Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hawai'i Series Preview

Titans at Hawai'i
Friday 9:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 4 p.m. PDT

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton has been doing a great job of finding ways to win games all season long and have had three separate ten game winning streaks.  The Titans looked to get a new streak started after losing the final game of the series against UCSB and won 8-4 at Pepperdine on Tuesday.  Fullerton played what was probably their most challenging series of the season last weekend at nationally ranked Cal Poly and after losing the opening game 2-1 came back to win 10-5 on Saturday and 6-4 on Sunday with two runs in the ninth inning to improve their record to 34-6 overall and 10-2 in the Big West.

Fullerton got this week started by bouncing back from the loss to UCSB by traveling up to Malibu and beating Pepperdine 8-4 on Tuesday afternoon.  The Titans got the scoring started with three runs in the second inning when J.D. Davis walked, Jake Jefferies singled, Greg Velazquez doubled in Davis, an error scored Jefferies and A.J. Kennedy’s groundout scored Velazquez.  Fullerton went up 4-0 in the fourth when Velazquez hit his first HR of the season.  Pepperdine responded with a run in the bottom of the inning and Fullerton came right back with two runs in the fifth when Matt Chapman tripled and scored on Michael Lorenzen’s SF, Davis was hit by a pitch, Jefferies reached on an error and Davis scored on a single by Velazquez, his third hit of the game.  The Waves cut into the lead with a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to make it 6-4 before the Titans put the game away with two runs in the seventh thanks to the help of more poor defense by Pepperdine.  Davis and Jefferies led off the inning with singles, Austin Kingsolver bunted them over and both runners scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball.  Bryan Conant picked up his first win as a Titan with two scoreless innings as one of seven pitchers who saw action on the day and Koby Gauna picked up his second save with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

Friday’s game had all the earmarks of being a low scoring game with Thomas Eshelman squaring off against Joey Wagman and the pitchers didn’t disappoint anybody.  Fullerton got out to a lead when Richy Pedroza led off the game with a hit, moved to second on a groundout and went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a SF by Lorenzen.  The Titans had chances to increase the lead because Wagman didn’t have his best stuff and didn’t strike anybody out but they couldn’t push anybody else across in his seven innings of work and he allowed only that one run on six hits and two walks.  Cal Poly tied the game in the fourth when Jordan Ellis led off the inning with a triple and Jimmy Allen’s groundout drove him in to tie the game.  The Mustangs took the lead for good in the sixth when Ellis singled with one out, Allen bunted him over and Nick Torres came up with the clutch two out hit on a full count to drive Ellis in.  Reed Reilly pitched the final two innings for Cal Poly and allowed only a walk to Davis to pick up his tenth save and Wagman improved to 8-2, including wins in all six of his starts at home, while Eshelman was the tough luck loser and his record fell to 7-2 after allowing two runs on seven hits and no walks with three strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

It looked like Saturday’s game had the potential to be another pitchers duel with Justin Garza and Matt Imhof going but neither of them were at their best, especially Imhof.  Matt Wallach doubled in the second but was stranded at third in the only threat for either team in the first two innings.  Fullerton jumped all over Imhof with four runs in the third when Carlos Lopez and Davis walked, Lorenzen doubled in Lopez, Wallach singled in Davis and Lorenzen, Jefferies reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second and Chapman singled him in.  Cal Poly flexed their muscles when David Armendariz hit the first pitch of the bottom of the third out of the park and cut the lead to a run in the fourth when Torres walked and Brian Mundell hit his Big West leading eighth HR.  The Titans increased the lead to 6-3 and knocked Imhof out of the game in the sixth when Chapman doubled and Velazquez hit his second HR of the week.  The Mustangs scored to cut the lead to one in the bottom of the inning before Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the top of the seventh when Lopez led off the inning with a hit, Wallach reached on an error that kept the inning alive after a fly out and a foul out, Jefferies came up with a clutch two out RBI single and Chapman followed with a two run RBI double to salt the game away.  Wallach and Chapman each had three hits to lead the hitting attack and Garza improved his record to 8-0 after allowing four runs on four hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

Cal Poly scored first for the only time in the series on Sunday when Elliot Stewart tripled and scored on a wild pitch by Grahamm Wiest before Fullerton responded with four runs in the third to knock Cal Poly starter Bryan Granger out of the game.  Chapman led off the inning with an HR to tie the game, Kingsolver singled, Pedroza walked, Lopez’s bunt single loaded the bases, Davis singled up the middle to drive in two runs and Lorenzen’s single scored another run.  Mustangs reliever Michael Holback came into the game and retired the next eight batters that he faced before hitting Lorenzen and picking him off to end the fifth.  The Cal Poly bullpen continued to throttle the Titans offense when LHP Taylor Chris threw two shutout innings and after leaving the bases loaded in the fifth the Mustangs started coming back with a run in the sixth on a two out RBI double by Armendariz after Fullerton couldn’t convert a DP ball to end the inning.  Koby Gauna came into the game in the seventh and Cal Poly made it a one run game when Ellis singled and stole second with two outs and Allen drove him in.  The Mustangs tied the game in the eighth when Mundell singled, Stewart bunted him over, Willie Kuhl came into the game for the third straight day and Armendariz roped the only pitch Kuhl threw for a single to put runners on first and third.  Lorenzen came into the game to try to preserve the lead and the Titans once again failed to convert a potential DP ball to tie the game.  Reilly came into the game in the eighth and retired Fullerton in order and after getting the first out of the ninth, the Titans rallied when Austin Diemer singled, Chapman singled him to third and Kingsolver beat out a potential DP ball on a close play at first to drive in the go ahead run.  Pedroza followed by reaching base on catcher’s interference and Lopez gave Fullerton an insurance run when he smacked an RBI single to RF.  Lorenzen retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to improve his record to 2-0 and give the Titans their most important series win of the season up to this point.  Wiest was solid once again, going six innings and allowing two runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts.  Chapman and Lopez each had two hits and Davis had two RBI.

Fullerton wasn’t able to do much against All-Big West pitchers Wagman and Reilly in the opening game of the series but responded by scoring sixteen runs on twenty-one hits in the final two games of the series.  The Titans continued to be patient at the plate with eleven walks and also did a good job of putting the ball in play against Cal Poly, who entered the series in the top ten nationally in strikeouts, by only racking up twelve K’s in the series.  There weren’t many hitters who had a big weekend and Chapman led the offense by going 5-8 with an HR and four RBI in the final two games of the series, Kingsolver went 4-8 and was in the middle of some rallies and Lorenzen drove in a run in each game.  The pitching was solid with a 3.11 ERA for the weekend against the dangerous Cal Poly offense with quality starts by Eshelman and Wiest and Garza hung in there to pick up the only win among the starters.

Fullerton will look to carry the momentum from their series win in SLO into this weekend as they stay on the road for the second straight series with a trip to Hawaii.  These two teams aren’t strangers to each other because they played series in 2010 and 2011 with Fullerton winning the series at home in 2010 before sweeping all four games on the islands in 2011 with a shortened roster due to having eight players suspended for that weekend.  The Titans and Rainbows were also supposed to play last season before the WAC changed Hawaii’s schedule around and the series had to be cancelled.  As well as Fullerton has played to start this season, the Rainbows have played that poorly and after starting out 1-15 and righting things for a couple of weekends they have gone 1-10 over the last three weeks.

Hawaii Rainbows (8-27, 3-9 – tied for 8th)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 30-25
  • 2012 Conference Record – 10-8 (4th in the WAC).
  • Post-Season – None.  Last regional appearance was in 2010.
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 183/185.  2012 RPI/ISR – 95/78. 
  • Pre-season ranking – None.  Current ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 6th by the Big West coaches and Baseball America, 7th by Easton College Baseball and 8th by Perfect Game.

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

After finishing tied for the regular season championship with Fresno State in 2011, Hawaii expected to contend for the WAC title in their final season in the conference before moving on to the Big West.  The Rainbows were basically a .500 team against a fairly difficult non-conference schedule, going 14-14 in seven series with series wins against Wichita, USF and UC Davis, splits with St. Mary’s and Central Michigan and series losses to Oregon and Gonzaga and a five game sweep against overmatched Wagner.  Hawaii continued to be inconsistent in conference games, going 7-2 at home and winning series against Fresno State, New Mexico State and Nevada and going 3-6 away from the islands against San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Sacramento State to finish in fourth at 10-8.  The Rainbows were eliminated quickly in the WAC tournament with losses to Fresno State and Louisiana Tech.

Hawaii had their issues on offense in 2012 and finished in the bottom 25% nationally in AVG, R, SLG, 2B’s, 3B’s and HR’s and they scored three runs or less 27 times.  The Rainbows walked at a decent rate but struck out too much for a team without much power.  Hawaii did attempt to play some little ball to manufacture runs with hit and run plays and by stealing bases and bunting runners over but probably should have done more to overcome their lack of pop at the plate.

Hawaii had a very good pitching staff in 2012 that was helped by playing in a ballpark that is very favorable to pitchers and was in the top forty nationally in ERA and #4 in the country among teams for the fewest walks allowed per game.  The Rainbows didn’t have big arms and were in the bottom 40 nationally in strikeouts per game, relying on pitching to contact and letting their defense do the work and they held teams to three runs or less 29 times.

Hawaii knew they could be in for a rough season with a strong non-conference schedule while moving into a better conference in the Big West but nothing could have prepared them for what they have gone through.  The Rainbows got off to a terrible 1-15 start after being swept in four game series by Oregon and Rice, going 1-4 in a tournament at UNLV and losing the first three games against Gonzaga before winning the final game of the series.  After taking a week off, Hawaii rebounded by winning their series against Wichita State and their first conference series against UCSB before hitting the skids once again and going 1-10 after losing two non-conference games to UCSB and UCLA, getting swept at Irvine, losing the series at Cal Poly and getting swept by Northridge last weekend.

Hawaii has been one of the worst offensive teams in the country and is in the bottom twenty nationally in AVG, R, HR, SLG and OBP.  The Rainbows only hit .218 in the first month of the season, hit better against Wichita State and UCSB to raise their average up by 25 points but have started to have issues hitting once again against some good pitching over the last three weeks and they are only hitting .234 in conference games.  Hawaii has been shutout or held to one run fourteen times and it would make sense for them to try playing more little ball to manufacture some runs but they rarely run and don’t bunt much.

After having a good pitching staff last season, it has been a letdown how poorly Hawaii has pitched even with the injuries they have had to deal with.  The Rainbows have held teams to four runs or less only eleven times and are 1-18 when they have allowed five runs or more in a game due to their poor offense.  Hawaii’s pitchers are still solid at throwing strikes and are in the top forty in the country in fewest walks per game but they are allowing teams to hit much better than they did in 2012 and their ERA has gone up by over 1 1/2 runs.


  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 66 (decreases offense by 34%).  Les Murakami Stadium isn’t a big ballpark (325 in the corners, 375 to the alleys, 385 to CF) but plays big due to the wind usually blowing in and the humid air keeps balls from carrying.  There is also lots of foul territory that will turn foul pop-ups into outs.
  • Batting Average – .232 (10th in the Big West, 282nd nationally).  .257 in 2012 (247th nationally).
  • Scoring – 109 (10/289), 3.1 runs per game.  239 (240), 4.3 runs per game in 2011.
  • Home Runs – 2 (10/292).  14 in 2012 (239). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .293 (10/285).  .328 in 2012 (273).
  • On Base Percentage – .299 (10/289).  .348 in 2012 (214)
  • Walks – 99 (6/269), 2.8 per game.  204 in 2012 (126), 3.7 per game.
  • HBP’s – 14 (10/294).  55 in 2012 (153).
  • Strikeouts – 216 (5/xx), 6.1 per game.  399 in 2012 (xx), 7.3 per game.
  • Stolen Bases – 13-28 (9/293).  48-66 in 2012 (168). 
  • Sac Bunts – 23 (9/186).  49 in 2012 (153).


Hawaii returned three of their infielders from 2012 at 1B, 2B and SS but the only one who is starting in the same position is at 2B with the SS shifting over to 3B and newcomers taking over at 1B and SS.

C – Soph #39 Trevor Podratz (RH – .237/.312/.278, 0-12-0.  ’12 – .250/.351/.388, 5-27-0) was the DH last season and had more power while also being able to focus only on his hitting but he was generating that power by swinging for the fences and striking out about 1/3 of the time with 52 strikeouts.  He has cut down on his strikeouts but still has a below average 7/22 BB/K ratio.  Podratz will usually hit 6th and is third on the team in RBI.  He is only hitting .200 in conference games.  JC transfer Tyler Young (RH – .194 in 31 AB’s) is the backup and started the final two games last weekend against Northidge with Podratz nursing a leg injury but he was able to get a couple of AB’s in the final game of the series so he should be able to play this weekend.

1B/DH – JC transfer #19 Marc Flores (LH – .234/.311/.346, 1-10-1) beat out returning starter SR #29 Max Duval (RH – .182 in 22 AB’s. ’12 – .186/.255/.271, 1-18-0), who hit poorly last season.  Flores got off to a poor start and only hit .200 in his first twelve games, got on a hot streak when he hit .385 over the next ten games but has cooled off again and only hit .147 over the last ten games.  Flores has been starting at 1B most of the time and moving over to DH when Duval starts about once every 4-5 games.  He has some pop in his bat and leads the team with nine doubles and will usually be the cleanup hitter.

2B/DH – Soph #5 Stephen Ventimilia (LH – .230/.313/.297, 0-6-5.  ’12 – .293/.399/.317, 0-14-14) did a good job of getting on base as a FR and led the team with 37 walks and was second in OBP but was only able to start once in the first twelve games due to injuries.  He hasn’t gotten going and his average has been hovering around .200 all season and he was only hitting .185 in conference games before getting three hits in the final game of the Northridge series.  Ventimilia led the team in SB’s as a FR and is just about the only threat in the lineup to run and will hit leadoff when he is in the lineup.

2B/DH – FR #7 Andre Real (RH – .238/.284/.297, 0-5-1) has usually been getting some playing time at 2B and DH once a weekend in each spot.  He was playing 2B while Ventimilia was out and went 7-20 in his first five games but has only hit .210 since then.

SS – JC transfer #18 FR Austin Wobrock (LH – .221/.289/.250, 0-3-0) moved right into the lineup due to his defense but his hitting took a while to catch up to D1 pitching and he only hit .169 in the first 22 games.  He started hitting when the schedule turned to conference games and he is hitting .297 against Big West pitching.  Wobrock has very little power with only two extra base hits and will often be asked to bunt and leads the conference with eight SAC’s.  He doesn’t have much speed and will usually hit the ball on the ground and leads the Big West by hitting into seven DP’s.  Wobrock will usually hit ninth.

3B – SR #9 Pi’kea Kitamura (RH – .258/.312/.305, 0-19-2.  ’12 – .311/.375/.364, 0-29-4) is one of the few players on the roster who has been around longer than one season and has been getting regular playing time since he was a FR.  He split time between SS and 3B earlier in his career and was the SS in 2012 but has moved back to 3B to make room for Wobrock on defense.  Kitamura hit much better last season and led the team in RBI when he was 1st team All-WAC but has still been able to be productive despite the drop in AVG and is second on the team in RBI.  He only hit .197 in the first sixteen games but has been hitting .313 since then and has 14 RBI in his last 14 games.  Kitamura will be hitting second.


Hawaii lost two veteran starters in CF and RF from 2012 and shifted their LF over to CF with newcomers and reserves from 2012 taking their turns in the corner OF spots.

LF – JC transfers #12 Adam Hurley (LH – .212/.264/.282, 1-6-0), #3 Kalei Hanawahine (LH – .269/.310/.358, 0-7-1) and #8 Jerry Kleman (RH – .164 in 55 AB’s) have all been taking turns in LF with Hurley starting six times and Kleman and Hanawahine starting three times each since conference play started with whoever is in the lineup usually hitting seventh.  None of them have much power but Hanawahine was the hot hitter in the final two games against Northridge when he went 5-7 to increase his average by 50 points so he will probably start a couple of games this weekend.

CF – Soph #2 Kaeo Aliviado (LH – .237/.331/.314, 0-7-2.  ’12 – .239/.298/.289, 1-15-2) started in LF as a FR but has moved over to CF as the only returner in the OF.  He is the leadoff hitter and leads the team in walks and has an excellent 16/11 BB/K ratio.  Aliviado was only hitting in the .230’s in the first seventeen games, got on a hot streak when he hit .476 over the next six games but cooled off again and has only hit .122 over the last twelve games.

RF – JR #4 Conner George (RH – .298/.356/.383, 0-14-0.  ’12 – .161 in 31 AB’s) rarely played in 2012 but has been one of the players having a decent season and is the only player hitting over .270 and is second on the team in RBI.  Like most of the team, he got off to a terrible start and was only hitting in the .220’s in the first sixteen games but went on a nine game hitting streak and batted .424 before cooling off on Hawaii’s seven game trip to the mainland when he went 3-23 at Irvine, UCLA and Cal Poly but heated up again last weekend when he went 5-11.  George will usually hit fifth.

DH – Flores, Real, Ventimilia and Kleman have been splitting time at DH with Real’s four starts leading the team over the last fourteen games.


Fielding % – .979 (2/12) with 29 errors.  2012 – .972 (62) with 61 errors.  Hawaii’s defense is helped by playing on a turf surface so there aren’t too many bad hops to deal with.  Wobrock is one of the best defensive players in the conference, has yet to make an error and the Rainbows are second in DP’s and along with Kitamura gives Hawaii one of the best left sides of the infield in the Big West.  Ventimilia and Real have been solid at 2B.  Flores is a big guy with limited range at 1B.  The OF defense is average at best.

Stolen Base Attempts – 43-52 (7/xx).  2012 – 48-66 (xx).  The catching platoon for Hawaii was average last season but hasn’t been as good with runners going 28-32 against Podratz.  Young has been a little better (13-18) but isn’t nearly the hitter that Podratz is.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 29 (5/xx).  2012 – 41 (3/xx).  The catchers for Hawaii have been decent at blocking pitches.


  • ERA – 4.90 (7/208).  3.29 in 2012 (37).
  • AVG – .276 (6/164).  .259 in 2012 (69).
  • HR – 12 (5/xx).  21 HR in 2012 (xx).
  • Walks – 104 (3/38), 2.9 BB/9 IP.  155 (4), 2.2 BB/9 IP in 2012.
  • HBP – 39 (4/xx).  57 in 2012 (xx).
  • OBP – .343 (5/xx).  .348 in 2012 (xx).
  • SLG – .378 (6/xx).  .328 in 2012 (xx).
  • WHIP – 1.35 (5/109). 1.22 in 2012 (27).
  • Strikeouts – 210 (7/215), 5.9 K/9 IP.  290 (269), 5.3 K/9 IP in 2012.


Hawaii figured their starting rotation could be strong with the expected return of two of their weekend starters but one of them, Jarrett Arakawa, was lost for the season due to an arm injury.  The rotation has been decent but has started to have issues recently against Irvine, Cal Poly and Northridge with the staff ERA going up by about half a run over the last ten games.

Soph #31 Scott Squier (LHP – 0-6, 3.49 ERA, 1 save, 10 apps, 8 GS, 49 IP, 38 H, 18 BB, 41 K, .217 AVG, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 0 WP, 11-11 SB.  ’12 – 3-4, 3.50 ERA, 15 apps, 14 GS, 64 IP, 64 H, 30 BB, 55 K, .261 AVG, 1 HR, 13 HBP, 5 WP, 18-22 SB) is 6’6” and was a 19th round draft pick out of HS and is ranked among the top prospects for the 2014 draft in the conference.  He is long and lanky and still working on his mechanics with his low 90’s fastball, curveball and changeup, resulting in having control issues and also having trouble with keeping runners close after he has walked them or hit them (he leads the Big West in HBP’s) because he is tough to hit and is second in the conference in AVG.  Squier pitched well early in the season as a FR but wore down as the season went on, seeing his ERA go up by a run and WAC batters hitting .330 against him.  He has been very inconsistent, throwing seven scoreless innings against Rice, allowing one run in nine innings against Gonzaga and holding UCLA to three runs (2 ER) on two hits in seven innings.  Squier pitched his way out of the rotation with poor starts against Wichita State and UCSB (six runs in 7 2/3 IP) before pitching his way back into it at UCLA and with a strong two inning save at Cal Poly.  He reverted back to struggling against Northridge when he allowed three runs on six hits in 4 IP.  Squier has pitched in some tough luck with Hawaii’s poor offense and leads the Big West in losses.

JC transfer #33 Matt Cooper (RHP – 2-5, 3.38 ERA, 11 apps, 7 GS, 59 IP, 52 H, 11 BB, 53 K, .235 AVG, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 4 WP, 3-5 SB) in lots of ways is the exact opposite of Squier.  He isn’t tall, isn’t a hard thrower, has excellent control and does a good job of holding runners on.  Cooper started the season working out of the bullpen and pitched his way into the rotation with a 6 1/3 inning relief appearance against Rice when he allowed no runs on one hit with eight strikeouts.  Cooper had two excellent starts heading into conference play when he picked up both of his wins with a CG SHO against Gonzaga and 7 2/3 scoreless innings against Wichita State.  He has had issues in most of his Big West starts, going 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA in four starts, allowing four runs in seven innings to UCSB, six runs (3 ER) in three innings at Irvine, throwing well in a CG loss at Cal Poly (8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) before getting roughed up by Northridge when he allowed seven runs in 5 1/3 IP.  When teams have had success against Cooper, they have gotten to him early but when he gets in a groove he is tough to hit (seventh in the Big West in AVG) and will put hitters away (seventh in the conference in strikeouts).

SR #13 Corey MacDonald (RHP – 4-4, 4.11 ERA, 9 GS, 66 IP, 64 H, 19 BB, 38 K, .267 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 8 WP, 4-5 SB.  ’12 – 1-0, 6.23 ERA, 8 2/3 IP) barely pitched as a JC transfer in 2012 but is the only pitcher to make a start every weekend and has been a workhorse who is sixth in the conference in innings and has pitched into the seventh inning in his last eight starts.  He doesn’t have the stuff that the first two starters do and relies on keeping the ball and getting hitters to pound the ball into the ground with a sinking fastball and slider and is fourth in the Big West in wild pitches.  MacDonald pitches to contact and allows the defense behind him to do the work and allowed two runs in two of his starts, three runs twice and four runs three times before struggling the last two weeks at Cal Poly (six runs in seven innings) and against Northridge last weekend (nine runs, 7 ER, in eight innings).

SR #15 Connor Little (RHP – 1-5, 4.37 ERA, 9 apps, 8 GS, 60 IP, 67 H, 12 BB, 35 K, .294 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 8-10 SB.  ’12 – Medical redshirt.  ’11 – 4-4, 5.18 ERA, 12 apps, 10 GS, 49 IP) threw at least 35 innings in each of his first three seasons before missing 2012 with an ankle injury.  He was in the weekend rotation for each of the first eight series before pitching out of the bullpen last weekend when he had as strong relief outing, allowing one run in five innings.  Little isn’t a hard thrower and relies on good control and pitching to contact to allow his defense to do the work.  He had strong starts against Rice (7 1/3 IP, 2 R, 1 ER) and Wichita State (8 IP, 1 R) but allowed at least four runs in his other six starts and was taken out of the rotation after allowing six runs in six innings at Cal Poly.


Hawaii had four solid options out of the bullpen in 2012 who combined for fourteen saves, including the closer who had eight saves and an ERA of 1.14 but three of those pitchers have moved on.  The Rainbows have been searching for answers and haven’t been finding any with the relievers combining for a 7.23 ERA.  Needless to say, Hawaii is hoping that their starters can pitch deep into games and whichever one of the starters isn’t in the rotation this weekend will likely be the first one into the game.

SR #34 John Flinn (RHP – 1-3, 8.84 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 19 IP, 26 H, 10 BB, 7 K, .325 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 4-4 SB.  ’12 – 2-1, 4.26 ERA, 11 apps, 3 GS, 32 IP, 32 H, 11 BB, 19 K, .271 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 6 WP, 2-3 SB) is among the conference leaders in appearances despite usually being ineffective.

Soph #41 Lawrence Chew (LHP – 0-1, 7.45 ERA, 14 apps, 19 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .295 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-5 SB.  ’12 – 2-3, 2.40 ERA, 22 apps, 3 GS, 45 IP, 34 H, 6 BB, 28 K, .214 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 1-2 SB) was much more effective as a FR but has struggled with his command this season.

JC transfer #24 Scott Kuzminsky (RHP – 0-0, 4.85 ERA, 9 apps, 13 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 8 K, .327 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 3-3 SB).

RHP’s Max Duval and Bryan Burgher have each made four appearances and have combined for a 6.75 ERA in 9 1/3 IP.


Fullerton has been one of the more consistent teams on the west coast and has yet to lose a series in ten weeks with six sweeps.  The Titans sometimes have issues scoring in a game but they have continued to stay disciplined at the plate and with the good defense and excellent pitching that they have run off three 10-game winning streaks and lead the nation with 19 road wins.

Hawaii is usually a tough place to play for visitors due to the long trip to get there, the turf playing surface, the very favorable conditions for pitchers and the tendency for teams to sometimes mix in vacation and games.  The Rainbows haven’t been nearly as good at home as they usually are and are only 6-17 this season and have been swept three times.

Fullerton has been feasting on pitchers who aren’t effective, which Hawaii’s haven’t been lately, and they have been bringing down the hammer when the opportunity presents itself.  Conversely, this looks like a mismatch when Hawaii is at the plate because they have one of the worst offenses in the country while the Titans have one of the better pitching staffs.

As long as Fullerton approaches this as a business trip and not a chance to have some fun in the sun, this series has sweep written all over it.  The Titans would have to have an off game while Hawaii would have to play better than they have at any time this season for the Rainbows to win a game this weekend.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Titans Ride Hard to Tame Mustangs

Titans at Cal Poly: Lost 2-1 (Friday), Won 10-5 (Saturday), Won 6-4 (Sunday)

By Don Hudson

SAN LUIS OBISPO - If you were part of the large throng that gathered each game this weekend at Baggett Stadium in San Luis Obispo, you were treated to an excellent display of intense, competitive west coast baseball.  The Cal State Fullerton Titans (34-6, 10-2) dropped the opener to the Cal Poly Mustangs, 2-1, but bounced back to win the next two games to win the series and maintain their Big West Conference lead.

The Titans have solidified their standing near the top of the national leader board, albeit a few strokes behind the leaders.  They are ranked either #3 (Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA and USA TODAY coaches poll) or #4 (Baseball America and Perfect Game) in all the major polls and stand #5 in RPI and #2 in ISR as of Tuesday morning.

Game 1: Cal Poly Mustangs 2, Titans 1

(Photo Gallery)

In a much-discussed matchup of Friday aces of two nationally ranked opponents, the Titans sent freshman Thomas Eshelman to the hill to battle senior Joey Wagman, who entered action ranked ninth nationally in strikeouts.

The Titans scored a quick run in the first inning – and were then shut out the rest of the way by Wagman and closer Reed Reilly, who allowed just one base-runner (a walk to J.D. Davis) in notching his tenth save in two innings of relief.

It initially looked like ‘business as usual’ for the Titans, as Richy Pedroza escaped an 0-2 count and hit a 2-2 pitch for a single leading off the game.  Carlos Lopez hit a groundball on a hit-and-run play that advanced Pedroza into scoring position.  Wagman did not look sharp early, as he walked Davis and unleashed a wild pitch that put two runners in scoring position.  Michael Lorenzen hit a sacrifice fly that drove in Pedroza and gave the Titans a quick 1-0 lead.

Eshelman came out looking sharp, hitting his spots – so what’s new?

Lorenzen called out on high tag
The Titans had Wagman on the ropes in the top of the third, but the savvy senior pitched a great game without his best stuff.  He wasn’t getting his normally-deadly curveball over for strikes early, so he relied on an assortment of fastballs, change-ups and good location.  Lopez led off with a walk but was erased on a double-play.  Lorenzen singled but was called out attempting to steal second when he appeared to be draped atop the base when the high tag was applied.

Lorenzen clearly expressed his disagreement to umpire Joe Maiden, who chose to move toward him to escalate the debate rather than retreating back to the foul line where Blue hangs out between innings.

(Anybody who has umpired knows that when an inning ends on a contentious call, you trot out along the foul line, beyond conversational distance with players, coaches and fellow umpires.  If you go over to talk to your brother ump, everybody knows you’re talking about the call, which is a sign of weakness. Maiden seemed to be baiting an argument, but Lorenzen cooled and went out to his position.)

The Mustangs broke through against Eshelman in the bottom of the fourth inning as outfielder Jordan Ellis led off with a triple and scored on an RBI groundout.  Ellis was outstanding, going 6-for-13 in the series.

Austin Kingsolver led off the fifth inning with his second hit of the game, a single up the middle after taking a called strike and then fouling off six pitches. But the Mustangs defended the hit-and-run effectively – they always stood their ground and got the batter out while the runner advanced, rather than the dispiriting base-hit through a vacated hole.  Wagman then retired the dangerous Lopez and Davis on groundballs to the shortstop.

The Mustangs took the lead with a solo tally in the bottom of the sixth.  With one out, Ellis singled and went to second when the third-spot hitter, Jimmy Allen, sacrificed.  This brought up cleanup hitter, Nick Torres, who leads the team in RBI and already had a hit against Eshelman in the fourth inning.

With first-base open, Eshelman appeared willing to walk Torres with an open base and a struggling freshman, Brian Mundell, on deck.  (Mundell has a ton of power and is tied for the BWC lead in home runs, but he was in the midst of a slump that reached 1-for-31 until he broke out on Saturday.)

A walk seemed strategic and inevitable when Eshelman and his pin-point control fell behind 3-1, but Torres swung and missed the next pitch and the battle was back on.  Torres fouled off two pitches before smashing a single into centerfield to drive in Ellis with the go-ahead and eventual winning run.  It’s easy to second-guess why they didn’t intentionally (or semi-intentionally) walk the opponent’s leading RBI man with an open base, but that’s baseball.

Wagman stifles Titans bats
The rest of it was about pitching.  Wagman left after seven innings, giving up just one run on six hits, with two walks and zero strikeouts.  He showed the fans and scouts another dimension of his game – beating a quality opponent like Fullerton without his best stuff and without a single strikeout.  Closer Reilly looked like the real deal, with a dazzling assortment of fastballs, splitters and sliders.

The Titans fell back into their “six hits on Friday blues.”  Kingsolver was the only Titan with multiple hits.  Eshelman allowed just two runs in 7-2/3 innings of work and drew great respect from the Mustangs.  He got a lot of props afterwards from the Mustangs.  Torres told the local press, “He tends to hit the black every time, the very edge of the plate.  With every pitch he throws, you question whether it’s going to be a ball or a strike because it’s perfectly placed.  He’s unbelievable at doing that.
His command is unreal.”  Very classy commentary!

Ellis had three hits and scored both runs for Cal Poly, with Torres contributing two hits, including the game-winning RBI.

Game 2: Titans 10, Cal Poly Mustangs 5

This game also featured a much-anticipated pitching matchup between the Titans’ freshman Justin Garza and Poly’s sophomore lefthander Matt Imhof (who came in to the game with a 4-1 record and 1.51 ERA.)  Unlike Friday, the expected pitchers’ duel never materialized beyond the first couple scoreless innings.

With one out in the top of the third, Imhof walked Lopez and Davis on consecutive full counts.  With Poly coach Larry Lee emphasizing bunt defense, there were a couple rockets that would usually be handled with the infielders playing at normal depth.  Lorenzen hit a hard grounder that third-baseman Jimmy Allen made a horizontal backhand dive attempt, but the ball deflected off his glove and went for a run-scoring double.

Catcher Chad Wallach followed with a hard-hit two-run single to leftfield to give the Titans a 3-0 lead.  Jake Jefferies reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Matt Chapman.

Garza remains unbeaten
Staked to a 4-0 lead, the first pitch Garza threw in the bottom of the third was hit deep, a home run by David Armendariz to make it 4-1.  Imhof threw a lot of pitches in the fourth, walking one and was the beneficiary of an outstanding play by leftfielder Armendariz to rob Lopez of an RBI double.

The wheels began to wobble for Garza in the bottom of the fourth.  He was dominant in striking out the first two hitters, but paid the price for a two-out walk when Poly designated hitter Mundell crushed a 1-2 pitch for a two-run homer that cut the lead to 4-3.  The capacity crowd was going crazy and momentum was clearly shifting to the Mustangs.

After Imhof and Garza swapped scoreless fifth innings, Chapman doubled with one out in the sixth inning to bring up the recently resurgent Greg Velazquez, one of eight Titans batting right-handed (including switch-hitters Pedroza and Jefferies) against the Poly southpaw.  Velazquez got ahead of the count and hit a bomb on a 2-0 pitch to give the Titans some breathing room, 6-3.  It was his second home run of the season and also of the week – he went deep Tuesday at Pepperdine as part of his single-double-homer performance.

Another Velazquez homer
A single by Austin Diemer ended the evening for Imhof. Reliever Michael Holback retired Pedroza and Diemer was caught stealing to end the uprising.

The Mustangs immediately cut into the Titans’ 6-3 lead with a run of their own in the bottom of the sixth.  Lee’s strategy was slightly befuddling – trailing by three runs against a highly ranked opponent with the wind blowing out and the ball flying around the yard, he had his third hitter, Allen, sacrifice bunt after the first two Mustangs got singles against Garza.  The “small ball” approach delivered a run when Torres followed with a sacrifice fly, but it seemed peculiar to eschew going for a big inning with the middle of your order coming up with nobody out, two runners on and down by three runs.  Go figure.

The Titans broke it open with three unearned runs in the seventh inning.  Lopez led off with a sizzling line drive headed towards the leftfield corner that Allen leaped and deflected to keep it a single.  When Davis flied deep to centerfield, Lopez got a good read that the ball was not going out and he tagged up and advanced to second.  After Lorenzen was retired on a wind-blown foulout, Wallach reached on an error to keep the inning alive.  Jefferies capitalized on the error with an RBI single, followed by Chapman’s two-run double.

The Titans added another run in the ninth on a double by Wallach and an RBI triple by Kingsolver.  Reliever Tyler Peitzmeier was touched for an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth to make the final score 10-5.

The Titans had twelve hits and several other outs that were hit very hard, led by Wallach and Chapman with three hits each, including two doubles apiece.  Chapman had three RBI, while Wallach had two.  Garza improved his record to 8-0 while allowing four runs on four hits and four walks, striking out eight in seven innings of work.  Willie Kuhl and Peitzmeier each worked an inning in relief.

Denver Chavez and Ellis had two each of the Mustangs’ seven hits.

Game 3: Titans 6, Cal Poly Mustangs 4

(Photo Gallery)

This was about as riveting a game as you will ever see, played on a warm, sunny day in a perfect bucolic baseball setting.  In only the second rubber game the Titans have faced in a weekend series this season (the other was a home win over Texas A&M), the Titans won a battle that had both teams looking like gallant, battle-scarred combatants by the time it was over.

The pitching match-up seemed to favor the Titans, with Grahamm Wiest facing sophomore Bryan Granger, who had been up and down in his nine previous starts this season.  But Granger looked good the first couple innings, allowing only a two-out walk to Davis.

Chapman homer evens things up
Meanwhile, Wiest surrendered a run in the bottom of the second to give Poly a 1-0 lead.  After Wiest breezed through the first five hitters, catcher Elliot Stewart launched a flyball deep to leftfield.  With the wind blowing out on a warm day, the ball was carrying well and it bounced off the wall, beyond the grasp of a leaping Anthony Hutting.  Centerfielder Lorenzen may have misjudged how far the ball would carry, because he was late in getting over to back up the play and Stewart was safe at third with a stand-up triple on what would ordinarily have been a double, especially with two outs and a catcher running.  The extra base proved costly, as Wiest’s next pitch was in the dirt and Stewart scored on a wild pitch.

But the Titans quickly counter-punched – their 2013 trademark.  Granger fell behind in the count and Chapman blasted a 3-1 pitch for a home run to tie the score.  Granger didn’t recover: Kingsolver followed with a single, Pedroza walked on four pitches and Lopez beat out a bunt in a pretty obvious sacrifice situation.  With nowhere to put Davis, who walked five times in the series, the Titans’ designated hitter ripped a two-run single up the middle to give the Titans a 3-1 lead.  Lorenzen then delivered an RBI single to score Lopez and give the Titans a 4-1 lead, still with nobody out and two runners on base.

Holback came into the game and completely shut down the Titans’ offense – he escaped the inherited jam in the third and then allowed no hits or runs in the next couple innings.  He faced the minimum nine batters, allowing just one (Lorenzen) to reach on HBP but then picked him off.

Wiest protected the 4-1 lead the next few innings, but not without a couple nervous moments and an increasing pitch count that ultimately impacted how deeply into the game he pitched.  There was an incredible encounter in the bottom of the fourth between Wiest and Stewart. After consecutive one-out singles by Allen and Torres, the dangerous slugger Mundell (who had hit his eighth home run of the season on Saturday night) came up as the potential tying run.  Wiest got him to hit into a force-out, but then had to face Stewart, who had already narrowly missed a home run in his first at-bat.

Wiest wins epic battle
The ensuing 12-pitch battle between Wiest and Stewart was epic.  Stewart took the first four pitches: strike-ball-strike-ball.  He then fouled off five consecutive 2-2 pitches before taking a ball to get to a full count.  After fouling off another pitch, Wiest finally got Stewart to chase a ball in the dirt and struck him out, with the ball momentarily getting past Wallach, who recovered and threw him out.  Rather than returning directly to the dugout, Wiest sought out Stewart and gave him props for engaging in such a ferocious battle.  It was a classy gesture by Wiest, which the Poly fans recognized and appreciated.

The lengthy battle with Stewart might have worn down Wiest, who barely escaped damage in the bottom of the fifth.  After surrendering two hits and a walk to load the bases, Wiest walked the plank when Allen hit a ball deep to left-centerfield.  It looked like it was going out for a grand slam that would have given Poly a lead and turned the stadium into bedlam, but the ball unexpectedly died near the warning track and Lorenzen was able to run it down.

Cal Poly cut the Titans’ lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth.  Wiest had a chance to escape when he induced a routine double-play ball, but the relay throw from second-baseman Keegan Dale was high and umpire Phil Benson ruled Lopez had not tagged the runner.  The failure to execute the double-play proved costly when the next batter, Armedariz, doubled into the left-centerfield gap, just beyond the reach of Lorenzen.

Poly’s middle relievers were outstanding: three scoreless innings by Holback and two by Chris Taylor.  In their combined five innings, they allowed just one hit, no walks and had four strikeouts.  The excellent middle relief pitching allowed the Mustangs a chance to get back in the game, which they ultimately accomplished.

Koby Gauna replaced Wiest in the bottom of the seventh and quickly retired the first two hitters before allowing a single to Ellis, who stole second and scored on an RBI single by Allen to make it 4-3.

Now things got really crazy.

Even though trailing, Coach Lee brought in his hard-throwing closer, Reilly, to start the eighth inning.

With one out, Lorenzen came up and took his time settling into the box and Reilly was in no mood to wait for him.  Lorenzen raised his hand and looked back to plate umpire Joe Maiden to request time-out – permission denied. (How ironic – the umpire who Lorenzen questioned Friday night on the stolen base call refused to grant him time-out on Sunday.) Reilly quickly delivered the pitch – a fastball inside and up near Lorenzen’s head.

After Lorenzen grounded out, Coach Vanderhook came out to question Maiden, who would have no part of it.  The umpire certainly has every right to either grant or deny a time-out request, and it is a split-second decision that must protect the safety of both the pitcher and hitter.  Frankly, I didn’t have any problem with either Maiden’s decision or Reilly buzzing Lorenzen high and tight – if our pitcher had done the same thing, we’d be cheering his tenacity and combativeness.

Hook argues call ...
(Photos by Laura Dickson, The Tribune)
But the coach should also have the right to stand up for his player, which Vanderhook tried to do, and the umpiring crew wanted no part of.

But what happened next was ridiculous.  Hooky did not pursue the debate with Maiden, but was obviously furious in the dugout.  First-base umpire Phil Benson, who has demonstrated notorious ‘rabbit ears’ over the years I’ve seen him officiate games, called time and reignited the situation needlessly.  He approached the Titans’ bench and started screaming at Vanderhook.  When Vanderhook took one step from the dugout, Benson threatened ejection; when Hooky took a second step, he got tossed.  A barrage of F-words ensued – I assure you that none of them was “Fullerton.”

Benson is a so-so umpire: probably a “5” on most 1-to-10 scales of collegiate umpires and perhaps a “7” by Big West Conference standards.  But he is also a megalomaniacal asshole of the highest order.  I’m glad he seldom is assigned games in Southern California – we usually see him only at Poly, Pacific or Davis.

... and gets tossed
With the rabid crowd going bonkers after Hooky’s ejection, they had more cause for excitement when Mundell reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the eighth.  Pedroza made a great stop deep in the hole, but there was no way he could throw him out.  The local fans were puzzled when Coach Lee did not opt for a pinch-runner for Mundell, even after he was sacrificed into scoring position.

With one out a runner on second, Gauna was replaced by Willie Kuhl, pitching his third game of the series.  Kuhl’s first pitch was lined into rightfield by Armendariz for a base hit, but Mundell was held at third, even though the throw was up the line.

The decision not to deploy a pinch-runner might have backfired when Lorenzen replaced Kuhl and induced a perfect double-play ball to Dale.  But Dale hitched before throwing wildly to shortstop Pedroza covering second.  Pedroza had to leave the bag to catch the errant throw.  The Titans got a big break when Armendariz, who was sliding hard to break up the double-play, over-slid the base and was tagged out by Pedroza.

With the score tied 4-4, the noose tightened when Lorenzen threw a wild pitch that put the potential go-ahead run in scoring position, but leftfielder Diemer bailed him out with a nice grab of a scalded line-drive to end the inning.

Everything was going Poly’s way: the 4-1 lead had been lost; the coach had been kicked out; the Titans had been shut out five straight innings and Poly had their dominant closer on the mound.  What could possibly go wrong?

With one out in the ninth inning, Diemer bounced back from a 1-2 count to full count before slamming a single into leftfield.  Chapman had pulled several balls hard throughout the weekend, so Reilly pitched him away and Chappy drove a single to rightfield, which allowed Diemer to scamper to third.

Kingsolver scores just in time (L.D. Tribune)
With the speedy, skilled-bunting Kingsolver at the plate, the infield was in at the corners to protect against a squeeze play and back in the middle for a possible double-play.  Kingsolver hit a bouncer to second-base that looked like a possible double-play.  But Chapman made an alert play when he hit the brakes to avoid giving the fielder a chance to tag him and throw to first to complete the twin-killing.

Second-baseman Chavez then threw to second for the force and Kingsolver barely beat the relay, safe on a bang-bang play that gave the Titans’ a 5-4 lead. The play by Chapman bought a split-second for Kingsolver, which was probably the difference between inning over or taking the lead.

It looked like the inning was done when Pedroza grounded out, but Maiden ruled catcher’s interference and Pedroza was awarded first base.  Lopez took advantage with a single to rightfield and Kingsolver slid home just barely ahead of the throw to give the Titans an insurance run, 6-4.

Lorenzen faced the top of the order in the bottom of the ninth.  He got Chavez on a line-drive that stayed up long enough for Diemer to grab it, struck out Ellis and retired Allen to end the game when shortstop Pedroza made an excellent do-or-die play, charging and making the short-hop grab look much easier than it was.

The Titans were outhit, 11-9, with Lopez and Chapman getting two each.  Lorenzen got the win.  Wiest allowed seven hits in six innings, striking out six and walking just one.  Allen, Mundell and Armendariz had two hits each for Cal Poly.


So what did we learn up in wine country?

These were very intense battles, played between two teams with a great deal of mutual respect but without fear or intimidation.  Based strictly on our head-to-head weekend series action this year, the Mustangs played the Titans as well as anybody.  With the series loss at home, the Mustangs dropped out of the Baseball America and Perfect Game rankings, but continued to be ranked by Collegiate Baseball (#18) and both USA TODAY coaches and NCBWA (#23).

But the way the NCAA selection process works and its mind-numbing reliance on RPI while ignoring ISR and other rankings and metrics, Cal Poly is not a post-season lock – even though they seem clearly capable of doing damage if they get invited to the dance.

You’ll go nuts if you’ve already started your “RPI watch” every day.  The Titans lost on Friday to the #66 RPI team (prior to the series) – and yet improved from #8 to #7 overnight.  How does that math work?  The number is obviously impacted by the performance of your previous opponents, but it is maddening at best to be extrapolating April data to figure out what the NCAA committee will do Memorial Day weekend.

Speaking of maddening, how do you explain Pacific beating UC Irvine by 14-13 score on Saturday – including turning a game-ending bases-loaded double-play to avoid blowing a seven-run lead in the ninth inning – and then losing 1-0 on Sunday?  I could understand it in the reverse order – especially having witnessed Pacific’s series finale pitching options.  A 1-0 game on Saturday and 14-13 on Sunday would make sense.

Cal State Northridge swept the Rainbows in Hawai’i and has moved into second place with a record of 8-4.  While I don’t see a reasonable path for them into the postseason – Northridge would need to run the table, including a sweep of the Titans – but they could be a spoiler if they finish ahead of either Cal Poly or Irvine in the conference standings.  If either of those teams finishes lower than third place in conference, it could put a serious blemish on their NCAA resume.

Panoramic view of Baggett Stadium
The games were played before 6,483 spectators – the second highest for a three-game series at Baggett Stadium.  The official capacity limit is 1,734, with 745 chairback seats and the remainder bleacher seating and standing room only.  I’m guessing the fire marshal was imbibing in Krukow’s Korner and looked the other way when they put an average 2,161 fannies through the turnstiles each game.

The Poly fans are passionate and love their team – especially the crazy drunks in the beer pavilion named after Mike Krukow, who pitched at Cal Poly many years ago and still holds the team’s career records for ERA (1.94) and is tied with five complete game shutouts in a season.  He had a successful fourteen year major league pitching career before becoming a beloved announcer for the San Francisco Giants.  His standout season was 1986, when he was 20-9 with an ERA of 3.05 for the Giants, finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.

Trivia question: who was the head coach at Cal Poly SLO when Krukow played there?

It was nice to see productivity from the bottom of the order in a series where the top and middle of the order were relatively quiet.  Chapman had a great series – 5-for-12 (.412) with two doubles, a home run, four RBI and his usual outstanding defense at third-base.  Kingsolver was 4-for-8 (.500) with two RBI, a triple and a couple big runs scored.  Diemer was 2-for-6 (.333), including the big hit to start the series-winning rally in the ninth inning of the last game.  It helped offset a 5-for-30 (.167) output from the top three in the batting order – albeit with Pedroza playing amazing defense at shortstop, Lopez driving in a huge insurance run on Sunday and Davis drawing five walks.

You’ve got to love the Titans 19-2 road record – they are “just” 15-4 at home.  It was a frenetic and difficult environment at Baggett Stadium – the Mustangs have had a great home record throughout Lee’s tenure there.  But the Titans this season have kicked it up a notch whenever the environment has been the most hostile and challenging.

After losing Friday night, the Titans showed up Saturday knowing that a loss that night would have placed them in a tie with Cal Poly for the BWC lead.  I was interested how they would respond to that pressure – they hadn’t lost a weekend road game yet (their only previous road loss was a midweek game at San Diego) – so it was a good test of their resilience.

About an hour before the Saturday game, a parent of a Poly player told me, “Your guys got off the bus today looking like they had won 10-0 last night – you can just see the confidence of a team that knows how to win because they can put a loss behind them and move on.”  His insight proved to be spot-on.

An important personal milestone happened to me last week: the tenth anniversary of the first Titans game I went to.  I am forever grateful to the circumstances that led to my introduction to something that has become such a central part of my life in the last decade.

Many people have asked how it came about.  As a chronic creature of habit, I ate breakfast nearly every day at The Bagelry in La Verne.  There was a bright young neighborhood kid who worked there in the morning, and he saw me reading the sports section every day and we struck up a sports-centric dialogue.  One day back in 2003, I mentioned to Tom that I was going to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks game (as they were called back then) that evening using my company’s season tickets.  He joked that he would love to see an NHL game, as he had never seen hockey in person.  It stuck in the back of my mind.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later I had the tickets again but couldn’t go to the game because of a last-minute business trip.  Tom was shocked and grateful when I walked in one day and handed him four tickets on the red line for the Ducks’ game that Friday night.

I saw him the next week and asked how he had enjoyed the game.  He was very appreciative of it and wanted to do something in return, which I explained was not necessary.  But he insisted: “I go to a college that has a really great baseball team.  I would like you to be my guest at a game.”  I was thinking to myself, “Dude, I’m a Red Sox fan.  I don’t want to go see no stinkin’ college kids playing baseball.”  But I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I accepted the invitation.

We were supposed to go to a game at Edison Field (aka The Big “A”) to see the Titans play USC, but it was rained out and I thought I was off the hook.  But alas, young Thomas persisted and we rescheduled to go to a Tuesday night game against UCLA.  I went inside and was struck first by Goodwin Field itself and how devoted the fans were – I expected mostly students and stoners, but saw all these grizzled old farts decked out in “F” gear that clearly had witnessed a lot of baseball action.  It made me curious about what it was that kept fans coming back when they were long-since past their collegiate years.

The second thing that struck me was the caliber of play – far greater than what I had seen growing up watching the now-defunct Providence College baseball team.  And the coaching.  The Titans beat the snot out of the Bruins, 13-2: even though it wasn’t much of a game, the seed had been planted.

I went back to see another game a couple weeks later.  Then another.  Then another.  Then two in a row.  Then the playoffs.  By the end of the 2003 season I was hooked – the rest is history.

The root of “loving Titans baseball” is “loving baseball.”  I quickly recognized that the Titans played baseball the way it was meant to be played: I fell in love with the team that respected the game as much as I did.
Recognize No. 16?

It has been a great journey - my only lament is that I lived out here fifteen years before I discovered Titans baseball.  I know I can’t make up for lost time, but I sure am trying.

Answer to trivia question: when Mike Krukow pitched for the Division II Cal Poly Mustangs, their head coach was an up-and-coming fellow named Augie Garrido.  Augie coached one year for the San Francisco State Gators in 1969 and then coached at Cal Poly from 1970-1972 before shifting to one of their California Collegiate Athletic Association rivals, the Cal State Fullerton Titans.  The rest is history.

The last word this week goes to Big Papi, for his comments during an emotional pregame ceremony last week at Fenway Park – I couldn’t have said it any better.

Now it is on to Hawai’i – with any luck, our flights won’t be delayed or canceled by sequestration-attributed air traffic controller or TSA manpower reductions.  Be there – aloha!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cal Poly Series Preview

Titans at Cal Poly
Friday 6 p.m.; Saturday 6 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton has been on a roll throughout this season and carried a seven game winning streak into last week.  The Titans stretched it to eight games with a 6-4 win last Tuesday night against USC and increased it to ten games against UCSB with a 4-3 comeback win on Friday with two runs in the bottom of the ninth and a 10-2 blowout win on Saturday before seeing their winning streak snapped on Sunday in a 2-0 shutout by the Gauchos, the third time this season that Fullerton has had a ten game winning streak broken as they lost their first Big West game of the season in falling to 31-5, 8-1.

Fullerton got off to a sluggish start last Tuesday against USC, who scored runs in the second and third innings off of starter Koby Gauna before establishing control of the game in the bottom of the third with six runs.  Jake Jefferies led off the inning with a single, A.J. Kennedy singled with one out, Austin Diemer was hit by a pitch with two out and J.D. Davis followed by hitting his second grand slam of the season.  Michael Lorenzen went back to back with his conference leading seventh HR of the season to chase Trojans starter Sean Adler, Chad Wallach welcomed reliever Nigel Nootbaar into the game with a double and Matt Chapman singled up the middle to drive in Wallach to finish off the scoring in the inning for the Titans as well as for the game.  Willie Kuhl relieved Gauna in the fourth and left the game after the first two hitters reached base against him in the fifth.  Henry Omana walked the first batter he faced and gave up two long SF’s to cut the lead to 6-4 before getting out of the inning.  Omana, Jose Cardona and Lorenzen combined to shut out the Trojans over the last four innings, with Cardona picking up his first win of the season with two scoreless innings and Lorenzen picking up his conference leading twelfth save.

As is usually the case on Friday nights, it looked like the potential was there for a pitchers duel between Thomas Eshelman and UCSB’s Austin Pettibone and that is exactly what happened.  The Gauchos jumped on Eshelman for a run in the first on two singles and an RBI groundout.  Fullerton got two hits in their half of the inning but stranded those runners and got three more hits in the third but saw one of those runners picked off and another one thrown out trying to go from first to third on a groundout.  Each team only had one hit over the next two innings before Eshelman walked Brandon Trinkwon, one of the most patient hitters in the conference, with one out in the sixth to end his streak without walking a hitter at 63 1/3 innings.  The Titans got two runners on in the sixth on a walk and a HBP before a DP ended the inning.  Anthony Hutting singled with one out in the seventh and it looked like Fullerton was going to be kept off of the scoreboard again when Chapman hit a hard grounder to short that looked like a tailor made DP ball but took a kangaroo hop off of the edge of the infield grass and bounced over the Trinkwon’s head and was misplayed in the OF for the Titans to end up with runners on second and third.  Austin Kingsolver squibbed a ball to 1B that couldn’t be played for a single to drive in Hutting to tie the game and Richy Pedroza beat out a potential DP ball to drive in the go ahead run.  Eshelman pitched another scoreless inning in the eighth and handed the ball off to Lorenzen to finish things off but it wasn’t an automatic save like it has usually been when he comes into the game.  Tyler Kuresa singled with one out for the Gauchos and Luke Swenson tripled into the RF corner to tie the game for Lorenzen’s first blown save in sixteen chances going back to last season.  Jackson Morrow followed with a clutch squeeze bunt with two strikes to give the UCSB the lead.  Diemer led off the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single off of Gauchos reliever Greg Mahle, Chapman and Kingsolver followed with four pitch walks off of UCSB closer Dylan Hecht and Justin Wilson came into the game to face Pedroza.  Wilson’s wild pitch brought home Diemer with the tying run and Pedroza’s SF to CF scored Chapman to win the game and set off a wild celebration on Pedroza’s second game winning ninth inning RBI in the last four games.  Eshelman was outstanding as he has been all season and allowed one run on five hits and one walk and seven strikeouts in eight innings and has a Big West leading 1.09 ERA while Lorenzen picked up his first win of the season after his teammates bailed him out.

Fullerton made sure things wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic on Saturday when they jumped all over UCSB starter Justin Jacome for three runs in the first and another in the second before knocking him out of the game with three more runs in the fourth.  Pedroza led off the bottom of the first with a single, Carlos Lopez doubled him to third, JD Davis’ infield single drove in Pedroza, Lorenzen was hit by a pitch and Wallach and Chapman followed with SF’s to each drive in runs.  The Gauchos scored in the top of the second and the Titans responded in the bottom of the inning when Diemer tripled to CF and Pedroza singled him in.  Fullerton extended the lead in the fourth when Jefferies doubled, Greg Velazgquez singled, they moved up on a groundout, Pedroza’s SF scored Jefferies, Lopez’s singled scored Velazquez and Davis’ triple drove in Lopez.  The Fullerton onslaught continued in the fifth when Wallach hit his first HR of the season, Chapman doubled and Diemer singled him in.  The teams traded HR’s in the later innings with UCSB’s Joe Woodward and Chapman each hitting their first HR’s of the season.  Justin Garza was the beneficiary of the offensive explosion as he improved his record to 7-0 by allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings with no walks and nine strikeouts and has a 2.36 ERA.  Tyler Peitzmeier and David Birosak each threw a scoreless inning to finish things off.

UCSB has had major problems getting anybody out on Sundays but Robby Nesovic turned that around in the final game of the series.  The Gauchos scored in the second when Grahamm Wiest struck out Nesovic but he reached first on a wild pitch.  Kuresa followed by hitting a long fly ball to RF that bounced off the orange stripe and back into the field and it was initially ruled to be a two run HR but was overruled and called a ground rule double.  Swenson’s RBI groundout scored a run but Kuresa was thrown out at home trying to score on a wild pitch to end the rally.  Fullerton got one runner on base in each of the first four innings but a runner caught stealing and two DP’s ended three of the innings.  UCSB scored in the fifth when Kuresa was hit by a pitch, Swenson singled, Morrow’s SAC bunt was misplayed to load the bases with no outs and a DP scored a run.  It looked like the Titans might get on the board in the bottom of the inning when Wallach walked, Keegan Dale singled and Pedroza walked with two outs but Lopez’s long fly ball to CF was caught up against the wall.  Wiest stranded two runners in the sixth and it looked like Fullerton might tie the game with two runners on and two outs when Chapman scorched a ball down the line and UCSB’s 3B Ryan Clark did his best impression of Brooks Robinson in the 1970 World Series and made a diving stop and threw out Chapman to end the inning.  Wiest worked out of trouble and left the bases loaded in the seventh and Nesovic came out of the game with two outs in the bottom of the inning after walking Kingsolver.  Mahle walked Lopez and Davis but got Lorenzen to fly out to LF to leave the bases loaded.  Peitzmeier retired all six batters he faced in the last two innings and Mahle walked a hitter in the ninth but that was the only baserunner in the last two innings as he picked up the save for UCSB to salvage a win in the series and Fullerton was shut out despite getting seven walks and two HBP’s.  Nesovic was the Big West pitcher of the week for throwing 6 2/3 shutout innings.  Wiest was the tough luck loser after allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in seven innings as he fell to 6-2 with a 2.70 ERA.

After crushing the ball against Pacific and struggling at UC Davis, the Fullerton offense had a more normal weekend and hit .299 in the UCSB series but couldn’t break through on Sunday and stranded eleven base runners.  The Titans continued to stay patient at the plate and had seventeen walks and HBP’s against the Gauchos and converted several of those free bases into runs in the first two games before being unable to come up with the key hit in the final game of the series.  The hitting leaders for the weekend were Davis (5-10, 2 RBI), Lopez (5-12, RBI), Diemer (4-6, 3 R), Pedroza (3-11, 4 RBI) and Chapman (3-10, HR, 2 RBI).  The pitching was outstanding once again with a 2.33 ERA and held UCSB to a .187 AVG and only allowed 17 hits and three walks with 24 strikeouts.

Fullerton got this week started by bouncing back from the loss to UCSB by traveling up to Malibu and beating Pepperdine 8-4 on Tuesday afternoon.  The Titans only had seven hits on the afternoon and three of them were by Greg Velazquez, who had a single, double and his first HR of the season and drove in three runs and Fullerton took advantage of the wildness of the Waves pitchers (6 BB’s, 2 HBP’s) and some poor defense (3 E’s) to get out to a 6-1 lead and put things away by scoring two runs in the seventh on a wild pitch and a passed ball.  Bryan Conant picked up his first win as a Titan with two scoreless innings as one of seven pitchers who saw action on the day and Koby Gauna picked up his second save with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.  Fullerton will look to carry the momentum from their win on Tuesday and get a new winning streak started but that won’t be easy with a trip up to the central coast waiting for them this weekend as they take on the Cal Poly Mustangs, who have gotten off to one of their better starts since moving up to D1 in the mid 1990’s.  When these two teams played last year, this was a hard fought series and the Titans had to come from behind in the final game with a run in the bottom of the ninth before winning in extra innings.  At the time, it just seemed like another series that Fullerton needed to stay in front of the Big West with Cal Poly sitting at .500 at the halfway point of the conference schedule but the final game of the series ended up deciding the conference race because the Mustangs made a strong charge in the second half of the Big West schedule to end up finishing one game behind the Titans.

Cal Poly Mustangs (25-9, 6-3 – tied for 2nd)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 21-14
  • 2012 Conference Record – 5-4 (tied for 3rd)
  • Post-Season – None
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 66/24.  2012 RPI/ISR – 67/27.  Cal Poly’s RPI went down by 24 spots after splitting their last two home games with Hawaii and Santa Clara. 
  • Pre-season ranking – none.  Current ranking – 16th by Collegiate Baseball, 22nd by NCBWA and USA Today/Coaches, 23rd by Perfect Game and Baseball America
  • Predicted conference finish – 3rd by Perfect Game, 4th by the Big West coaches, Baseball America and Easton College Baseball.

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

Cal Poly qualified for a regional for the first time as a D1 program in 2009 after near misses in 2005 and 2007 but wasn’t able to build off of the momentum of their regional appearance, getting off to a brutal start in 2010 when they won only ten of their first 37 games and only played .500 ball in 2011 after starting out 0-6 by ending up 28-27, although they were solid in conference games and finished in third at 15-9.  Unlike in 2011, when the Mustangs got off to such a slow start that their season was almost over before it started, they got off to a blazing start in 2012 with sweeps of Oklahoma State and LMU and were sitting at 7-1 after the first two weekends.  Cal Poly’s inconsistency returned after that and they only went 15-16 against the meat of their schedule, mixing in highs like a sweep of Irvine (the first time they were swept in a conference series since 2006) with lows like losing series at Minnesota and at home to Long Beach to start the Big West schedule.  The Mustangs showed what kind of team they could be when they nearly won the series at Fullerton, taking a lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Titans tied the game and won it in extra innings.  Cal Poly got red hot after that series and went 14-3 to end the season, although two of those losses were one run losses in a series loss at UC Davis.  The Mustangs swept four conference series but lost four Big West series and five conference games by one run due primarily to issues in their bullpen and that ultimately is what cost them a conference title and qualifying for a regional after they finished one game behind Fullerton at 16-8 in the Big West standings and 36-20 overall.

Cal Poly had issues on offense in 2011 adjusting to the new BBCOR bats because their offensive philosophy has been built on banging the ball around the ballpark.  The Mustangs only hit in the .250’s in non-conference games before starting to hit better when the weather warmed up and they hit in the .270’s during the conference part of the schedule.  Cal Poly’s offense was drastically improved in 2012 and they led the Big West in most offensive categories – scoring, AVG, OBP, SLG and HR while scoring at least six runs in 27 of their games.  The Mustangs were even better in conference games than they were earlier in the season and hit .313 and averaged almost seven runs per game while hitting almost an HR per game with 21 HR’s.  Cal Poly had pretty good patience at the plate as a team but they were taking big swings to generate that power and were second in the Big West in strikeouts.  The Mustangs had good team speed and were second in the conference in SB’s.  With the firepower that Cal Poly had, they didn’t feel the need to bunt much and were next to last in the conference in SAC’s.

Cal Poly had their best team ERA in 2011 since moving up to D1 in 1995 and their pitchers were the reason why they were able to finish in third in the Big West.  The Mustangs were 26-8 when they held their opponents to four runs or less but their lack of productivity on offense was shown when they only went 1-18 when their pitchers allowed five runs or more in a game.  Cal Poly’s team ERA was even better last season and they held teams to three runs or less nineteen times behind a dominant 1-2 punch at the front of their rotation that went 19-4 with a 2.82 ERA.  The Mustangs had issues with depth on their pitching staff and the other starters and the bullpen combined to go 17-16 with a 3.93 ERA and that ultimately was their undoing that prevented them from extending their season into June.

Cal Poly thought they had a chance to get off to a fast start this season with an experienced team that only lost two position players and one starting pitcher and that is exactly what they did in winning their first four series at USF, at home against Seattle, at Washington and Kansas State on their way to starting 13-1.  The Mustangs haven’t been playing as consistently lately and have only gone 12-8 over their last twenty games, losing their series at home to Notre Dame, winning a non-conference series with UCSB and sweeping UC Davis at home to start the Big West schedule before splitting their last six conference games, losing their series at UCSB and winning the first two games at home against Hawaii before dropping the final game of the series.

Cal Poly lost their two best offensive players from 2012 and has had a drop-off in production, averaging a run less per game with slight drops in AVG, OBP and SLG.  The Mustangs have been a bit of an all or nothing offense because they don’t run much except for their leadoff hitter and usually don’t bunt much except for a couple of players at the bottom of the lineup, relying on their power to generate runs and they lead the Big West in HR’s, SLG and 2B’s.  Cal Poly is still prone to striking out quite a bit but they aren’t as patient as they were in 2012, averaging almost a walk less per game with several of the hitters in the middle of the lineup having poor BB/K ratios.

Cal Poly has been getting dominant starting pitching once again on Fridays and Saturdays, with those two starters going 15-3 with a 2.24 ERA, and things have improved on Sundays and they aren’t blowing leads late in games.  The Mustangs had solid strikeout rates in 2012 but they changed pitching coaches after the season with less of an emphasis on pitching to contact, instead going for strikeouts and the result has been that they are averaging a strikeout per inning, which leads the conference and is #6 nationally.  The one area that Cal Poly has a weakness in is with their bullpen depth because they only have confidence in two relievers to come into games in tight situations and they have combined to throw more innings than any of their starters.


  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 110 (increases offense by 10%).  Baggett Stadium has a bit of a spacious ballpark (335 in the corners, 385 to the alleys, 405 to CF) with lots of foul territory and the wind tends to blow straight out.
  • Batting Average – .288 (3rd in the Big West, 75th nationally).  .297 in 2012 (1/36).
  • Scoring – 173 (4/142), 5.2 runs per game.  346 (1/53), 6.2 runs per game in 2011.
  • Home Runs – 21 (1/48).  36 in 2012 (1/64). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .420 (1/43).  .434 in 2012 (1/28).
  • On Base Percentage – .355 (5/154).  .372 in 2012 (1/77)
  • Walks – 90 (7/265), 2.7 per game.  195 in 2012 (4/165), 3.5 per game.
  • HBP’s – 36 (7/140).  57 in 2012 (7/131).
  • Strikeouts – 203 (5/xx), 6.2 per game.  360 in 2012 (2/xx), 6.4 per game.
  • Stolen Bases – 33-47 (6/160).  55-81 in 2012 (2/137). 
  • Sac Bunts – 31 (4/78).  38 in 2012 (8/179).


Cal Poly only lost one infielder from 2012 but it was a major loss in 1st team All-Big West SS Mike Miller, with a FR moving into the lineup to replace him.

C – JR #8 Chris Hoo (RH – .228/.297/.333, 1-14-0.  ’12 – .259/.342/.365, 2-23-0; ’11 – .203/.261/.250, 0-1-0 in 64 AB’s) split time behind the plate as a FR and was the full-time starter in 2012, earning 1st team All-Big West honors due to his outstanding defense.  He was only hitting .184 going into Fullerton series last season but hit the well the rest of the way and ended up hitting in the .270’s with 2 HR’s and 12 RBI in conference games.   Except for a hot start to the season when he went 6-11 with an HR and 8 RBI at USF, Hoo has struggled once again at the plate and has been platooning but has been starting at least twice a weekend in conference play while usually hitting 8th.  He went 4-12 with a key RBI single in the ninth inning in the third game of the series in 2012 at Fullerton and is 5-19 in his career against the Titans.

C – SR #5 Elliot Stewart (RH – .232/.349/.435, 3-9-1.  ’12 – Medical Redshirt.  ’11 – .252/.302/.391, 2-17-1) split time with Hoo in 2011 but missed last season after having TJ surgery on this throwing elbow.  He has been starting about once a week and has more power in his bat than Hoo does but isn’t quite as good behind the plate.

1B – FR #12 Mark Mathias (RH – .219 in 32 AB’s) only had six AB’s in the first 26 games of the season but has started the last seven games at 1B while hitting 7th.  He does a decent job of making contact and is a solid defensive player who started twice at SS earlier in the season.

1B/LF – JR #24 Tim Wise (RH – .190/.288/.270, 0-8-1. ’12 – .308/.394/.423, 3-28-11. ’11 –
.286/.305/.482, 2-11-0 in 56 AB’s) showed some power potential as a FR but his playing time was limited due to injuries.  He had over 100 plate appearances without an extra base hit to start 2012 and was only hitting .260 going into the Fullerton series but got red hot and had fourteen extra base hits over the last six weeks of the season and hit .356 in conference games on his way to earning 1st team All-Big West honors.  Wise did a good job of getting on base and was in the top ten in the conference in runs and has good speed for a big player and was also in the top ten in the Big West in SB’s.  He has been battling injuries all season and hasn’t gotten untracked, striking out about 25% of the time, and only had three AB’s in eight games before starting in a couple of games last weekend and will probably be a reserve this weekend.  Wise went 5-13 with two SB’s last season at Fullerton.

Other reserves who have seen playing time at 1B have been Soph #14 Jordan Brower (LH – .194 in 31 AB’s.  ’12 – .167 in 30 AB’s) and Soph #44 Tommy Pluschkell (RH – .273 in 22 AB’s.  ’12 –.264/.350/.297, 0-8-1), who got off to a very hot start when he was inserted into the lineup halfway through 2012 but cooled off and hasn’t been able to recapture that magic.

2B – SR #1 Denver Chavez (Both – .400/.468/.504, 0-14-11.  ’12 – .288/.429/.388, 1-10-8.   ’11 – .277/.379/.345, 1-13-2.  ’10 – .233 in 73 AB’s) was a reserve for most of 2010 until late in the season and was a reserve in the first few weeks on 2011 before getting regular playing time and had a very good 16/14 BB/K ratio and set the school record with a Big West leading 17 SAC bunts.  Chavez once again found himself on the bench at the beginning of 2012 but moved into the lineup halfway through the season and stayed there the rest of the way and hit .317 in conference games with a solid 12-12 BB/K ratio.  He has been in the lineup since opening day this season and has taken advantage of his playing time and been Cal Poly’s best player while hitting leadoff and setting the table for the lineup.  Chavez leads the Big West in runs and hits and is second in AVG and OBP and is also in the top ten in the conference in SLG, total bases and 2B’s and is in the top thirty nationally in AVG and hits.  He has maintained his plate discipline and has an excellent 12-9 BB/K ratio.  Chavez has also been running well and is third in the Big West in SB’s and has only been caught stealing once.  He went 3-6 at Fullerton last season and is 6-14 in his career against the Titans, with one of his two career HR’s coming against Fullerton.

SS – #6 FR Peter Van Gansen (LH – .300/.393/.350, 0-7-0) came into Cal Poly as a good prospect out of HS and had some big shoes to fill with Mike Miller moving on and he has done a good job both at the plate and in the field.  He has had excellent plate discipline for a FR with a 14/15 BB/K ratio.  Van Gansen is one of the better bunters on the team and leads the Big West with seven SAC’s.  He doesn’t have much power with four extra-base hits (3 doubles, 1 triple) and usually bats 9th.

3B – JR #15 Jimmy Allen (RH – .290/.340/.384, 1-25-4.  ’12 – .345/.372/.507, 3-44-9.  ’11 – .261/.307/.395, 1-15-2) is a good athlete who was drafted in the 39th round out of HS and ended up being the regular LF as a FR and was moved to 3B in 2012.  He got off to a slow start as a FR before hitting better down the stretch and hit .324 in Big West games.  Allen got off to a hot start in 2012 and stayed hot throughout the season and finished among the Big West leaders in H, 2B, 3B, RBI, TB and SLG and hit .388 in conference games on his way to earning 1st team All-Big West honors.  He also has good speed and finished 10th in the conference in SB’s.  Allen has good bat speed but he can tend to chase pitches and has struck out about 25% of the time and was among the conference leaders with 38 strikeouts in 2012 and has had bad plate discipline this season with a 4/22 BB/K ratio.  He has been having a decent year while hitting third but hasn’t had a breakout season like many people expected him to have.  Allen went 5-13 at Fullerton in 2012 and is 7-21 in his career against the Titans.


Cal Poly only lost one outfielder from 2012 but the loss was a major one with Big West player of the year Mitch Haniger being drafted in the supplemental first round and moving on.

LF – Soph #26 Jordan Ellis (LH – .339/.373/.492, 0-11-1.  ’12 – .200 in 15 AB’s) barely played in 2012 and only had five AB’s in the first fifteen games but once he got his chance to contribute he hasn’t come out of the lineup.  He hit .438 in his first nine games after getting into the lineup but has been slumping lately and only went 2-20 over the next six games before going 3-4 on Tuesday.  Ellis went 9-20 in the first two conference series but only went 1-11 last weekend against Hawaii.  He will usually hit second.  FR #2 John Schuknecht (RH – .243/.356/.459, 2-6-0) was playing regularly earlier in the season but lost his job to Ellis and hasn’t started in the last ten games.

CF – JR #13 David Armendariz (RH – .264/.313/.355, 1-12-7.  ’12 – .312/.366/.450, 4-36-13.  ’11 – .161/.175/.290, 1-4-0 in 62 AB’s) was given the chance to play early as a FR but struggled to get going before being replaced by Allen and didn’t play once conference play rolled around.  He got off to a bit of a slow start in 2012 compared to most of his teammates and was only hitting .258 with five RBI after eighteen games but got hot the rest of the way and hit .351 with three HR’s and 23 RBI in conference games.  Armendariz has a good power/speed combo and ended up in the top ten in the conference in HR’s and SB’s as well as in TB and SLG on his way to getting 2nd team All-Big West honors.  He will usually hit sixth and is still running and is second on the team in SB’s but hasn’t been hitting for nearly as much power with part of his problems the result of a poor 5/20 BB/K ratio.  Armendariz only went 4-23 in the first two conference series and sat out the first two games against Hawaii before returning to the lineup and going 2-4.  He had a good series at Fullerton in 2012, going 5-14 with two doubles.

RF – Soph #10 Nick Torres (RH – .328/340/.552, 6-29-4.  ’12 – .275/.360/.429, 5-28-0) got off to a hot start as a FR and was hitting .315 with 2 HR’s and 18 RBI’s over the first 24 games but cooled off considerably once Big West games started and only hit .215 in conference games.  He got off to a hot start once again this season and had an 18 game hitting streak earlier in the year but has cooled off lately and is only hitting .219 in conference games.  Torres is the cleanup hitter, has been one of the leading power hitters in the Big West and is among the conference leaders in HR, RBI, SLG, total bases, hits and 2B’s.  He has issues with plate discipline and led the team in strikeouts as a FR and has a poor 2/17 BB/K ratio this season.  Torres only went 1-10 at Fullerton but in his all or nothing style, the one hit was a big one because it was a three run HR.

DH – FR # 16 Brian Mundell (RH – .287/.352/.528, 7-23-2) is a big man who came into Cal Poly as a pretty well regarded recruit due to his power potential.  He has delivered on that promise and is tied for the lead in the Big West in HR’s and fifth in SLG and is already second in school history for the most HR’s by a FR.  Mundell got off to a hot start and hit all of his HR’s in a ten game stretch in March but has been struggling lately and is only hitting .212 in conference games.  He is a big man with a big swing and is third in the conference with 27 strikeouts.  Mundell will be batting fifth.


Fielding % – .973 (6/49) with 34 errors.  2012 – .978 (1/15) with 60 errors.  Cal Poly’s defense improved in 2012 after being below average for several years but they have regressed some this season with some of their issues being masked by a high strikeout rate by the pitching staff.  Hoo is one of the best catchers in the Big West.  1B has been a revolving door with Mathias settling things down over the last two weeks.  Chavez and Van Gansen make all of the plays on balls that they get to but have average range.  Allen was much better at 3B in 2012 and has been below average.  All of the OF’s are average to below average for their positions.

Stolen Base Attempts – 23-45 (4/xx).  2012 – 35-64 (2/xx).  Runners were 40-70 against Hoo in his first two seasons and are only 8-16 this year.   If Stewart gets a start this weekend, runners are 15-24 against him.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 24 (2/xx).  2012 – 39 (3/xx).  Cal Poly’s catchers have done a very good job the last couple of seasons of not letting runners take extra bases and their pitchers have confidence in them to keep the ball in front of them on pitches in the dirt.


  • ERA – 3.12 (3/43).  3.48 in 2012 (4/55).
  • AVG – .267 (3/125).  .270 in 2012 (6/107).
  • HR – 6 (2/xx).  15 HR in 2012 (3/xx).
  • Walks – 102 (5/54), 3.1 BB/9 IP.  155 (3/27), 2.8 BB/9 IP in 2012.
  • HBP – 25 (4/xx).  30 in 2012 (2/xx).
  • OBP – .339 (5/xx).  .335 in 2012 (4/xx).
  • SLG – .342 (3/xx).  .341 in 2012 (6/xx).
  • WHIP – 1.35 (5/92). 1.33 in 2012 (5/60).
  • Strikeouts – 298 (1/6), 9.0 K/9 IP.  369 (3/132), 6.7 K/9 IP in 2012.


Cal Poly had two starters who earned All-Big West honors in 2012 and lost one of them, LHP Kyle Anderson, and the Sunday SP spot was plagued by inconsistency.  The Mustangs have been getting solid starts in almost every game this season with one of the middle relievers and the midweek starter taking their turn in the weekend rotation.

SR #30 Joey Wagman (RHP – 7-2, 2.95 ERA, 9 GS, 2 CG, 61 IP, 54 H, 17 BB, 72 K, .234 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 1-4 SB.  ’12 – 9-3, 2.33 ERA, 15 GS, 1 CG, 108 IP, 94 H, 21 BB, 79 K, .234 AVG, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 6 WP, 3-9 SB.  ’11 – 4-3, 3.62 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 7 GS, 65 IP, 54 H, 17 BB, 52 K, .228 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 5 WP, 3-6 SB.  ’10 – 1-2, 7.09 ERA, 12 apps, 5 starts, 33 IP, 45 H, 24 BB, 25 K, .328 AVG, 2 HR, 6 HBP, 7 WP, 3-5 SB) was a swingman in 2011 between midweek starter and middle reliever and he made a couple of weekend starts in Big West games.  He was moved into the Friday SP last season and thrived, finishing third in the conference in wins and ERA, second in IP and fifth in K’s and allowed two earned runs or less in ten of his starts and allowed only two earned runs in his last three starts and was 1st team All-Big West.  Wagman has gotten off to a strong start again this season and leads the conference in strikeouts and is #9 nationally despite not being a hard thrower with a fastball that sits in the 86-87 range along with an excellent changeup that he throws to freeze hitters, a curveball and a slider.  He is second in the conference and #8 nationally in wins, third in IP and eighth in AVG.  Wagman is especially tough to beat at home, where he is 5-0 in five starts with a 1.95 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 37 innings.  He usually has excellent control with two walks or less in seven of his nine starts, which allows him to pitch deep into games.  Wagman has had at least seven strikeouts in seven of his starts.  He is also very tough to run on and has only allowed 10-24 SB’s in his career.  Wagman allowed 5 R (3 ER) in 4 IP in two career relief appearances against Fullerton in 2010-2011 and lost his start at Fullerton in 2012 when he allowed 5 R (4 ER) on 7 H in 5 IP so he will be extra motivated against the Titans in the last time that he will face them.

Soph #48 Matt Imhof (LHP – 4-1, 1.51 ERA, 9 GS, 60 IP, 56 H, 17 BB, 57 K, .256 AVG, 2 HR, 12 HBP, 3 WP, 4-9 SB.  ’12 – 1-0, 3.04 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 4 GS, 47 IP, 37 H, 22 BB, 31 K, .222 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP, 7-9 SB) made some weekend starts as a FR when Cal Poly had four game weekends but ended up pitching out of the bullpen the rest of the time.  He was tough to hit but had some occasional command issues but he has straightened them out while working relief and has the most upside at the next level of the three starters.  Imhof has been doing a good job of spotting his fastball that sits in the 88-90 range and has a very good breaking slider that he uses as his swing and miss pitch and he is second in the Big West in strikeouts and he has struck out 11 hitters twice, including last weekend against Hawaii.  He has allowed either one or no earned runs in six of his starts, hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts and is second in the conference in ERA and has been especially tough at home, where he is 2-0 with a 0.30 ERA in four starts.  Imhof works inside to keep hitters off of the plate and leads the Big West with 12 HBP’s despite having solid control and not walking more than three batters in any of his starts.  He is doing a better job of holding runners this year, has an excellent move to first and leads the conference with five pickoffs.  Imhof threw very well in his relief appearance at Fullerton in 2012, holding the Titans to one run in 4 1/3 innings to keep Cal Poly in the Sunday game before Fullerton came back late to win the game and the series.

Soph #23 Ryan Granger (RHP – 5-3, 4.47 ERA, 9 GS, 44 IP, 50 H, 15 BB, 22 K, .299 AVG, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 4 WP, 5-10 SB.  ’12 – 1-1, 3.60 ERA, 8 GS, 30 IP, 34 H, 10 BB, 19 K, .293 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 2-4 SB) was the midweek starter in 2012 and ended up in the weekend rotation for his final two starts and threw six shutout innings at Riverside in the final game of the season.  He threw well in winning his first three starts, allowing 5 R (3 ER) in 19 IP against USF, Seattle and Washington, before scuffling and allowing five runs in each of his next two starts against Kansas State and Notre Dame.  He bounced back in his next three starts to pick up two wins against UCSB, allowing 3 R in 11 1/3 IP, and a no decision in 5 IP (2 R) against UC Davis but didn’t have it last weekend when he allowed 4 R on 7 H in 1 2/3 IP against Hawaii.  Granger isn’t a hard thrower with a fastball that sits in the upper 80’s and his best pitch is his slider and he has only struck out more than three hitters in one of his starts.

The midweek starters are FR #37 Casey Bloomquist (RH – 1-0, 6.94 ERA, 3 apps, 2 GS, 12 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 13 K, .304 AVG) and SR #42 Kyle Brueggemann (RHP – 1-0, 6.35 ERA, 4 GS, 17 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 16 K, .314 AVG.  ’12 – 4-4, 5.49 ERA, 13 GS, 57 IP, 76 H, 16 BB, 44 K, .315 BA, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 4-8 SB), who was the Sunday starter in 2012.  Bloomquist has thrown well in his last two starts against Bakersfield and Santa Clara, allowing two runs in each start and giving the Cal Poly coaching staff something to think about if they decide to take Granger out of the weekend rotation after his abbreviated start last Sunday.  Brueggemann has a good arm but was too inconsistent in 2012 due to not having much more than a solid fastball so when he was off he had no other pitches to fall back on.  He only made it into the 4th in his start at Fullerton in 2012 before being removed.


The relief pitching was a strong area for Cal Poly in 2011 but that wasn’t the case for most of 2012 despite having a couple of pitchers with mid 90’s fastballs because the bullpen was responsible for losing ten games in the late innings that the Mustangs either were tied or had the lead in and the bullpen was probably the main reason that Cal Poly wasn’t in a regional last season.  The situation improved once the two flamethrowers were taken out of the set-up and closer roles and a couple of FR were moved into those spots with the Mustangs winning nine of their last ten games and going 14-3 down the stretch.  Cal Poly doesn’t have much depth in their bullpen and is relying primarily on two pitchers late in games.

Soph #41 Reed Reilly (RHP – 2-1, 1.83 ERA, 9 saves, 21 apps, 39 IP, 35 H, 11 BB, 50 K, .245 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 3 WP, 3-5 SB.  ’12 – 5-2, 2.80 ERA, 1 save, 25 apps, 55 IP, 57 H, 13 BB, 45 K, .288 AVG, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 5-10 SB.  ’11 – Redshirt) was the most reliable option in middle relief as a FR and moved into the closer’s role midway through the conference season as the other closer options faltered and he pitched very well down the stretch with a 1.61 ERA in twelve Big West games.  He was a workhorse who finished fifth in the conference in appearances and was 2nd team All Big-West.  Reilly has been even better this season and has allowed an earned run in only four of his conference leading 21 appearances and is second in the Big West with nine saves.  He is durable and able to pitch several innings without much of a problem and has pitched more than an inning in eleven of his appearances and has gone at least three innings six times.  Reilly throws in the low 90’s and has been getting great movement on his splitter and slider that he uses as his swing and miss pitches and he is 10th nationally averaging 11.4 K’s per 9 IP and has struck out at least two hitters twelve times.  He had an outstanding outing at Fullerton in 2012 when he picked up Cal Poly’s only win in the series with four scoreless innings in which he allowed only one hit.

JR #36 Michael Holback (RHP – 2-1, 3.86 ERA, 1 save, 13 apps, 28 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 35 K, .275 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 2-4 SB.  ’12 – 0-2, 2.60 ERA, 1 save, 19 apps, 28 IP, 22 H, 13 BB, 25 K, .224 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 5 WP, 2-4 SB) is the middle reliever most likely to come into a game before Reilly is brought in and also throws in the low 90’s with a slider that he uses as his swing and miss pitch and has been getting hitters to do that quite a bit, averaging 11.3 K’s per 9 IP.  Holback hasn’t been quite as consistent as he was in 2012 and after getting off to a good start when he allowed only two runs in 17 IP, he was hit hard in his next three outings and allowed ten runs in four innings.  He bounced back last weekend against Hawaii and kept Cal Poly in the game on Sunday with five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits with six strikeouts.


JR #32 Chase Johnson (RHP – 0-0, 4.35 ERA, 7 apps, 10 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 13 K, .308 AVG.  ’12 – 3-4, 3.34 ERA, 8 saves, 25 apps, 35 IP, 29 H, 13 BB, 31 K, .244 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 3-4 SB.  ’11 – 2-5, 3.67 ERA, 18 apps, 8 GS, 49 IP, 49 H, 21 BB, 34 K, .269 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB) was a 26th round pick out of HS because of his live arm and has a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s range and a slider that he uses as his strikeout pitch.  He had issues with his control as a FR and those continued last season when he started out as the closer, finishing third in the Big West in saves, but lost his job during the conference season.  He hasn’t regained his confidence nor have the coaches regained their confidence in him and he has been limited to mostly pitching in long relief and non-pressure situations.

Soph #27 Taylor Chris (LHP – 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1 save, 10 apps, 10 IP, 7 H, 9 BB, 8 K, .219 AVG) is the only LHP in the bullpen and might come into the game for a batter or two this weekend but the coaching staff usually doesn’t rely on him to come into the game in high pressure situations, preferring to have him pitch in midweek games and long relief.

Soph #35 Danny Zandona (RHP – 2-1, 2.08 ERA, 6 apps, 13 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 11 K, .250 AVG.  ’12 – 0-1, 4.85 ERA, 1 save, 7 apps, 1 GS, 13 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 8 K, .250 AVG) is the other long reliever on the pitching staff and usually doesn’t come into the game in a high pressure situation, although he has usually  thrown well when called upon and struck out four of the five Santa Clara batters he faced on Tuesday.


Fullerton has been one of the more consistent teams on the west coast, which you have to be in order to put together three separate ten game winning streaks in the same season.  The Titans might occasionally have trouble scoring in a game but they will battle and stay patient with their approach at the plate and with the outstanding starting pitching they have been receiving that has been enough to win all nine series they have played with sweeps in six of them.  That approach has also lent itself well to playing on the road, where Fullerton has the best record in the country away from home at 17-1.

Cal Poly traditionally plays very well at home and has their issues on the road and this year is no exception.  The Mustangs have gone 98-57 in SLO since 2008 but are only 64-83 away from home over the last six seasons.  Fullerton has also had their issues playing at Baggett Stadium in recent times with Cal Poly winning two of the last three series the teams have played on the central coast.

Both teams have the potential to be explosive on offense because they lead the conference in HR’s and SLG percentage.  Fullerton prefers to grind pitchers down by working counts and getting the key hit while Cal Poly prefers to be aggressive early in counts and jump on mistakes.  The team whose approach works best will go a long way towards determining who wins this series.

Runs figure to be tough to come by in the first two games with the way the starting pitchers for both teams are throwing and the four starters have combined to go 25-4.  Cal Poly has an element that Fullerton doesn’t have with a closer that they don’t mind going to for 2-3 innings but the Titans have a much deeper bullpen.  If Fullerton is able to get into Cal Poly’s bullpen early in the series they will have an advantage.  The Titans also have an advantage in the pitching matchup on Sunday.

This is the biggest series that Cal Poly has played in several years where they knew what was at stake in the series (nobody knew last season that the Big West title would be decided in that series) going back to 2009, the only time in their last three visits to SLO that Fullerton won a series up there.  It will be interesting to see how the Mustangs handle the pressure of playing in a big series.  Fullerton is used to playing on the road and used to playing in tough environments and tough situations.  This figures to be a closely fought series like the one at Goodwin Field was last season but Fullerton looks like they are a slightly better team and will find a way to narrowly escape SLO with a series win.