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.

No comments: