Thursday, March 1, 2012

Titans Tame Lions

By Don Hudson

In a game not likely to be used anytime soon in a Tom Emanski baseball instructional video, the Cal State Fullerton Titans (5-3) extended their winning streak to four games with a win on Wednesday at Goodwin Field over the LMU Lions (2-6), by a score of 6-2. This was the Lions’ fifth straight loss, all against Big West Conference teams.

Koby Gauna made his first career start as a Titan and continued his impressive pitching performance, allowing just one run, four hits and no walks in five innings. While he did not figure in the decision, Gauna reduced his ERA to 2.03 and is second on the team in innings pitched.

Trailing 1-0, the Titans evened the score in the third inning when Michael Lorenzen staged a one-man rally. He led off with a double and went to third on a wild pitch. With Carlos Lopez, the team leader in RBI batting, LMU’s catcher Colton Plaia tried to pick Lorenzen off third base. Plaia’s throw was slightly off mark and bounded about eight feet away from the third baseman. Most runners would retreat to third – especially with an RBI Machine like Lopez batting – but Lorenzen alertly and aggressively broke for the plate and easily beat the throw in a cloud of dust.

Lopez reached base when an errant throw pulled the first-baseman, who missed a swipe tag, but everybody in the ballpark – except umpire John Visciglia – saw that Carlos never came close to the bag as he swerved to avoid the tag. LMU Coach Jason Gill asked for an appeal, but Lopez remained safe after a small conference. However, Visciglia erased his mistake moments later. Lopez stole second base, but was “picked off” a couple pitches later on one of the most blatant make-up calls you will ever see. This was just the first set of oddities with the umpires that involved Lopez.

Gauna allowed at least one base-runner in each of his final four innings of work. He has demonstrated an ability to “bend but don’t break” – while he has allowed an opponent’s batting average of .288, he scatters the hits, bears down with runners on base and avoids walks (just one walk in 13-1/3 innings).

Kenny Mathews entered the game in the sixth inning, on a short leash before his upcoming start on Saturday against Utah Valley. He walked the first batter he faced and made an error on the ensuing sacrifice by LMU. Christian Coronado was summoned to the hill and induced a 5-4-3 double-play (too far wide of the bag for third-baseman Matt Chapman to try for the trifecta) and worked out of the inning on another groundout.

LMU’s Scott Harkin launched one into the net above the leftfield wall leading off the seventh inning, giving the Lions a short-lived 2-1 lead. The Titans notched the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the frame. Austin Kingsolver led off with a walk. After Matt Orloff fouled a bunt and got two strikes, he ripped a line-drive single to rightfield, his third hit of the day. With Anthony Trajano at the plate to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, the Titans were aided by back-to-back balks by LMU reliever Ramiro Carreon. The Titans had a golden opportunity to take the lead with a runner on second and no outs, but they were unable to push the runner along.

Coronado escaped danger in the eighth inning with the help of catcher Casey Watkins. LMU threatened with one out on a single, wild pitch and walk that put runners on first and second. When LMU attempted a double-steal, Watkins realized the lead runner had a great jump, so he threw to second to easily retire the trailing runner. Coronado stranded the potential go-ahead run on third-base.

Right after I told Rock, “I feel a crooked number is about to happen,” the Titans put together a four-run rally with the ball never leaving the infield – hardly the thunderous offense that helped Emanski’s teams win back-to-back-to-back championships, but good enough to nail down the win on this chilly evening. Richy Pedroza led off with an infield single and advanced on Watkins’ sacrifice. That’s when the wheels fell off LMU pitcher Aaron Griffin’s wagon.

Griffin hit Chapman with a pitch and walked Kingsolver to load the bases. Orloff lifted a spinning squibber to the third-base side of the mound, not high enough for anybody but the pitcher to pursue. Griffin showed why Emanski never wants pitchers fielding pop-ups. He may have taken his eye off the ball to see how far the runner from third was off the bag, and the ball spun out of his glove. He had plenty of time to throw home for the force-out, but he rushed and threw the ball away. Now leading 3-2 with the bases still loaded, Keegan Dale perfectly executed a squeeze play, bunting the ball hard past the charging third-baseman. A groundout by Lorenzen plated the third run of the inning, which was topped off by Anthony Hutting’s surprise two-out bunt single to add an insurance run.

The inning ended with a strikeout and ejection of Lopez. Besides the aforementioned make-up call travesty in the third inning, Lopez was called out in the fifth inning with two runners aboard on a couple pitches way off the plate inside. On a two-strike pitch, Carlos was buzzed by a head-high fastball inside. As he dove out of the way, plate umpire Bradley Hungerford ruled he had swung as he dove to avoid getting beaned – whatever Carlos said, it had to be quick, because he was tossed while he was still on the ground.

Coronado, the winning pitcher, looked to finish it out in the ninth. But after a one-out walk, Lorenzen was summoned to make his first appearance of the season in a non-save situation. He made quick work of it, striking out the two Lions he faced to end the game.


So what did we learn on Wednesday?

Coach Vanderhook described the game to College Baseball Daily as “U-G-L-Y. Ugly!” While there were some notable individual efforts (e.g., Lorenzen’s alert base-running; the pitching by Gauna, Coronado and Lorenzen; and Orloff’s three hits), the Titans’ offense was somnambulant for the first seven innings, until scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth without hitting a ball out of the infield. LMU committed three errors and three of the Titans’ runs were unearned.

The lethargic play of both teams was clearly a function of the shock from learning of the death of Davy Jones earlier in the day. Many kudos to Mike Greenlee for his tribute to the fallen Monkee by playing “Daydream Believer” just before and after the game. (At the risk of getting that song stuck in your head:

Growing up in the ‘60s, we old fart Baby Boomers have a very personal nostalgic connection with the pop phenomenon of that decade. As Beatlemania raged across America and the world and inspired by the movie A Hard Day’s Night, the NBC television network created a situation comedy about a struggling rock band, fashioned after The Beatles. The Monkees were a fictitious band – they hired four actors with zero musical talent (except arguably Mike Naismith) who neither wrote nor played their own music initially. Davy Jones was a young British actor cast as the alter ego to Paul McCartney. The “group” was disparagingly referred to as “The Pre-Fab Four” or “The Faux Four.”

The show became ridiculously popular and the acting troupe started to believe they actually were musicians. They began touring and filling stadiums – can you believe Jimi Hendrix was a warm-up act for The Monkees and that a real singer named Davy Jones had to change his name to David Bowie to escape the shadow of this pop icon? Jones, Naismith, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork worked pretty hard and became marginal (at best) musicians, but their popularity raged in 1966-67. The act might have lasted longer than it did – they flamed out in two years – if they hadn’t tried to write and perform their own music. Very little of the “bubblegum pop” of that era has survived, but The Monkees’ music has been surprisingly durable – because they had some great ghost writers and performers, such as Don Kirschner, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, John Stewart, Boyce & Hart and Carole King.

So there you have it. Hope to see you at Goodwin this weekend.

No comments: