Friday, May 31, 2013

Wiest Finishes Off Masterpiece



Grahamm Wiest gets an assist from Matt Chapman and then completes 3-hitter as Titans defeat Columbia 4-1 in Fullerton Regional opener.

Fullerton Regional: New Mexico Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

No. 3 Seed – New Mexico Lobos
  • Overall Record – 37-20
  • Conference Record – 25-5 (1st place) in the Mountain West Conference
  • How they qualified for a regional – At-large
  • Last regional appearance – 2012.  1-2 at UCLA regional.  Win against San Diego, losses to UCLA and Creighton. 
  • RPI/ISR – 51/38 (Fullerton opponent ISR comparison – UCSB 31, Texas A&M 43)
  • SOS – 115 (RPI)/85 (ISR)
  • Record vs. tournament field – 7-7.  Non-conference – 1-2 vs. Oklahoma State, 0-1 at Arizona State, 1-1 at Arkansas.  Conference – 5-3 vs. San Diego State.
  • Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 1-5/14-11

Season Summary

Ray Birmingham arrived in Albuquerque for the 2008 season after a long and successful career coaching at the JC level and immediately changed the culture of the program and had New Mexico in a regional in his third season in 2010, when they played at Fullerton and beat Stanford in their first regional game since 1962 before losing their next two games to Minnesota and Fullerton.  The Lobos had a rebuilding year in 2011 when they won only sixteen regular season games but got hot in the MWC tournament and upset heavily favored TCU twice to win the conference’s automatic bid and had Arizona State on the ropes in the opening game of the regional in Tempe before the Sun Devils came back late to win and they lost their next game to Arkansas.  New Mexico was much better in 2012 and shared the regular season championship with TCU and rolled to the MWC tournament title by outscoring their three opponents 40-5 and defeated San Diego in their opening game at the UCLA regional before losing to UCLA and Creighton to be eliminated.

New Mexico expected to have a strong team this season because they were returning their four best hitters from 2012, including All-American DJ Peterson, and were nationally ranked in some of the pre-season polls despite losing two of their best starting pitchers.  The Lobos got off to a slow start at 2-6 after losing their opening series at home to Oklahoma State, losing two out of three games in a tournament at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and losing both games at Nebraska and split four games against UC Riverside in their last non-conference series.  New Mexico was only 6-9 going into their MWC schedule when they started playing much better and won two out of three games in each of their first four series, swept their next four series, won two out of three at Fresno State and swept their series at San Diego State to end the regular season on an 18-2 roll with a 25-5 conference record to win the regular season title by seven games.  The Lobos won their first two games in the MWC tournament against Nevada and UNLV before running out of pitching and losing twice to San Diego State 8-7 and 9-4 as the Aztecs won the tournament and the conference’s automatic bid.


Offense

·       Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 133 (increases offense by 33%).  Albuquerque is a mile above sea level and New Mexico doesn’t use a humidor like the Colorado Rockies do to keep the ball from flying out of the yard.
·       Batting Average – .336 (NCAA ranking – 1st, conference ranking 1st); .354 in conf. games (1st).
·       Scoring – 479 (1, 1), 8.4 runs per game; 279 (1st), 9.3 runs per game in conf. games.
·       Home Runs – 52 (17, 1); 33 in conf. games (1st).
·       Slugging Percentage – .510 (2, 1); .560 in conf. games (1st).
·       On Base Percentage – .424 (1, 1); .436 in conf. games (1st).
·       Walks – 282 (11, 1), 4.9 per game; 147 (1st), 4.9 per game in conf. games.
·       HBP’s – 61 (113, 4); 26 in conf. games (5th).
·       Stolen Bases – 71-98 (105, 2); 30-49 in conf. games (3rd).
·       Sac Bunts – 49 (88, 3); 30 in conf. games (3rd).
·       Strikeouts – 346 (DNR, 6), 6.1 per game; 167 (6th), 5.6 per game in conf. games.

New Mexico had the best offense in the country this season and led the nation in scoring, batting, and on base percentage and was second in slugging.  Playing at elevation and in a conference where four of the six ballparks significantly inflate offense has helped them to put up those types of lofty numbers but that type of production isn’t a fluke.  The Lobos have been held to four runs or less only thirteen times this season.  New Mexico has a sound hitting philosophy where they are very patient and wait for their pitch and when they get it they usually don’t miss it because they are eleventh in the country in walks but had the fewest strikeouts in their conference.  New Mexico will also play some little ball with five players having six or more SAC bunts and four players having at least eight stolen bases.

Batting Order

RF – JC transfer #12 Chase Harris (RH – .328/.380/.470, 5-48-19) came into the program this season and has literally hit the ground running and is second in the MWC in stolen bases and is also among the conference leaders in R, H, 2B, HR and RBI.  He is an aggressive hitter who doesn’t walk much with a 16/35 BB/K but makes up for it with the power that he provides as a leadoff hitter.  Harris is a good bunter and will also try to use his speed to bunt for hits and has six SAC bunts.

2B – FR #5 Sam Haggerty (Both – .280/.418/.379, 1-32-4) was the Co-FR of the Year in the MWC and 2nd team all-conference as an all-around solid player offensively and defensively.  He does an excellent job of getting on base and was second in the MWC in runs.  Haggerty will work counts and see lots of pitches, drawing lots of walks as the leader in the conference in that area and also striking out quite a bit with a 47/45 BB/K ratio.  He is an excellent bunter and led the MWC with fifteen SAC bunts so he will often be asked to bunt runners over.

1B – JR #33 DJ Peterson (RH – .411/.525/.823, 18-70-5) has been one of the best hitters in the country over the last two seasons and also hit over .400 in 2012 with 17 HR and 78 RBI.  He is in the top ten nationally in AVG, R, 2B, HR, RBI, SLG and OBP, will be one of the finalists for the Golden Spikes award for the national player of the year and will be a first round pick in the MLB draft next week.  Peterson has excellent plate discipline for a power hitter with a 46/32 BB/K ratio and teams have showed him a great deal of respect by intentionally walking him sixteen times instead of letting him beat them.

C – SR #10 Mitch Garver (RH – .387/.455/.580, 5-65-12) is a three year starter and the leader of the team who has done an excellent job of providing protection in the lineup for Peterson and was Co-MVP of the MWC with him.  Garver led the conference in hits, was second in the MWC in AVG and RBI and was also among the leaders in the conference in R, 2B, 3B, HR, SLG and OBP.  He is a versatile player with good speed for a catcher and was also in the top ten in the MWC in SB’s.  Garver has good plate discipline and had a solid 27/33 BB/K ratio.  He is a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award for the national catcher of the year and the MLB scouts have also noticed his ability and he will be drafted in the 7th-10th rounds next week as a good SR signing.

DH – Soph #3 Alex Real (RH – .320/.405/.524, 8-36-2) only hit .271 as a FR but has stepped up his game this season and was among the MWC leaders in HR’s and SLG as a power threat in the middle of the lineup.  Real didn’t hit much in non-conference games but had a strong conference season when he hit .349 with 6 HR’s and a .624 SLG% and was second team All-MWC.  He will see lots of pitches and also swing at lots of pitches and had a 27/40 BB/K ratio.  Soph #34 Ryan Padilla (LH – .270/.396/.443, 3-18-0) hit .353 as a FR but hasn’t hit as well this season and has become the fourth OF and part-time DH and would be the most likely batter called upon to pinch-hit late in a game.

CF – SR #24 Josh Melendez (RH – .335/.434/.491, 3-41-13) came into the program as a JC transfer in 2012 and had an immediate impact, hitting .349, and has continued to hit this season and was among the conference leaders in R, H, 2B, 3B, RBI and OBP and was 1st team All-MWC.  He is another patient hitter who had a strong 36/34 BB/K ratio and was third in the conference in walks.  Melendez also has good speed and was among the MWC leaders in SB’s and will sometimes try to drop a bunt down for a hit and has six SAC bunts.

LF – SR #18 Luke Campbell (RH – .382/.447/.602, 7-49-8) hit .301 and was third on the team in AVG as a JC transfer in 2011 but had to redshirt last year when he was injured a week before the season started.  He has been busy making up for lost time and was 2nd team All-MWC after finishing among the conference leaders in AVG, R, H, 2B, HR, RBI and SLG.  Campbell doesn’t walk much but doesn’t strike out much either with a solid 18/20 BB/K ratio.

3B – SR #4 Alex Albritton (RH – .321/.353/.418, 2-38-3) is one of the team leaders with Garver as a four year starter who has played all over the infield during his career.  He didn’t hit much in his first three years with a .250 AVG but has had a good SR season that was recognized by the conference coaches who voted him first team All-MWC.  He has below average plate discipline with an 11/35 BB/K ratio.  Albritton is a good bunter with 23 SAC bunts over the last three seasons, including seven this year.

SS – FR #6 Jared Holley (RH – .280/.385/.320, 0-18-3) is a little guy who is about the same size as Fullerton’s Richy Pedroza and has the same scrappy approach to playing the game.  He doesn’t have much power with only six extra base hits (all 2B’s) and doesn’t walk much but does a good job of making contact and has a 13/22 BB/K ratio.  Holley is an excellent bunter and was third in the MWC with twelve SAC bunts.


Defense

·       Fielding – .969 (113, 2) – 70 errors, 48 unearned runs.  .974 (2nd) with 31 errors in conf. games.  New Mexico is a decent fielding team that did a better job during conference play.  Peterson and Albritton are solid on the corners and have been used to playing more challenging positions earlier in their careers.  Haggerty and Holley have good range up the middle and were second and third in the MWC in assists but they are FR and have combined to make 26 errors.  Campbell, Melendez and Harris have good range because OF’s need to with the way the ball flies all over the park at New Mexico.  The pitchers have been their own worst enemies because they have made sixteen errors.

·       Stolen Base Attempts – 58-81 (DNR, 4).  Garver has a solid arm and runners are 47-64 on stolen base attempts against him.

·       WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 76 (DNR, 6).  Garver does not do a good job of blocking pitches and New Mexico allowed the most WP’s/PB’s in the MWC.


Pitching

Pitchers don’t have an easy go of it trying to get hitters out in the launching pad at New Mexico but every season there are a few pitchers for the Lobos who put up solid numbers while the rest of the staff struggles and this year is no different.  New Mexico has only had one reliable starter for most of the year but had an excellent trio of relievers who were able to shorten games while the offense bashed their way to wins until one of those relievers was moved into the rotation three weeks ago and became another viable starter.
  • ERA – 5.03 (221/4); 4.65 in conference (2nd). 
  • AVG – .284 (196/3); .284 in conference (3rd). 
  • HR – 36 (DNR/6); 14 in conference (1st). 
  • SLG – .404 (DNR/4); .390 in conference (3rd).  
  • Walks – 223 (188/4), 3.9 BB’s/9 IP; 102 (3rd) in conference, 3.4 BB’s/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 66 (DNR/3); 43 in conference (1st). 
  • OBP – .370 (DNR/4); .369 in conference (3rd). 
  • Strikeouts – 354 (174/5), 6.2 K/9 IP; 158 in conference (6th), 5.3 K/9 IP. 
Starters

JR #37 Josh Walker (RHP – 11-0, 3.91 ERA, 7 saves, 28 apps, 3 GS, 1 CG, 71 IP, 72 H, 18 BB, 52 K, .268 AVG, 4 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB) is in the top ten nationally in wins despite not starting a game until three weeks ago and ended up finishing third in the MWC in appearances and saves.  Walker has been effective all season with a 3.05 ERA except for one disastrous outing against San Diego State when he allowed seven runs to inflate his ERA by almost a run.  He was moved into the rotation three weeks ago as New Mexico attempted to find anybody to get outs as a weekend starter and he has been solid with a 3-0 record and a 2.38 ERA in his three starts, throwing a shutout at Fresno State, allowing three runs in five innings at San Diego State and allowing three runs in 8 2/3 IP against Nevada in the MWC tournament.  Walker throws from a low 3/4 arm slot that makes it tough on hitters to pick up the ball and has an upper 80’s fastball and a slider.  He does a very good job of holding runners.

SR #7 Sam Wolff (RHP – 7-3, 3.05 ERA, 15 GS, 86 IP, 78 H, 36 BB, 78 K, .244 AVG, 5 HR, 7 HBP, 9 WP, 14-22 SB) has been the one constant in the weekend rotation, has had an excellent SR season and was voted first team All-MWC after finishing among the conference leaders in W’s, ERA, IP, K’s and AVG.  He was especially tough in MWC games, where he went 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA, and has allowed three runs or less in each of his last ten starts including four straight starts in which he only allowed one run.  Wolff has been tough to hit and has only given up fifteen hits in his last 33 IP over his last five starts. He wasn’t striking out many hitters earlier in the season but has been averaging a strikeout per inning over his last four starts.  Wolff isn’t a big guy but throws hard with a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range along with a solid changeup and breaking ball but sometimes runs into control issues and averages about three walks allowed per game.  He doesn’t do a good job of holding runners so that is something to keep an eye on.  Wolff is expected to drafted in the 8th-10th round next week as a good SR signing.

FR #20 Drew Bridges (RHP – 3-1, 4.46 ERA, 11 apps, 9 GS, 42 IP, 37 H, 18 BB, 21 K, .247 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 2-3 SB) would be one of the options to start a third game this weekend.  He is a tall guy with some upside but has been inconsistent and hasn’t thrown more than five innings in a start since his best outing of the season when he allowed no runs in 5 1/3 IP at Arkansas.  Bridges was taken out last Saturday after allowing two runs on five hits in three innings to San Diego State in the MWC tournament. He has struggled with his control and doesn’t have a swing miss pitch to put hitters away.

JC transfer #28 A.J. Carman (RHP – 1-1, 6.05 ERA, 14 GS, 58 IP, 70 H, 28 BB, 24 K, .307 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 5 WP, 10-15 SB) would be the other option to make a start this weekend but would be on a very short leash because he hasn’t gotten out of the fourth inning in any of his last four starts.  He isn’t a hard thrower and doesn’t have good control, which results in him putting too many runners on base by walks and guys hitting the ball around the yard against him.

Relievers

New Mexico had three excellent options to go to when Walker was the closer but they had to move somebody into the rotation to give stabilize things.  They still have a good RHP/LHP combo in the bullpen in the set-up and closer roles but things thin out in a hurry after that.

SR #2 Gabe Aguilar (LHP – 5-2, 2.55 ERA, 3 saves, 27 apps, 35 IP, 29 H, 9 BB, 37 K, .232 AVG, 2 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 5-5 SB) inherited the closer’s role from Walker and has had an excellent season after only throwing five innings in 2012 and was first team All-MWC.  He has a funky sidearm motion that is especially tough on LH hitters that has allowed him to strike out a batter per inning despite not being a hard thrower.  New Mexico has gone to Aguilar often this season and he was fourth in the conference in appearances.

SR #29 Hobie McClain (RHP – 3-1, 4.44 ERA, 1 save, 30 apps, 47 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 33 K, .274 AVG, 2 HR, 12 HBP, 4 WP, 2-2 SB) also throws from a sidearm slot that makes it tough on RH hitters but LH hitters have hit well against him.  He has control issues, averaging about 3 1/2 walks per 9 IP, and was among the MWC leaders in HBP’s. McClain has also taken the ball often and was second in the conference in appearances.

Other relievers

JC transfer #11 Jonathan Cuellar (RHP – 2-1, 5.87 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 2 GS, 38 IP, 50 H, 14 BB, 19 K, .323 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 5 WP, 6-9 SB)

JR #38 Jake McCasland (RHP – 1-1, 5.09 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 18 IP, 19 H, 8 BB, 16 K, .279 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 6 WP, 2-3 SB)

JR #58 Josh McAlister (RHP – 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 apps, 14 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 9 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB)

Soph #26 Alex Estrella (LHP – 0-1, 6.68 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 5 GS, 32 IP, 41 H, 12 BB, 21 K, .311 AVG, 5 HR, 1 HBP, 6 WP, 0-0 SB)

JC transfer #19 Kevin Baumgartner (LHP – 2-5, 8.35 ERA, 12 apps, 6 GS, 32 IP, 47 H, 10 BB, 22 K, .333 AVG, 5 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 10-11 SB)

SR #41 Will Mathis (LHP – 0-4, 8.05 ERA, 21 apps, 19 IP, 32 H, 11 BB, 15 K, .376 AVG, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 6 WP, 1-2 SB)


Outlook

New Mexico didn’t start the season off well, struggling with some good opponents (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Nebraska) and went 1-5 against those teams and even split four games at home with Riverside, one of bottom three teams in the Big West conference.  The light bulb went on for the Lobos once they got into conference play and they have been playing well since then until getting upset twice by San Diego State last weekend.  The question for New Mexico is going to be which team shows up, the one that struggled against better competition in non-conference games or the one that usually drilled lesser opponents in the MWC but they will not be psyched out by playing on the big stage because this is the fourth straight season that they have played in a regional. Moving Walker into the rotation gives the Lobos a chance to put together solid starts in the first two games and that could potentially make them one of the final two teams left standing this weekend but the depth in the rotation drops off of the cliff after that.  New Mexico would probably have to bash their way to wins on Sunday and potentially Monday but Fullerton and ASU figure to have enough offense and too much pitching depth, especially Fullerton, for the Lobos to advance out of the regional and into a super regional next weekend.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fullerton Regional: Arizona State Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

No. 2 Seed – Arizona State Sun Devils
  • Overall Record – 35-20-1
  • Conference Record – 16-14 (4th place, tied with Stanford)
  • How they qualified for a regional – At-large
  • Last regional appearance – 2011.  3-0 at Arizona State regional – wins against New Mexico, Charlotte and Arkansas.  1-2 vs. Texas at Austin super regional.  Ineligible for post-season in 2012.
  • RPI/ISR – 21/17 (Fullerton opponent ISR comparison – Cal Poly 18)
  • SOS – 30 (RPI)/12 (ISR)
  • Record vs. tournament field – 12-5.  Non-conference – 2-0 vs. Arkansas, 2-0 at Wichita State, 1-0 vs. New Mexico, 2-1 vs. Valparaiso.  Conference – 2-1 vs. Oregon, 2-1 vs. UCLA, 1-2 at Oregon State.
  • Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 7-4/17-12

Season Summary

Unlike the other two teams who are traveling to Fullerton this weekend, Arizona State is traditionally one of the elite programs in the country and when you ask somebody to name some of the best college baseball programs, ASU will be on the short list of names that comes up.   The Sun Devils have made 36 regional appearances, won five national championships and have gone to Omaha eleven times since their most recent College World Series title in 1981, including four times in six years between 2005 and 2010, and they have won at least 30 games for fifty straight seasons.  ASU played in regionals twelve straight times from 2000 to 2011 until they were placed on probation for violations committed by former head coach Pat Murphy and were ineligible for the post-season in 2012 so they came into this season looking to make amends and start a new post-season streak.

ASU lost their four leading home run hitters, their best starting pitcher and their closer from 2012 but a program like ASU doesn’t rebuild, they reload and that is exactly what they did with a consensus top ten recruiting class.   The Sun Devils got the season started by winning series at home against Bethune-Cookman and on the road at Tennessee before hosting a tournament that included Arkansas, whom they beat twice, Pacific, whom they beat once, and Gonzaga, whom they tied due to a travel curfew.  ASU improved their record to 11-2-1 going into conference play when they swept Long Beach at home and won a midweek game against New Mexico in extra innings.

ASU got off to a slow start in Pac 11 play by losing their first two series to Washington State and at Oregon State, the highlight of which was a no-hitter by FR LHP Ryan Kellogg at OSU.  The Sun Devils returned home and re-established themselves as one of the better teams in the conference when they won their series against UCLA and Oregon, which got them started on a 16-5 run that included series wins against USC, Valparaiso and Utah and wins in five of six midweek games.  ASU has not been playing well over the last month and is only 6-7 during that time while losing three of their four weekend series, which includes losing a series at home to Stanford, winning a series at Cal and losing series at home to Arizona and at Washington to end the regular season.


Offense

·       Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 118 (increases offense by 18%).  The elevation at Packard Stadium is almost 1200 feet high so the ball flies out of the ballpark, especially in the short power alleys at 365 feet.  The grass on the playing surface is kept short and gets rock hard when the weather warms up so balls get through the infield quickly.
·       Batting Average – .296 (NCAA ranking – 41, conference ranking 1st); .289 in conf. games (2nd).
·       Scoring – 360 (44, 2), 6.4 runs per game; 183 (2nd), 6.1 runs per game in conf. games.
·       Home Runs – 46 (27, 1); 26 in conf. games (1st).
·       Slugging Percentage – .450 (21, 1); .441 in conf. games (1st).
·       On Base Percentage – .378 (53, 3); .374 in conf. games (1st).
·       Walks – 212 (168, 4), 3.8 per game; 120 (3rd), 4.0 per game in conf. games.
·       HBP’s – 63 (107, 5); 33 in conf. games (3rd).
·       Stolen Bases – 43-66 (209, 6); 18-30 in conf. games (8th).
·       Sac Bunts – 24 (253, 10); 18 in conf. games (10th).
·       Strikeouts – 358 (DNR, 3), 6.4 per game; 184 (4th), 6.1 per game in conf. games.

Playing little ball isn’t part of ASU’s game plan because they hardly ever bunt to move runners over and don’t attempt to steal bases too often.  With their ballpark, that’s not a bad way to run their offense because the Sun Devils go up to the plate looking to swing their bats and hit the ball somewhere – hard – and the result of that philosophy has been the Sun Devils having the best offense in the Pac 11.  ASU’s hitters will work counts and see lots of pitches because they walk at a good rate and they also strike out quite a bit.  The Sun Devils have played 39 games in the desert or at elevation and have averaged 7.1 runs per game in those games and in the seventeen games they have played at sea level the offense has averaged a more pedestrian 4.8 runs per game and been held to four runs or less in ten of those games.

Batting Order

CF – JR #8 Kasey Coffman (LH – .335/.431/.532, 7-43-9) only hit .234 as a Soph but is a good athlete who has played up to his ability level this season and is among the leaders in the Pac 11 in AVG, R, H, 3B, HR, RBI, SLG, OBP and total bases and was an All-Pac 11 selection.  He has very good plate discipline with a 24/25 BB/K ratio and also leads the team with 12 HBP’s.  Coffman has really turned it on in conference games and leads the Pac 11 with a .589 SLG % and six HR’s and has been one of the hottest hitters on the team, going 11-29 over the last two weeks.  He has good speed and leads ASU with nine SB’s and will probably be drafted in the teens in the MLB draft.

3B – JR #9 Michael Benjamin (RH – .349/.377/.569, 8-44-4) hit .322 as a Soph and is another player who has taken a leap forward, increasing his SLG % by almost 150 pts to lead the Pac 11.  He is also among the conference leaders in AVG, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI and total bases and was an All-Pac 11 selection.  Benjamin is tied for the lead in Pac 11 games with Coffman with 6 HR’s and leads the conference in runs scored by one over Coffman. He has been productive over the last two weeks with ten RBI in the last seven games.  The one area that Benjamin has issues with is his plate discipline because he has a poor 9/47 BB/K ratio and is third in the Pac 11 in strikeouts.  He will probably be drafted in the teens in the MLB draft.

SS – JR #7 James McDonald (Both – .264/.356/.407, 5-35-6) has good power for a middle infielder who isn’t that big with twenty extra base hits.  He doesn’t hit for a high average but he is a good run producer with solid plate discipline with a 26/34 BB/K ratio that has been even better in Pac 11 games, where he has an excellent 22/16 BB/K ratio.  He has cooled off recently and only gone 5-27 over the last two weeks.  McDonald was drafted in the eleventh round out of HS and will probably be drafted in the late teens to early twenties in the MLB draft.

C – SR #55 Max Rossiter (RH – .279/.377/.363, 1-25-2) was the only returning position player to receive all-conference honors in 2012 and has had a decent year but not quite like he did last season when he hit .326.  He has very good plate discipline with a 23/22 BB/K ratio and does a good job of making contact and spraying the ball around the field.  Rossiter has only gone 5-28 over the last two weeks but has stayed patient by drawing six walks.  He will probably be drafted around the 10th round as a good SR signing and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection.

DH – Soph #11 Nathaniel Causey (LH – .287/.421/.451, 4-24-1) will start vs. RHP’s and is a big man with solid power potential.  He has an excellent 27/22 BB/K ratio for somebody hitting in the middle of the lineup and is second on the team with a .328 AVG in Pac 11 games and has been one of the hotter hitters on the team, going 8-19 with six walks over the last two weeks.  FR #14 RJ Ybarra (RH – .315/.372/.514, 5-22-0) will start vs. LHP’s and is one of the team leaders in SLG.  Unlike Causey, he has a poor 5/28 BB/K ratio and takes a big swing but when he connects the ball usually goes a long way.

RF – Soph #20 Trever Allen (RH – .304/.378/.525, 9-48-7) is one of the better athletes on the team with his power/speed combo and leads the team in HR’s and is second in SB’s.  He has been one of the better power hitters in the Pac 11 and is among the conference leaders in HR’s, RBI’s, SLG, R and total bases and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection.  Allen’s plate discipline is average with a 19/34 BB/K ratio.  He has cooled off some recently and only gone 6-27 over the last two weeks.  Allen is draft eligible and will probably be the highest drafted position player for ASU in the 8th-10th round range.

2B – Soph #17 Drew Stankiewicz (Both – .312/.379/.420, 2-25-7) originally committed to Fullerton but changed his mind when there was a change of coaches after 2011.  He is hitting much better than he did as a FR when he hit .265 and his plate discipline has been excellent in Pac 11 games with a 13/13 BB/K ratio and he is hitting .318 in conference games.  Stankiewicz has good speed and is one of the few threats in the lineup to steal a base.

1B – FR #13 Dalton DiNatale (LH – .313/.406/.426, 2-25-3) is a big man with quite a bit of potential that figures to develop over the next two seasons.  He has a good line drive stroke that figures to turn doubles into HR’s as he gets stronger.  DiNatale’s swing can get a little long and he has struck out about 1/4 of the time.  He has been hitting well over the last two weeks, going 9-27 with an HR and six RBI.

LF – Soph #21 Jake Peevyhouse (LH – .261/.369/.415, 2-26-3) has struggled during conference games with a .236 AVG but does a good job of making contact and taking good AB’s with a 23/28 BB/K ratio.  He has been hitting better recently with five RBI in his last seven games.


Defense

·       Fielding – .964 (181, 9) – 83 errors, 54 unearned runs.  ASU has underachieved on defense because their players should not be making this many errors.  McDonald and Stankiewicz have good range and are second and third in the Pac 11 in assists but those two and Benjamin have combined to make 46 errors, with Stankiewicz making twelve of his errors in Pac 11 games.
DiNatale doesn’t move around that well at 1B.  Peevyhouse is average in LF.  Coffman in CF and Allen in RF both have good arms and good range.
·       Stolen Base Attempts – 88-112 (DNR, 11).  Runners are 72-83 against Rossiter and the other three teams in this regional are aggressive on the bases so it could be a long weekend for Rossiter with runners looking to run often against him.
·       WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 35 (DNR, 2).  Rossiter may have issues throwing out runners but he does an excellent job of blocking pitches in the dirt.


Pitching

Friday SP Brady Rodgers and closer Jake Barrett were both third round picks in 2012 so some of the younger pitchers needed to step up and ASU brought in several FR and two of them have moved right into prominent roles on the pitching staff.  The Sun Devils were getting solid pitching during the non-conference schedule when they allowed three runs or less in nine out of fourteen games going into Pac 11 play.  ASU’s pitching staff started to falter during conference play and the team ERA ballooned up to 5.18 and is next to last in conference play.  The Sun Devils are a pitch to contact, ground ball staff and they have allowed the fewest HR’s in the Pac 11 but that has also resulted in lots of chances and errors by their infielders.  ASU’s pitchers have tended to be wild and they have allowed the most free bases on walks and HBP’s in the conference.
  • ERA – 4.22 (141/8); 5.18 in conference (10th). 
  • AVG – .264 (79/5); .292 in conference (6th). 
  • HR – 11 (DNR/1); 9 in conference (4th). 
  • SLG – .331 (DNR/3); .370 in conference (5th).  
  • Walks – 216 (168/10), 3.8 BB’s/9 IP; 115 (9th) in conference, 3.8 BB’s/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 73 (DNR/1); 39 in conference (2nd). 
  • OBP – .358 (DNR/7); .380 in conference (8th). 
  • Strikeouts – 366 (141/5), 6.5 K/9 IP; 175 in conference (8th), 5.8 K/9 IP. 
Starters

JR #43 Trevor Williams (RHP – 5-6, 4.17 ERA, 15 GS, 3 CG, 104 IP, 116 H, 23 BB, 77 K, .287 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP, 12-17 SB) was an all-conference selection in 2012 after he went 12-2 with a 2.05 ERA and pitched for Team USA last summer so big things were expected for him this season.  He delivered on those expectations in his four non-conference starts when he went 3.0 with a 1.20 ERA but things changed when ASU got into Pac 11 play.  Williams allowed nine runs in his first conference start to WSU and four runs at OSU in losing his first two starts.  He had a strong start against UCLA when he only allowed one run in 7 2/3 IP but he has allowed at least four runs in six of his last eight starts and went 1-6 with a 5.59 ERA in ten conference starts and Pac 11 teams hit .329 against him.  Williams usually has solid control but has walked three batters in four of his last six starts.  He is still expected to be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round range despite his poor season because of his big frame and a fastball that sits around 91-92 and can get up to 95 but it tends to straighten out and his slider and breaking ball are average so he doesn’t really have a swing and miss pitch and when he gets strikeouts they usually come by blowing his fastball by hitters.

FR #49 Ryan Kellogg (LHP – 11-0, 3.26 ERA, 14 GS, 97 IP, 89 H, 15 BB, 51 K, .243 AVG, 3 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 12-13 SB) was one of the two highest rated players in ASU’s recruiting class and was drafted in the 12th round out of HS because he is a 6’5” LHP with a fastball that sits around 90 and his best off-speed pitch is a curveball with good break to it.  He has been in the rotation since day one and has been the anchor of the weekend staff with the inconsistencies that Williams has had.  Kellogg was outstanding in his first five starts with a 4-0 record and a 0.79 ERA, allowing only eighteen baserunners (14 H, 4 BB) in 34 IP, culminating with a no-hitter at Oregon State with only two runners reaching base, both on errors.  He wasn’t as sharp in his next two outings against UCLA and Oregon, allowing 11 runs in 15 IP, but still picked up two more wins.  Kellogg was better against lesser competition, picking up wins against USC, Valparaiso and Utah, but has struggled over the last month with only one strong start against Arizona two weeks ago when he allowed one run in 6 2/3 IP and allowed seventeen runs in 16 2/3 IP in his other three starts and he ended up going 7-0 with a 4.06 ERA in conference games and was an All-Pac 11 selection, one of two FR to receive All-Pac 11 honors.  He has outstanding control and has allowed two walks or less in thirteen of fifteen starts, allowing three walks in his other two starts.  Kellogg prefers to let his fielders do the work behind him because he hasn’t struck out more than four batters in any of his past seven starts.  Kellogg has a good move to first with three pickoffs but if runners get a break on him, they are almost always successful because only one runner has been thrown out against him.

JR #25 Zak Miller (RHP – 4-0, 4.56 ERA, 12 apps, 10 GS, 49 IP, 60 H, 23 BB, 22 K, .316 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 2 WP, 12-14 SB) was originally the midweek starter, where his stuff profiles better, but ASU ran through several other options in the Sunday SP spot before deciding to go with Miller in the weekend rotation for the last month of the season.  He made six midweek starts, going five to 5 2/3 innings in five of them, and allowed three runs or less in five of them, with his worst midweek start his last one when he allowed five runs in five innings to Arizona.  Miller picked up a win against Stanford when he allowed three runs in 5 IP and three no decisions when he allowed five runs in 3 1/3 IP at Cal, five runs in 3 2/3 IP against Arizona and two runs in 5 2/3 IP at Washington in one of his best starts of the season.  He isn’t a hard thrower and relies on pitching to contact and letting the fielders do their jobs.  Miller made a midweek start against Fullerton in 2012 when he allowed no runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 IP.

Relievers

The bullpen for ASU has been a mixed bag.  They have two relievers that they have relied on heavily, one a FR who has taken over in the closer role and one a SR who has provided good leadership, and the others are a combination of guys who tried their lot at being the Sunday SP without much success and high profile arms who haven’t had much of an impact.  The effectiveness of their closer and primary set-up man is a big reason why ASU is 13-1 when they score either four or five runs due to their ability to shorten games.  One thing to note with their bullpen is the group of relievers most likely to come into games this weekend have combined to allow an average of 5.4 walks per nine innings.

FR #32 Ryan Burr (RHP – 4-2, 2.18 ERA, 11 saves, 29 apps, 41 IP, 19 H, 20 BB, 56 K, .140 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 10-10 SB) came into ASU with quite a bit of promise as one of the top 100 players in the country as a HS SR and he has lived up to it by taking a stranglehold on the closer position and was an honorable mention All-Pac 11 selection.  He is a big man who throws hard with a fastball that sits in the 92-94 range that bumps up into the mid 90’s, uses a curveball as his swing and miss pitch and he is averaging over 12 strikeouts per nine innings.  Burr has been extremely difficult to hit but he has had control issues, averaging well over four walks per nine innings.

SR #31 Matt Dunbar (LHP – 1-1, 2.01 ERA, 1 save, 35 apps, 40 IP, 35 H, 24 BB, 29 K, .248 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB) has been a very effective and often used reliever for the last couple of seasons (1.54 ERA in 23 apps in 2012) who is in the top five in the Pac 11 in appearances.  He is tough on LH hitters but the coaches don’t mind letting him go over an inning as the bridge between the starters and Burr.  Dunbar is ASU’s most difficult pitcher to run on and has picked off three runners.

Soph #15 Darren Gillies (RHP – 2-2, 4.81 ERA, 1 save, 27 apps, 1 GS, 34 IP, 28 H, 17 BB, 28 K, .235 AVG, 0 HR, 9 HBP, 4 WP, 12-14 SB) was a starter for most of 2012 but has been working out of the bullpen as a middle reliever.  He is tall and has a fastball that sits in the low 90’s but has had control issues and averaged four walks per 9 IP during and hit twenty batters during his two years at ASU.

SR #47 Alex Blackford (RHP – 4-1, 4.88 ERA, 1 save, 23 apps, 3 GS, 31 IP, 24 H, 23 BB, 33 K, .209 AVG, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 8 WP, 14-15 SB) has mostly been a midweek starter and middle reliever during his career.  He isn’t a big guy but has been throwing harder this year, averaging a strikeout per inning, but he has also had control issues that he didn’t have earlier in his career.

JR #58 Josh McAlister (RHP – 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 11 apps, 14 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 9 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB) has been effective in his limited amount of appearances.

JR #3 Billy Young (RHP – 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 10 apps, 3 GS, 23 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .333 AVG, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 7-9 SB) started in ASU’s most recent midweek game against BYU so he might get the ball if they play a fourth game this weekend.

Soph #51 Adam McCreery (LHP – 2-3, 5.94 ERA, 14 apps, 7 GS, 36 IP, 37 H, 34 BB, 30 K, .287 AVG, 1 HR, 13 HBP, 6 WP, 4-8 SB) came onto campus to quite a bit of fanfare as a 6’8” LHP who was drafted in the 14th round out of HS but he has had injury issues going back to HS that have limited the amount of time he has been able to pitch and his effectiveness.  He started the season as the Sunday starter but wasn’t effective in that role due to his is wildness.  McCreery leads the conference in HBP’s despite the limited amount of innings he has thrown.

FR #26 Brett Lilek (LHP – 2-1, 4.42 ERA, 10 apps, 1 GS, 18 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 16 K, .246 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 0-2 SB) was a big prospect in HS as a tall LHP who can throw in the low 90’s but he hasn’t been able to get many opportunities to pitch until recently.


Outlook

ASU doesn’t enter this regional with much momentum after losing three of their previous four series and none of the teams that they lost series to will be playing in regionals this weekend.  The Sun Devils have tended to play to the level of their opponents, winning two games against Arkansas and winning series against UCLA and Oregon, so they hope that trend continues this weekend but they played all of those teams much earlier in the season.  ASU will take some confidence into their match-up with New Mexico after going 8-1 against the Lobos over the last six seasons, although New Mexico gave the Sun Devils all they could handle with ASU coming from behind to win the opening game of the 2011 regional, split games with ASU in 2012 and lost a midweek game in extra innings in Tempe earlier this season. The Sun Devils and Fullerton are also not strangers to each other after playing midweek series each season from 2008 to 2012 and prior to that matching up in some memorable regionals and super regionals four times in five seasons from 2001 to 2005.  It is critical for ASU to win the opening game and get a good outing from Williams because they probably don’t have the pitching depth to win the regional coming from the loser’s bracket.  The Sun Devils should be one of the final two teams standing this weekend but it doesn’t look like they will have enough arms to get past Fullerton.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fullerton Regional: Columbia Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

No. 4 Seed – Columbia Lions
  • Overall Record – 27-19
  • Conference Record – 16-4 (1st place)
  • How they qualified for a regional – Automatic bid.  Won conf. championship series 2-0 against Dartmouth
  • Last regional appearance – 2008 (0-2 at Coastal Carolina regional – lost to Coastal Carolina and East Carolina)
  • RPI/ISR – 102/141 (Fullerton opponents ISR comparison – Oral Roberts 132, Hawaii 152)
  • SOS – 187 (RPI)/222 (ISR)
  • Record vs. tournament field – 1-2.  1-0 at Army, 0-2 at Miami
  • Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 0-2/1-9

Season Summary

Columbia traditionally wasn’t known as one of the better programs in the academically prestigious Ivy League before Brett Boretti was hired to be the head coach prior to the 2006 season but he changed things around quickly in the Morningside Heights area of New York City.  The Lions won the Ivy League championship in 2008 in his third season, which was their first conference championship since 1977, and qualified for a regional for the first time since 1976, which was their only previous appearance in a regional.  Columbia was the regular season conference champion in 2010 but lost to Dartmouth in the Ivy League championship series that is played to determine who will receive the conference’s automatic bid.  The Lions were a middle of the pack team the last two years but thought they had something to build on this season despite losing Ivy League player of the year Dario Pizzano because they only lost three position players and one starting pitcher from 2012.

Columbia set up their schedule to challenge their veteran squad, going on the road to play for the first three weeks of March (Ivy League teams don’t schedule games in February).  The Lions started out 2-11 after they lost all four games they played at a solid Lamar squad, lost two out of three in a competitive series at defending national champion Arizona where their losses were by one and two runs, lost three out of four games at Central Florida and lost two midweek games at Miami.  Since that road trip, Columbia is 25-9 and had the best record in the Ivy League at 16-4 with the only hiccups along the way being a two game series sweep by Dartmouth and a two game midweek sweep by Fordham.  The Lions won the Lou Gehrig division, named after one of the greatest players in baseball history and a Columbia alum, to qualify for the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and got revenge against the Big Green, who were 32-7 going into the series, by winning both games at home 6-5 in ten innings and 12-5 to win the conference’s automatic bid.


Offense

·       Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 66 (decreases offense by 34%).  Field turf helps the fielders, bad weather most of the season helps the pitchers, unique dimensions with deep corners and a short CF with a 20 foot high fence because their ballpark is up against the Hudson River.
·       Batting Average – .268 (NCAA ranking – 174, conference ranking 3);  .286 in conf. games (1st).
·       Scoring – 219 (209, 3), 4.8 runs per game;  5.2 in conf. games (1st).
·       Home Runs – 19 (121, 2);  10 in conf. games (3rd).
·       Stolen Bases – 77-91 (32, 1);  42-46 in conf. games (1st).
·       Slugging Percentage – .374 (126, 3);  .400 in conf. games (1st).
·       On Base Percentage – .360 (129, 2);  .369 in conf. games (1st).
·       Walks – 153 (249, 2), 3.3 per game;  62 (1st) in conf. games, 3.1 per game.
·       HBP’s – 63 (103, 1);  24 in conf. games (1st).
·       Sac Bunts – 50 (73, 1);  28 in conf. games (1st).
·       Strikeouts – 240 (DNR, 7), 5.2 per game;  95 (1st) in conf. games, 4.8 per game.

Columbia is an aggressive team at the plate that finished with the second most strikeouts in their conference and only had two players with over twenty walks, although both of those players have excellent BB/K ratios.  The Lions only had three players hit above .290 for the season after the team hit in the .240’s during their non-conference schedule but their average went up by forty points against the softer competition they were facing in the Ivy League.  Columbia doesn’t have much power with only two players having more than three HR’s and they play quite a bit of little ball to put pressure on teams, leading the Ivy League in SAC bunts and averaging close to two stolen bases per game with two players having 20+ steals.  They will also stand in and take HBP’s, another area they led their conference in.

Batting Order

LF – SR #12 Eric Williams (LH – .206/.337/.262, 0-15-4) doesn’t have much power with only eight extra base hits (all doubles), has struggled with the bat all season and only hit .215 against Ivy League pitching.  The main positive attribute that he has at the plate is his bat control because he has an excellent 28/17 BB/K ratio and is second in the conference in walks.  Williams is also a very good bunter and was second on the team and in the conference with nine SAC bunts.

CF – Soph #3 Jordan Serena (RH – .284/.366/.401, 1-13-27) only hit .240 with three extra base hits as a FR but has been much improved this season and was 1st team All-Ivy League.  He has sixteen extra base hits and hit .300 in conference games and the main reason that he received All-Ivy League honors was his speed because he led the conference in stolen bases and was only caught stealing one time all season, using his speed to end up second in the conference in runs.  Serena will stand in and take a HBP to get on base and try to run and is second on the team and in the Ivy League with eleven HBP’s.  He will also try to bunt to use his speed to get on base and is a very good bunter with seven SAC bunts.  An area that Serena struggles with is his bat control because he has a poor 11/40 BB/K ratio and led the conference in strikeouts.

1B – SR #27 Alex Black (RH – .320/.451/.510, 7-29-4) is a big guy who is the main power threat in the lineup and is the best hitter on the team.  He was 2nd team All-Ivy League and led the team and was among the leaders in the conference in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR and RBI and the player that opponents cannot let beat them.  Black was also solid in 2012 when he hit .370 and was 2nd team All-Ivy League but only started in a little over half of their games.  He has an excellent 27/17 BB/K ratio for a power hitter, was second in the conference in walks and hit .370 in Ivy League games.

DH – Soph #16 Joey Falcone (LH – .333/.398/.535, 5-27-0) is another big guy in the middle of the lineup and has solid potential after finishing among the conference leaders in HR, RBI and SLG despite starting about 2/3 of their games.  He was 2nd team All-Ivy League and hit four of his HR’s in conference games.

RF – SR #6 Nick Ferraresi (RH – .270/.331/.380, 3-26-9) was honorable mention All-Ivy League as a JR when he hit .310 but hasn’t had quite as good of a season but he has still been a productive player and is third on the team in HR’s and RBI.  He has good speed and is also third on the team in SB’s.

SS – JR #10 Aaron Silbar (RH – .314/.349/.384, 0-22-7) has been one of the most improved players on the team after only hitting .218 in 2012 and was 1st team All-Ivy League this season after hitting .343 in conference games.  He has some solid pop in his bat for a middle infielder and has eleven doubles but doesn’t walk much with a 9/20 BB/K ratio.  Silbar has pretty good speed with seven SB’s.

3B – Soph #18 David Vandercook (LH – .207/.348/.326, 1-16-4) has struggled at the plate and the one thing that he has excelled at is crowding the plate and getting hit by pitches because he led the Ivy League with 13 HBP’s.  He has below average plate discipline with a 16/31 BB/K ratio.

2B – SR #11 Nick Crucet (RH – .271/.365/.306, 0-21-20) is a scrappy little player with excellent speed who is a threat to steal whenever he gets on base and was second in the Ivy League in SB’s.  He has very little power with only five extra base hits (all doubles) but does an excellent job of putting the ball in play with only thirteen strikeouts (14/13 BB/K ratio).  Crucet is an excellent bunter who will use his speed to try to beat out bunts for hits and led the conference with 14 SAC bunts.

C – JR #4 Mike Fischer (RH – .196/.304/.304, 1-13-0) has struggled hitting all season but was 2nd team All-Ivy League due to his defense.  He has trouble making contact with a 14/29 BB/K ratio.


Defense

·       Fielding – .970 (78, 2) – 49 errors, 32 unearned runs.  Black is a good athlete at 1B, Crucet and Silbar have good range up the middle but have combined to make seventeen errors, Vandercook is solid at 3B.  Williams is average in LF, Serena and Ferraresi have very good range in CF and RF.
·       Stolen Base Attempts – 29-53 (DNR, 2).  Runners are only 19-37 against Fischer and he has been difficult to run on.
·       WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 55 (DNR, 8).  Fischer does not move well behind the plate so look for Fullerton to be aggressive on the bases on pitches in the dirt.


Pitching

Columbia figured their pitching would be the backbone of the team after returning three of their four starting pitchers from 2012 and they had a 3.50 ERA for the season and were excellent in Ivy League games, where they had a 1.94 ERA and allowed teams to only hit .213 against them.  The Lions had some solid arms that were also efficient because they are in the top thirty nationally in strikeouts per game and K/BB ratio.  Columbia held teams to four runs or less in 29 of their 46 games.

  • ERA – 3.50 (57/3); 1.94 in conference (1st). 
  • AVG – .355 (49/3); .213 in conference (1st). 
  • HR – 11 (DNR/1); 3 in conference (2nd). 
  • SLG – .329 (DNR/2); .263 in conference (1st).  
  • Walks – 134 (83/4), 3.2 BB’s/9 IP; 38 in conference (2nd), 2.1 BB’s/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 44 (DNR/7); 17 in conference (5th). 
  • OBP – .337 (DNR/3).  .281 in conference (1st). 
  • Strikeouts – 335 (16/1), 8.1 K/9 IP; 153 in conference (1st), 8.5 K/9 IP. 

Starters

JR #23 David Speer (LHP – 6-2, 2.17 ERA, 10 GS, 5 CG, 66 IP, 55 H, 15 BB, 63 K, .235 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 9-15 SB) was 3-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 2012 but has been much better this season and was 1st team All-Ivy League after winning all five of his conference starts with four complete games and a 1.06 ERA, led the conference in strikeouts and was second in IP.  His best start of the season could have been at Arizona when he held the Wildcats scoreless over six innings, allowing eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.  Speer started the first game of the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and allowed four runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 IP with no walks and twelve strikeouts.  He isn’t a hard thrower with a mid 80’s fastball but he has good control of a changeup, curveball and slider to keep hitters off balance.  Speer has a good move to first and has picked off three runners.

JR #19 Joey Donino (RHP – 6-0, 3.06 ERA, 1 save, 12 apps, 8 GS, 50 IP, 42 H, 17 BB, 61 K, .228 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 9 WP, 2-3 SB) is the best prospect on the team because of his size and a low 90’s fastball.  He throws from a 3/4 arm slot that is tough on RH hitters and also has a power breaking pitch that is his swing and miss pitch that he can sometimes have trouble controlling and was second in the Ivy League in wild pitches.  Donino was second in the conference in wins and strikeouts and was 2nd team All-Ivy League after going 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his five conference starts.  He started the second game of the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and allowed three runs on five hits in five innings.

SR #45 Tim Giel (RHP – 3-3, 2.73 ERA, 10 apps, 9 GS, 3 CG, 59 IP, 59 H, 13 BB, 47 K, .265 AVG, 2 HR, 9 HBP, 4 WP, 3-5 SB) led the staff in IP as a JR and was a workhorse again this season after ending up fourth in the conference in IP and was honorable mention All-Ivy League.  He was only 2-2 in his five conference starts but had an excellent 1.71 ERA with two complete games.

FR #36 Adam Cline (RHP – 3-3, 3.94 ERA, 11 apps, 7 GS, 46 IP, 42 H, 13 BB, 43 K, .251 AVG, 1 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 4-8 SB) has solid upside with a good pitching frame and a solid arm but he struggled in his starts in conference and only had a 6.43 ERA in five Ivy League games.

Relievers

Columbia will let Speer pitch deep into games but they do have a deep bullpen with six relievers that have been effective and all of them have ERA’s under four.

Alex Black (RHP – 0-1, 2.93 ERA, 4 saves, 12 apps, 15 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 14 K, .271 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 1-2 SB) is most likely to come into a game to finish things off but they are cautious with doing that because he is also their 1B so he will usually only pitch one inning when he comes in.  He has a solid fastball that touches 90.

Stefan Olson  (RHP – 1-1, 1.86 ERA, 3 saves, 5 apps, 10 IP, 4 H, 6 BB, 11 K, .121 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB) was a starter in 2012 and was honorable mention All-Ivy League with a 3.65 ERA.  He suffered a hamstring injury and missed most of the season but returned for the last few weeks and pitched very well, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings to finish the conference title series clinching game with six strikeouts.

Kevin Roy (RHP – 3-1, 2.00 ERA, 13 apps, 2 GS, 27 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 21 K, .200 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 2-3 SB) was honorable mention All-Ivy League and led the relievers in innings pitched.  He can tend to be wild and allowed seventeen BB’s/HBP’s in 27 IP.

Zack Tax (RHP – 4-1, 3.72 ERA, 11 apps, 19 IP, 20 H, 2 BB, 14 K, .282 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 1-1 SB) is a long reliever and would be most likely to come into a game if a starter was pulled early.

Mike Weisman (LHP – 0-1, 3.10 ERA, 3 saves, 14 apps, 20 IP, 21 H, 9 BB, 23 K, .259 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 1-2 SB) is a situational lefty who will be brought into a tight game if a team has some LH hitters coming up.

Thomas Crispi (LHP – 1-3, 3.38 ERA, 16 apps, 1 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 15 BB, 16 K, .284 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB) was second in the Ivy League in appearances.


Outlook

Columbia is obviously the underdog in this regional as the four seed and Ivy League teams haven’t fared well in regional play since the NCAA tournament went to the four team regional format with a 3-28 record.  The Lions have only played once since winning their conference championship series the first weekend of May so they figure to be rusty in their opening game against Fullerton.  Columbia is a squad that relies on pitching and small ball in a regional filled with teams that can bang the ball all over the yard.  The Lions have a pitching staff that could keep them in games but it doesn’t look like they have the hitting to keep up with their opponents this weekend and it would be a surprise if they won a game in this regional.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

No-Fear Titans Sweep Through the Valley

Titans at CSUN: Won 5-2 (Thursday), Won 6-4 (Friday),  Won 9-6 (Saturday)


By Don Hudson

(Author’s preface: my apologies for not getting an article posted following the epic series against UC Irvine.  My damned job gets in the way every so often – I was tied up all week on a business trip to Denver.)

The Cal State Fullerton Titans finished the regular season with a road series sweep of the Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) Matadors and advanced to the NCAA playoffs on a seven-game winning streak and clicking on all cylinders.

Look for more coverage and insight in the coming days at this website as the brackets are announced and the analysis begins.  FullertonBaseballFan is the best I’ve ever read at analyzing upcoming college baseball series, so I can’t wait to read what he has to say this week.


Game 1: Titans 5, CSUN Matadors 2

With the Big West Conference (BWC) title clinched last weekend by virtue of the Titans’ sweep of UCI and Cal Poly’s sweep of CSUN, the Titans set about this series to solidify their hold of a national seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament bracket.

But they also wanted to benchmark improvement from last season when they suffered an April Fool’s Day home loss to the Matadors and their “hefty lefty” freshman, Jerry Keel.  The Matadors won that game, 5-1, with Keel pitching a complete game, allowing nine hits and throwing 133 pitches.  It was an ugly loss in an ugly season – one run on nine hits and two walks and players yanked from the game for missing signs or not lining up cutoff throws.

This is a different season.  Very different.

Richy Pedroza served notice quickly as he drove the second pitch of the game back through the middle for a leadoff single.  Pedroza went to second on a sacrifice by Carlos Lopez and scored on a two-out single by Michael Lorenzen, following a walk to Matt Chapman.  Lorenzen went to second when Chapman just barely beat the throw to third, but Keel escaped further damage by inducing a flyball from Chad Wallach.

Keel was matched with Koby Gauna for the Titans, getting a “spot start” with the series starting on Thursday and the coaching staff lining up the pitching in anticipation of hosting Regionals next weekend.

Gauna splendid in start
Gauna pitched a scoreless first inning, but was touched up for two runs in the bottom of the second as the Titans played sloppy defense against the Matadors’ “small ball” offense.  Alexis Mercado led off with an infield single and stole second when Wallach’s throw was far wide of the base and sailed into centerfield for what could have been his first error of the season, but plate umpire Dave Gimbi ruled interference on batter Kyle Attl: Mercado returned to first and Attl was out, which helped this inning from being far more damaging. It was a pretty obvious call, but still one you don’t see often.

Chester Pak doubled down the leftfield line to put runners on second and third with one out.  Ryan Raslowsky dropped down a suicide squeeze bunt which scored Mercado with the tying run.  But there was confusion with the coverage at first-base, with first-baseman Lopez charging and second-baseman playing back and getting a late jump to take the throw from third-baseman Chapman – Raslowsky beat it out and Pak scored from second when Chapman’s throw went beyond the uncovered base.  The Matadors led, 2-1, but Gauna retired the next two hitters to minimize the damage of three hits, a walk and an error, aided by the batter interference.

But the Titans immediately responded with the “counter-punching” that has become the team’s trademark this season.  The pesty Pedroza battled with Keel for seven pitches and singled on a 1-2 count.  After Pedroza moved to second on a passed ball, Lopez attempted to bunt the tying run to third but ended up beating it out for a single that placed runners at the corners with nobody out.  Chapman tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

The next batter suddenly untied the game: J.D. Davis gave the Titans a 4-2 lead with a towering home run to centerfield.  There was a brisk wind blowing in that knocked down balls hit towards right and centerfields, so it was a pretty good shot.  When Lorenzen lined a double to leftfield after the Davis home run, Keel’s day was done.  In 2-1/3 innings, Keel allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits and a walk, registering zero strikeouts.  He has emerged as a top-flight Division I pitcher, so the early knockout is indicative of the improvement in the Titans from one season to the next.

The Titans added their fifth and final run in the fourth inning on singles by Austin Diemer and Pedroza, followed by an RBI groundout by Lopez.

Meanwhile, Gauna was pounding the strike zone and dominating the CSUN line-up.  After his second inning perils, Gauna did not allow another base-runner until a one-single in the bottom of the seventh by Pak.  He retired fourteen consecutive batters before allowing the hit.  But the runner was quickly erased on a 5-4-3 inning-ending double-play: the ball was hit so hard to Chapman that he knocked it down and still had time to recover and send it around the horn, courtesy a pivot by second-baseman Matt Orloff.

Willie Kuhl came out of the Fullerton bullpen and quickly faced the potential tying run with no outs after allowing a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Anthony Lombardo and a single to Michael Livingston, but he retired the next three hitters in order.  His breaking pitches were moving sharply.

The Titans eschewed the use of Lorenzen in a potential save situation and instead gave the ball to Davis, who efficiently retired the side on just nine pitches, including a strikeout.

Pedroza led with three of the Titans’ nine hits, supported by Lopez and Lorenzen with two each.  Gauna was the winning pitcher, allowing just two runs on five hits and one walk in seven innings of working, including three strikeouts. Davis was the “two way” star, hitting the game-deciding home run and notching his third save of the season.


Game 2: Titans 6, CSUN Matadors 4

The Titans overcame a 2-0 deficit, took a 4-2 lead which was dissipated into a 4-4 tie before Matt Chapman’s late home run gave them the winning margin.  By clinching the series win, the Titans completed the 2013 series winning every weekend series – unbelievable!

The pitching matched Titans freshman phenom Justin Garza (11-0) with the Matadors’ Calvin Copping, with a plan to limit both Garza and Thomas Eshelman to limited duty as a final weekend “tune up” in preparation for the playoffs.  As it played out, Eshelman and Garza ended up the regular season with 11 wins each and identical 99-2/3 innings of work.

Garza surrendered a solo tally in the bottom of the first on a leadoff single by Livingston, a walk to Nate Ring and a two-out RBI single by Mercado.  The Matadors scored again in the third inning on singles by Ring and Cal Vogelsang and a balk.

Copping tamed the Titans the first three innings, allowing just a two-out double by Chapman in the first inning.  But the Titans had better success the second time through the line-up.

Lopez led off with a bouncing double along the rightfield line.  Chapman then ‘push bunted’ between the mound and first-base and he beat it out by a whisker to give the Titans runners at the corners with no outs.  Davis walked on eight pitches to lead the bases for Lorenzen.

Lorenzen was hit by a pitch to cut the deficit in half, and Anthony Hutting hit a sacrifice fly to tie the score, 2-2.  Wallach ripped a single into rightfield to make it 3-2, followed by an RBI dribbler in front of the plate by Jefferies.

Eshelman entered in the bottom of the fourth, staked to a 4-2 lead.  The Titans got a little sloppy, allowing a run on a double by Pak, a passed ball and sacrifice fly by designated hitter Miles Williams.  Nicolas Osuna kept the inning alive with an infield too-hot-to-handle single and stole second when nobody covered the bag on a delayed steal play.

The sloppiness continued in the fifth inning.  Vogelsang singled with one out and went to second on a wild pitch.  Josh Goossen-Brown singled to rightfield, and third base coach Sergio Brown waved Vogelsang home to attempt to score the tying run.  Austin Kingsolver charged the ball aggressively and seemed likely to throw the runner out at home by a mile – except the ball stayed down and went past him to the fence for an error that allowed Goossen-Brown to reach third with just one out and the score tied, 4-4.

The infield was playing back, but when Chapman made a great stop on a rocket hit down the line by Mercado, he had time to throw home for a play on Goossen-Brown, who slid late and with spikes high.  Wallach applied the tag and his body language suggested some irritation for getting spiked, but plate umpire Allen Williams quickly got between the catcher and the runner and cool heads prevailed.  Eshelman worked out of jeopardy by striking out Attl after he had fouled off six pitches.

Chapman delivers
Copping went six solid innings and gave way in the seventh to D.J. Milam, who swapped zeros with Eshelman in the inning.

Pedroza battled Milam and led off the eighth inning with a single after fouling off three straight 3-2 pitches.  Lopez squared around to represent bunting the potential go-ahead run into scoring position, but then swung away on a ‘slash’ play.  He scorched the ball, but, unfortunately, it was a short-hopper right to the shortstop heading to cover second-base, who easily converted it into a double-play.

But nothing dispirits the Titans these days.  Their possible big rally thwarted, Chapman took matters into his own hands by crushing a home run deep to leftfield to give the Titans a 5-4 lead.

Kuhl came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth and his breaking stuff was filthy.  Absolutely filthy.  Attl struck out looking, Pak went down swinging, as did Williams.

Seeking an insurance run, Lorenzen led off the ninth with a single, went to second on a sacrifice by Hutting and to third on a single by Wallach, who was replaced by pinch-runner Diemer.  The Titans tried to steal a run when Diemer took off and was caught between first and second, but Lorenzen was held on third by Chad Baum as Diemer used his speed to escape jeopardy and get back to first.  (I think the Matadors learned how to play pickle from Oral Roberts.)

Davis: 2 saves in 2 days
Matt Orloff delivered a sacrifice fly to centerfield, with Lorenzen making a great slide to score the insurance run that gave the Titans a 6-4 lead, which held up when Davis pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his fourth save of the season and his second in two days.

Chapman led the way offensively with a single, double and game-winning home run.  Lorenzen and Wallach added two hits each.  Eshelman was the winning pitcher, improving his record to 11-2.

There was an interesting circumstance in this game, with a predetermined plan in effect that Garza would start the game but pitch fewer than five innings, with Eshelman coming out of the bullpen to get some work, both on a low pitch count.  Garza entered with eleven wins, tied with Tyler Pill’s record for wins by a freshman Titans pitcher – I felt badly when he turned over a 2-0 lead to the bullpen in the Irvine series, only to see the game tied with the Anteaters’ two-out ninth inning rally.  By starting in this situation, were the rules conspiring to prevent possibility of Garza being unable to be credited with a win by virtue of the requirement for a starting pitcher to pitch at least five innings and leave the game as the pitcher of record with his team with a lead that is not subsequently relinquished?

In a word: no.  Here are the NCAA baseball rules.

In particular, look at Rule 25.b.(3) on page 128: it covers the circumstance of determining the winning pitcher in the event the starting pitcher works fewer than five full innings.  It says, “By pre-arrangement, if three or more pitchers are to be used, the pitcher of record shall be the winning pitcher.”  This is what is referred to as a “designated staff day.”

Had Garza left with the lead and the game was never subsequently tied nor the Titans fall behind, he was eligible for the win.  The only exception would have been had he, as the pitcher of record, had pitched “briefly and ineffectively” in the judgment of the official scorer.

Garza was still the pitcher of record when the Titans scored their four runs in the top of the fourth and he left as the pitcher of record with a 4-2 lead – even though the Titans actually trailed 2-0 when he finished his work for the day after the bottom of the third.  But because the Matadors subsequently tied the score, he became ineligible to be the pitcher of record.


Game 3: Titans 9, CSUN Matadors 6

The series finale on Saturday matched Grahamm Wiest with the Matadors’ lefty John Salas.

After two scoreless innings, it looked like the Titans would turn this into an easy sweep when they took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth.  Fullerton scored the first run in the third on three straight singles by Lopez, Chapman and Davis (RBI).  They pushed the lead to 3-0 in the fourth on a single by Diemer, a two-out RBI double by Lopez and an RBI single by Chapman, chasing Salas from the bump.  Chapman was called out at the plate trying to score on a single by Davis, although my handy-dandy lens seemed to show him safe.

Be sure to "Vote 4 Carlos"
The Titans added two runs in the top of the fifth on just one hit (an RBI double by Diemer), aided by a walk, an error and stolen bases by Lorenzen and Greg Velazquez.

With a 5-0 lead and Wiest coasting – and lots of hydration on this hot sunny day – I thought it was a safe time to visit the rest room, which is in nearby Pacoima.  I made it back in just three batters – which is my all-time best personal record – but the crowd noise gave me a hint that I wouldn’t be happy when I looked up at the scoreboard: it was now 5-3, with first-pitch singles by Pak and Attl before a first-pitch home run by Williams, who had gone deep last year at Goodwin Field against Wiest.  Three pitches, three runs.

(Note to self: no more drinking water during games….and break out the Depends.)  Singles by Livingston, Vogelsang and Goossen-Brown cut the Titans’ lead to 5-4 and brought lefty Tyler Peitzmeier out of the bullpen.  He struck out Mercado with two runners on base to end the threat.

But Peitzmeier got into his own jam in the bottom of the sixth.  He retired the first two batters routinely before allowing a single to Williams.  Osuna then hit a ball back through the box that Peitzy deflected and had plenty of time to pick it up and throw him out, but he couldn’t find the ball in time and it went for an infield hit.

Then came a controversial play.  Livingston pulled a ball sharply over the third-base bag, looking like a certain bases-clearing double – until it was intercepted by Chapman on a great diving backhand play, and he stepped on the base well ahead of the runner.  But as the Titans left the field high-fiving Chapman, CSUN Coach Curtis was pleading with Blue for a catcher’s interference call – which he actually got.  I was standing a few feet away from the dugout when Curtis came back from his confab with umpire Rob Hansen, with a big shit-eating smirk on his face.  It was one of those “nothing to lose” arguments that you never expect to get away with – but every once in a while you put one over on Blue: Livingston was awarded first base on catcher’s interference and the bases were loaded when play resumed.

The deception paid off as Ring delivered a two-run single that deflected away from shortstop Pedroza – the Matadors took a 6-5 lead, but committed a base-running blunder by having the final out notched when the runner from first was easily retired trying to go to third.  Both runs off Peitzmeier were unearned.

The counter-punching Titans tied the score (6-6) in their next at-bats on a single by Jared Deacon and an RBI double by Diemer, who was thrown out attempting to stretch it into a triple – one of three Titans runners thrown out on the bases this game.

After Jose Cardona pitched a scoreless seventh inning, the Titans put him in position to record a win when they scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth.  Chapman led off getting plunked and went to second on a wild pitch.  With one out and first base open, with Velazquez due up, CSUN opted to intentionally walk Lorenzen – hardly a decision you could fault.  But pinch-hitter Clay Williamson ruined the strategy by lining the first pitch thrown to him by reliever Goossen-Brown into centerfield for an RBI single that gave the Titans a slim 7-6 lead.

For the third consecutive day, Kuhl was summoned to pitch the bottom of the eighth and he continued to baffle the Matadors, easily setting them down in order.

The Titans picked up two insurance runs in the ninth.  Deacon led off with his second single of the day and advanced on a sacrifice by Diemer and a groundout by Keegan Dale.  With two outs and Lopez up, Coach Curtis opted to intentionally walk Lopez to pitch to the red-hot Chapman.  I understand the whole lefty-righty thing, but this seemed like a mistake from the moment the catcher came out of his crouch with his glove hand extended outward to call for the walk.  Chapman whacked the second pitch he saw into centerfield for an insurance RBI single; Davis followed suit with an RBI single up the middle that gave the Titans a 9-6 lead.

After two days using Davis as the closer, Lorenzen was brought in to nail it down and to get a little mound work before the playoffs.  As has been the case recently, Michael made it interesting, allowing a single, a walk and a wild pitch, but he ended the game with a ten-pitch strikeout of Mercado, who was representing the tying run at the plate.

The 2-3-4 hitters for the Titans went a combined 10-for-15, led by Davis with four hits and three each by Lopez and Chapman.  The Titans 17-hit attack also included three hits by the catchers: one by A.J. Kennedy and two by Deacon.  But of the seventeen hits, perhaps none was bigger than the RBI pinch-single by Williamson that gave the Titans the lead which they never relinquished.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So what did we learn this weekend in the San Fernando Valley, cradle of pornography, albeit one whose commerce has been decimated by the passage in 2012 of Measure B requiring use of condoms during production of adult films?

It was a solid weekend series for the Titans, with the BWC championship already wrapped up and a national seed a virtual certainty.  The CSUN series outcome implications were minimal – perhaps a matter of “how high” they would be seeded nationally, not “if” they would be seeded.  After the tense and highly dramatic riveting series against UC Irvine, the Northridge series felt more like those games last fall against UNLV and UC Santa Barbara – you are definitely playing to win and to make a favorable impression on the coaches, but without a high level of intensity and pressure.  It was actually kind of fun to have a relaxing weekend sandwiched between the UCI series and the Regionals.

I like the balance of the offense: many teams we play have a string of two to four quality hitters in a row, but the Titans have found offense from top to bottom of the batting order.  In the CSUN series, six Titans with 8+ at-bats hit better than .350, led by Lopez (.545, 6-for-11, 5 runs, 2 RBI and 2 doubles); Chapman (.500, 6-for-12, 4 RBI, double and tie-breaking home run in second game); Diemer (.500, 4-for-8, 2 doubles and 2 RBI); Lorenzen (.444, 4-for-9, 3 runs, 2 RBI, double, 3 walks and a save); Davis (.412, 5-for-12, 4 RBI, home run and two saves); and Pedroza (.364, 4-for-11).  Back-up catchers Deacon (2-for-2) and Kennedy (1-for-2) contributed when Wallach was given some much-deserved rest in the series finale.  Williamson contributed off the bench with a clutch RBI pinch-hit in the final game after Lorenzen was intentionally walked.  Orloff made a couple “true Titan” contributions that might get overlooked in the box score: took a dose (hit-by-pitch) in the opener and drove in a key insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the second game.

There were also some outstanding pitching performances, led by Gauna in the series opener.  Kuhl worked in all three games, and after allowing the first two hitters he faced in the opener to reach base (walk and single on 0-2 pitch), he was downright filthy.  It was fun to sit behind the plate and watch how much his ball was breaking: every Matador hitter knew it was coming but they couldn’t do anything with it.

Davis also was excellent in back-to-back games, allowing Hooky to close out close wins without over-taxing closer Lorenzen, who got the save in the finale.  It was Michael’s 34th career save, tying him for the Titans’ record with Chad Cordero and Nick Ramirez.  Let’s hope Lorenzen breaks that record in the playoffs.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the pitching roles emerge in the Regionals and (hopefully) beyond.

The batting order and positions are locked in with respect to roles:  The first five in the batting order will be Pedroza (SS), Lopez (1B), Chapman (3B), Davis (DH) and Lorenzen (CF) regardless whether the pitcher throws right-handed, left-handed or underhanded like Eddie Feigner.

The sixth through ninth spots will depend on the opposing pitcher.  Hutting and Diemer platoon in leftfield and Kingsolver and Velazquez platoon in rightfield, purely dependent on whether the opposing starting pitcher is right-handed or left-handed.  Diemer and Kingsolver will always be in games with leads in the late innings for defensive purposes.

Wallach starts against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers (e.g. not a pure platoon), but the coaches have confidence in Deacon both offensively and defensively.  Wallach is likely to start every playoff game unless the Titans fall into the losers’ bracket and are forced to play twice in a day, and will also be subject to replacement by a pinch-runner late in a close game.

Jefferies has earned the starting role against all pitchers, with Orloff entering for defense when the Titans hold a late-inning lead.  The plays Orloff made in the Friday and Saturday games against UC Irvine were spectacular and perhaps were the difference between victory and defeat.

But the pitching roles are still evolving, which is a natural phenomenon in baseball – you’re only as good as your last appearance.  In short playoff series, everybody is on a shorter leash and you tend to go with the pitchers who have been hottest recently.  Roles change.

One of the biggest decisions coaches make in playoff series is whether to start with your “Friday Guy” in the opening game of the Regionals.  When you are the #1 team in the Regional - especially if you are a national seed and draw an inferior who qualified as champion of a weak conference - you often have the luxury of starting a pitcher who isn’t your usual Friday Guy.

Who can ever forget how Brian Wilson – primarily a designated-hitter after transferring to Fullerton from Loyola Marymount – made his first career start with the Titans in the opening game of the 2008 Regionals?  He pitched a complete game shutout, struck a career-high eight batters – and he also hit a home run – as the Titans shut out Rider, 11-0.  When the Titans’ depleted staff needed a starter for the Monday night championship game after fighting back from the losers’ bracket after losing their second game to UCLA, Wilson came back on two days rest and made his second career start.  He gallantly battled through four innings and got the “staff day” win in the Titans’ epic 5-4 win against the Bruins.

Wilson brought back memories of Scott Sarver, whose ascent from bullpen obscurity to starting and winning pitcher in elimination games in the Regionals and College World Series made him a hero in the 2004 championship season.

While there was no great significance to the Northridge series on a team basis, the individual success of Gauna as a starter and Kuhl and Davis pitching back-to-back at the end of the bullpen may become pivotal in the playoffs.  The only bullpen roles that have been virtually the same pole-to-pole is that of Lorenzen as closer and Peitzmeier anywhere from the sixth to eighth innings – he is usually brought in with runners on base and has an uncanny knack for stranding runners.  He has developed far beyond a role as specialist to retire one or two left-handed hitters.

Gauna had a great stretch of dominance as an eighth-inning set-up man earlier in the season, but he is versatile and can start, as well as pitch long and short relief.  He and Davis are similar in that respect.

The eighth inning role has been unsettled down the stretch, reaching a peak when Lorenzen was brought in for a five-out save with a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning against Irvine.  I was surprised the ball didn’t go to Gauna or Davis in that situation.  Lorenzen came in from centerfield throwing 97-98 miles per hour and was brilliant that night, but his velocity was down the next night and he got hit by the generally mediocre bottom of the Anteaters’ batting order.

Similarly, I was surprised Wiest went out to pitch the eighth inning against Irvine, allowing two runs when the bullpen was armed and rested.  The dramatic walk-off home runs by Lopez made us forget all of that, but it might have turned out differently and we could be fretting instead of crowing.  Wiest had pitched well through seven innings in the UCI game, but he has an ERA of 8.59 in his last three starts and has been vulnerable to crooked numbers (six-run first inning against Riverside and four-run fifth inning against Northridge.)

Congratulations to four Titans who earned their degrees and graduated this semester:  David Birosak, Michael Lopez, Austin Kingsolver and Anthony Hutting.  (They join Carlos Lopez and Matt Orloff, who had previously completed their undergraduate programs and graduated.)  I am always impressed when a student-athlete performs exceptionally in both capacities: earning a four-year degree requires tremendous effort and time investment, as does playing for a Division I baseball program.

Hutting's 3-run homer vs. UCLA on Senior Day
(Photo courtesy of Alex Calish)
Kudos to Coach Vanderhook for starting all six senior position players and keeping them in the entire game against UCLA on Senior Day; he also started a senior (Michael Lopez) and brought in senior David Birosak in the second inning, and he was the game’s winning pitcher, fueled by a three-run blast by senior Anthony Hutting.  At the time, the game had major impact as the team’s final “RPI booster” heading down the stretch, and it says a great deal about values that the coaching staff did not use the seniors in cameo roles.  It had to be tempting to bring regular hitters like Davis off the bench in one or two critical spots, but Hooky stuck with his seniors and they delivered a crucial victory.

It was nice to see Sergio Brown and I’m glad he is back in the Big West coaching community.  You can see the imprint he has made in his first season with the Matadors: improved defense, winning record (fourth place – first time in top half of BWC standings since they won it in 2002) and execution of ‘small ball’ right out of the Titans book of yore (sacrifice bunts, delayed steals and squeeze bunts).  While Sergio has made a big impact already, look for even more down the road when his renowned prowess as a recruiter begins to bear fruit for the Matadors.

Sergio Brown (right)
I am happy for the improvement in the CSUN program and believe it will continue to get stronger under Coach Matt Curtis.  National respect for Cal State Fullerton is impacted by the company we keep; e.g. the perception of the Big West Conference.  It’s in Fullerton’s interest to have strong programs up-and-down the conference: not only on the field, but in their coaching staffs, administration, media/marketing and facilities.  It’s hard for the Big West Conference to wear ‘big boy pants’ when it has facilities like Northridge and Davis.

The field itself at Northridge isn’t so bad – nothing like what we see at Riverside.  But is has no lights and the rest room facilities are a block-and-a-half off campus. They pepper-spray small children who don’t immediately return foul balls to the rightful owners. A pop-up tent concession stand – they ran out of bottled water and hot dogs by the second inning on Saturday.  It was a beautiful holiday weekend Saturday and you’re playing an opponent whose fans travel well – don’t you think it would have made sense to buy more than a dozen weenies?

The “cozy” tin-can seating section behind home plate is a vast improvement made over the last decade – but still not ideal to have the two partisan groups co-mingled in such close proximity. It’s easier to reach consensus on taxes and gun control laws than whether Blue is “calling it both ways” or whether he is squeezing or stretching the strike zone.  You could just see how irritated the Northridge folks were getting – put yourself in the shoes of the Matador parents who are blissfully watching their son pitch in his home stadium and you find yourself surrounded just a few feet away by a boisterous chorus screaming “Leave him in!” and “Take him out!” when the pitching coach comes out for a chat.

Dumpster Diver
But perhaps the most fascinating ‘local color’ feature of Matador Field is the local women who sneak in once they shut down the ticket booth mid-game and vigilantly monitor the trash cans for refundable beverage containers.  It is highly competitive – each of the three trash cans in the walkway behind the screen is the ‘turf’ of an innocuous little old lady who scoops plastic bottles and aluminum cans out of the trash as soon as they are discarded.  The question begs to be asked – why doesn’t the university pepper-spray the old women, collect the recycling money themselves and use it to buy lights and build a bathroom on campus?

Note the final regular season WTF (Wild Thing Factor) records for the pitching staff – the pitching has been amazing and will hopefully provide recognition for Coach Jason Dietrich in the national “Assistant Coach of the Year” polling.  WTF is the ratio of walks, hit-batsmen and wild pitches allowed per nine innings.  I find it very revealing that this statistic, which has no basis in pitchers’ results when the ball is put into play by the batter or by strikeouts , is a remarkable indicator of pitching effectiveness.  Eshelman’s WTF of 0.72 is sick – WTF!

Small data sizes are not statistically reliable.  The largest sample size is the most reliable; e.g. the Titans’ and their opponents’ team totals.  Do you think the 48-8 record has been aided by the 243-83 advantage the Titans have in walks received versus walks allowed?  It says a lot about the control of our pitchers as well as the patience of the hitters.

If I may end the regular season on a personal note, I want to express my gratitude for your readership and the many kind words you have expressed.  It amazes me how far and wide our readership is – from people who attend nearly every game to others that live somewhere else and can’t attend in person but love to ‘keep up’ on the team or perhaps a friend or relative on the team.  I love it when a person I’ve never met before comes up to me and says, “You like Stockton better than Hawai’i?  Me too!”

It struck me recently when somebody came up to me after a recent series and said, “I was here for all three games – I can’t wait to read what you have to say!”  It struck me that people are actually interested in my perspective – I’m just another dumbass fan with an opinion, a keyboard and a camera that shoots Auto-Focus.

This has obviously been a very special season so far in the Titan Nation – and we hope the magic continues deep into June.  I love taking the photos down on the field on Mothers Day, but it would be an even bigger event if we are all still together on Fathers Day – that can only happen if we make it to Omaha.

Speaking of mothers and fathers, I want to thank the parents, siblings and extended families of the Titans’ players for their kind friendship throughout the years.  I make it a practice of not referring to them individually by name in my articles (lest anybody think their kid was written about preferentially), but they are some of the finest people I have ever met and I deeply appreciate their friendship.  There is something very special about parents who hug all the kids after the game, not just their son; who make out-of-town trips with small likelihood of their kid getting even one at-bat; who become best friends even though their sons are competing for playing time at the same position; who stand up to a fan that makes derisive personal comments about a player other than their own son; who root their ass off for every Titans  pitcher or hitter, not just the one they raised.

We even have “summer ball” parents that have traveled to remote locations to watch their “summer sons” play for the Titans and have become hardcore fans of the program.  Meeting and getting to know people like this is a life-enriching experience that I cherish.

It is hard to write about a game that one loves and respects when it is played by people that you are very close to, walking the fine line between accuracy and insight while being an unabashed fan and friend of those players and their families.

It would be fun to cover a professional sports team and dish out opprobrium like T.J. Simers does in the Los Angeles Times – but that is not what this forum is about.  I think Titans’ fans and families care much more about this team than they ever could about a professional team.  That movie line has stayed with me: “You always loved the Red Sox….but did they ever love you back?”

Thank you for allowing me to be part of your enjoyment and consumption of Titans baseball.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cal State Northridge Series Preview

Titans at Cal State Northridge
Thursday 3 p.m.; Friday 3 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m.


By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton has answered every single challenge put in front of them this season, winning all fourteen weekend series and putting together three separate ten game winning streaks and another seven game winning streak on the way to the best start in the storied history of the program.  The Titans had one more challenge put in front of them this weekend when they had a chance to clinch their fourth straight Big West championship by winning their series against their cross county rivals from UC Irvine.  Fullerton not only won the series, they swept the Anteaters for only the second time in thirteen series since Irvine brought their baseball program back in 2002 in one of the most exciting series sweeps that anybody would ever hope to see.  Fullerton didn’t get a hit until the seventh inning in the first game but came storming from behind to win 5-2 with Carlos Lopez getting the go ahead RBI single, got a walk-off HR from Lopez to win the second game 3-2 and got another walk-off HR from Lopez to win the final game 7-5 to finish off the sweep and clinch the conference title.

Fullerton got last week started by celebrating Senior Night with a 5-2 win against #8 UCLA to win both of their midweek games against the Bruins.  UCLA scored a run in the top of the first off of SR starter Michael Lopez, who was making the first start of his career, and the Titans had six seniors in the lineup and came out motivated to bounce back from the previous Sunday’s loss at UC Riverside, jumping on starter Cody Poteet for three runs in the bottom of the inning when Matt Chapman and Michael Lorenzen singled with two outs and Anthony Hutting pulled an 0-2 pitch down the line and into the netting above the fence for a three run HR to take a 3-1 lead.  Fullerton scored in the third without the benefit of a hit when Chapman was hit by a pitch and stole second, Lorenzen and Hutting walked and Chad Wallach’s ground out to shortstop scored Chapman.  SR David Birosak followed Lopez and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and picked up his first win of the season.  After Koby Gauna allowed a run in the fifth that cut the lead to 4-2, the Titans scored a run in the seventh to put the game away when Richy Pedroza walked, moved up on a ground out and a wild pitch and scored on a single by Chapman, the first hit for Fullerton since the first inning.  Tyler Peitzmeier and J.D. Davis combined to throw three scoreless innings and Lorenzen finished things off in the ninth for his Big West leading sixteenth save.

Friday’s game figured to be a pitchers’ duel under the bright lights of the ESPNU broadcast and both starting pitchers shined as Thomas Eshelman and Andrew Thurman were busy trading zeroes through the first five innings.  Irvine had a threat in the first when Dominique Taylor tripled but was stranded when Eshelman struck out the dangerous Conner Spencer, the Big West leader in AVG, and Taylor Sparks, the Big West leader in HR’s.  Fullerton drew two walks in the bottom of the inning but weren’t able to push a run across.  Both teams were retired in order in each of the next three innings and stranded a runner in the fifth, Irvine getting a single and Fullerton getting another walk.  The Anteaters broke through with two runs in the sixth when Taylor singled with two outs, Spencer doubled him in and Taylor singled in Spencer.  The Titans got another walk off of Thurman in the bottom of the inning as they continued to build up his pitch count but were still held without a hit.  Thurman didn’t allow a hit against Fullerton until the ninth in his start against them last season, making 14+ innings that he had held them to only one hit.  The Titans finally got to Thurman in the seventh when Lorenzen led off the inning with a single up the middle and Wallach’s long RBI double cut the lead to 2-1.  Jake Jefferies followed with a walk and with two outs, Pedroza came through with a clutch single to tie the game and end Thurman’s night.  Mitch Merten came into the game and had an epic fourteen pitch battle with Lopez that the SR first baseman won by roping an RBI single to give Fullerton the lead.  Merten hit Chapman to load the bases and Davis broke the game open by singling to drive in two runs.  Eshelman gave up a leadoff hit to start the eighth and Peitzmeier came into the game, getting a groundout before giving up a single to Spencer.  Lorenzen came into the game from CF to face Sparks, who was the tying run, and struck him out and got a web gem diving catch from defensive replacement 2B Matt Orloff to end the inning and retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventeenth save.  Eshelman improved his record to 10-2 with the win, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts.

There were more bright lights on Saturday night with the game being broadcast by Fox Sports West and the starting pitchers for both teams, Justin Garza and Matt Whitehouse, didn’t disappoint as they engaged in another pitchers’ duel.  Fullerton had the only threat in the first two innings when Pedroza led off the game with a walk for the second straight night and Davis singled with two outs but they couldn’t push a run across.  The Titans took the lead in the third when Lopez walked, Chapman doubled him to third and Lorenzen doubled them both in.  Both teams squandered chances in the fourth when Irvine left the bases loaded, the only threat they were able to muster against Garza, and Fullerton had the bases loaded with one out before a double play ended the inning.  The Titans also had potential rallies squashed by double plays in the fifth and seventh as Whitehouse did a good job of bobbing and weaving in and out of trouble as he allowed only two runs on ten hits and three walks in 7 2/3 innings.  Garza was taken out after a single and a HBP with two outs in the eighth and Peitzmeier benefitted from another outstanding play by defensive replacement Orloff with a diving stop to get Spencer out to end the threat.  Lorenzen came in to finish things off and after Hutting made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Sparks and getting a ground out, the wheels came off and the Anteaters got three straight singles to score a run and cut the lead to one.  Lorenzen struck out the next batter but the pitch in the dirt got past Wallach to allow the tying run to score before Lorenzen got out of the inning.  Irvine brought in closer Race Parmenter to try to get the game to extra innings and after retiring the first two hitters, Lopez came up and took a big cut at the first pitch he saw but missed it, let the second one go by and hammered the next pitch that he saw into the netting above the RF wall to set off a wild celebration at home plate.  Lorenzen picked up his third win despite allowing two runs and Garza got a no decision despite allowing no runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 8 2/3 IP.

There were two more good pitchers taking the bump on Sunday with Grahamm Wiest starting against Andrew Morales, who entered the game with a 10-0 record.  Fullerton jumped on Morales for two runs in the first when Pedroza once again led off the game with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball.  Chapman walked with one out, Davis singled in Pedroza and Lorenzen’s SF scored Chapman.  Both pitchers cruised through the next two innings before Taylor tripled off the orange stripe on top of the wall on a ball that was initially ruled a HR and Spencer’s SF drove him in to cut the lead to one.  Morales retired twelve straight hitters from the second through the fifth and Irvine got through against Wiest in the sixth when Taylor, who was outstanding with a 6-12 series, led off with a single and Spencer doubled him to third, Sparks singled in Taylor for the first run and a ground out scored the second run to give the Anteaters the lead.  Pedroza and Lopez walked to start the sixth but Fullerton failed to score and Irvine pushed across two more runs against Wiest in the eighth to take a 5-2 lead.  Morales came out of the game after seven innings due to the Titans getting his pitch count up and they jumped on Irvine’s bullpen once again when Pedroza led off the inning with a double against Jimmy Litchfield and Chapman singled with one out to chase him from the game.  Merten came in and got a strikeout but grooved a pitch to Lorenzen that he smacked to deep right center for a triple to score two runs and cut the lead to 5-4 but was stranded there.  Gauna came into the game and left two runners on base when he got Spencer to ground out to end the top of the ninth.  Jefferies singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Austin Kingsolver bunted him over and Pedroza walked once again and Irvine went to another reliever with Evan Brock coming into the game.  Lopez ended the game by launching another walk-off HR into the net in RF that set off another wild celebration at home for the second straight game as Fullerton clinched their fourth straight conference championship in style.

After pummeling the Riverside pitching staff the previous weekend, Fullerton knew things would be much more difficult last weekend against a strong Irvine starting rotation and their starters were solid, holding the Titans to eight runs on fifteen hits in 20 2/3 IP for a 3.48 ERA.  However, Fullerton treated the Anteaters bullpen like they did the Riverside pitchers and scored seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 IP against the Irvine relievers and the Titans ability to repeatedly hit their mistakes was the difference in the series along with Fullerton’s patience at the plate in drawing twelve walks against the Anteaters starting pitchers to drive up their pitch counts.  Lopez was obviously the hero of the weekend in his final regular season home games with the game winning RBI on Friday and walk-off HR’s on Saturday and Sunday to earn conference player of the week honors.  Other hitters who had good series were Lorenzen (4-11, 4 RBI), Davis (3-11, 3 RBI) and Pedroza (five walks, four runs).  Eshelman and Garza continued their amazing FR seasons and are now a combined 21-2 with a 1.73 ERA and the pitching staff had a 2.33 ERA for the weekend.

Fullerton will wrap up the regular season with a series at the biggest surprise in the conference this season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors.  Expectations were low for Northridge as they have been for the last decade but the Matadors far outplayed them by going on a 24-6 run that propelled them into the top part of the Big West standings before struggling the last two weekends when they lost their series at home to UCSB and were swept at Cal Poly.  Fullerton has beaten Northridge like a drum over the last decade and gone 29-5 against the Matadors since 2003 and they are looking to see if they can do something about that this weekend.


Cal State Northridge Matadors (31-23, 15-9 – tied for 2nd)     
  • 2012 Overall Record – 23-30
  • 2012 Conference Record – 10-14 (tied for 6th)
  • 2012 Post-Season – None. 
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 88/56.  2012 RPI/ISR – 157/116.
  • Pre-season/Current ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 6th by Perfect Game, 7th by Baseball America, 8th by the Big West coaches and Easton College Baseball.

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

Cal State Northridge hired former Fresno State assistant coach Matt Curtis after the 2010 season and he started making his imprint on the roster by bringing in thirteen newcomers and the Matadors got off to a decent start at 14-11 but many of those games were played against mediocre competition and Northridge wasn’t really prepared for what hit them in Big West play and they started out 1-11 before going 5-7 down the stretch.  Northridge turned over the roster some more in 2012 with eighteen more newcomers and got off to a solid 6-3 start last season with series wins at Sac State and vs. Northwestern before they went on a 6-15 skid when they lost the final three games of a tournament in San Diego and lost four straight series on the road at Portland, St. Mary’s and then at Fullerton and UCSB to start Big West play.  The Matadors started playing better when they were able to play some games at home and went 10-6 over the next month, winning series against Cal Poly, Riverside and Irvine.  Northridge had a chance to finish in the top half of the conference standings but lost their series to UC Davis and were swept at Pacific, half of the conference wins that the Tigers had, to finish tied for sixth.

Northridge was one of the worst hitting teams in the Big West last season, finishing last in the conference with a .255 average and they only averaged 4.5 runs per game, scoring four runs or less thirty times.  The Matadors had an all or nothing offense because they were second in the Big West with 22 HR’s but were near the bottom of the conference in SLG % because they weren’t doing much except for swinging hard and were among the Big West leaders in strikeouts.  Northridge didn’t have much team speed because they were also near the bottom of the conference in doubles and triples and had the fewest steals in the Big West.  The Matadors started bunting more than they had in the past and were in the middle of the conference with about a SAC bunt per game.

Northridge brought back two of their starting pitchers from 2011 and expected to have a solid rotation with the addition of FR Jerry Keel, who ended up being one of the better SP’s in the conference but despite the great year that he had, the rest of the pitching staff imploded and only two pitchers had ERA’s under five.  The two returning starters were only 6-16 and the Matadors were next to last in the Big West in ERA and were last in opponents AVG with teams hitting over .300 against them.  Northridge didn’t have the arms to compete besides Keel and were near the bottom of the conference in walks and struck out the fewest number of hitters in the Big West.  The Matadors pitchers weren’t helped by the defense that was porous as usual and allowed 72 unearned runs.

Northridge had more changes in the off-season with fifteen newcomers arriving as well as two new assistant coaches, former Fullerton assistant Sergio Brown and pitching coach Sam Peraza.   Things looked promising with the Matadors getting off to a 4-1 start after winning a series against St. Mary’s but then they went on a 2-11 skid and it looked like the same old Northridge after they lost weekend series to USC, Washington State and Sacramento State and a midweek series to Oregon but most of those games were during a stretch of ten straight games away from home.  Things started turning around for Northridge when they swept a home series against Utah Valley and all of a sudden they got hot and went 24-6 as the most surprising team in the Big West, sweeping Riverside, Hawaii, Pacific and UC Davis but also losing series during that time at Long Beach and Irvine.  The Matadors were getting some national attention and thinking about possibly being a regional team when they were only a game out of first at 14-4 going into their home series with UCSB but they lost the series to the Gauchos.  Northridge had a tough series to follow that up with by going on the road to Cal Poly and were swept by the Mustangs, eliminating them from the conference race and officially ending their chances at post-season play.

Northridge isn’t hitting much better this season with a .263 AVG that is next to last in the Big West but they have been better in conference play and hit in the .280’s.  The Matadors have been finding ways to get key hits and have been near the top of the Big West in scoring and are second in conference games and have been helped by being patient at the plate and are third in the Big West in walks.  Northridge has also been playing much more small ball to manufacture runs and they lead the conference in SAC bunts and are third in steals.  The offense was averaging over five runs a game in Big West play going into the UCSB series but the Matadors only scored eight runs in their five losses during their 1-5 stretch against the Gauchos and Cal Poly and also had trouble earlier in the season when they only scored twelve runs in the final five games of the series at Long Beach and Irvine.

Northridge had a bad pitching staff in 2012 other than Keel but this year it has been a night and day difference with two newcomers joining him to form a good rotation with all three of them having solid ERA’s and the depth hasn’t been limited to the starters.  The Matadors have had eight relievers make at least fifteen appearances and/or throw at least twenty innings with five of them having ERA’s under four.  Northridge’s ERA has improved by about 1 1/2 runs per game and teams are hitting forty points less against them.  The Matadors have also improved their control by almost a walk per game and they are striking out over a batter more per game.  Northridge’s pitchers have also been helped out by a drastically improved defense that has gone from one of the worst in the Big West to one of the best and they have cut their unearned runs in half down to 35.


Offense 
  • Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 115 from ’09-’12 (increases offense by 15%) due to not having lights so all games are played during the day and the ball carries well.  The dimensions are small for a western ballpark at 325 down the lines, 375 to the alleys and 400 to CF.  The playing surface also isn’t the best so it helps balls get past infielders.
  • Batting Average – .262 (8th in the Big West, 211th nationally); .282 in conference (4th).  .255 in 2012 (9/253); .245 in conference.
  • Scoring – 273 (4/168), 5.1 runs per game; 129 (2nd), 5.4 runs per game in conference.  236 (6/240), 4.5 runs per game in 2012; 95 in conference, 4.0 per game.
  • Home Runs – 21 (4/127); 8 in conference (6th).  22 in 2012 (2/169); 9 in conference. 
  • Slugging Percentage – .351 (8/196); .372 in conference (5th).  .338 in 2012 (7/249); .320 in conference.
  • On Base Percentage – .347 (6/193); .358 in conference (2nd).  .338 in 2012 (8/253); .316 in conference.
  • Walks – 193 (3/135), 3.6 per game; 82 (2nd), 3.5 per game in conference.  179 in 2012 (6/204), 3.4 per game; 71 in conference, 3.0 per game.
  • HBP’s – 51 (8/180); 21 in conference (8th).   52 in 2012 (8/167); 17 in conference.
  • Strikeouts – 356 (2/xx), 6.6 per game; 164 (1st), 6.8 per game in conference.  313 in 2012 (4/xx), 5.9 per game; 143 in conference, 6.0 per game.
  • Stolen Bases – 62-88 (3/109); 23-39 in conference (5th).  28-52 in 2012 (9/273); 16-23 in conference.
  • Sac Bunts – 64 (1/20); 33 in conference (1st).  55 in 2012 (6/69); 20 in conference.
Lineup

Infield

Northridge lost two team leaders who platooned at C and 1B but returned their other infielders, which has helped to solidify their defense.

C – Soph #9 Alexis Mercado (RH – .283/.341/.385, 1-25-5.  ’12 – .200 in 35 AB’s) didn’t play much while sitting behind Marty Bowen and Steven Keller, who was honorable mention all-conference, but has moved into the lineup and done a solid job offensively while usually hitting sixth.  He is on a seven game hitting streak, has hits in 15 of his last 18 games and is tenth in the Big West with a .348 AVG in conference games.  Mercado has some solid pop in his bat and is among the Big West leaders in doubles.  He could have better plate discipline and has an 11/33 BB/K ratio.  Mercado does the little things well and has six SAC bunts and five steals.  He has hit much better at home (.307) than he has on the road (.268).  Mercado went 0-3 at Fullerton in 2012.

1B – JR #10 Josh Goosen-Brown (RH – .276/.339/.365, 2-45-3.  ’12 – Medical redshirt.  ’11 – .158 in 38 AB’s) didn’t play much earlier in his career and was injured in 2012 but has taken advantage of his opportunity with Bowen and Keller moving on and has been an excellent run producer in the cleanup spot and is second in the Big West in RBI.  He was in a 4-32 slump before getting two hits in each of the final two games of the Cal Poly series, including his second HR of the season.  Goosen-Brown is hitting .330 at home, almost 100 points better than he is on the road.  He does a solid job of making contact and has a 14/22 BB/K ratio.

2B – Soph #35 Michael Livingston (LH – .282/.406/.336, 0-11-6.  ’12 – .179 in 56 AB’s) didn’t play much as a FR and when he did he hit poorly but took advantage of some injuries to break into the lineup this season.  He does an excellent job of seeing lots of pitches and is third in the conference in walks.  Livingston was moved into the lineup spot earlier in the season around the same time that Northridge started playing well.  He doesn’t have much power with six extra-base hits (all doubles).  Livingston is a good bunter and has six SAC bunts and has good speed.

Soph #2 Ryan Raslowsky (RH – .286/.359/.371, 0-9-5 in 70 AB’s.  ’12 – .278/.347/.285, 0-12-3) didn’t start once in the first thirteen games as a FR but took advantage of an injury to the starter at 2B to get into the lineup and was a sparkplug as the leadoff hitter.  He got off to a slow start this season but was starting to hit better when he got injured and missed 22 games before returning for the final game of the UCSB series.  He hasn’t been able to play in the field and has been the DH for two of the last four games.  Raslowsky hit well at Fullerton in 2012 and went 5-13.

SR #5 Tommy Simis (RH – .295 in 44 AB’s.  ’12 – .268/.344/.280, 0-9-0.  ’11 – .258/.335/.399, 4-29-5) started most of 2011 at 3B before shifting over to SS the last month of the season and took over at 2B in 2012.  He led the team in HR and was tied for 2nd in RBI in 2011 and got off to a good start last season before injuring his elbow a couple in late March and missed most of the rest of the year.  Simis got a few starts earlier in the season but wasn’t able to break into the lineup when Raslowsky got hurt and is a reserve.

SS – SR #6 Kyle Attl (RH – .279/.356/.373, 3-28-6.  ’12 – .225/.295/.342, 4-22-1.  ’11 – .241/.310/.319, 1-15-0) started most of 2011 at SS but was benched for the last few weeks of the season due to his struggles on offense.  He was back in the lineup last season because his defense helped solidify the middle infield and stayed there despite not hitting much but he did show some pop in his bat and was third on the team with four HR’s.  Attl has hit much better this season and is second on the team in RBI and is fifth in the Big West with 18 RBI in conference games.  His power has come due to taking a big swing and he is third in the conference with 47 strikeouts.  He will hit second and he does an excellent job of bunting runners over and leads the Big West with eleven SAC’s.  Attl did not hit well at Cal Poly and went 1-13 but his only hit was a HR.  He went 0-11 at Fullerton in 2012.

3B – FR #37 Nicolas Osuna (RH – .246/.366/.263, 0-16-2) emerged out of a pack of several players who were splitting time at 3B in the first month of the season and has been the regular starter over the last two months.  He didn’t hit much as he got used to D1 pitching but he is hitting .270 in conference games with 13 RBI and will usually hit in the lower part of the lineup.

FR #26 William Colantono (LH – .159/.247/.225, 0-7-0 in 59 AB’s) has gotten an occasional start at 3B and DH as one of only three LH hitters on the roster but hasn’t done much with his chances.

Outfield

Northridge expected to have a better outfield this season with only one SR getting playing time in 2012 but one of their best hitters transferred out and two other starters have been injured with one of them out for the season.

LF – SR #3 Cal Vogelsang (RH – .313/.337/.386, 0-16-3 in 83 AB’s.  ’12 – .278/.308/.359, 1-18-3) broke into the lineup as a JC transfer in 2012 and had a solid season while playing CF.  He was starting in CF at the beginning of this season but was injured in early March and missed 31 games and has hit .346 in fourteen games since returning to the lineup.  Vogelsang has poor plate discipline with an 8/45 BB/K ratio over the last two seasons.  He went 4-13 with two RBI at Fullerton in 2012.

CF – SR #7 Nate Ring (RH – .259/.379/.353, 4-22-14.  ’12 – .267/.347/.329, 0-18-9) was a part-time player in LF early last season as a JC transfer before carving out more playing time for himself as the season went on.  He was starting in LF before Vogelsang got hurt and was moved over to CF and has stayed there due to his good speed, which makes him one of the biggest threats on the bases in the conference and he is third in the Big West in SB’s.  Ring will usually hit third and is one of the most patient hitters in the conference and is second in the Big West with 37 walks.  Unlike most of his teammates, he has had difficulty hitting at home where he has only batted .227.  Ring been struggling recently and is hitting .135 over the last fifteen games.  He went 3-10 with three RBI at Fullerton in 2012.

RF – Soph #8 Chester Pak (RH – .268/.341/.368, 2-18-12.  ’12 - .271 in 59 AB’s) didn’t play much as a FR but got a chance to get more playing time this season and has been a fixture in the lineup.  He has been one of Northridge’s best hitters in conference games, hitting .319 and leading the team in runs, doubles and total bases.  Pak didn’t hit well at Cal Poly when he went 2-12 with five strikeouts, which has been an issue for him with a 13/32 BB/K ratio.  He has hit much better at home with a .316 average and both of his HR’s two weeks ago against UCSB and only hit .241 on the road with two RBI.
  
DH – FR #38 Anthony Lombardo (LH – .191/.247/.225, 0-10-1) and JC transfer #22 Kyle Ferramola (RH – .194/.351/.371, 2-7-1) have been among several players to take turns at the DH spot, although Ferramola hasn’t played much recently.  Lombardo is one of the few LH bats on the roster.

JR #13 Miles Williams (RH – .221/.302/.477, 7-23-4.  ’12 – .258/.349/.396, 6-25-3.  ’11 – .262 in 65 AB’s) moved into the lineup late in 2011 and was the regular RF last season.  He was one of the main power threats in the lineup over the last two seasons, was second in the conference with six HR’s in 2012 and was leading the Big West this season with seven HR’s before a season ending injury in late March. 


Defense

Fielding % – .975 (4/27) with 51 errors, 35 unearned runs.  .976 (2nd) in conference with 22 errors, 15 unearned runs.  .964 (8/171) with 74 errors in 2012, 72 unearned runs.  .967 with 32 errors in conference, 21 unearned runs.  Northridge’s defense has steadily improved from poor to below average and this year it has been very good and is right there with the better teams in the conference.  Goosen-Brown is a good athlete at 1B and Livingston and Attl have very good range up the middle.  Good range in the OF with Vogelsang, Ring and Pak, who all have solid arms.

Stolen Base Attempts – 44-63 (5th), 19-28 in conference (4th).  63-88 (8th) in 2012.  Runners are 33-43 against Mercado and 10-13 against the backup catchers who rarely play.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 73 (10th), 38 in conference (10th).  67 (8th) in 2012.  Blocking pitches is one of the few areas that Mercado has had issues with because Northridge leads the conference in WP’s/PB’s.


Pitching
  • ERA – 3.84 (5/93); 3.66 in conference (4th).  5.27 in 2012 (8/219); 4.84 in conference.
  • AVG – .272 (6/136); .263 in conference (5th).  .305 in 2012 (9/251); .313 in conference.
  • HR – 18 (6/xx); 7 in conference (5th).  24 in 2012 (7/xx); 7 in conference.
  • SLG – .364 (5/xx); .321 in conference (3rd).  .420 in 2012 (9/xx); .407 in conference.  
  • Walks – 152 (4/33), 2.9 BB’s/9 IP; 49 in conference (3rd), 2.1 BB’s/9 IP.  185 (7/133) in 2012, 3.6 BB’s/9 IP; 74 in conference, 3.1 BB’s/9 IP.  
  • HBP – 59 (4/xx); 34 in conference (2nd).  48 in 2012 (5/xx); 31 in conference.
  • OBP – .347 (5/xx).  .321 in conference (3rd).  .383 in 2012 (8/xx); .384 in conference.
  • Strikeouts – 319 (5/207), 6.0 K/9 IP; 138 in conference (4th), 5.2 K/9 IP.  242 (9/285), 4.7 K/9 IP in 2012; 108 in conference, 4.5 K/9 IP.
Starters

Northridge returned one of the best pitchers in the Big West from last season in Jerry Keel, the conference FR pitcher of the year, and along with FR Calvin Copping and JC transfer John Salas they have been the backbone of the team and a big reason for the success the Matadors have had this season.  All three have very good to excellent control while averaging around two walks allowed per nine innings with batters hitting around .250 against them.

Soph #40 Jerry Keel (LHP – 7-2, 2.27 ERA, 16 apps, 13 GS, 91 IP, 84 H, 20 BB, 69 K, .254 AVG, 1 HR, 12 HBP, 7 WP, 7-12 SB. ’12 – 6-3, 2.07 ERA, 16 apps, 13 GS, 91 IP, 88 H, 24 BB, 48 K, .258 AVG, 1 HR, 16 HBP, 0 WP, 11-18 SB) is huge at 6’6”, 280 lbs but he’s not really a hard thrower despite his size.  He relies more on changing speeds and working inside (28 HBP’s over the last two seasons) to get hitters out and works up in the zone more to get hitters to pop up or hit weak fly outs.  Keel had a few control issues early in his FR season but worked through those quickly and allowed an average of two walks per 9 IP in his Big West starts on his way to finishing second in the conference in ERA.  He has been very consistent this season and has allowed two earned runs or less in ten of his starts, walked two batters or less in eleven of his starts and is among the leaders in the Big West in ERA, wins, IP and strikeouts.  Keel can sometimes have a little trouble in the first couple of innings and build up his pitch count, which will be part of Fullerton’s strategy as it has been all season long.  He had his worst start of the season last weekend at Cal Poly when he allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in 3 2/3 IP and has been decent on the road with a 3-2 record and a 3.14 ERA but he has been lights out at home, where he is 4-0 in five starts with a 1.13 ERA.  Keel picked up Northridge’s only win in the series at Fullerton in 2012 when he allowed one run on nine hits in a CG effort for which he was awarded Big West pitcher of the week honors.

FR #21 Calvin Copping (RHP – 5-5, 3.74 ERA, 13 GS, 77 IP, 83 H, 20 BB, 47 K, .277 AVG, 2 HR, 10 HBP, 17 WP, 6-9 SB) isn’t a hard thrower and relies on a sinking fastball and slider to get batters to pound the ball into the ground and because he such sink on his pitches, he leads the Big West in wild pitches and had five of them last weekend at Cal Poly so look for the Fullerton runners to be active against him and looking to take extra bases.  He has good control and has walked a little over two batters per 9 IP but he also doesn’t mind pitching inside and is among the conference leaders in HBP’s.  Copping pitched well in his first two starts of the season but struggled in his next four starts when he couldn’t get past the fifth inning and bottomed out at Long Beach when he allowed six runs in five innings.  He was much better after that start, going 3-1 with two no-decisions over his next six starts and allowed three earned runs or less in five of them, before having a bad start at Cal Poly last weekend when he allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings.  Copping also throws much better at home, where he is 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts, than he does on the road, where he is 2-5 with a 5.15 ERA in eight starts.

JC transfer #25 John Salas (LHP – 4-6, 3.30 ERA, 20 apps, 12 GS, 76 IP, 68 H, 12 BB, 50 K, .245 AVG, 4 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 5-9 SB) also isn’t a hard thrower but spots his fastball well and gets good movement on it along with his slider and has been tough on hitters, allowing more than six hits in only one of his starts.  Much like with the other two pitchers in the rotation, his worst start of the season was last weekend at Cal Poly when he allowed four runs on five hits and two HR’s in five innings.  Salas was a midweek starter and reliever on the weekends earlier in the season but worked his way into the weekend rotation and averaged six innings a start over six starts in conference play, allowing two earned runs or less in five of them, before his start in SLO.  Much like with the other two starters, he has been much better at home where he is 3-2 with a 1.64 ERA than he has been on the road, where he is 1-4 with a 5.57 ERA.

Relievers 

Northridge didn’t have much depth on their pitching staff last season with only one pitcher other than Keel having an ERA under five so it’s no surprise that they have lots of newcomers pitching meaningful innings and for the most part they have been doing well and shortening the games for their starters to get the ball to their closer.

JR #10 Josh Goosen-Brown (RHP – 2-3, 3.63 ERA, 9 saves, 18 apps, 22 IP, 26 H, 6 BB, 9 K, .295 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 1-1 SB.  ’12 – Medical redshirt.  ’11 – 4-3, 4.74 ERA, 5 saves, 19 apps, 4 GS, 49 IP, 72 H, 8 BB, 43 K, .340 AVG, 4 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 9-11 SB) was a part-time closer in 2011 before missing last season.  He has been very effective as the closer and is third in the conference in saves and relies on a slider to get batters to hit the ball into the ground.  Goosen-Brown had a 1.71 ERA going into his most recent appearance when he went into a scoreless game in the ninth inning against UCSB and allowed five runs in 1/3 of an inning.

FR #30 DJ Milam (RHP – 4-0, 3.30 ERA, 2 saves, 21 apps, 30 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 16 K, .183 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB) has been very tough to hit and with his size projects to have a bright future.  He has been the main set-up guy for Goosen-Brown.

JR #18 Harley Holt (RHP – 3-2, 5.31 ERA, 2 saves, 20 apps, 4 GS, 39 IP, 49 H, 21 BB, 25 K, .329 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 7 WP, 6-10 SB .  ’12 – 0-3, 3.71 ERA, 3 saves, 19 apps, 4 GS, 44 IP, 50 H, 16 BB, 22 K, .289 AVG, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 4-6 SB) was one of the few effective pitchers on the staff in 2012 and was in the rotation to begin the season but wasn’t effective as he was out of the bullpen.

Soph #32 Brandon Warner (RHP – 2-2, 4.98 ERA, 15 apps, 5 GS, 34 IP, 43 H, 1 BB, 13 K, .305 AVG, 4 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 2-2 SB.  ’12 – 1-3, 5.52 ERA, 18 apps, 5 GS, 44 IP, 63 H, 14 BB, 17 K, .348 AVG, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 8-10 SB) was a midweek starter as a FR and has made some midweeks starts earlier in the season but has been pitching out of the bullpen most of the time.  He has excellent control but his problem is he gets too much of the plate and is prone to getting hit.

JC transfer #27 Brycen Rutherford (RHP – 1-1, 3.35 ERA, 14 apps, 5 GS, 38 IP, 34 H, 17 BB, 23 K, .243 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 4-5 SB) has been the midweek starter and allowed one run in eleven innings in his last two starts against San Diego and UCLA.  Northridge hasn’t had a midweek game for the last two weeks so he will be available in relief.

FR #33 Oscar Sandoval (LHP – 2-0, 3.86 ERA, 21 apps, 12 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 7 K, .311 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB) is the only LHP in the bullpen and is a situational LHP who is only brought in to face one or two hitters.

FR #28 Anthony Cortez (RHP – 0-0, 1.35 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 13 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 17 K, .196 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 3-4 SB) is a situational RHP who will only face one or two batters.)

JC transfer #20 Michael Coates (RHP – 0-0, 5.21 ERA, 19 apps, 1 GS, 19 IP, 24 H, 11 BB, 23 K, .296 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 4-4 SB) is a middle reliever who will throw one to two innings.
  

Outlook      

It would appear that Fullerton doesn’t have much to play for this weekend after wrapping up the Big West title last weekend but that is far from the case because they have much bigger goals to play for, such as hosting a regional and super regional as a national seed.  It would also appear that Northridge doesn’t have much to play for after being eliminated from conference championship and post-season contention last weekend but the Matadors are going to be motivated to be the first team to win a series against the Titans this season and finish as high as second in the Big West standings.

Fullerton isn’t always a consistent hitting team on the weekends but they have been consistent at maintaining a patient approach to work counts, draw walks and drive up the pitch counts for starting pitchers to get into the bullpen of their opponents, a formula that has been productive and made them the best offense in the conference.  Northridge has been an opportunistic offense that has been one of the better ones and solid at executing with a small ball approach and manufacturing runs with key hits, although their offense has cooled off over the last couple of weeks.

It will be interesting to see what Fullerton does with their starting rotation this weekend with the series starting one day earlier than normal and the coaching staff probably looking to limit the innings of some of their starters to rest them for the post-season run.  The starting rotation for Northridge has been solid all season, especially at home where each of their starters have ERA’s under two, and a major reason for the big improvement by the Matadors, although their rotation began to show some cracks last weekend when all three of their starters had their worst starts of the season at Cal Poly.

Fullerton usually is one of the best defensive teams in the conference and this year is no exception and often making the exceptional play to help out their pitchers.  Northridge traditionally had a porous defense and made life difficult for their pitchers but this year they turned that around and you have to credit their coaches and players for putting in the hard work to make that happen as they quit beating themselves and giving away games.

This doesn’t figure to be an easy series for Fullerton with one goal behind them and more goals coming up while playing at a motivated opponent looking to end their season on a high note.  If Northridge puts everything together in all three phases of the game they could possibly pull off the upset this weekend but the senior leaders for Fullerton do not want to end the season on a low and are motivated to finish off the regular season on a positive note so look for the Titans to win a hard fought series.