Baseball Preview: UC Davis

Cal State Fullerton continued to play well last week after sweeping Washington the previous weekend. The Titans split a two game midweek series with ASU, winning 7-3 win on Tuesday behind 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 Ivory 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 Michael Lorenzen hitting his second HR of the season and Raymond Hernandez and David Hurlbut combining for five innings of solid relief work.

Fullerton followed up the ASU series with a weekend trip to Hawaii.  The Titans went into the series with the Rainbows shorthanded due to leaving eight players behind for a violation of team rules so it was going to be interesting to see how Fullerton handled dealing with that adversity after playing so poorly on their previous road trip when they went 0-4 at LSU and Texas A&M.

Noe Ramirez got the series off to a great start with eight dominant innings in which he only allowed two hits with eight strikeouts to lead Fullerton to a 3-0 win.  Anthony Trajano had two hits, one run and one RBI to lead the offense and Nick Ramirez pitched the final inning for the save.

Fullerton had a doubleheader on Saturday and needed a good start out of Tyler Pill in the first game to take pressure off of the shorthanded bullpen and he delivered, retiring the first eighteen hitters on his way to a 4-2 win in a seven inning complete game.  The Titans were led at the plate by leadoff hitter Thomas, who hit his first career HR, and two RBI from Michael Lorenzen.

Fullerton got another good pitching performance to win the second game of the doubleheader to clinch the series win with another 4-2 win.  Dylan Floro allowed two runs in the first inning but held Hawaii off the scoreboard for the next five innings before Hernandez threw two scoreless innings and Nick Ramirez recorded another save with a scoreless inning of work.  The offense was led by a key pinch-hit RBI single by Chad Wallach to give the Titans a 3-2 lead and a towering HR by Ramirez to increase the lead.

Fullerton went for the sweep on Sunday and got another good outing from a starting pitcher, although this one was a surprise.  Hurlbut was picked to start the final game of the series and he allowed only three hits with six strikeouts in five shutout innings to lead the Titans to a 3-2 win.  Ramirez had the key hit in the game with a two run single in the 7th inning to increase the lead to 3-0.  Christian Coronado followed Hurlbut with two scoreless innings and Floethe snuffed out a Hawaii rally in the 8th and retired the final five batters of the game for the save.

Fullerton returned from their successful trip to the islands with a midweek game against UCLA, the team that eliminated the Titans in a Super Regional last season to leave them one step short of a trip to Omaha.  Fullerton continued to play well with their ninth win in ten games with a 5-3 win.  The Titans were led on the mound by Colin O'Connell's six effective innings and three scoreless innings from Hernandez and at the plate by Richy Pedroza and Thomas (two runs each) and Pill and Carlos Lopez (two RBI each).

Next up on the schedule for Fullerton will be a road trip to UC Davis for the conference opening series as the Titans look to get off to a good start in defending their Big West title.

UC Davis Aggies

  •     Overall Record – 5-14 in 2011; 26-29 in 2010
  •     Conference Record – 0-0 in 2011; 9-15 in 2010 (tie for 7th).  
  •     Post-Season – None
  •     2011 RPI/ISR – 271/239.  2010 – 163 RPI
  •     Current ranking – None
  •     Predicted conf finish – 8th by the Big West coaches, 9th by Baseball America

 

2010 Summary and 2011 Preview

UC Davis qualified for a regional in 2008 with a veteran team in their first year of D1 eligibility and their first year as a full member of the Big West.  The Aggies knew that 2009 would be a rebuilding year after losing so many players from their regional team but they played much worse than expected and went 13-42.   UC Davis got off to a 12-9 start in 2010 going into conference play due to getting much better production at the plate and solid pitching.  The Aggies continued to hit a decent rate during conference games but their pitching staff had injuries to deal with and pretty much imploded.  UC Davis only went 1-11 against the four best teams in the Big West and ended up finishing tied for 7th in the conference.

UC Davis thought they had a chance to be improved this year with so many members of last year's team returning but the Aggies have gotten off to a very slow start, primarily due to poor hitting.  Davis played three one run games with Sac State to start the season, losing two of them and scoring only six runs.  The Aggies next series was against USF and they lost two out of three and scored only ten runs.  The next series for Davis was against Fresno State and they were swept in two games in which they were held to five runs.  They played three midweek games in between those series and before heading to San Jose for a tournament and they lost all three of those games, scoring a total of ten runs.  The Aggies offense started to wake up in the tournament in San Jose when they scored 21 runs in four games but their pitching let them down and they lost three out of four games.  UC Davis played a doubleheader at San Jose on Monday and split two games, losing the first one 5-2 and winning the second game 9-1.  The Aggies bats stayed hot in Wednesday's game at Santa Clara when they beat the Broncos 9-5.

After having a decent offense in 2010, UC Davis expected to have a better offense with seven starters back but that hasn't been the case.  The Aggies have struggled out of the gate and were hitting .247 going into the week before starting to heat up and getting their average into the .250's.  UC Davis is ranked in the bottom two spots in the conference in just about every major hitting category except for HR's (tied for 2nd with 7).  The Aggies scored four runs or less in their first thirteen games and 15 out of 17 before heating up in their last two games.  UC Davis is not patient at the plate and they are only averaging three walks per game.  They will bunt runners over, averaging about a SAC per game, but don't run much.  Their game plan is to get a pitch early in the count and try to drive it somewhere.

UC Davis has a 4.41 ERA which is over two runs better than last year's ERA.  The Aggies had a similar ERA going into Big West play in 2010 before the pitching staff melted down so they are looking to avoid a repeat scenario.  UC Davis has had one of the better SP's in the conference thus far along with a very good setup man and closer in the bullpen but haven't had too much consistency from the other starters or relievers.

 

Offense

  •     Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 73 (decreases offense by 27%).  410 to CF, 385 to the power alleys, plenty of foul territory
  •     Batting Average – .255 (8th in the Big West).  .304 in 2010 (5th in the Big West).
  •     Runs Per Game – 3.6 (9th).  6.0 in 2010 (7th).
  •     Home Runs – 7 (2nd).  24 in 2010 (9th).
  •     Slugging Percentage – .324 (8th).  .403 in 2010 (9th).
  •     Walks – 53 (9th), 3.0 per game.  153 in 2010 (9th), 2.8 per game.
  •     HBP's – 17 (6th).  72 in 2010 (4th).
  •     Stolen Bases – 12 (7th).  40 in 2010 (7th).
  •     Sac Bunts – 14 (7th).  38 in 2010 (5th).

 

Infield

UC Davis has an experienced infield with starters returning at four of the five positions with only their SS moving on.

C – JR #42 Scott Kalush (RH – .237/.348/.316, 0-7-0; '10 – .270/.327/.297, 0-23-0) is in his third year as the starting catcher.  He hit better last season but has gotten off to a slow start.  Kalush has very little power and only had four extra base hits last season and has three this year.  He will usually hit 7th.  Kalush went 1-7 last season at Fullerton.  SR #3 Alex Dreyfuss (RH –  4-21, 4 RBI; '10 – .294 in 34 AB's) has started five games as the backup C and had only one hit in 16 AB's before going 3-5 on Monday at San Jose.


1B – JR #19 Eric Johnson (RH – .296/.333/.394, 1-6-3; '10 – .343/.412/.418, 1-39-4) was a part-time starter as a FR and has been the starter the last two years.  He was 3rd on the team in RBI in 2010 and was 2nd in the conf with 17 HBP but has only walked ten times over the last two season.  Johnson will usually hit 5th.  He went 1-6 at Fullerton last season.

2B – SR #4 Justin Andrade (RH – 3-19, 5 RBI; '10 – .267 in 30 AB's), FR #41 Adam Young (RH – 1-18) and JC transfer #22 Ryan Allgrove (RH – 0-13) have been splitting time but all have been poor at the plate. Whoever is in the lineup will usually hit 8th or 9th.

SS – SR #7 Scott Heylman (RH – .293/.379/.310, 0-2-0; '10 – .257/.368/.286, 0-10-2) was the starting SS in 2009, started at 2B last year and has moved back to SS this season.  He has gotten off to a good start but doesn't have much power and has only one extra base hit.  Heylman will usually hit 7th or 8th.  He went 5-8 at Fullerton last season and is 6-14 in his career.

3B – Soph #24 Paul Politi (RH – .328./.403/.410, 1-10-2; '10 – .296/.385/.376, 1-25-2) had a solid season as a FR and has been one of the better hitters in the lineup, leading the team in AVG and is 2nd in OBP.  He will hit 2nd or 3rd.  Politi went 3-12 with 3 RBI at Fullerton last season.

 

Outfield

UC Davis also has an experienced outfield after having only one of their outfielders move on after 2010.

LF/DH – JR #20 David Popkins (Both – .323/.429/.477, 2-7-0; '10 – .388/.473/.580, 5-43-2) barely played as a FR but was outstanding last year and was 1st team All-Big West after finishing 2nd in the conf in OBP, 3rd in AVG and 9th in SLG.  He also led the team in RBI and H and was 2nd in R and HR.  Popkins has gotten off to a slow start compared to what he did last season but had three hits on Monday at San Jose.  He will usually hit 3rd or 4th.  Popkins went 4-11 with 4 RBI at Fullerton last season.

CF – JC transfer #9 Brett Morgan (RH – .306/.377/.468, 1-4-3) is a good athlete who has been one of the better hitters in the lineup.  He is in the top three on the team in AVG, OBP and SLG.  Morgan is the leadoff hitter and is 4th in the Big West with six doubles.

RF – JR #27 Scott Lyman (RH – .257/.325/.357, 2-8-1; '10 – .356/.388/.525, 5-40-1) focused on pitching as a FR but has been the starter in RF the last two seasons when he's not pitching.  He was honorable mention All-Big West in 2010 when he was one of the team leaders in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR and RBI.  Lyman will usually hit 3rd or 4th.  He went 3-6 last season at Fullerton.

Soph #8 Seth Batty (RH – 3-20, 1 RBI; '10 – .292/.376/.308, 0-6-6) and SR #11 Daniel Cepin (Both – .250/.294/.292, 0-5-1; '10 – .259/.320/.267, 0-8-5) were regulars in 2010 but haven't seen as much playing time this season.  Cepin was the CF but Morgan is a better hitter and has taken over that spot.  He will usually be in the lineup when Lyman is pitching.  Both have good speed.

 

Defense

Fielding % – .971 (3rd) with 19 errors.  2010 – .970 with 64 errors (5th).  The infielders for Davis have average range and will make most of the plays they are supposed to.  Morgan, Cepin and Batty have good speed.  Lyman and Popkins have average range but good arms because they are pitchers.

Stolen Base Attempts – 23-35 (5th).  2010 – 90-119 (9th).  Davis was terrible against the running game in 2010 but have drastically improved this season.      

WP's/PB's Allowed – 28 (9th).  2010 – 82 (9th).  The catchers have improved at stopping the running game but they are still having major problems blocking pitches.

 

Pitching

  •     ERA – 4.41 (7th in the Big West).  5.68 in 2010 (8th in the Big West).
  •     BA – .254 (5th).  .308 in 2010 (7th).
  •     BB's/9 IP – 4.0 (7th).  4.6 in 2010 (9th).
  •     K's/9 IP – 8.5 (2nd).  6.3 in 2010 (3rd).
  •     Extra Base Hits – 41 (3rd), 2.3 per game.  183 (5th), 2.8 per game in 2010.
  •     HR – 4 (3rd).  30 HR in 2010 (1st).

 

Starters

UC Davis returns all three starting pitchers from last season so they are experienced and have a good idea what they are doing on the mound.

FRI – JR #6 Dayne Quist (LHP – 1-2, 5.93 ERA, 6 apps, 4 GS, 30 IP, 37 H, 11 BB, 32 K, .306 BA, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 4 WP, 3-5 SB; '10 – 7-4, 5.57 ERA, 14 GS, 3 CG, 95 IP, 105 H, 40 BB, 79 K, .288 BA, 7 HR, 7 HBP, 10 WP, 17-22 SB) is in his third year in the rotation and is a crafty lefty relies on control, changing speeds and keeping the ball down to get hitters out and when his control is off he can get hit.  He has had one solid start (USF – 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K), two ok starts (Sac State – 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 8 K and Utah – 7 IP, 4 R, 4 H, 3 BB, 3 K) and one bad start (Fresno – 5 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 2 BB, 8 K).  Quist went five innings in relief on Monday at San Jose (5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K).  He has had major issues with Fullerton and has allowed 19 R and 24 H in 12 IP in his two starts against the Titans.

SAT – JR #28 Anthony Kupbens (LHP – 2-2, 2.34 ERA, 6 apps, 5 GS, 1 CG, 35 IP, 35 H, 9 BB, 32 K, .205 BA, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 5 WP, 3-5 SB; '10 – 3-3, 6.98 ERA, 7 GS, 39 IP, 49 H, 18 BB, 21 K, .316 BA, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 4-7 SB) has better natural stuff than Kupbens but is another lefty who relies on keeping the ball down to get hitters out.  He pitched primarily out of the bullpen in 2009 before being converted to a starter last season.  Kupbens was throwing well before his start at Fullerton but he was injured during that start (4 2/3 IP, 15 H, 16 R) and lost for the rest of the year.  He has had an outstanding start to this season and has not allowed more than three runs in any of his starts.  Kupbens threw a complete game at Fresno and held a good hitting Bulldog team to 3 R on 5 H with 1 BB and 8 K.  He has only allowed one run in each of his last two starts (UW Milwaukee – 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K and Monday at San Jose – 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K).

SUN – JR #27 Scott Lyman (RHP – 0-2, 5.13 ERA, 6 GS, 26 IP, 26 H, 17 BB, 27 K, .257 BA, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 7 WP, 10-11 SB; '10 – 5-6, 6.50 ERA, 14 GS, 1 CG, 80 IP, 102 H, 46 BB, 61 K,.307 BA, 4 HR, 10 HBP, 18 WP, 17-21 SB) is the hardest thrower in the rotation and somebody that the scouts have their eye on for the first ten rounds of the draft.  He has had issues with control and command since arriving on campus so working pitch counts and making him work is a good approach to take.  Lyman has also had major problems holding runners, which will be something that Fullerton will look to exploit.  He allowed two runs in each of his first three starts (Sac State – 7 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K,  USF – 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 BB, 5 K and Nevada – 5 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 7 K) before being bombed by Santa Clara (4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 5 K).   Lyman threw three innings at San Jose on Monday (0 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K).  He had a good start last season at Fullerton when he kept the Aggies in the game until a game winning HR by Billy Marcoe in the bottom of the 8th (7+ IP, 9 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 K).


Relievers

UC Davis didn't come into the season with an established closer but they did have several experienced relievers in the bullpen and a couple of them have stepped forward.

JR #10 Tom Briner (RHP – 0-1, 0.66 ERA, 9 apps, 3 saves, 14 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 18 K, .133 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) only made four appearances in 2010 but has been lights out as the closer.  If Davis has a lead late in the game they feel confident handing Briner the ball.

JR #20 David Popkins (RHP – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 apps, 13 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 8 K, .150 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB; '10 – 3-2, 6.67 ERA, 16 apps, 2 GS, 30 IP, 33 H, 17 BB, 18 K, .295 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 7-8 SB) wasn't too effective last year but has done a very good job in a setup role.

JR #26 Nathan Slater (LHP – 0-3, 8.00 ERA, 5 apps, 9 IP, 14 H, 4 BB, 9 K; '10 – 2-4, 6.11 ERA, 18 apps, 7 GS, 56 IP, 62 H, 21 BB, 45 K, .283 BA, 4 HR, 5 HBP, 14 WP, 8-10 SB) was in the bullpen early last year but moved into the rotation when Kupbens got hurt.  He would be the most likely pitcher to come in for a LHP vs. LH matchup.

 

Others

JR #23 Scott Walker (LHP – 0-1, 10.12 ERA, 6 apps, 3 GS, 8 IP, 6 H, 13 BB, 6 K, .222 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 1-3 SB)

FR #48 Ryan Lucas (RHP – 0-2, 5.11 ERA, 5 apps, 12 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 7 K, .245 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB)

JC transfer #35 Joe Biagini (RHP – 1-1, 10.80 ERA, 5 apps, 5 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 6 K, .500 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB)

FR #31 Harry Stanwyck (RHP) had only made two appearances (2 2/3 IP) before starting the midweek game at Santa Clara, when he threw four innings and allowed one run on four hits. 

 

Outlook

Fullerton goes into the series at UC Davis with a great deal of momentum and playing their best baseball of the season, finding ways to win games with strong pitching and timely hitting.  The Titans bonded last weekend in Hawaii and played with a sense of purpose when they could have used the suspensions as a reason to not play well.

Fullerton enters this series as the better team but UC Davis will be motivated to prove that they can be a factor in the conference race.  The Titans need to come out and jump on the Aggies like they did in Fullerton last season to take away any confidence that they might have playing at home.  Fullerton does not want to let UC Davis hang around and steal a game late with their two best relievers.

Fullerton doesn't have the decided advantage offensively that they had over UC Davis last season but the Titans have been better at the plate than the Aggies against a more difficult schedule.  If Fullerton is able to get out to leads, with the way they have been pitching they should be able to win at least two games in the series, if not sweep all three games.