Baseball Preview: Hawaii

Cal State Fullerton rebounded from a disastrous trip to the south where they lost all four games at LSU and Texas A&M by getting some home cooking and sweeping the Washington Huskies in all three games by a cumulative score of 26-8 before splitting a pair of games with nationally ranked Arizona State.

Noe Ramirez struck out 11 hitters and allowed one run in six innings before giving a couple more in the seventh in an 11-3 win in the opener.  The Titans had eleven players either get a hit, score a run and/or drive in a run and were led by Tyler Pill's two extra-base hits (2B, 3B) and three RBI and three hits, two runs and an RBI from Michael Lorenzen.

Fullerton and Washington played a double-header last Saturday due to rain on Sunday and the Titans swept both games by scores of 6-1 and 9-4.  Pill allowed only one run in 7 1/3 IP in the first game and the offense managed to score six runs despite only getting five hits.  Nick Ramirez hit his first HR of the season, Ivory Thomas drove in three runs and Lorenzen had two hits and scored two runs.  Dylan Floro started the second game and allowed four runs (2 ER) in six innings.  Richy Pedroza had four hits and Jared Deacon and Nick Ramirez each had three hits and drove in two runs.

The level of competition stepped up significantly when ASU came to town for a two game midweek series.  Fullerton extended their winning streak at home to 8 games with a 7-3 win on Tuesday.  The Titans got a strong start from Jake Floethe, who allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 IP against the hot hitting Sun Devils.  Every starter in the lineup got a hit with Thomas scoring two runs and Austin Kingsolver and Nick Ramirez each driving in two runs.  Ramirez pitched the 9th inning for the save.  ASU won the second game 10-1 and there weren't too many highlights for Fullerton except for Lorenzen hitting his second HR of the season and Raymond Hernandez and David Hurbut combining for five innings of solid relief work.

Next up for Fullerton is a four game series on the islands at Hawaii.  The Titans won two games out of three from the Rainbows last season at Fullerton.  Hawaii got off to a slow start but has won five consecutive games.

 

Hawaii Rainbows

  • Overall Record – 11-9 in 2011; 35-28 in 2010
  • Conference Record – 12-12 in 2010 (4th).   
  • Post-Season – Won WAC Tournament (4-1).  Finished 2nd in ASU regional (2-0 vs. San Diego, 0-2 vs. ASU).
  • 2011 RPI/ISR – 87/103.  2010 – 72 RPI
  • Current ranking – None
  • Predicted conf finish – 2nd by the WAC coaches and Baseball America

 

2010 Summary and 2011 Preview

Hawaii had an experienced team in 2010 that expected to contend for the WAC title and was projected to finish second or third in the conference.  The Rainbows had an up and down season and weren't too consistent, winning only three (and splitting another three) of their first eleven series and sitting at 6-10 in the WAC going into their last two series.  Hawaii got hot down the stretch and won ten of their last fourteen games, including winning four out of five games in the WAC tournament, to claim the WAC's automatic bid for the NCAA regionals.  The Rainbows continued to play well as they won the opening game of their regional against San Diego before losing to host ASU, defeating San Diego for a second time and losing to ASU once again to finish as the runner-up in the regional and 35-28 on the season.

Hawaii was projected by the WAC coaches and media to keep the momentum going from 2010 by finishing second and ending up in a regional again this season.  The Rainbows have played a pretty difficult schedule to open the 2011 season, which has been a factor in why they were under .500 before last weekend.  Hawaii started the season by splitting four games with Oregon and losing 2 of 3 games to Texas at home before coming to the mainland, where they split four games at much improved Loyola Marymount and lost a midweek game at Long Beach.  The Rainbows returned home and split four games with Portland before winning all four games against an overmatched Cenentary squad last weekend.

Hawaii has had trouble scoring runs due to using the new BBCOR bats, playing in a pitcher's park and facing some good pitching staffs.  The Rainbows only scored more than five runs twice in their first fourteen games and were only hitting .240 going into the Centenary series, when they fattened up and scored 30 runs and increased their team average by 20 points.  Hawaii doesn't have much pop at the plate and was averaging just over two extra-base hits a game before playing Centenary.  The Rainbows also don't bunt much but they will use the hit and run to get runners moving and will run because they have the top three base stealers in the WAC and lead the conference in SB's.

Hawaii had a deep pitching staff in 2010 so they have been able to overcome the losses of two of their better starting pitchers to have the second best pitching staff in the WAC after nationally ranked Fresno State.  The Rainbows have dropped their team ERA by over two runs and opponents are hitting sixty points less thus far, although those numbers are likely to go up when they start playing conference games in some of the launching pads in the WAC.  The Hawaii pitchers have held teams to four runs or less in 14 of their first 20 games.

 

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 79 (decreases offense by 21%). 
  • Batting Average – .260 (4th in the WAC).  .287 in 2010 (5th in the WAC).
  • Runs Per Game – 4.8 (5th).  6.0 in 2010 (5th).
  • Home Runs – 7 (6th).  58 in 2010 (5th). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .369 (4th).  .431 in 2010 (5th).
  • Walks – 83 (2nd), 4.1 per game.  259 in 2010 (3rd), 4.1 per game.
  • HBP's – 25 (3rd).  49 in 2010 (4th).
  • Stolen Bases – 26 (1st).  44 in 2010 (6th). 
  • Sac Bunts – 15 (2nd).  44 in 2010 (1st).

 

Infield

Hawaii lost starters at C, 1B and SS from last season and return their 3B and their best player at 2B. 

C/3B – Soph #9 Pi'ikea Kitamura (RH – .145/.280/.232, 1-8-0; '10 – .241/.322/.292, 1-28-2) is the best defensive option at 3B but has been playing mostly behind the plate due to an injury to the expected starter.   He does not have much power but can get a bunt down (2nd on the team last year with 6 SAC's).  Kitamura has usually been hitting 6th or 7th.  He went 3-11 with 2 RBI in last year's series at Fullerton.  When Kitamura is starting at 3B, JC transfer #33 Garrett Champion (RH) will be behind the plate.  He played for the first time last week and started three games last weekend against Centenary, going 6-11 with a HR and 2 RBI while batting 7th or 8th.

1B – SR #13 Jeffrey Van Doornum (RH – .294/.422/.397, 1-9-6; '10 – .330/.391/.585, 14-38-6) was the DH most of the last three years and has been playing more at 1B this season.  He has gotten off to a slow start in the power department getting used to the new BBCOR bats after leading the team and finishing 7th in the WAC in HR's in 2010 when he was 1st team All-WAC after hitting .383 in conference games.  Van Doornum will hit in the middle of the lineup.  He will see lots of pitches because he is 8th in the WAC with 13 BB's and has a big swing because he was 3rd in the WAC in 2010 with 55 K's and is 2nd this season with 22 K's.  Van Doornum is a good baserunner and is 2nd in the WAC with 6 SB's.  He went 0-7 with 5 K's in last year's series at Fullerton.

DH – JC transfers #31 Michael Blake (LH – .255/.305/.392, 0-10-0) and #20 David Peterson (RH – .289/.418/.356, 0-4-0) have been seeing some playing time at 1B along with Van Doornum but one of them has usually been the DH.  Peterson was catching earlier in the season but has been moved out from behind the plate.  Blake got off to a very slow start before going 6-13 with 4 RBI last weekend against Centenary.  Whichever one starts will usually hit 5th or 6th.

2B – JR #14 Kolten Wong (LH – .386/.441/.542, 3-14-7; '10 – .357/.436/.534, 7-40-19)is Hawaii's best player and one of the best players in the WAC.  He was a FR All-American and played on Team USA after his FR season.  He had another strong year in 2010 and was 1st team All-WAC when he led the team in R, H, TB and BB and was 2nd in the WAC in SB's.  Wong continued his strong play last summer when he was MVP of the Cape Cod League and he is projected to be drafted in the first two rounds.  He has gotten off to a blazing hot start and is among the WAC leaders in AVG, H, HR, SLG and SB and leads the team in RBI.  Wong will hit 3rd and has shown his versatility this season by also starting games at C and SS.  He went 4-11 with two 2B's last year at Fullerton.

SS and 3B – Soph Matt Harrison (RH – .114/.244/.143, 0-2-0) was supposed to take over at SS for three year starter Greg Garcia after sitting out last season due to transferring in from North Carolina.  Harrison has struggled both offensively and defensively and was replaced in the lineup last weekend at SS by one of the pitchers, JR #2 Jesse Moore (RH – .238/.304/.381, 0-3-1), who went 5-11 after starting the season 0-10.  FR #4 Conner George (RH – 0-14) and JC transfer #22 AJ Bayus (RH – 4-20) have each made five starts on the left side of the infield at SS or 3B.  Whoever starts at SS will hit 9th.

 

Outfield

Hawaii lost one of their starting OF's from 2010 and has a pretty experienced group of outfielders.

LF – SR #8 Sean Montplaisir (LH – .362/.430/.507, 0-9-3; '10 – .241/.306/.353, 5-26-2) and Wong were the best all-around hitters on the team in 2009 and he was a pre-season All WAC selection going into 2010 but had a poor season and ended up being a part-time starter.   Montplaisir has has gotten off to a much better start this year and is among the WAC leaders in AVG, H, 2B and SLG.  He is a good bunter (2nd on the team with 6 SAC's in 2010) and will hit 2nd.  Montplaisir went 1-6 last year at Fullerton.

CF – Soph #21 Breland Almadova (RH – .222/.379/.311, 0-7-4) was a part-time player in 2010 (.118 in 34 AB's) but has gotten a chance to play in the last couple of weeks as the leadoff hitter and has walked 11 times in 14 games.  He has good speed and is a good bunter (leads the WAC with 4 SAC's).

RF – JC transfer #10 Zack Swasey (RH – 310/.375/.423, 0-10-5) moved right into the lineup and has been a threat in the middle of the batting order.  He is 3rd in the WAC in SB's and 10th in 2B's.  Swasey has a big swing and is tied for 2nd in the WAC in K's with 22.

OF – SR #18 Collin Bennett (RH – .179/.270/.250, 0-4-0; ‘10 – .323/.408/.489, 5-49-4) came in as a JC transfer in 2010 and was a productive member of the lineup, playing CF and leading the team in RBI.  He got off to a slow start this season and has been once each of the last two weekends.  Bennett went 3-11 with 2 RBI last year at Fullerton.

 

Defense

Fielding % –.960 (6th) with 33 errors.  2010 – .968 with 77 errors (2nd).  Despite playing on turf, defense has been a problem this year with Hawaii allowing 18 unearned runs before not giving up any free runs last weekend.  Wong has played below his ability level and has made six errors, partially due to moving around the diamond and playing some SS and C in addition to 2B.  SS has been a major issue with Harrison making seven errors and the backups who have played at SS/3B have made six more miscues. Kitamura is good defensively at 3B.  There are good athletes at each of the OF spots.

Stolen Base Attempts – 29-35 (7th).  2010 – 63-106 (7th).  Hawaii allowed the most SB's but threw out the most runners in the WAC in 2010.  The new C's have struggled to slow down the running game and have allowed the most SB's again this season.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 11 (1st).  2010 – 44 (1st).  The new catchers have done a good job at blocking pitches and have allowed the fewest WP's/PB's in the WAC. 

 

Pitching

  • ERA – 3.25 (2nd in the WAC).  5.11 in 2010 (1st in the WAC).
  • BA – .239 (2nd).  .296 in 2010 (2nd).
  • BB's/9 IP – 2.3 (1st).  2.7 in 2010 (1st).
  • K's/9 IP – 6.3 (3rd).  6.8 in 2010 (2nd).
  • Extra Base Hits – 52 (5th), 3.6 per game.  179 (2nd), 2.8 per game in 2010.
  • HR – 9 (6th).  40 HR in 2010 (1st).

 

Starters

Despite losing their top two starting pitchers who made 30 starts last season, Hawaii has an experienced staff with their next seven pitchers in innings pitched returning and all of them threw at least 30 innings in 2010.  The Rainbows have been pitching much better this season and their staff has kept them in most games despite the struggles of the offense.

FRI – JR #24 Matt Sisto (RHP – 1-2, 2.48 ERA, 5 GS, 33 IP, 29 H, 6 BB, 19 K, 1 HR, .232 BA, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 4-4 SB; 2010 – 5-5, 5.27 ERA, 15 apps, 13 GS, 72 IP, 86 H, 16 BB, 48 K, 5 HR, .302 BA, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 7-11 SB) is a strike thrower with very good control who hasn't had much to show for his efforts this year.  He has pitched into the sixth inning in all five of his starts and has allowed three runs or less in all four of his starts at home.  Sisto is 4th in the WAC in ERA and 6th in AVG and was voted to the pre-season All-WAC team by their coaches.  He allowed 6 R on 12 H in 5 1/3 IP in his start at Fullerton last season.

SAT – JR #15 Connor Little (RHP – 2-0, 3.13 ERA, 4 GS, 23 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 14 K, 3 HR, .244 BA, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB; 2010 – 2-3, 8.08 ERA, 15 apps, 5 GS, 39 IP, 56 H, 11 BB, 37 K, 7 HR, .348 BA, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 7-10 SB) pitched primarily out of the bullpen in 2010.  He pitched poorly against Oregon in his first start but has thrown well in his last three starts, allowing five runs in 19 innings.  Little is a big guy with a low 90's fastball and a solid slider and is effective when he is able to have good command of his fastball to set up hitters to chase his slider.  He allowed 2 R on 4 H in 1 2/3 IP last season at Fullerton.

SAT – FR #17 Jarrett Arakawa (LHP – 1-1, 4.30 ERA, 6 apps, 3 GS, 23 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 19 K, 2 HR, .241 BA, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 6-7 SB) started out the season in the bullpen, when he struggled and allowed 6 R in 3 IP in 3 apps.  He got his chance to start at Long Beach and has thrown well in each of his starts.  Arakawa allowed 3 R (2 ER) in 5 IP at Long Beach, 2 R in 7 IP against Portland and 1 R in 8 IP against Centenary.

SUN – JR #2 Jesse Moore (RHP – 0-2, 3.76 ERA, 5 GS, 26 IP, 29 H, 6 BB, 15 K, 1 HR, .299 BA, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 1-3 SB; 2010 – 1-1, 4.62 ERA, 23 apps, 4 saves, 39 IP, 37 H, 10 BB, 25 K, 5 HR, .255 BA, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 1-5 SB) was used as the main set-up man in 2010.  He isn't a big guy so he is a battler on the mound who gets guys out by keeping the ball down.  Moore was limited to four innings in each of his first two starts before going six innings at LMU and seven innings against Portland.  He allowed 3 R on 5 H in 2 IP last season at Fullerton.

 

Relievers

Hawaii had a deep bullpen in 2010 that was led by one of the best closers in the country.  They have their closer and several other relievers back and have done a good job once again this season.

JR #34 Lenny Linsky (RHP – 0-1, 0.00 ERA, 9 apps, 4 saves, 11 IP, 4 unearned runs, 4 H, 4 BB, 16 K, 0 HR, .103 BA, 3 HBP, 4 WP, 1-1 SB;  2010 – 4-0, 1.64 ERA, 29 apps, 12 saves, 44 IP, 40 H, 12 BB, 28 K, 2 HR, .235 BA, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 6-7 SB) was 1st team All-WAC and has been outstanding to start this season.  He relies on getting hitters out with a hard sinking low 90's fastball that he buries to get batters to pound the ball into the ground.  Linsky is projected to go in the first 7-8 rounds of the draft in June, possibly higher.  He got the save at Fullerton in Hawaii's only win of the series by throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

SR #27 Blair Walters (LHP – 3-1, 4.32 ERA, 10 apps, 17 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 12 K, 0 HR, .233 BA, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB;  2010 – 2-1, 7.07 ERA, 23 apps, 36 IP, 47 H, 12 BB, 35 K, 1 HR, .338 BA, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 5-9 SB) figures to see quite a bit of action this weekend with the number of LH hitters that Fullerton has.  He is a crafty lefty and a ground ball specialist.  He allowed four runs in 1/3 IP at Fullerton last season.

SR #32 Zach Gallagher (RHP – 3-0, 1.62 ERA, 7 apps, 1 GS, 17 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 1 HR, .222 BA, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB;  2010 – 3-4, 4.81 ERA, 15 apps, 6 GS, 1 save, 49 IP, 63 H, 15 BB, 29 K, 5 HR, .321 BA, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 3-10 SB) was pretty effective as a SP and middle reliever in 2010 and has been lights out this season.  He has been used exclusively out of the bullpen except for a spot start he made last week against Centenary when he threw six shutout innings and allowed only two hits.

SR #29 Alex Capaul (RHP – 1-1, 4.67 ERA, 7 apps, 2 GS, 17 IP, 18 H, 4 BB, 10 K, 0 HR, .265 BA, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 6-6 SB;  2010 – 6-2, 5.65 ERA, 21 apps, 3 GS, 72 IP, 91 H, 14 BB, 44 K, 10 HR, .308 BA, 4 HBP, 5 WP, 9-15 SB) led the team in wins last season and was among the team leaders in IP despite pitching mostly out of the bullpen.  He started the season in the rotation and made starts against Oregon (3 R in 6 IP) and LMU (5 R in 3 1/3 IP) but has been working out of the bullpen the last couple of weeks.  He allowed 1 R on 4 H in 3 2/3 IP in two apps last season at Fullerton.  

JC transfer #31 Michael Blake (LHP – 0.00 ERA, 3 1/3 IP in 5 apps, 1 H, 4 BB, 3 K).

JC transfer #23 Brent Harrison (RHP – 0-1, 6.43 ERA, 4 apps, 7 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K).

 

Outlook

Fullerton played very well in winning their first four games at home against Washington and ASU before dropping the second game of the series with the Sun Devils.  It will be interesting to see how the Titans respond to playing their third series of the season on the road.  Fullerton played well in winning two out of three games at TCU but played poorly in losing all four games at LSU and Texas A&M.

Fullerton will have some adversity to deal with this weekend because there are eight players who have been suspended and will not be making the trip to Hawaii, including the starters on the left side of the infield.  The suspensions will result in some shuffling around of players in the infield and will cut into the depth of the bullpen, which could become a factor in a four game series.

Pitching and defense figure to be the keys to winning this series because runs should be at a premium in a notorious pitcher's park.  Fullerton has averaged under four runs a game in their ten road games and scored two runs or less in five of them.  Hawaii has allowed four runs or less in eleven of the fifteen games they have played at home and the Rainbows scored four runs or less in six of their first eight home games (seven of those against Oregon and Texas) before starting to hit against the lesser pitching of Portland and Centenary.

Hawaii is a tough team to beat on the islands and it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the Titans and Rainbows end up splitting the four game series.  If Fullerton continues to get solid pitching from the four SP's they are using this weekend and the defense holds up, the Titans have a chance to sneak out three wins.  If Fullerton has issues with fielding like they did on their last road trip when the committed eleven errors in four games with some players not starting at positions they are used to playing, that is asking for trouble and giving Hawaii a chance to win the series at home.