuber has hit cleanup the last eleven games.

2B – SR #9 Cam Schiller (Both – .269/.301/.603, 7-20-1. ’11 – .342/.416/.518, 7-56-3) was 2nd team all-conference in 2011 after hitting .400 in conference games and was in the top ten in the Summit in HR, RBI, R, H, 2B, TB and SLG when he was the SS before being moved over to 2B this season. He got off to a very slow 4-28 start in the first seven games but has hit .340 with six HR’s since then. Schiller hit three HR’s in the tournament at Alabama and is a threat to hit a HR at any time. He had a very good 26/27 BB/K ratio in 2011 but hasn’t been patient at the plate thus far with a poor 4/14 BB/K ratio. Schiller has hit third the last eleven games.

SS – JC transfer #16 Nate Goro (RH – .259/.286/.333, 0-13-3) has helped to solidify the defense up the middle and has also been a productive hitter and is second on the team in RBI. He has been in a slump and has gone 5-31 with only one RBI over the last eight games. Goro is not patient at the plate and has a very poor 2/22 BB/K ratio and leads the team in strikeouts. He was hitting in the top of the lineup most of the early part of the season but has been hitting sixth lately after being moved down in the order due to his slump. Goro is tied for the team lead with three SB’s.

3B – FR #5 Jose Trevino (RH – .296/.307/.493, 3-11-1) has the potential to be one of the better prospects on the roster after tying the single season Texas HS record with 25 HR’s and leading his team to the state championship. He got off to a slow start as he got used to college pitching but has gone 11-28 over the last eight games and hit two HR’s last Sunday to account for ORU’s only scoring in the game. Trevino will go up there hacking and has only walked twice but does a solid job of making contact with only eight strikeouts. He has been splitting time between the 5th, 6th and 7th spots in the lineup.


All three outfielders were all-conference players last season and two of them have moved on. ORU has a JC transfer taking over in CF and there are platoons in RF and DH.

LF – SR #25 Brandon King (LH – .232/.333/.304, 0-7-0. ’11 – .319/.419/.515, 10-56-2) was 1st team all-conference in 2011 after hitting .388 in conference games and finishing in the top ten in the Summit in HR, RBI, R, H, 2B, TB, BB and SLG. He was expected to contend for conference MVP honors but has gotten off to a very slow start and has been pressing as the offense has struggled. Despite hitting poorly thus far, King has continued to show great plate discipline with a 11/9 BB/K ratio after leading the team in walks and having a good 34/31 BB/K ratio in 2011. King was often hitting leadoff earlier in the year to take advantage of his ability to get on base before settling in at the 5th spot in the lineup last weekend.

CF – JC transfer #7 Kevin Cho (Both – .225/.295/.282, 0-5-3) has solidified things in CF but has gotten off to a slow start at the plate after transferring in from Orange Coast College. He got off to a solid start but has slumped lately and gone 5-32 in his last eight games. Cho doesn’t have much power and only has three extra base hits. He is a good bunter and leads the team with five SAC’s. Cho has good speed and is tied for the team lead with three SB’s. He has been leading off or hitting second most of the season.

RF – FR #18 Tyler Coker (RH – .156 in 32 AB’s, 2-5-0), JC transfer #2 Austen Colt (RH – 1-17), Soph #14 Brandon Healy (RH – .190 in 21 AB’s. ’11 - .107 in 28 AB’s) have all been splitting time with Coker starting nine times, Colt six times and Healy four times. Coker has the best speed of the three and has led off three times. The RF spot has usually hit 8th or 9th.

DH – JR #30 Chris Williams (RH – .217 in 23 AB’s, 1-6-0. ’11 – .255 in 51 AB’s, 1-7-0), FR #6 Jake O’Brien (LH – .208 in 24 AB’s, 1-3-0), Healy, JC transfer #17 Tim ZuFall (RH – 1-8) have been splitting time with Williams starting eight times, O’Brien five times, Healy and ZuFall three times. The DH spot has usually hit 8th or 9th.

  • Fielding % - .976 with 17 errors in 2012. .968 (1/101) in 2011 – 74 errors.
  • Oral Roberts is solid at all four spots around the infield without any standouts. Trevino has a strong arm at 3B. Cho has solid range in CF and they are average in the corners.
  • Stolen Base Attempts – 6-14 in 2012. 34-59 in 2011 (1/xx)
  • Pickar has strong catch and throw skills and Fullerton will find it a challenge to run on him.
  • WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 12 in 2012. 56 in 2011. (4/xx)
  • Pickar was average at blocking pitches in 2011 but has been much better this season.

  • ERA – 3.27 in 2012. 3.50 in 2011 (1/47)
  • AVG – .260 in 2012. .247 in 2011 (1/xx)
  • H’s/9 IP – 8.7 in 2012. 8.2 in 2011 (1/28)
  • HR – 6 in 2012. 22 in 2011 (4/xx)
  • BB’s/9 IP – 3.6 in 2012. 3.9 in 2011 (6/177)
  • HBP – 6 in 2012. 70 in 2011 (4/xx).
  • K’s/9 IP – 7.3 in 2012. 7.2 in 2011 (1/94)

Oral Roberts returns their two best SP’s from last season and has gotten good work from a pitcher who redshirted last season and another one who barely pitched to give them a deep rotation.

THURS – JR #33 Drew Bowen (RHP – 3-1, 2.65 ERA, 5 GS, 2 CG, 34 IP, 33 H, 10 BB, 23 K, .260 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB. ’11 – 6-2, 1.73 ERA, 12 GS, 68 IP, 48 H, 28 BB, 53 K, .201 BA, 1 HR, 9 HBP, 4 WP, 5-9 SB) had elbow surgery early in 2010 that forced him to take a medical redshirt and he got off to a late start last season due to the lengthy recovery time from the surgery and only made a couple of starts before conference play. He didn’t pitch like somebody recovering from surgery and led the Summit League in ERA and AVG and was 2nd team all-conference and he was dominant down the stretch in throwing a shutout in their conference tournament and holding a strong hitting Oklahoma team scoreless in eight innings in their regional. Bowen threw five shutout innings in the season opener at Baylor, struggled in allowing six runs to Eastern Michigan, allowed one run to Alcorn State and was ok in allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings against East Carolina before throwing a CG SHO to win a 1-0 pitchers duel against Missouri State last week to win Summit League pitcher of the week honors. He has had slight command issues since coming back from his surgery (9 HBP and 3.7 BB/9 IP in 2011) and doesn’t throw quite as hard as he did, topping out around 90, but when he is on he is very tough to hit. Bowen is projected to be drafted around the 20th round in June but could go higher if he has a good season.

FRI – JR #34 Kurt Giller (RHP – 1-2, 5.40 ERA, 5 GS, 27 IP, 28 H, 14 BB, 29 K, .280 BA, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 0-5 SB. Redshirt in 2011) or SR #26 Mike Torrence (LHP – 1-3, 4.32 ERA, 6 apps, 3 GS, 25 IP, 25 H, 12 BB, 23 K, .269 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 0-1 SB. 6 IP in 2011) will be starting in the second game of the series with the other one available in relief. Torrence has improved more than any pitcher on the staff after barely pitching last season. He allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings in a midweek start against Central Arkansas and was moved into the rotation, where he struggled against Louisville in allowing six runs in 6 2/3 innings and didn’t have good control at Missouri State last week when he allowed two runs on five hits and five walks in five innings. Giller pitched at Nebraska before sitting out last season as a transfer while recovering from elbow surgery and wasn’t sharp in his first three starts and allowed 15 runs in 14 innings. He has been better the last two weeks and held Alabama to two runs on four hits in seven innings and allowed only one run in six innings to Missouri State with ten strikeouts. Giller’s best pitches are his cutter and changeup. He was drafted in the 21st round out of HS and projects to be drafted in the 15th-20th round range in June.

SAT – Soph #13 Alex Gonzalez (RHP – 1-1, 2.00 ERA, 5 apps, 3 GS, 18 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 10 K, .234 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 0-0 SB. ’11 – 8-7, 3.41 ERA, 18 GS, 5 CG, 106 IP, 96 H, 43 BB, 100 K, .246 BA, 4 HR, 9 HBP, 8 WP, 4-9 SB) was a workhorse as a FR and was the Summit League’s Pitcher of the Year and a FR All-American after leading the conference in wins, GS, IP and K. He was an 11th round pick out of HS and has a live arm with a low 90’s fastball but is still working on getting better command of his pitches (9 HBP, 8 WP, 3.7 BB/9 IP in 2011). Gonzalez was dominant against Summit League teams and went 6-0 with a 1.60 ERA in eight starts but he didn’t pitch well in the regional and allowed 13 runs (10 ER) in 2 1/3 innings in two starts. He threw well at Baylor in his first start when he allowed two runs in six innings but was injured in his next start against Eastern Michigan and only threw two innings. Gonzalez didn’t pitch against Alcorn State and made two relief appearances at Alabama before returning to the rotation last Sunday at Missouri State when he threw 7 1/3 innings and allowed three runs (1 ER).


Oral Roberts bullpen was a strong area in 2011 with six relievers making at least twenty appearances and five of those pitchers are back for this season. Their bullpen has usually been solid after letting the first two games at Baylor get away late before a blown save against Missouri State kept them from splitting the four game series.

Closer – SR #33 Matt Rush (RHP – 0-1, 6.00 ERA, 2 saves, 8 apps, 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 8 K, .217 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB. ’11 – 3-3, 4.10 ERA, 9 saves, 27 apps, 42 IP, 33 H, 31 BB, 41 K, .220 BA, 2 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 3-4 SB) came in as a JC transfer last season from Cypress College and ended up as the closer and was 2nd team all-conference after finishing second in the conference in saves and third in appearances. He has a good arm but has control issues (6.6 BB/9 IP in 2011). Rush had converted his first two save opportunities this season before allowing four runs last Friday against Missouri State.

SR #43 Lars Liguori (LHP – 0-1, 2.84 ERA, 11 apps, 6 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 3 K, .217 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 1-2 SB. ’11 – 1-1, 3.20 ERA, 1 save, 30 apps, 20 IP, 14 H, 12 BB, 24 K, .203 BA, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 1-2 SB) will be the only LHP out of the bullpen (unless Torrence doesn’t start on Friday) and will usually face only a couple of LH batters. He led the Summit League in appearance in 2011 and is on his way to doing so again this season.

SR #11 Joe Spring (RHP – 0-1, 3.55 ERA, 7 apps, 1 GS, 13 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 6 K, .333 BA, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 1-1 SB. ’11 – 5-1, 2.81 ERA, 1 save, 21 apps, 5 GS, 58 IP, 57 H, 19 BB, 40 K, .264 BA, 2 HR, 12 HBP, 2 WP, 7-11 SB) was a workhorse out of the bullpen last season who was capable of going several innings in an appearance, started three conference games and was 2nd team all-conference. He saved the best for last when he threw five scoreless innings against Dallas Baptist in the regional title game. Spring didn’t throw well in his only start this season (3 IP, 7 H, 4 R against Wichita State) but has thrown better out of the bullpen. Spring will throw inside and hit twelve batters in 2011.

SR #36 Dan Martony (RHP – 2-0, 0.66 ERA, 1 save, 6 apps, 14 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 11 K, .204 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0 HBP, 1-1 SB. ’11 – 4-0, 2.76 ERA, 1 save, 20 apps, 49 IP, 46 H, 8 BB, 26 K, .256 BA, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB) was another workhorse out of the bullpen in 2011 and capable of going several innings. He is more of a control pitcher and has been throwing very well and picked up both of his wins when he threw four innings.

Other relievers who could come into a game are JR #21 Alec Smith (RHP – 1-0, 0.82 ERA, 6 apps, 11 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 12 K, .282 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 1-2 SB. ’11 – 2-1, 5.40 ERA, 1 save, 20 apps, 32 IP, 27 H, 23 BB, 29 K, .233 BA, 1 HR, 11 HBP, 7 WP, 5-5 SB) and JC transfer #17 Tim ZuFall (RHP – 0-0, 4.32 ERA, 4 apps, 1 GS, 8 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 4 K, .250 BA, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB)


Fullerton has been a little frustrated with playing .500 ball over the past two weeks but the Titans have been winning the series on the weekend and have won four straight series after losing the opening series of the season at #1 Florida. Oral Roberts has only won two series against inferior opponents and has gone 3-7 in their other three weekend series/tournaments.

As much as Fullerton has been frustrated with their offense and the inability to get key hits to drive in runs, Oral Roberts has had even more struggles with scoring runs with an offense that has pretty much become an all or nothing attack that is relying on the long ball to put runs up on the scoreboard.

Both pitching staffs have usually been holding up end their end of the bargain with nearly identical ERA’s. Fullerton’s starting pitching has been a little better, the middle relief for Oral Roberts has been a little better and Fullerton has been better at finishing games off.

There don’t figure to be many runs scored this weekend with two offenses that have had issues and two pitching staffs that have usually done a good job. Fullerton is a better team than Oral Roberts and as long as the Titans don’t beat themselves they should win this series.