Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oregon Series Preview

Oregon at Titans
Friday 7 p.m.; Saturday 6 p.m.; Sunday noon

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton got the 2013 season started off on the right foot by outscoring their opponents 30-9 while winning all four games in the opening weekend at home against USC and Nebraska and on the road at Cal State Bakersfield, which was the first time that the Titans have come out of the blocks over .500 after the opening weekend since 2008.

Fullerton got this week started with their second local road trip as they drove up to Malibu on Wednesday afternoon to play Pepperdine and the Titans improved their record to 5-0 by defeating the previously undefeated Waves 6-3.  Matt Chapman got things started in the first with a two out walk, stole second after being picked off when he beat the throw from first to second, Big West player of the week J.D. Davis continued his hot hitting with an RBI single, Michael Lorenzen struck out but got on base when the ball got by the catcher and Chad Wallach made Pepperdine pay for that with an opposite field double for a 3-0 lead.  Fullerton added onto the lead in the second when Austin Diemer singled, Richy Pedroza singled him to third and Diemer scored on a wild pitch.  The Waves scored a run in the third but the Titans bumped the lead back up to 5-1 in the fifth when Carlos Lopez singled and stole second, Davis reached on an infield single and Wallach continued his hot hitting with an RBI single.  Pepperdine scored runs in the sixth and eighth innings to cut the lead to 5-3 before Fullerton tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when Pedroza and Lopez were hit by pitches and Chapman followed with an RBI single.  Davis was the starting pitcher and picked up the win on a designated staff day with three solid innings, allowing a run on three hits.  Five relievers followed and were effective in allowing two runs on five hits in six innings with Lorenzen picking up his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Fullerton rolled into Fort Worth with a great deal of momentum to face TCU, a team that got out of the blocks slowly last weekend when they were swept at Ole Miss and scored only four runs in three games.  Both of those trends continued as the Titans won all three games against the Horned Frogs in dominant fashion by a cumulative score of 20-4 after winning the first game 7-2, the second game 6-2 and the final game 7-0 as Fullerton improved to 8-0, which is the best start the Titans have had since 2003.

Fullerton scored first for the sixth straight game when Pedroza led off with a walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Lopez.  The Titans increased their lead with two runs in the fifth when Diemer singled, Pedroza tripled over a drawn in RF and Chapman greeted the TCU reliever with an RBI single.  As Pedroza scored, he had some choice words for the Horned Frogs catcher and was ejected from the game.  Thomas Eshelman retired the first ten batters of the game before allowing a hit and left the game with two outs in the sixth after giving up two more hits but not surrendering any walks and getting eight strikeouts.  Koby Gauna came in and ended the TCU threat and Fullerton increased the lead in the seventh when Pedroza’s replacement, Keegan Dale, reached on a bunt single and ended up scoring on a two out single by Lorenzen.  The Horned Frogs put together two walks and two hits to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh against Gauna but a botched double steal ended the rally when a runner was thrown out at the plate.  TCU continued to rally in the eighth with a double off of Gauna and after Willie Kuhl retired two batters, he walked and hit the next two hitters and Tyler Peitzmeier induced a ground out to leave the bases loaded.  Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the ninth when Dale singled, Lopez tripled him in on a ball to the gap in right center and scored on a wild pitch, Davis was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by Lorenzen.  Peitzmeier retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth for his first career save as Eshelman improved his record to 2-0.

Fullerton once again got off to the lead on Saturday by scoring two runs in the first when they took advantage of the wildness of TCU starter Preston Morrison and some shaky defense when Pedroza reached on an error, Lopez walked, Clay Williamson was hit by a pitch, Lorenzen drove in a run on an infield single, Anthony Hutting was hit by a pitch and Jake Jefferies walked to force in another run.  That would be all the scoring there would be for a while because Justin Garza and Morrison were both dominant over the next 6 1/2 innings.  Morrison allowed only two hits and no walks over his next six innings but Garza was even better over his first seven innings, allowing only one hit in the fifth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.  The Titans were happy to see a reliever come in to start the eighth and once again broke things open against the TCU bullpen when Chapman bunted for a hit, Williamson and Hutting each singled and Jefferies pulled a line drove over the wall in RF for a grand slam to increase the lead to 6-0.  The Horned Frogs finally got to Garza in the eighth with four singles to score two runs before Davis came in to get the final two outs of the inning and he finished things off with a scoreless ninth as Garza improved his record to 2-0 with the win.

Fullerton didn’t score in the first inning on Sunday for the first time since opening night but they did score first for the eighth straight game when Lorenzen led off the second with a triple and Greg Velazquez’s SF drove him in.  The Titans increased the lead when Diemer led off the third with a single, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and Chapman’s bunt single drove him in.  Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the fourth when Lorenzen and Wallach started things off with singles, Velazquez walked, Diemer drove in a run with a ground out, Pedroza walked to load the bases, Lopez’s HBP forced in a run and Chapman’s walk forced in another run.  The Titans padded their lead with two runs in the ninth when Diemer walked and stole second, Lopez’s infield single drove him in, Chapman singled to SS and Lopez went to third on an error on the throw and Chapman scored on a passed ball.  Grahamm Wiest was the beneficiary of all of the scoring and allowed two hits in the first four innings and both runners were wiped on double plays, allowed two hits in the fifth but got out of the jam unscathed and had two batters get on base on errors in the seventh but also got out of that jam as he ended up throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings with one walk and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.  Peitzmeier retired a batter and Gauna got the last four outs to finish things off.

Fullerton hit the ball well against Pepperdine’s midweek pitching with eleven hits but things didn’t come as easy at the plate in Fort Worth.  The TCU pitching staff held the Titans to a .235 AVG (24 for 102) but Fullerton was very opportunistic and took advantage of seventeen free bases (ten walks, seven HBP’s) in order to score twenty runs in the series.  The offensive leaders on the week were Lorenzen (6-16, 3 RBI, 2 H in each game at TCU), Chapman (6-17, 4 RBI, 2 SB), Wallach (4-10, 3 RBI), Lopez (4 RBI) and Diemer (3-6, 5 R) plus Jefferies with the key grand slam on Saturday.  Fullerton’s starters continued to mow thru the opposition by going 4-0 with a 0.77 ERA for the week with one walk and 22 strikeouts.  The relievers for the Titans had a solid week with a 2.92 ERA and protected leads in all four games with Peitzmeier making three scoreless appearances.

Fullerton has played five different teams in winning the first eight games but has won going away most of the time.  Things figure to be much different this weekend as one of the best teams in the country over the last 1+ seasons will be coming to visit Goodwin Field with former Titans coach George Horton bringing his Oregon Ducks to his old stomping grounds in a rematch of last season’s regional in Eugene.

Oregon Ducks (7-1)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 46-19
  • 2012 Conference Record – 19-11 (3rd place in the Pac 12)
  • 2012 Post-Season – Won Eugene Regional (Wins over Austin Peay, Fullerton and Austin Peay), Lost Eugene Super Regional to Kent State two games to one.
  • 2012 RPI/ISR – 7/5
  • Current ranking – 6th by Collegiate Baseball, 6th by NCBWA, 7th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 8th by Perfect Game and 14th by Baseball America
  • Pre-season ranking  – 6th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 8th by NCBWA, 10th by Collegiate Baseball, 13th by Easton College Baseball, 14th by Perfect Game and 15th by Baseball America
  • Predicted conference finish – 4th by the Pac 12 coaches, Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball today

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

It has been an interesting six year ride for George Horton since he left Fullerton after the 2007 season to head up to Oregon.  His first year in Eugene in 2008 was spent getting the program ready for their first season of baseball since 1981.  The Ducks predictably struggled in 2009 and finished last in the Pac 10 but surprised the college baseball world in 2010 by winning forty games and making it into a regional, finishing second to Florida State.  Oregon had high expectations of moving past a regional into a Super Regional or Omaha in 2011 but they struggled out of the gate and by the time they started playing well it was too late to save their season and they finished in eighth in the Pac 10 and didn’t qualify for a regional.  The Ducks had a strong pitching staff in 2011 with a 2.95 ERA that was in the top twenty nationally but their offense finished well in the bottom 100 nationally in hitting and scoring.

Oregon didn’t enter last season with sky high expectations like they did in 2011 and they weren’t predicted to do much with the Pac 12 coaches picking them to finish in 7th and the rest of the college baseball media picking them to finish anywhere from 7th to 9th.  The Ducks got out to a hot start at 10-1 didn’t handle prosperity too well and went 5-7 over the next twelve games, responded by going 11-2 over the next thirteen games, which included a sweep of ASU and series wins on the road at UCLA and Stanford, lost a series at home to WSU when they were banged up, started getting healthier and went on a 15-1 run that wrapped up a national seed and put them in position to win the Pac 12.  Oregon needed to win only one game in the Civil War series at OSU to clinch at least a share of the Pac 12 title but the Beavers got revenge for being swept by the Ducks at the end of the 2011 season by sweeping all three games in Corvallis to prevent the Ducks from winning the conference title.  Oregon hosted a regional for the first time and came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to beat Austin Peay, won a close game with Fullerton and rolled thru Austin Peay to sweep all three games.  The Ducks hosted a Super Regional and looked poised to go to Omaha but Kent State had other ideas and surprised Oregon in the first game, the Ducks came back to win the second game and Kent State won the third game in the bottom of the ninth to advance to the College World Series.

Expectations for Oregon are much higher this season as they enter this season with the goal of getting to Omaha and even though they have been picked to finish fourth by the coaches and the media, that just means that the Pac 12 is loaded because the Ducks were ranked in the top fifteen in every major poll going into the season.  Oregon lost only two regulars from their lineup, one of their starting pitchers and one of their primary set-up men but return pretty much everybody else so they will be bringing back one of the more experienced rosters on the west coast.  The Ducks played like an experienced team when they started their season in Hawaii and they didn’t just go out to the islands to get some sun and get out from the damp cold winter for a few days as they won all four games and weren’t challenged too much during the series.  The Ducks returned home to face LMU last weekend and the Lions pulled off a 7-2 upset in the opener before Oregon bounced back to win each of the next two games 6-1 to win the series and followed that up with a 3-1 wini against Portland on Tuesday.

  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 85 (decreases offense by 15%).  Dimensions are 335-375-400-375-325 and the ball usually doesn’t carry well until later in the season.  Field turf so the fielders are getting true bounces on ground balls.
  • Batting Average – .221.  2012 – .265 (NCAA ranking – 214, Pac 12 ranking – 10).
  • Scoring – 38 (4.8 runs per game).  2012 – 304 runs (219, 7), 4.7 per game.
  • Home Runs – 1.  2012 – 29 (138, 6).
  • Stolen Bases – 10-14.  2012 – 73-117 (103, 3).
  • Slugging Percentage – .317.  2012 – .370 (177, 9).
  • On Base Percentage – .342.   2012 – .359 (DNR, 9).
  • Walks – 31 (3.9 per game).  2012 – 245 (48, 2), 3.8 per game.
  • HBP’s – 13.  2012 – 77 (41, 4).
  • Sac Bunts – 9.  2012 – 88 (2, 1).
  • Strikeouts – 51 (6.4 per game).  2012 – 400 (DNR, 2), 6.2 per game.  Oregon only struck out 19 times in four games at Hawaii but struck out 29 times against LMU.

Oregon didn’t have a highly productive offense in 2012 so they had to scratch out runs by bunting and putting runners in motion and relying on getting hits in key situations to manufacture runs.  Despite averaging only 4.7 runs per game, the Ducks were efficient at scoring several runs a game because they were only held to two runs or less eight times and their strong pitching staff allowed them to go 21-5 when scoring either three or four runs, the same record Oregon had when scoring five or more runs in a game.

Oregon got off to a solid start at the plate in the Hawaii series by hitting .293 with most of the damage done when they scored nine runs on sixteen hits in the third game.  The Ducks hit .242 and averaged four runs per game in the other three games on the islands and they continued to have issues at the plate against LMU when they only hit .131 with eleven hits in the series.  Oregon has continued to be opportunistic and had nineteen BB’s/HBP’s at Hawaii and twenty BB’s/HBP’s against LMU.  It was more of the same on Tuesday against Portland for the Ducks as they only had three hits in the game but got five BB’s/HBP’s and cashed three of them in for runs and used an outstanding pitching performance to win 3-1.  Oregon has good overall team speed and they have already hit eighteen doubles and ten SB’s and they also have nine SAC’s with plenty of hit and run attempts to put runners in motion.

Oregon is experienced at each of the infield positions with starters returning at all four spots but they are breaking in a new tandem at catcher.


C – Soph #16 Shaun Chase (RH – 2-10.  ’12 – .178/.250/.356, 2-9-0) and FR #18 Josh Graham (RH – 1-16) will be splitting time behind the plate while replacing defensive standout Brett Hambright.  Chase has good power when he makes contact, which was an issue in 2012 when he struck out 30 times in 73 AB’s and he has 6 K’s in 10 AB’s this season.  Graham is talented and will push Chase for playing time.  They combined to only go 2-14 at Hawaii with each of them starting twice.  Graham started twice against LMU and they combined to go 1-9 in the series.  The catchers have been hitting eighth.

1B – JR #25 Ryon Healy (RH – .345/.441/.552, 1-7-1.  ’12 – .312/.378/.419, 4-42-3) is the cleanup hitter and is a big, strong man with raw power potential who should be drafted in the first five rounds in June.  He led the team in hits and total bases and was second on the team in R and RBI in 2012 when he was honorable mention All-Pac 12.  Healy made the all-regional team after going 4-10 with 3 RBI, including a 2-4 game with 2 RBI against Fullerton, and went 9-22 with 6 RBI in the post-season and carried his hot streak into this season when he torched the Hawaii pitching staff by going 8-15 with three doubles, an HR and 4 RBI on his way to winning Pac 12 player of the week honors.  He cooled off against LMU when he went 1-10 but had two key RBI in their win on Saturday.  Healy takes a big swing and led the team with 45 strikeouts in 2012 but has been doing a better job of making contact and only has two strikeouts in 25 AB’s.

2B – JR #20 Aaron Payne (LH – .259/.400/.259, 0-3-3.  ’12 –.277/.405/.357, 1-27-16) is the engine that makes the offense go as the leadoff hitter and led the Pac 12 in 2012 with 25 HBP’s to help him lead the team in R and OBP and earn honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors.  He has very good speed and finished in the top ten in the Pac 11 in triples and SB’s.  Payne is an excellent bunter and will use his speed to beat out bunts and was in the top ten in the conference with fifteen SAC bunts in 2012.  He went 2-5 against Fullerton, whom he was a batboy for as a youngster, but struggled in the rest of the post-season and only went 1-14 in the other five games.  Payne got off to a hot start at Hawaii when he went 6-15 and scored four runs but was one of many guys who struggled against LMU and went 0-8, including three strikeouts in Friday’s game.  Making contact was an issue for Payne in 2012 because he is an aggressive hitter and was second on the team last season with 42 strikeouts.  He doesn’t have any extra-base hits and most of the extra-base power he generates comes from his legs as he runs hits into 2B’s and 3B’s.

SS – SR #22 J.J. Altobelli (RH – .429/.586/.524, 0-4-2.  ’12 – .265/.354/.335, 0-14-6) is the toughest hitter on the team to strike out with only one K, had an outstanding 20/12 BB/K ratio in 2012 and is one of the most likely players that a hit and run play will be put on with.  He missed nearly a month last season with a shoulder injury and was the leadoff hitter before getting hurt and hit 9th after returning and has continued to hit at the bottom of the order.  He went 0-3 against Fullerton and was 4-16 in the post-season.  Altobelli torched Hawaii’s staff and went 6-13 with 4 RBI and was one of the few guys who hit well against LMU and he went 3-6, got on base four more times via BB’s and HBP’s and scored four times.   He shares the team lead with Payne with seven runs and is playing at an All-Pac 12 level in the first two weeks of the season and could end up being drafted in the first ten rounds as a SR sign.

3B – SR #21 Ryan Hambright (LH – 1-28.  ’12 – .265/.321/.333, 1-12-0) only started six times in the first 40 games in 2012 but started 19 of the final 21 games to stabilize things at 3B after starter Scott Heineman injured his foot and was lost for the season.  He had trouble hitting against the solid pitching staffs in the Pac 11 and only hit .178 in conference games and was only hitting .228 going into the regional but went 7-11, including 2-3 with an RBI against Fullerton, to win regional MVP honors.  Hambright was one of the few players not to hit well in Hawaii and only went 1-13 with five strikeouts and that continued against LMU when he went 0-12 with five more strikeouts.  He has been hitting fifth but if he continues to hit this poorly he will have to be moved down in the lineup.


Oregon played quite a few players in the OF and at DH in 2012 and returns most of them along with a starter from their 2010 season who missed two years after taking a church mission.

LF – JR #2 Brett Thomas (LH – .194/.257/.290, 0-6-0.  ’12 –.313/.368/.438, 1-25-9) led the team in AVG, 2B’s and 3B’s and helped to make the offense go as the only LH bat in the middle of the order in 2012, hit .330 in conference games and was honorable mention All-Pac 12.  He went 5-13 with 4 RBI in the regional, including 1-4 against Fullerton, and was 9-26 with 5 RBI in the post-season.  Thomas had a poor 14/36 BB/K ratio in 2012, which is something he needs to improve on.  He has good speed and is a threat to run when he is on base.  Thomas has been hitting third and went 5-17 with 4 RBI at Hawaii but had an awful series against LMU when he went 0-11 with eight strikeouts.  He started to hit the ball better against Portland with a hit and an SF.

CF – Soph #6 Scott Heineman (RH – .308/.457/.385, 0-5-1.  ’12 – .189/.342/.278, 1-9-7) played 3B for the first two months of 2012 before being injured and lost for the rest of the season.  He didn’t hit much but he was a very patient hitter with a 19/22 BB/K ratio.  Heineman has very good speed and has been moved to the OF where he can put his speed to good use.  He has been hitting second and got off to a solid start at Hawaii when he went 5-17 and had a good series against LMU when he went 3-8 and got on base five other times via BB’s and HBP’s and he got three more free bases against Portland.

RF – Soph #29 Steven Packard (LH – 4-18.  ’11 and ’12 – DNP.  ’10 – .333/.412/.440, 2-18-0) was a starter as a FR on the 2010 regional team but was away from the program for two years on a church mission.  He got right back into the swing of things in the fall and won a starting job in a crowded OF this season.  Packard hits seventh and went 3-11 in three games at Hawaii but only went 1-7 against LMU.

DH/RF – JR #4 Kyle Garlick (RH – 2-21.  ’12 –.287/.482/.470, 6-41-9) has the best power and speed combo on the team and led Oregon in HR’s and SLG and was second in SB, AVG and RBI in 2012.  He is also the most patient hitter on the team and led the Ducks in walks with a solid 29/38 BB/K ratio for a power hitter and was one the team leaders in OBP.  Garlick only went 2-13 in the regional but did have 2 RBI against Fullerton and his struggles continued in the Super Regional when he went 1-10.  He is average in the OF, which is why he will be the DH most of the time.  Garlick has been hitting sixth and has gotten off to a slow start and only went 2-12 at Hawaii and was 0-7 in the first two games against LMU.

JC transfer #13 Tyler Baumgartner (LH) only had one AB in the first six games before being inserted into the lineup at DH on Sunday against LMU as Oregon tried to shake things up and he came through with a bases loaded double that broke the game open and was the DH again on Tuesday.  The double was his only hit in seven AB’s.

JR #1 Connor Hoffman (LH – ’12 –.239/.315/.331, 3-14-9) was the starting CF most of 2012 and has good speed to patrol the big OF space at Oregon.  He had a poor 13/37 BB/K ratio last season.  Hoffman is an excellent bunter and will try to beat out bunts for hits and had 12 SAC’s in 2012.  He went 1-8 in the post-season, going 1-3 against Fullerton, and with Heineman and Packard in the OF mix has been moved into a role as a late inning defensive replacement.


Fielding .978 (7, 1) – 55 errors.  Double Plays – 57 (24, 3).  Oregon has one of the best defenses in the country and their infield is helped by playing on field turf.  Healy is a good athlete for his size at 1B, Jones and Altobelli are outstanding up the middle as one of the best DP combos on the west coast, Hambright is solid at 3B.  Thomas, Heineman and Packard all have good range in the OF.  Oregon has only made two errors this season.

Stolen Base Attempts – 25-54 (DNR, 1).  This is a key area to watch with Oregon replacing Brett Hambright, who was an outstanding catcher.  Runners are 3-3 against Graham and are 1-4 against Chase and he gunned down three guys against LMU on Saturday.  The Ducks do a very good job of holding runners to help their catchers and picked off fifteen runners in 2012.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 44 (DNR, 6).  The catchers are average at blocking pitchers (8 WP’s/PB’s) but the pitching staff throws lots of power sinking pitches, which doesn’t make their job easy.


The strength of Oregon’s team in 2012 without question was their pitching staff and they led the Pac 12 in ERA, AVG and K’s and went 36-3 when they allowed three runs or less.  The Ducks lost Pac 12 Pitcher of the Year Alex Keudell but return just about everybody else so they should have a strong pitching staff once again this season.  Oregon’s pitchers haven’t been quite as tough to hit thus far as they were when they were in the top five nationally in 2012 but they have been doing a much better job of throwing strikes and have cut way down on the number of free bases via BB’s and HBP’s.
  • ERA – 2.38.  2012 – 2.99 (NCAA ranking – 12, Pac 12 ranking – 1)
  • AVG – .250.  2012 –.225 (DNR, 1).  7.2 H/9 IP was #2 nationally.
  • HR – 0.  2012 – 20 (DNR, 4)
  • SLG – .295.  2012 – .295
  • Walks – 18 (2.3 BB/9 IP).  2012 – 243 (DNR, 11).  3.7 BB/9 IP was #151 nationally.
  • HBP – 4.  2012 – 82 (DNR, 1).
  • WHIP – 1.17.  2012 – 1.21 (20, DNR)
  • Strikeouts – 63 (7.9 K/9 IP).  2012 – 439 (DNR, 2).  6.8 K/9 IP was #118 nationally.


Oregon returns two of their weekend SP’s from 2012 and has moved one of their main relievers into a starting role and has a big prospect as another option in the rotation.  The starters have been doing their job with a 2.11 ERA over the first seven games.

Soph #5 Jake Reed (RHP – 1-1, 3.27 ERA, 2 GS, 11 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 15 K, .238 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 2-2 SB.  ’12 – 8-4, 2.92 ERA, 17 GS, 1 CG, 114 IP, 91 H, 42 BB, 67 K, .230 AVG, 3 HR, 17 HBP, 4 WP, 4-9 SB) was projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds out of HS but due to his strong commitment to going to school he was only drafted in the 40th round and he will probably be drafted in the first five rounds in 2014.  He has a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and a good changeup with good command of his pitches and was 9th in the Pac 12 in AVG.  Reed was effective in almost every start as a FR and allowed three runs or less in fourteen of his starts and his ERA was inflated in his one poor start when he allowed eight runs at Arizona.  He threw very well in winning both of his post-season starts when he threw seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits with eight strikeouts in the regional clinching game against Austin Peay and held Kent State to two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 IP in the Super Regional and followed that up by pitching in relief for Team USA during the summer.  Reed threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts to pick up the win at Hawaii but struggled against LMU when he allowed five runs (4 ER) on six hits in 5 IP but did strike out a career high nine batters.  His control has been better this season and he has only walked two batters in his two starts.

Soph #27 Thomas Thorpe (LHP – 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 GS, 12 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 10 K, .262 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 0-3 SB.  ’12 – 2-0, 2.11 ERA, 35 apps, 1 save, 43 IP, 24 H, 20 BB, 48 K, .176 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 2-5 SB) was the LHP specialist in 2012 due to the good movement on his sweeping slider that is extremely tough on LH hitters but he can sometimes have trouble with his command.  He didn’t allow a run in eighteen straight appearances at one point during last season.  Thorpe appeared in four of Oregon’s six post-season games, allowing 2 H and 2 R (1 ER) in 4 2/3 IP with 6 K’s.  He has thrown well in winning both of his starts, allowing one run on seven hits in five innings at Hawaii and shutting out LMU for seven innings and allowing only four hits.

FR #19 Cole Irvin (LHP – 2-0, 2.40 ERA, 2 GS, 15 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 7 K, .212 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB) went to Servite and was predicted to be drafted in the first ten rounds but had a strong commitment to going to school and fell to the 29th round.  He has beaten out some strong competition to earn a spot in the rotation after finishing the summer as the #5 prospect in the West Coast League.  His fastball sits in the upper 80’s to 90 range and he has a good changeup and very good control.  Irvin picked up a win in his debut when he allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings at Hawaii and followed that up by throwing eight strong innings against LMU, holding the Lions to one run on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts.


Oregon didn’t have a deep bullpen in 2012 and relied primarily on three relievers but those three pitchers have been lights out and all three of them are capable of going 2-3 innings.  They have their All-American closer Jimmie Sherfy back but one of the set-up men (Thorpe) is in the rotation and the other has moved on so Oregon is relying on pitchers returning from injuries or who haven’t pitched much as the bridge between their starters and their closer.  The bullpen has had some issues with the five relievers other than Sherfy and Christian Jones having allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 IP over the first two weekends.

JR #30 Jimmie Sherfy (RHP – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 apps, 3 saves, 6 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 K, .348 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB.  ’12 – 5-3, 2.20 ERA, 36 apps, 19 saves, 61 IP, 36 H, 34 BB, 93 K, .172 AVG, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 4 WP, 5-6 SB) barely pitched in 2011 because he had absolutely no command of his pitches.  He worked hard going into 2012 and was one of the best relievers in the country, finishing second nationally in saves, and was an All-Pac 12 and All-American selection and pitched for Team USA last summer and should be drafted in the first five rounds in June.  He is a power pitcher with a good fastball that sits in the low 90’s but his best pitch is an outstanding slider with great movement that he uses as his out pitch and he led the staff and finished sixth in the Pac 12 in strikeouts despite not making one start and had an amazing 13.7 K/9 IP rate.  Oregon is not afraid to bring him in before the ninth inning and he threw over one inning in seventeen of his appearances in 2012.  Sherfy has gotten off to a bit of a slow start by his standards and allowed eleven baserunners in six innings but he has still only allowed one run, which was unearned.

JR #24 Christian Jones (LHP – 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 save, 4 apps, 1 GS, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 9 K, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 0-1 SB.  ’12 – Medical redshirt.  ’11 –  7-2, 3.24 ERA, 16 apps, 12 GS, 78 IP, 69 H, 34 BB, 73 K, .249 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP, 4-10 SB) was expected to be the Fri or Sat SP in 2012 and already pitching in the minors but he had elbow surgery in the fall and was a medical redshirt.  Before the injury his fastball was sitting in the 92-94 range but it has been in the upper 80’s this season and his slider has been his most effective pitch.  He has been very effective in three relief outings as he works his way back towards rejoining the weekend rotation and made another step in that direction with three scoreless innings and allowed two hits with five strikeouts in a midweek start against Portland.

JR #44 Jeff Gold (RHP – ’12 – 8-4, 3.66 ERA, 19 apps, 13 GS, 1 CG, 76 IP, 75 H, 24 BB, 46 K, .262 AVG, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 5 WP, 2-6 SB) was a midweek starter and middle reliever in 2012 until he was moved into the weekend rotation due to an injury to one of the SP’s in late April and was effective for a Sunday SP with a 3.62 ERA in Pac 12 games.  He isn’t a hard thrower and does a good job of getting sink on his fastball and letting his infielders do the work behind him.  Gold didn’t throw well in the post-season and allowed five runs on thirteen hits in six innings in his two starts.  He will be one of the options as the midweek SP and left his start early in the fifth inning at Hawaii when he was hit in the ankle on a comebacker.  He made his first appearance since then on Tuesday night against Portland and was on fire, throwing four hitless innings with seven strikeouts.  Gold will provide depth to the bullpen that has had issues other than Jones in getting the ball to Sherfy.

FR #35 Garrett Cleavenger (LHP) is another lefty in the bullpen and he is gaining the confidence of the coaching staff.  He had two good outings in Hawaii (1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K) but was wild in an inning against LMU when he allowed three walks and he allowed a run on two hits in an inning against Portland.

JR #51 Darrell Hunter (RHP) was an infielder on the 2009 team but missed the last three seasons due to health issues but has returned to the program as a pitcher.  He has made three appearances (4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K).

Soph #23 Jordan Spencer (LHP – 4-2, 4.26 ERA, 12 apps, 6 GS, 1 CG, 38 IP, 31 H, 18 BB, 19 K, .230 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-5 SB) was a swingman who split time between the bullpen and a midweek SP role in 2012 but has only pitched once (1 R in 1 2/3 IP at Hawaii).

JR #3 Brando Tessar (RHP – ’12 – 4-1, 3.42 ERA, 11 apps, 9 GS, 1 CG, 53 IP, 44 H, 33 BB, 37 K, .235 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 3 WP, 1-4 SB) was in the weekend rotation in 2012 until straining a muscle in his forearm in the middle of April and didn’t pitch again until making an appearance in the Super Regional.  He is battling shoulder issues and hasn’t pitched yet this season.


Fullerton has had a pretty easy go of it thus far against a schedule that looked tougher in the first two weekends when it was made but hasn’t turned out that way with Nebraska and TCU combining to start the season 1-13.  Things are about to get much more difficult for the Titans this weekend against the team that is most likely the best team that they will play in a weekend series.  Conversely, Oregon has only had trouble in one game this season and Fullerton will be the best team that the Ducks will face until they get into conference play in what figures to be a gauntlet in the Pac 12.

If it seems like Fullerton and Oregon are kind of mirror images of each other, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering Horton’s influence on the Fullerton program as the head coach for eleven years with the two head coaches that followed him having served on his staff when he was the head coach of the Titans.  Both teams emphasize grinding out offense by taking advantage of mistakes that the other team makes and using strong pitching to finish things off.

Fullerton has scored first in all eight games and the best way to neutralize an offense like Oregon’s is to get ahead and keep them from bunting and stealing bases.  However, that is easier said than done with the Ducks pitching staff allowing two runs or less in five of eight games, including one run in each of the last three games.  Oregon has been averaging 5.5 free runners by walks and HBP’s and have had trouble hitting the ball with a .183 average other than their 16 hit outburst in one game.  The best way for Fullerton to keep the Ducks off the scoreboard is to simply not give them free bases.

There don’t figure to be too many runs scored this weekend and the higher the run totals get, the more that will most likely favor Fullerton because the Titans have had the better offense this season.  Oregon’s best chance to win this series will be if their pitchers control the Fullerton offense and the Titans are walking and hitting batters, which they haven’t been doing.  If Fullerton is able to play their game like they have been doing the first two weeks then the Titans have a solid chance of winning this series but it won’t be easy and all of the games will likely be close.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Sweeping Texas Three-Step for Titans

Titans defeat TCU 7-2 (Friday), 6-2 (Saturday), 7-0 (Sunday)

By Don Hudson

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Cal State Fullerton Titans continued their impressive season start with a sweep of the then 22nd-ranked TCU Horned Frogs at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.  In running their record to 8-0, the Titans moved up to #17 in the Baseball America rankings and skyrocketed thirteen places up to No. 9 in the USA Today baseball coaches’ poll.

The first two games were on TV, so most of you had a better look at it than me.  I’ll just try to sneak in a few of my own observations.

Game 1: Titans 7, Horned Frogs 2

The Titans amassed an early lead and saw TCU come back and threaten to tie the game or take the lead a couple times before the after-burners kicked in and broke the game open in the top of the ninth to win, 7-2, in the series opener played in chilly conditions.

The game was a battle between CSUF freshman Thomas Eshelman (now 2-0, 0.00 ERA) and TCU’s ace, lefty Brandon Finnegan, who was a hard-luck loser in the Frogs’ controversial 1-0 loss the previous weekend opening the season at Ole Miss.  Before the first hot chocolate was cold (no coffee sold at the stadium), Finnegan’s early wildness led to a 1-0 Titans lead.  Richy Pedroza walked on four pitches and advanced on a passed ball and a wild pitch before scoring on a groundout by Carlos Lopez.

Eshelman, who seems to have ice in his veins, was undaunted by the weather and the magnitude of the opponent: he struck out the side in the first and retired the first ten batters he faced until surrendering a single in the fourth inning to Jantzen Witte.  Finnegan matched zeros with Eshelman for a few innings, albeit while allowing at least one Fullerton base-runner each inning and escalating his pitch count.

The game was in the bottom of the fourth inning in approximately 50 minutes – my friend Brad observed: “Just what you’d expect in a Saarloos vs. Dietrich match-up.”  But then the game inexplicably changed pace and became UCLA-ishly slow and plodding.  The official game-time ended up 3 hours, 11 minutes.  Did I mention it was really cold?

The Titans chased Finnegan in a spirited fifth inning.  Austin Diemer reached base when he legged out a one-out infield hit, bringing Pedroza to the plate batting right-handed.  With a cold breeze blowing in mildly, TCU had their outfield positioned in about as close as you will see other than those “no outs, bottom of the ninth, winning run on third base” situations.  A Frogs fan next to me told his buddy, “If he lines one into centerfield, they’re close enough to turn an 8-4-3 double-play.”

Pedroza spoiled the strategy by launching a flyball to rightfield that burned the outfielder from the minute he hit it.  Diemer scored easily to make it 2-0 and Pedroza was on third with a triple, much to Finnegan’s chagrin, who apparently had a few things to say.  After a stare-down between Lopez and Finnegan and Carlos striking out and glaring out towards the hill, Matt Chapman drove a ball through the 5-6 hole for an RBI single.  As Pedroza raced home to score with the ball rolling in the outfield, TCU catcher Kyle Bacak hovered in the vicinity of the plate in Richy’s path.  As he approached the plate, Pedroza had a few words of guidance for the catcher to remove himself from the runner’s path.  (I won’t tell you the exact quote, but I’ll give you a clue:  think what Jesse Pinkman would say.)

Plate umpire Jon Wolfe ejected Pedroza from the game, which surprised just about everybody.  Even the base umpires, during between inning chit-chat with players and coaches, said they wouldn’t have run him.

The Frogs finally began to figure out Eshelman in the bottom of the sixth.  They got a solid leadoff single, a hard line-drive out and a two-out double that brought the tying run to the plate in the person of giant slugging first-baseman Kevin Cron.  On his first pitch, Eshelman got away with one: he threw high cheese that Cron barely missed and he fouled it off.  Eshelman, exit stage left … enter Koby Gauna, who induced a groundout to end the threat.

The Titans added a fourth run in the top of the seventh.  Keegan Dale, replacing Pedroza, led off with a bunt single.  Lopez hit a routine double-play ball, but the Titans got a break when it was booted and everybody was safe.  Dale advanced to third on a flyball and scored on an RBI single by Michael Lorenzen to make it 4-0.

But the Frogs had plenty of fight left.  Gauna had an uncharacteristic wild spell: he gave up a walk, a single, another walk and a two-run single.  But the Titans caught another break on a base-running miscue.  With two outs and runners on first and third, TCU had the man on first attempt to steal second.

Titans catcher Chad Wallach faked a throw to second and caught the runner on third wandering too far down the line.  The runner was retired in a rundown between third and home to snuff the rally.

Gauna continued to be wild in the eighth inning – after loading the bases on a double, wild pitch, walk and hit-batsman, Gauna gave way to lefty reliever Tyler Peitzmeier, whose Nebraska heritage undoubtedly included pitching games in cold weather.  Peitzy came in to face a left-handed batter, but TCU countered with right-handed hitting “Boomer” White, a squat (5-8, 195) catcher who has quickly become a fan favorite.  Peitzmeier got out of the bases loaded, go-ahead-run-on-base situation by inducing a groundout to freshman second-baseman Jake Jefferies, who entered the game when Matt Orloff was injured the prior inning attempting a bunt.  (Orloff’s right index finger was dislocated and believed broken, pending examination by a hand specialist this week.)

He Titans broke the game open with three runs in the top of the ninth, on a single by Dale, an RBI triple by Lopez, a wild pitch that scored Lopez, a J.D. Davis HBP, another wild pitch and a double by Lorenzen.  Not only did it give the Titans a comfortable margin, it negated the need to use closer Lorenzen in the series opener.  Peitzmeier threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his first save of the season.

Eshelman racked up eight strikeouts in 5-2/3 innings and earned his second win.  Dale and Lorenzen led the offense with two hits each.

Game 2: Titans 6, Horned Frogs 2

(Photo Gallery)

Justin Garza
With the Titans facing a right-handed starting pitcher for only the second time in their eight games this season, plus having the injury to Orloff and a couple other players slightly dinged up from getting hit with pitches Friday night, it was a vastly different line-up that took the field Saturday for the Titans – but they once again got strong pitching from a freshman and timely hitting and came away with a 6-2 victory to clinch the series.

This was a battle between superb young righties: TCU’s sophomore Preston Morrison and Fullerton freshman Justin Garza (now 2-0, 0.68 ERA).

The Titans struck again in the first inning, aided by wildness and a fielding error.  Pedroza returned to the line-up and reached base to start the game on an error by Cron.  After a walk to Lopez and a double-play, the Titans’ two-out rally included a walk to Clay Williamson, an RBI infield single by Lorenzen, an Anthony Hutting HBP and a bases-loaded RBI walk to designated hitter Jefferies.

From that moment through the eighth inning, both pitchers pounded the strike zone and retired batters seemingly effortlessly.  Garza was tremendous and Morrison settled into a groove after his early wildness and matched zeros.  Garza wasn’t just good at the beginning – he was perfect until allowing a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth.  He received excellent defensive support, especially from third-baseman Chapman and shortstop Pedroza.

Jake Jefferies' grand slam
Morrison was equal to the task, retiring 19 of 23 batters and allowing just three singles and an HBP until he gave way to reliever Wiley Ferrell after Chapman dropped down a surprise bunt to open the inning and beat it out, diving headfirst into the base.  Holding a slim 1-0 lead and with Williamson at the plate, hitless on the young season, everybody in the ballpark figures he’s bunting … right?  Coach Vanderhook eschewed the bat and Williamson justified his confidence with a clean single.  One out later, Hutting delivered an infield single to load the bases for Jefferies – who delivered in grand style: a blast over the rightfield fence to plate four runs and turn the pitchers’ duel into a 6-0 advantage.

The Frogs finally got to Garza with a couple runs in the eighth inning (one earned, one unearned), but Davis came out of the bullpen to shut the door.  He entered the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle, but got out of the inherited jam with a groundout and strikeout.  Davis pitched a scoreless ninth inning and posted his first save of the year.

Freshmen Garza and Jefferies were the game’s biggest impact players.  Garza went 7-1/3 innings, allowing five hits, one earned run and striking out five while walking none.  With his grand-slam and bases-loaded walk, Jefferies had five RBI.

Game 3: Titans 7, Horned Frogs 0

(Photo Gallery)

Grahamm Wiest
The Titans’ early success has been predicated on one teammate picking up another.  In the series finale, Titans pitchers – most notably starter Grahamm Wiest – put the team on their back when fielding lapses created mayhem.  The Titans were charged with three errors – but only because of some generous scorekeeping to give a couple hits to their scuffling offense; it could have easily been five errors.  But it shows what winning baseball is all about – some days you win on fielding, other days on hitting and often on pitching.

After losing their first five games of the season – and two this series – TCU came out with energy and enthusiasm which got an immediate rush when leadoff man Derek O-Dell drove a sharp single to lead off the bottom of the first.  There was an early spark that, “Today is finally the day we get a win.”  But the air quickly left the building when the next batter popped up a bunt attempt and the runner was easily doubled off.

The Titans quickly took advantage of the Frogs’ deflated spirits when Lorenzen led off the second with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Greg Velazquez.  They added another tally in the third inning on a single by Diemer, stolen base, wild pitch and a two-out bunt single by Chapman.  A 5-4-3 double play after a leadoff single in the bottom of the third kept the Frogs at bay.

The Titans put up three runs in the fourth inning against TCU’s freshman lefty, Alex Young, to give Wiest a 5-0 lead.  Singles by Lorenzen and Wallach, followed by a walk to Velazquez, loaded the bases with no outs.  After Jefferies was robbed of an RBI hit on a great catch by TCU centerfielder Cody Jones, Diemer reached on a fielder’s choice to avoid a DP and drive in a run.  After Pedroza walked, Lopez was grazed by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in another run.  TCU reliever Nick Frey walked Chapman to force in another run.

After that, it got really ugly.  A couple balls ruled hits in the fifth inning put Wiest up against the wall, but he worked out of it with a strikeout and groundout.  Consecutive errors in the seventh inning gave TCU an opening, but Wiest took matters into his own hands with back-to-back strikeouts.  After Wiest issued a one-out walk in the eighth, Peitzmeier was summoned to face a lefty hitter.  Peitzy had a perfect day: one pitch, one out, done for the day.  Gauna came in and nailed down the final out of the inning.

TCU gave their closer, flame-throwing Andrew Mitchell, an inning of work in the ninth.  Despite his 96-97 mile per hour heat, the Titans posted two runs on a walk and stolen base by Diemer, a groundout by Pedroza and an infield single by Lopez.  A single by Chapman, a TCU error and a passed ball scored Lopez with the game’s final run.

Gauna threw a scoreless ninth to close out the Titans’ second combined shutout of the young season.  The first two batters reached on a single and an error, but Gauna struck out the next hitter and Davis made a couple good plays at first-base for the final outs.

Wiest (1-0, 2.03 ERA) scattered four hits in 7-1/3 innings and was at his best when there were runners on base, generally not of his own doing.  Chapman had three of the eight Titans hits, while Lorenzen added two.

So what did we learn in Texas?

Lots – about a lot of things.  But what I still haven’t learned – just how good is this team?

History can create unreasonable expectations: the last time the Titans started 8-0 was in 2003, when they were eliminated in a gut-wrenching loss in Omaha to Stanford just one win short of the CWS championship round.  Every other CSUF team that started 5-0 has made it to Omaha – expectations high enough yet?   But the teams beaten already have a combined 14-21 record and two (0-7 Nebraska and 0-6 TCU) are winless.  We’ll know a lot more after the home series against Oregon and Texas A&M.

One thing that jumps out at you: the team ERA is 1.62 and this series’ three starters (Eshelman, Garza and Wiest) have a combined ERA of 0.94.  They have allowed just 4 earned runs in 38-1/3 innings – pretty amazing.  When your starting pitchers are that stingy, you’re going to be ‘playing ahead’ much of the time.  The Titans have scored the first run in each of the eight games.  The last time they trailed was in the first game of the Nebraska double-header, 5-4, until Davis tied it with a single and Hutting put the Titans ahead with a pinch-hit home run.

Tyler Peitzmeier has had four stellar outings – whether he goes a couple innings or just one pitch to retire a left-handed hitter – as has Willie Kuhl.  Davis has also had three strong outings – two out of the bullpen and one as a midweek starter. It will take time for the middle and set-up relief roles to solidify, but so far the bullpen has been nearly as effective as the starters.

Kevin Cron
One of the keys to the series was how effectively the Titans pitchers handled Kevin Cron, the strapping (6-6, 245) first-baseman who set the all-time Arizona state record for career high school home runs (60) and who led TCU in batting as a freshman last season (.338), including six bombs despite missing nineteen games with injuries.  The Titans pitchers tossed a collar on him all weekend: he was 0-for-12.

Sidebar with Mr. Cron:  I have no idea what your walk-up song is called or who “sings” it (I’m lost with all contemporary music after Snoopy Dog Dog), but you might want to change it.  I like the beat, but the “I’m a big boy!” line that keeps repeating ad nauseum sounds great when you’re launching tape-measure bombs but doesn’t work so well when you’re in a slump.

If you’re wondering why Pedroza was allowed to play the game following his rejection, it is covered in a new 2013 rule which toughened the effect of ejections with automatic suspensions from subsequent games.

The key passage is “Those suspensions are applicable only to ejections for disputing, arguing or unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and not for ejections that are a result of other rule violations such as malicious slides or throwing at a batter."

That’s a nice demonstration of NCAA values: intentionally risking injury to an opposing player by such acts as “malicious slides” or “throwing at a batter” are deemed less offensive than talking back to the authority figures wearing blue?

About the only worse than a gambling hangover is a baseball hangover.  The Horned Frogs opened the season on the road against Ole Miss, an SEC team they had epic battles with in the 2012 Regionals.  The Horned Frogs were swept and all three games were gut-wrenchers, including some apparently brutal “homer” calls in favor of Ole Miss.  In the season opener, TCU lost 1-0 when a runner was called for interference in the ninth inning to end the game and take the tying run off the board – even the Ole Miss blogosphere agreed it was a screw job.

It just seemed to me like TCU is still suffering from that occurrence.  Certainly their fans are – every time Fullerton had a runner that arrived at a base, there was a chorus of “Interference!” shouts.  People – it’s baseball: you need to let things go.  As Dr. Ken Ravizza taught us, you need to flush those moments and move on.

In a related story, I still can’t believe umpire Mike Gilmore blew that call on May 24, 2008 at Blair Field in Long Beach, when Adam Jorgenson buckled the Dirtbag’s knees with a beautiful curveball that should have been strike three but “Crappy” called it a ball – and Long Beach rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth and beat us, 8-6.  Or what about March 6, 2006 at Rice, when the bandits from Texas wearing blue shirts and robber masks blew a call when Blake Davis was safe a mile at first base and was called out, sending the game to extra innings before John Estes gave up a walk-off bomb?  Horrible calls, Blue!

But nothing compares to “the Pepperdine rule.”  In the 2004 Regionals, the crowd stood twice to cheer for what we all hoped would be the final out of the game.  Each time we stood and cheered, something bad happened and we ended up losing the game.  (It was obviously not fatal, but it sure felt like a dagger through our hearts at the moments.)  Nowadays, if you stand up at Goodwin Field to cheer for your team to get the final out of the game, you get a bunch of old geezers yelling at you.  Something bad happened almost ten years ago and it dictates that you not give your team the full-throated support it deserves at the end of the game?

Kirk Saarloos
TCU centerfielder Cody Jones made numerous outstanding defensive plays – he made spectacular plays coming (notably in Game 3 against Jefferies) and going back (took away extra bases from Lorenzen in Game 1 and Lopez in Game 2.)

It was nice to see Kirk Saarloos and to spend a few minutes with his parents, Linda and Larry.  They are about as nice a family as you could ever meet – it’s just hard to get used to them wearing any colors other than orange and blue.

The injury to Orloff will give more playing time to Jefferies and Dale, both infielders whose primary experience is at positions other than second-base.  It will be important that they hold down the fort defensively – Jefferies looks like the better stick and Dale more refined defensively.  This team has depth – I like how somebody steps up to pick up their teammate and there is enough margin of error that nobody needs to be expected to play flawlessly.

Dale Gribble
Something else I learned:  Hank Hill’s buddies from nearby Plano, Texas are loyal supporters of the Horned Frogs.  I was taking pictures from down the rightfield line and Dale Gribble (pictured) was talking my ear off about how great his team is … how lucky we were to beat them on Friday … how he almost went to Omaha but didn’t … how Schlossnagle was going to outcoach Serrano in the series … how to use duct tape to get an extra five years out of your hunting rifles.  I thought I was the only lucky recipient of his pearls of garrulous wisdom – until I saw him educating Hooky before the game on Sunday.  Poor Hooky – his face looked like the guy stuck in a slow, tiny elevator with the fat guy who just ate a bucket of beans.  I wonder if Dale called him ‘Serrano’?

That’s all for now.  It should be a great series with the Commissioner coming back to Goodwin Field with his Oregon Ducks.  Let’s get out and really get behind the Titans … but please remain seated if we’re ahead with two outs in the ninth inning.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Titans Stay Unbeaten By Winning Big Moments

Titans defeat Pepperdine 6-3 (Wednesday)

By Don Hudson

MALIBU - The Cal State Fullerton Titans won the battle of 4-0 teams Wednesday afternoon and defeated the Pepperdine Waves, 6-3, at Eddy D. Field Stadium in Malibu.

(Photo Gallery)

As is often the case with baseball games between competitively matched teams, it is the team that wins more of the game’s “big moments” that usually wins the game.  Such was the case in this game – both teams played well and were competitive for 54 outs, but the Titans captured advantage in certain key situations that decided the outcome.  Since I have to pack my bags and hit the gym before going to bed early to catch my flight to DFW, we’ll skip some of the play-by-play and describe some of the game’s pivotal moments.

J.D. Davis
Big Moment #1:  In the top of the first inning, the first two Titans were retired before Matt Chapman walked to bring the red-hot RBI Machine, J.D. Davis, to the plate – déjà vu to the game on Sunday in Bakersfield.  Pepperdine’s lefty pitcher, Matt Maurer, caught Chapman breaking to attempt a stolen base.  Maurer threw to first base, but the first-baseman’s throw to second was offline and in the dirt, allowing Chapman to steal the base, move into scoring position and keep the inning alive.  Davis made it hurt when he plated Chapman with the game’s first run on a single up the middle.  After a wild pitch moved Davis to second and Michael Lorenzen was hit by a pitch, Chad Wallach went to the opposite field and delivered a two-run double that made it 3-0.  Without the big moment – the errant throw that allowed Chapman to steal the base and keep the inning alive - the Waves come off the field scoreless instead of looking up at a crooked number for the Titans.

Big Moment #2:  After the Titans had scored a run in the second inning on singles by Austin Diemer and Richy Pedroza, followed by a wild pitch, the Titans held a 4-0 lead that felt like 8-0.  Titans’ pitcher Davis was breezing along, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the third when the Waves loaded the bases on a hit-batsman, an infield single and another hit-batsman.  With two outs, Davis induced a groundball to second-baseman Matt Orloff, who fielded the ball cleanly but couldn’t record an out at any base and all of a sudden the momentum appeared ready to shift to the Waves, as the go-ahead run came to the plate.  But Davis rose to the occasion and – the big moment – struck out the #5 hitter in the Pepperdine line-up, catcher Nate Johnson, to end the threat.

Big Moment #3: Freshman right-hander Kyle Murray pitched out of a jam in the fourth inning, stranding two runners with an inning-ending strikeout – the big moment.  He also picked up a couple outs the following inning.  It was nice to see him bounce back from a rough debut Saturday against Nebraska – he pitched very well during scrimmage season and could be a big contributor in middle relief.

Big Moment #4:  With the Titans clinging to a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth, Wallach delivered a two-out RBI single to rightfield to score Carlos Lopez, who had singled, stole second (his fourth pilfer of the season) and advanced on an infield single by Davis.

Bryan Conant
Big Moment #5: Freshman left-hander Bryan Conant entered the game in the bottom of the fifth with two outs and a runner in scoring position.  His first pitch was a ball but he then struck out the left-handed hitting Johnson on his next three pitches – the big moment.

Big Moment #6:  With Pepperdine trailing 5-2 and refusing to go away, Willie Kuhl entered the game in the bottom of the seventh with one out and one on and – the big moment – he got the #3 and #4 Pepperdine hitters on a foul pop to catcher Wallach and a strikeout.

Big Moment #7:  After the Waves had scored in the eighth to make the score 5-3 with runners on second and third with two outs, lefty Tyler Peitzmeier came in and retired the only batter he faced to leave the potential tying run in scoring position – the big moment.

Big Moment #8:  The Titans had tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Pedroza and Lopez were hit by pitches and Chapman delivered an RBI single to drive in Pedroza.  Lorenzen was brought in to try for his second save of the season, facing the #2-3-4 hitters for Pepperdine.  After he got the first out on a grounder to shortstop Pedroza, Lorenzen struck out the next two hitters on filthy breaking balls after getting ahead in the count with the heat.

Wallach paced the 11-hit attack with three hits, including two doubles and three RBI.  Pedroza and Davis also had two hits apiece as the Titans extended their season-opening winning streak to five games.  Davis pitched three innings and earned his first win of the season in a “designated staff” day.

So what did we learn today?

The setting for the baseball stadium at Pepperdine is magnificent, with the palm trees and ocean view beyond the outfield fence.  It is as nice a ballpark as you can imagine. … I just wish the traffic getting there and back wasn’t so brutal.  It took less time to get home from Bakersfield on Sunday than from Malibu on Wednesday. ... I love L.A.

Chad Wallach
I also loved that Wallach had one double near the rightfield line and another in the leftfield corner.  He showed impressive power throughout the off-season scrimmages, with much of it to centerfield and in the gaps.  If he can continue to use the whole field with power, he will make the line-up even more daunting to opposing pitchers.  It’s nice to have the team’s leading hitter (.438) sitting in the six-hole in the line-up, protecting Lorenzen, who is protecting Davis – pick your poison!

Stranding inherited runners is also a very nice thing – a common thread with several of this game’s “big moments.”  It helps prevent crooked numbers going up for the opposing teams – the way the Titans are capable of hitting, they should win a lot of games when the other team’s line score includes mostly zeros and a few ones.

The five season-opening wins have been impressive and certainly enjoyable to watch.  The three home wins were nice and two road wins against previously undefeated teams even better.  But we’ll find out a lot more this weekend against a hungry TCU squad, who was swept last weekend at Ole Miss.  (It’s a new dawn in Mississippi – their baseball team swept a very talented TCU team and later in the week the state ratified the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery.)

It will be very interesting to see how the Titans’ hitters do against TCU’s formidable pitching staff, especially when the pitches are being called by Kirk Saarloos, who knows his opponent quite intimately.

It’s supposed to be around 31 degrees at game time on Friday – dress warm and I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TCU Series Preview

Titans at TCU (All Times PST)
Friday, 4:30 p.m. (TV: FSSW+); Saturday noon (TV: FCS); Sunday 11 a.m.

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton got the 2013 season started off on the right foot by winning all four games last weekend, which was the first time that the Titans have come out of the blocks over .500 after the opening weekend since 2008.  Fullerton won the opener against USC 3-2 in a pitchers’ duel, saw the bats wake up when they swept a doubleheader from Nebraska 10-5 and 9-0 and finished things off on the road with an 8-2 win at Cal State Bakersfield.

Thomas Eshelman was the first FR to start the opening game of the season for the Titans since 1987 and he had a strong outing in picking up the win, retiring the first fourteen USC batters and allowing two unearned runs on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts in six innings.  Fullerton scored in the first when Richy Pedroza singled, Carlos Lopez doubled him to third and Matt Chapman hit a SF.  After USC scored two runs on an error and an HR in the top of the sixth, the Titans regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Chapman singled, J.D. Davis walked, Michael Lorenzen’s bunt single loaded the bases, Chad Wallach tied the game with an RBI single and Lorenzen beat the throw home on Matt Orloff’s squeeze bunt to give Fullerton the lead for good.  Reliever Willie Kuhl retired all six batters he faced and Lorenzen finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Fullerton took the lead in the first game of the DH with Nebraska in the second when Lorenzen was hit by a pitch and stole second, Orloff walked and Jared Deacon and Pedroza followed with RBI singles.  After the Cornhuskers scored in the top of the fourth, Lorenzen hit the Titans first HR of the season to give them a 3-1 lead.  After Nebraska tied the game in the top of the sixth, Fullerton took a 4-3 lead when Lorenzen reached base on an error, stole second and Deacon drove him in with another RBI single.  The Cornhuskers regained the lead with two runs in the top of the seventh but the Titans had another comeback in them in the bottom of the inning when Chapman singled and advanced to second on an error, Davis singled him in to tie the game and pinch-hitter Anthony Hutting launched a two-run HR to give Fullerton the lead for good.  Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the eighth when Deacon and Lopez singled, Chapman doubled in a run and Davis singled in two more.  Grahamm Wiest threw six effective innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and no walks with seven strikeouts, Nebraska native Tyler Peitzmeier picked up the win with a scoreless inning and Davis and Michael Lopez finished off the game throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Fullerton scored two runs in the first inning of the nightcap when Pedroza and Lopez singled, Chapman walked and Davis followed with a two RBI single and those would be the only runs that FR Justin Garza would need in his debut as he throttled a good Nebraska lineup over six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk with six strikeouts.  Fellow FR Joe Navilhon, Henry Omana and Bryan Conant each followed with a scoreless inning apiece in their debuts to finish off the shutout.  The Titans put the game away with three runs in the third on a run scoring wild pitch, a Lorenzen RBI single and a Wallach RBI double, two runs in the fifth on an RBI single by Wallach and two runs in the seventh on RBI walks by Chapman and FR Tanner Pinkston in the first time at the plate in his career.

Fullerton finished off the sweep of their four game weekend in their first game ever against Cal State Bakersfield with a record setting crowd on hand hoping to see their Roadrunners pull off the upset.  The Titans got off to a fast start in the first when Chapman singled with two outs and Davis followed by crushing a ball to CF for a two run HR.  Fullerton scratched out another run in the third when Austin Diemer singled and went to second on a WP, Pedroza bunted him over to third and Lopez drove him in with a SF.  The Titans put the game away in the fifth when Diemer, Lopez and Chapman walked and Davis drove them all in with a grand slam just out of the CF’s reach.  All of those runs were more than enough for Koby Gauna, who threw seven scoreless innings before tiring in the eighth to end up allowing two runs on seven hits and no walks with five strikeouts.  Kuhl finished things off with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Davis earned Big West player of the week honors after going 7-16 with two HR’s and 11 RBI and other players who stood out were Lopez (6-14, 1 RBI, 3 SB’s), Chapman (5-12, 3 RBI), Lorenzen (5-15, HR, 2 RBI, 3 SB’s) and Wallach (4-12, 5 RBI).  The four starting pitchers combined to go 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA over 25 2/3 IP, allowing 21 hits and only one walk with 24 strikeouts.  The relievers had a 1.74 ERA over 10 1/3 IP, allowing 8 hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts.

Fullerton will continue playing on the road with a midweek game on Wednesday at Pepperdine followed by a series this weekend against a familiar opponent, the TCU Horned Frogs.  The Titans have played TCU in each of the last five seasons and after the teams split the first four series with the road team winning every series, Fullerton finally broke through at home with a series win in 2012 with the series deciding game a wild 11-10 slugfest that was halted after eight innings due to a travel curfew for TCU’s flight back to the Dallas area.  The Horned Frogs season got off to a tough start when they traveled down to #13 Ole Miss last weekend and were swept by the Rebels as they scored only four runs in the series in losing games 1-0, 5-2 and 5-2.   TCU’s starters pitched very well in the first two games but the bullpen faltered in the second game and Ole Miss hit a grand slam in the first inning of the final game to finish things off early.

TCU Horned Frogs (0-3)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 40-22
  • 2012 Conference Record – 18-6 (Tied for 1st in the Mountain West) 
  • 2012 Post-Season – Won College Station Regional (Loss vs. Ole Miss, Wins vs. Dayton, Texas A&M and Ole Miss twice).  Lost both games at UCLA Super Regional.   
  • 2012 RPI/ISR – 33/24
  • Pre-season ranking  – 8th by Easton College Baseball, 12th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 13th by NCBWA, 14th by Baseball America, 14th by Perfect Game and 15th by Collegiate Baseball
  • Predicted conference finish – 2nd by the Big XII coaches, 1st by Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball today

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

TCU has appeared in regionals in each of the nine seasons that Jim Schlossnagle has been coaching in Fort Worth and the Horned Frogs have become a national power over the last four seasons after appearing in three Super Regionals and making a trip to Omaha in 2010 and expectations are high once again this season with TCU ranked in the top fifteen in every pre-season poll and looking to make their mark in their first season in the Big XII.

The Horned Frogs went into last season looking to make amends for not advancing out of a regional for the first time since 2008 with a much more youthful roster than they had in 2011 and after getting off to a slow start at 2-6 due to the injury bug biting like it also did the previous season, they got hot and went on a nine game winning streak.  TCU went on another skid where they went 3-7 before getting red hot and going 21-4 to finish off the regular season.  The Horned Frogs pitching faltered in the MWC tournament at UNLV where they allowed 32 runs in losing two out of three games and after losing their first game to Ole Miss at the Texas A&M regional, their bats got red hot and they scored forty runs and hit nine HR’s over the next four games to win the regional.  TCU traveled out to the west coast for their super regional at UCLA but their bats were cooled off by the Bruins strong pitching staff and the Horned Frogs were swept in two games after scoring only three runs.

Unlike last season when TCU was breaking in a bunch of new pitchers and infielders, they will be much more experienced with plenty of pitchers and infielders returning with the main spots that need to be filled in the outfield and behind the plate.  The Horned Frogs once again have brought in a top twenty recruiting class that has been bolstered by some talented FR arms and they have gone to the JC route to fill in the gaps in the lineup.

TCU had one of the best offenses in the country in 2010 and 2011, ranking in the top thirty nationally in scoring, HR, AVG and SLG despite playing in a park that favors pitchers but they weren’t nearly as proficient last season.  The Horned Frogs scored a run less per game, hit only 26 HR’s in the regular season after hitting 50 in 2011, hit 35 points less and saw their SLG % fall by 75 points.  TCU has responded to their power outage by moving the fences in at their ballpark by ten feet in most places to help them generate more offense.  The Horned Frogs are usually a patient team at the plate, working counts and taking pitches and squaring up the pitch they want and driving it.  TCU doesn’t mind playing little ball by bunting and moving runners and that helped them to create more runs than they probably should have due to their decline in most hitting categories.

TCU has traditionally had strong pitching staffs and this year doesn’t figure to be an exception with all four of their starters and seven of the nine pitchers returning who threw at least twenty innings in 2012.  The Horned Frogs have several All-Big XII and All-American candidates and an interesting aspect to this series is former Fullerton All-American and pitching coach Kirk Saarloos taking over as the pitching coach in Fort Worth over the summer.

TCU has gotten off to a very slow start at the plate after having issues on offense for most of 2012.  The Horned Frogs were held to four runs at Ole Miss and only hit .194 with a .269 SLG % last weekend.  TCU did show quite a bit of patience at the plate by drawing 14 walks but they also had trouble making contact with 24 strikeouts in the series.  The Horned Frogs put down a couple of SAC bunts in last Friday’s 1-0 game and were 0-2 on SB attempts in the series.

TCU is expected to have an excellent pitching staff and their starters in the first two games of the Ole Miss series allowed 3 R (2 ER) in 13 IP but the Horned Frogs offense didn’t do them any favors and the bullpen faltered in the second game, blowing a 2-1 lead when the relievers allowed four runs in the eighth.  Things got away early in the final game on a grand slam by Ole Miss in the first inning but the bullpen pitched well in allowing only one run over the final seven frames.  TCU held the Rebels to a .202 AVG in the series and they had a solid 24/8 K/BB ratio.


  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 80 from 2008-2011 (decreased offense by 20%), 75 from 2007-2010 (decreased offense by 25%).  TCU's strong pitching staff has helped to cut down the scoring significantly along with winds that usually blow straight in from the plains.  However, TCU has taken measures to help the hitters by moving the fences in.  The old dimensions were 330-389-400-382-330 and now they are 325-375-390-370-320.
  • Batting Average – .271 (4th in the Mountain West, 175th in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 5.8 (3/89)
  • Home Runs – 39 (2/49) – 26 in the regular season, 13 in the post-season
  • Stolen Bases – 63 (2/105)
  • Slugging Percentage – .389 (3/107)
  • Walks – 235 (1/56)
  • Strikeouts – 374 (2/xx)
  • HBP’s – 59 (2/124)
  • Sac Bunts – 42 (2/149)



TCU had a very inexperienced infield going into last season with their C as the only returning starter until their 3B came back from an injury in late March.  It is a much different story this season with returning starters at all four infield spots with the Horned Frogs breaking in a JC transfer as the new starter behind the plate.

C – JC transfer #6 Kyle Bacak (RH) has emerged from the pack as the primary catcher to take over for two year starter Josh Elander.  Schlossnagle has praised Bacak for his defensive work behind the plate during fall ball and practices leading into the season.  His glove is further ahead than his bat and Bacak hit ninth in all three games at Ole Miss and went 1-7 with a walk.

1B – Soph #00 Kevin Cron (RH – .338/.383/.503, 6-34-0) is huge at 6’5”, 245 lbs and crushed the Arizona HS record for HR’s with 59, including 27 in his SR year, and was a third round pick out of HS. He missed time with back injuries and got off to a slow start in 2012 but got hot during the MWC schedule when he hit .373.  Cron was expected to hit for more power but due to his back issues he only hit three HR’s in the regular season before finding his power stroke in the regional at Texas A&M where he helped carry the offense with three HR’s on his way to earning all-regional honors.  He was a second team FR All-American and big things are expected of him this season and he is in much better shape after losing 20 lbs.  Cron missed the series in 2012 at Fullerton due to his back issues.  He had a hit in each game at Ole Miss while hitting third and went 3-10 with two walks and a double.

2B – Soph #5 Derek Odell (LH – .276/.339/.420, 4-26-6) stepped into some pretty big shoes as the replacement for three year starter and two time 1st team All-MWC 2B Taylor Featherston and did a solid job at the plate and in the field.  He has good pop for a middle infielder and can pull a pitch and drive it, like he did on his HR at Fullerton last season.  Odell had a decent 16/26 BB/K ratio and figures to be close to even in that area as he gains more experience.  He has above average speed and will steal occasionally.  Odell was an all-regional selection after getting seven hits and hitting 2 HR’s in TCU’s four wins.  He was 3-13 with an HR and 2 RBI at Fullerton in 2012.  Odell went 1-10 at Ole Miss but did drive in three of their four runs and walked three times.  He hit second in the first two games and cleanup on Sunday.

SS – Soph #26 Keaton Jones (RH – .166/.283/.189, 0-17-7) struggled tremendously at the plate as a FR but the coaching staff kept him in the lineup for his defense.  He only had four extra base hits in over 150 AB’s and accounted for more than 1/3 of the team’s SAC’s and easily led the team with fifteen.  Jones walked a decent amount of times (23) but he was often overmatched at the plate and struck out 45 times.  He put in a great deal of work in the off-season and put on 20 lbs of muscle, which figures to help him get stronger to be more competitive at the plate.  Jones was 1-8 at Fullerton in 2012.  He hit eighth in all three games at Ole Miss and was 1-6 with a walk.

3B – SR #35 Janzen Witte (RH – .315/.374/.444, 3-22-1.  ’11 – .331/.400/.469, 4-31-7. ’10 – .374/.425/.552, 4-39-2) was 1st team All-MWC in 2011 and 2nd team All-MWC last season after missing the first 18 games due to off-season hip surgery.  He got off to a slow start while working on getting his timing down but once the conference season rolled around, he was red hot and led the team with a .378 AVG in MWC games.  Witte has solid gap to gap power and isn’t much of a threat on the bases.   He has only played once against Fullerton in his career due to injuries and went 4-12 with 3 RBI in the 2011 series.  Witte was one of the few guys who did any hitting at Ole Miss and went 4-10 with a solo HR, two doubles and two walks and looks poised to have a big SR season now that he is finally healthy.

SR #3 Davy Wright (RH – .239/.362/.308, 0-7-0.  ’11 – 2-16.  ’10 – .195 in 41 AB’s), SR #4 Josh Gonzales (RH – .250 in 60 AB’s) and JC transfer #24 Paul Hendrix (RH) are the infield reserves.  Wright started 30 games at 3B in 2012 due to Witte’s injuries and can also play 2B.  Gonzales is the backup at 2B and SS.  Wright went 4-10 with an RBI at Fullerton in 2012.  Wright had a SAC in his only AB at Ole Miss, Gonzales was 0-1 and Hendrix subbed for Jones at SS early in Sunday’s game and went 0-2 with a BB.


TCU had a very experienced OF last season with all three starters having several years of experience but Jason Coats, Kyle VonTungeln and Brance Rivera have all moved on so the Horned Frogs will be relying on part-time players and JC transfers to take over.

CF – JC transfer #1 Cody Jones (Both) figures to see most of the playing time in CF and is the fastest runner on the team with plus speed.  It will be his job as the leadoff hitter to hit the ball on the ground and spray it around the field to use his legs to create offense.  Jones is a definite threat to run whenever he is on base.  He went 2-11 with a double and two walks at Ole Miss.

LF/RF – JC transfers #38 Dylan Fitzgerald (LH), #47 Kevin Daniels (LH) and FR #13 Travis Hennessey (LH) are all battling for playing time and whoever gets the hot hand figures to win the job.  Fitzgerald started the first two games in RF at Ole Miss and went 0-6 while hitting seventh.  Daniels pinch-hit in each of the first two games and started in LF on Sunday and went 1-4.  Hennessey went 2-3 off of the bench in the last two games at Ole Miss.

LF/RF – JR #7 Brett Johnson (LH – .228/.322/.327, 1-10-2.  ’11 – .286/.384/.429, 2-12-0) started out his career as an infielder and often played 1B last season while Cron was out due to his back issues but he is getting his shot to be a regular as an OF.  It is important for Johnson to hit well to help balance out the lineup because he is one of the few experienced LH hitters who figures to see much playing time.  He hit fifth and played LF in the first two games at Ole Miss, hit sixth and played in RF on Sunday and went 2-11 with a walk on the weekend.

DH – Soph #31 Jerrick Suiter (RH – .310/.375/.379, 0-20-4) has the best OF arm and also pitched as a FR but is having shoulder issues that will prevent him from playing in the OF for the first part of season and he will not pitch this year.  He only hit .255 in the regular season as a FR but got scorching hot in the post-season when he went 18-39.  Suiter is a big guy who can drive the ball and figures to be more productive with regular playing time.  He went 2-5 with a game winning two run triple at Fullerton in 2012.  Suiter hit sixth in the first two games and fifth on Sunday at Ole Miss and went 0-9 with a walk.


Fielding % – .966 (3/148), 84 errors.  TCU’s defense figures to be improved with Bacak better defensively than Elander and Witte finally healthy because Elander and Wright combined to make 20 errors.  Odell, Jones and Witte are standouts defensively and Bacak has the potential to be.  Cron is below average at 1B and losing weight can only help him move around better.  Jones will cover lots of ground in CF and the corner OF’s are average.  TCU made three errors last weekend and one of them was a costly one by Odell in the four run eighth inning rally by Ole Miss last Saturday.

Stolen Base Attempts – 45-67.  Teams ran often on Elander so it will be interesting to see how much improvement there will be with Bacak behind the plate but Ole Miss runners were 5-5 on SB attempts.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 54.  Elander was below average at blocking pitches so they should also see improvement in this area but Bacak had a rough debut and his PB helped Ole Miss score the only run in Friday’s game and he allowed a WP in each of the next two games along with another PB on Sunday.


  • ERA – 3.35 (1st in the MWC/42nd nationally)
  • BA – .243 (1/xx)
  • HR – 18 (1/xx)
  • H’s/9 IP – 8.2 (1/31)
  • BB’s/9 IP – 3.0 (2/55)
  • K’s/9 IP – 7.2 (2/71)
  • WHIP – 1.24 (1/34)


Much like with the infield and the outfield, the starting rotation for TCU is another area that is the complete opposite of where things stood going into 2012.  The Horned Frogs returned only one starter from 2011 after losing three veteran SP’s but this season they return all of their starters and have converted one of them into being the closer.

FRI – Soph #18 Preston Morrison (RHP – 9-2, 2.08 ERA, 1 save, 22 apps, 11 GS, 113 IP, 88 H, 12 BB, 72 K, .216 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 0 WP, 2-5 SB) throws from a low three-quarters arm slot that makes him very tough on RH hitters.  He is a strike thrower (#4 nationally in WHIP as a FR) with an upper 80’s fastball, a solid changeup and slider and a power sinker that he uses to get batters to pound the ball into the ground.  Morrison pitched out of the bullpen as a FR and had a 1.18 ERA in 39 IP before making his first start in the first weekend of April and he was nearly as dominant as a starter and allowed two runs or less in eight of his eleven starts on the way to winning MWC Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors and he was also a FR All-American.  Expectations are very high for Morrison and he has made several pre-season All-American lists.  He picked up TCU’s win at Fullerton in 2012 when he threw three scoreless innings.  Morrison pitched six innings at Ole Miss and was the tough luck loser after he allowed one unearned run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

SAT – Soph #29 Brandon Finnegan (LHP – 4-5, 3.47 ERA, 23 apps, 11 GS, 62 IP, 51 H, 30 BB, 56 K, .227 AVG, 0 HR, 11 HBP, 3 WP, 7-9 SB) was the midweek starter and a reliever on the weekends as a FR but has been moved into the weekend rotation and will split up the two RHP’s.  He was usually limited to throwing 4-5 innings in midweek games to keep him available for weekend series.  Finnegan was usually very effective and had a 2.66 ERA except for one bad outing against a potent New Mexico lineup when he allowed 6 R on 8 H in 1 1/3 IP at the Lobos launching pad of a ballpark.  He came through in a big way in the regional against Ole Miss when he held them to 2 R in 7 1/3 IP to force a winner take all game.  Finnegan has the best arm of the SP’s with a low 90’s fastball along with a slider and changeup but he needs to work on his control after allowing 41 runners to get on base by BB or HBP in 62 IP.   He threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a relief appearance at Fullerton.  Finnegan is throwing from a lower arm slot and that has helped his command and he threw seven innings at Ole Miss, allowing two runs on only two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts.

SUN – JR RHP #28 Stefan Crichton (RHP – 9-2, 3.41 ERA, 19 apps, 16 GS, 1 CG, 95 IP, 103 H, 18 BB, 53 K, .277 AVG, 4 HR, 11 HBP, 4 WP, 6-8 SB.  ’11 – 6-3, 1.98 ERA, 26 apps, 5 saves, 2 GS, 50 IP, 38 H, 10 BB, 42 K, .208 AVG, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 WP, 3-4 SB) figures to profile best as the Sunday starter because he doesn’t have the pure stuff that the two Soph’s have but he has excellent control of his upper 80’s fastball along with a changeup and a sinker that has allowed him to give up only 5 HR’s in almost 150 IP.  Crichton was All-MWC 2nd team after being among the conference leaders in wins and he was selected to the All-Regional team after his complete game win against Texas A&M eliminated the hosts. He struggled in his start in 2012 at Fullerton and allowed 2 R on 4 H and 4 BB in 4 2/3 IP.  Crichton wasn’t sharp at Ole Miss and was taken out after only one inning, allowing four runs on a grand slam.

Midweek – JC transfer #10 Trevor Seidenberger (LHP) figures to be getting the ball on Tuesdays and has a tough delivery for hitters to pick up the ball and has an upper 80’s fastball with a very good sweeping curve and changeup.  He threw three effective innings of relief at Ole Miss, allowing one run on three hits with no walks and four strikeouts.  If he continues to pitch well he could end up pushing Crichton for a starting spot on the weekends because Crichton has a rubber arm where he could start in midweek games and be available for spot duty in relief on the weekends.


TCU had a very deep and experienced bullpen in 2012 with four relievers making at least seventeen appearances along with Finnegan pitching in relief most of the time in weekend series.  The Horned Frogs had three pitchers combine for thirteen of their saves but two of them (who each had five saves) have moved on and TCU has moved one of their weekend SP’s into the closer role.  The Horned Frogs have several big arms in their FR class and those pitchers will be looked on to provide depth.

FRI – JR #34 Andrew Mitchell (RHP – 5-3, 3.74 ERA, 16 GS, 77 IP, 55 H, 46 BB, 101 K, .198 AVG, 6 HR, 10 HBP, 9 WP, 9-14 SB.  ’11 – 6-1, 2.84 ERA, 22 apps, 2 saves, 10 GS, 76 IP, 52 H, 31 BB, 73 K, .197 AVG, 5 HR, 5 HBP, 6 WP, 5-5 SB) got off to a great start as a FR and allowed only one run in his first 23 IP and ended the year in strong fashion by starting the first game of the regional and shutting out Oral Roberts for seven innings, allowing only two hits and one walk.  He was a FR All-American and a standout reliever for Team USA during the summer in 2011.  Mitchell is the hardest thrower on the pitching staff with a mid 90’s fastball and a power curveball and is working on a changeup but he is prone to having control issues, which is why he is being converted to a closer where he can be more of a max effort thrower for 1-2 innings.  His control allowed him to go longer than three innings in only three of his starts in 2012 but he was usually very effective for 5-6 innings, finishing #5 nationally in K/IP and was 1st team All-MWC with a 2.11 ERA in conference games.  Mitchell has been very tough against Fullerton and in two appearances against the Titans he has allowed only one run on three hits in ten innings with six walks and fourteen strikeouts, including twelve in a memorable five inning start at Fullerton when he had his curveball falling off of the table and had the Titans flailing away at it.  His first shot at being the closer didn’t go well at Ole Miss when he came into a tie game with two outs in the eighth last Saturday and he allowed the go ahead run and two more runs to score on a walk and two singles before finally getting out of the inning.

SR #20 Justin Scharf (RHP – 4-2, 3.23 ERA, 4 saves, 38 apps, 47 IP, 49 H, 14 BB, 30 K, .274 AVG, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 0-1 SB) is a sidearmer who doesn’t throw hard, is able to pitch often, led the team in appearances in 2012 and will be the main set-up guy for Mitchell.  He was the MVP of the regional at Texas A&M with two wins and a save in relief.  Scharf took the loss last Saturday at Ole Miss when he allowed the runner he inherited to tie the game on a two out single and that runner scored after Mitchell came in.  He also took the loss in the Saturday game last season at Fullerton when he allowed two runs on two hits and three walks in 1 2/3 IP.

Two FR that TCU is very high on are #23 Alex Young (LHP) and #12 Riley Ferrell (RHP).  Young was rated in the top 150 and Ferrell in the top 500 nationally by Baseball America going into the draft in June.  Young has a low 90’s fastball and is developing control of his curveball and changeup.  He was thrown right into the fire last Friday at Ole Miss in a 1-0 game and retired all six batters he faced.  Ferrell has a live arm with a 92-94 fastball and a wipeout slider.  He threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings last Sunday at Ole Miss, allowing two hits and a walk with one strikeout.

Veterans who figure to see innings in middle relief are JR #25 Nick Frey (RHP – 0-1, 5.24 ERA, 9 apps, 2 GS, 22 IP, 31 H, 10 BB, 13 K, .333 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 7-9 SB.  ’11 – 1-0, 3.45 ERA, 10 apps, 4 GS, 29 IP, 32 H, 4 BB, 18 K, .288 AVG, 2 HR, 9 HBP, 1 WP, 0-2 SB), Soph #40 Trey Teakell (RHP – 1-2, 4.70 ERA, 19 apps, 3 GS, 46 IP, 52 H, 10 BB, 25 K, .286 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 2 WP, 5-7 SB) and Soph #11 Travis Evans (LHP – 0-1, 4.05 ERA, 7 apps, 7 IP).  Frey allowed three unearned runs on four hits in three IP in his appearance at Fullerton in 2012 and didn’t pitch after early April due to an injury but is healthy and threw a scoreless inning at Ole Miss.  Evans retired both batters he faced at Ole Miss.  Teakell easily had his worst outing of the season in 2012 at Fullerton when he allowed eight runs on eight hits in three innings as the starter in the slugfest that decided the series.


Fullerton played very well last weekend in sweeping a decent group of teams.  The Titans hit .313, averaged 7.5 runs per game, averaged six walks per game, hit four HR’s and stole eight bases.  Fullerton pitched well with a 1.75 ERA and a stellar 36/2 K/BB ratio.  The Titans were also solid in the field with a .973 FLD% and Pedroza made a couple of outstanding plays on Friday night to help Fullerton keep their one run lead.

TCU pitched well enough last weekend for the most part with a 3.38 ERA but a couple of big innings did them in on Saturday and Sunday and they didn’t do nearly enough on offense to make up for it despite walking almost five times a game by hitting under .200 for the weekend. The Horned Frogs also had their issues on defense with three errors, four WP’s/PB’s and allowed five SB’s.

The series over the last years has featured plenty of low scoring pitchers duels with scores of 4-1, 8-4 (3-3 after eight innings) and 2-1 in 2011 at TCU and 3-2 and 4-2 games at Fullerton last season before the 11-10 slugfest.  With the pitching staffs that both of these teams have, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise for runs to be at a premium again this weekend.

This figures to be a close series with TCU looking to get some momentum going after being swept for only the third time in Schlossnagle’s ten seasons in Fort Worth.  Fullerton doesn’t usually have the better offense when these teams are matched up but it looks like the Titans could this season.  If Fullerton’s young pitchers can keep their poise in a tough road environment and continue to throw well and their veteran lineup can continue to grind out AB’s and put runs on the board the Titans have a solid chance of coming out of Lupton Stadium with a series win for third time in three trips to Fort Worth.