The Titans got last week started with a 5-3 win in 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. They were led on the mound by Colin O'Connell's six effective innings and three scoreless innings from Ray Hernandez and at the plate by Richy Pedroza and Ivory Thomas (two runs each) and Tyler Pill and Carlos Lopez (two RBI each).
Fullerton opened the defense of their Big West championship with a trip to UC Davis and won all three games against the Aggies by a combined score of 25-2, although two of the games were much closer than the totals would indicate.
The Titans were dominant in Friday's game and scored ten runs in the last three innings on their way to a 14-0 win. Jake Floethe was outstanding and held UC Davis to two hits in eight innings and struck out six batters on his way to Big West Pitcher of the Week honors. Thirteen different hitters either drove in and/or scored a run and Fullerton was led by Joe Terry's four hits with two runs and an RBI and Pedroza's three hits and three runs.
Saturday's game was expected to be a pitchers duel with two of the Big West leaders in ERA on the mound and it lived up to expectations. Anthony Kupbens held the Titans off of the scoreboard until the 8th inning when Nick Ramirez hit a sac fly to break the scoreless tie. Fullerton broke through against the UC Davis bullpen in the 9th inning for six runs with Anthony Hutting doubling in the first run, Thomas doubling in two more runs and Ramirez finishing things off with his third HR of the season. Noe Ramirez threw five scoreless innings and the bullpen trio of Dylan Floro, Hernandez and Ryan Ackland threw the final four innings in a 7-0 win for the Titans.
Sunday's game was also a pitchers duel in which the Aggies hung tough but couldn't get over the hump as Fullerton completed the sweep with a 4-2 win. Tyler Pill allowed two runs in seven innings and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts for the second week in a row. Nick Ramirez threw a scoreless 9th for his Big West leading sixth save. Ramirez had three hits in the game and drove in the first run of the game on his way to earning Big West Player of the Week honors. Blake Barber's double drove in Casey Watkins to tie the game in the 7th inning and Thomas singled in Barber later in the inning to give the Titans the lead for good.
Fullerton returned home on Tuesday for a midweek game with Pepperdine and the Titans continued to the swing the bats well at home with twelve hits and they took advantage of six walks and five errors by the Waves for an easy 13-3 win that was highlighted by nine runs in the 4th inning. Five pitchers saw action for Fullerton with the win going to David Hurlbut. Lopez was the hitting star for the Titans with a three run HR and five RBI in the decisive nine run inning. Pedroza drove in three runs and Ramirez, Pill, Lopez, Jared Deacon and Anthony Trajano all scored two runs apiece.
Fullerton looks to stay on their torrid pace this weekend with what figures to be one of the key series in the race for the Big West title as the Titans welcome their intra-county rivals from UC Irvine to Goodwin Field.
UC Irvine Anteaters
- Overall Record – 18-6 in 2011; 39-21 in 2010
- Conference Record – 3-0 in 2011; 17-7 in 2010 (2nd).
- Post-Season – 2nd at UCLA Regional (L 10-11 LSU; W 19-9 Kent State; W 4-3 LSU; L 2-6 UCLA)
- 2011 RPI/ISR – 49/23. 2010 RPI/ISR – 39/20
- Current ranking – 16th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 19th by NCBWA, 27th by Collegiate Baseball
- Predicted conf finish – 2nd (tied) by the Big West coaches and 2nd by Baseball America
2010 Summary and 2011 Preview
UC Irvine went into 2010 with very high expectations after winning the Big West championship for the first time in 2009 with a 22-2 record and hosting a regional for the first time as a national seed and the consensus #1 team in the country. The Anteaters returned seven of nine position players and all of the pitchers who were responsible for UC Irvine having the best regular season in school history and were ranked in the top ten in most of the polls and rankings going into the season.
Things didn't go nearly as well as expected almost from the start with UC Irvine losing three games at Coastal Carolina's tournament and losing a series at Nevada as well as weekend games against lower level teams like Saint Mary's and Sac State. After opening defense of their Big West title with a sweep at Northridge, the Anteaters dropped the next two series at home to Fullerton and Pacific and were sitting at 20-13, 5-4 in late April and unranked. UC Irvine recovered to go 17-6 the rest of the way to finish second in the Big West and qualify for the post-season as an at-large team. The Anteaters played well at the UCLA regional, where the lost an extra-inning game to defending national champion LSU. UC Irvine came back to beat Kent State and win a rematch with LSU before being eliminated by UCLA, who went on to Omaha and finished as the runner-up in the College World Series.
UC Irvine didn't go into this season with the lofty expectations that the 2010 team had after losing all three starting pitchers and their closer as well as four of the leaders from their lineup who all had been starting for at least two seasons. The Anteaters were picked to finish second in the Big West and were on the fringe of the top 25-30 in most of the pre-season polls and rankings. UC Irvine got off to a very fast 13-1 start against a soft schedule that was rated in the bottom 50 nationally to that point with sweeps at home of Nevada and Sac State, three wins in the RBI Tournament and a split at Saint Mary's along with some midweek wins. The Anteaters started to struggle once they started playing better teams and had to play on the road and they split games at LMU, lost a midweek game at UNLV and were swept at Gonzaga. UC Irvine scored a total of eight runs in those six games. The Anteaters have bounced back to win their last five games in a midweek game at USC, a sweep of Northridge to open Big West play and a midweek game at USD on Tuesday.
UC Irvine has had the best offense in the Big West this season and leads the conference in scoring, AVG, SLG and OBP. The Anteaters offense was on fire to start the season when they were playing almost all of their games at home and their home/road splits are pretty drastically different. UC Irvine is 14-0 at home and averaging 9.6 runs per game with an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .352/.468/.499 and a .967 OPS but they are only 4-6 on the road and averaging 2.7 runs per game with .220/.322/.256 numbers and a .578 OPS. The key to the Anteaters lineup has been the production from the first four hitters in the lineup, all of whom appear all over the place at the top of the Big West hitting leader board. The hitters for UC Irvine will work deep into counts and they lead the conference in walks. They also make very good contact and have the fewest strikeouts in the conference and average under five per game. The Anteaters will bunt often to move runners along and use the hit and run to get runners going but they don't use straight steals much to take extra bases.
The pitching staff for UC Irvine has exceeded expectations considering the personnel losses that they had from last season as well as losing their pitching coach, Ted Silva, to LMU. The Anteaters have the second best ERA in the Big West as well as the second best AVG. UC Irvine has had a solid starter on Fridays but the other spots in the weekend rotation have been in a state of flux with pitchers going back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen. The Anteaters have had a pitching staff that goes ten deep and that has allowed them to mix and match starters and relievers with positive results. Even when they went 2-5 on their seven game road trip they only allowed an average of 3.3 runs per game.
- Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 87 (decreases offense by 13%).
- Batting Average – .300 (1st in the Big West). .308 in 2010 (4th in the Big West).
- Runs Per Game – 6.8 (1st). 6.6 in 2010 (3rd).
- Home Runs – 6 (4th). 41 in 2010 (6th).
- Slugging Percentage – .403 (1st). .445 in 2010 (6th).
- Walks – 109 (1st), 4.5 per game. 208 in 2010 (2nd), 3.5 per game.
- HBP's – 38 (2nd). 82 in 2010 (2nd).
- Strikeouts – 117 (1st), 4.9 per game. 257 in 2010 (1st), 4.3 per game.
- Stolen Bases – 21 (5th). 40 in 2010 (7th).
- Sac Bunts – 23 (4th). 61 in 2010 (2nd).
Irvine has an experienced left side of the infield at SS and 3B but is breaking in new starters on the right side of the infield at 1B and 2B as well as behind the plate but all three of those players have seen playing time on at least a part-time basis previously.
C – JR #5 Ronnie Shaeffer (RH – .266/.333/.367, 1-11-0; '10 – .318/.370/.439, 3-31-1) was 2nd team All-Big West in 2009 after hitting .388 as a FR, when he went from not playing much to 3rd in the conf in AVG and led the team in SLG and was 2nd in OBP. He was the DH in 2010 and the backup behind the plate to two-time 1st team All-Big West C Francis Larson. Shaeffer got off to a very slow start while playing every game at C and was only hitting .239 going into last week, including 3-21 during the seven game road trip, before going 9-19 with a HR and 9 RBI over the last five games against USC, Northridge and USD. He leads the team and is 9th in the Big West with 5 SAC's. Shaeffer has usually been hitting 7th but was bumped up to 6th in the last two games of the Northridge series and at USD. He went 1-9 against Fullerton last season and is 4-20 against the Titans in his career.
1B – JR #43 Jordan Fox (LH – .362/.426/.436, 0-19-4; '10 – .275 in 69 AB's) was only a part-time player in his first two seasons ('09 – .289 in 38 AB's) but replaced 2nd team All-Big West 1B and four year starter Jeff Cusick and has been one of the best hitters in the conference in the first half of the season. He is among the leaders in the Big West in AVG, OBP, H, R, RBI and TB and has been outstanding at making contact because he is among the national leaders in fewest strikeouts with only three K's in over 100 plate appearances. Like most of his teammates, Fox struggled during Irvine's road trip when he went 4-25 before going 6-14 last week against USC and Northridge. He will be hitting second.
DH – JR #33 Jordan Leyland (RH – .259/.312/.400, 2-19-1; '10 – .301/.326/.494, 2-13-2 in 83 AB's) was another part-time player during his first two years at Irvine ('09 - .310 in 42 AB's) and was hitting around .300 before going 6-29 on Irvine's road trip. Despite his recent struggles at the plate, Leyland is 4th in the Big West in RBI and usually hits 5th and will occasionally play 1B. He leads the team with 18 K's and struck out three times last Friday against Northridge and didn't play in the final two games of the series before going 1-3 at USD. SR #26 Jonathon Hurst (RH – 5-23; '10 – .342 in 79 AB's) was the DH last Sat and Sun, going 2-6 with 2 RBI while hitting 8th.
2B – JR #3 Tommy Reyes (RH – .278/.426/.370, 0-11-2; '10 – .229/.369/.257, 0-9-4) has taken over for two year starter Casey Stevenson and gotten off to a good start after a bad Soph season. Reyes was honorable mention All-Big West as a FR when he hit .348 and played all over the field as a utility player. He started the year 11-25 before going 2-21 on Irvine's road trip. Reyes drove in four runs out of the 9 hole against Northridge and went 2-3 at USD. He is a very good bunter and had two SAC's last weekend.
SS – JR #32 D.J. Crumlich (RH – .319/.439/.451, 1-19-2; '10 – .284/.396/.388, 1-16-2) has been known more for his defense at 3B as a FR (.261 in 2009) and at SS last year than for his bat but that has changed this year. He has been the guy to get the offense going out of the leadoff spot, leading the Big West in runs and is 3rd in the conf in OBP and has 21 BB/HBP while striking out only nine times. Crumlich started out hitting .400 in his first 50 AB's and had a 10 game hitting streak earlier in the season but has cooled off since then by hitting only .205 in his last 44 AB's. He went 2-9 last year against Fullerton and is 4-17 in his career against the Titans.
3B – SR #14 Brian Hernandez (RH – .340/.423/.404, 0-18-1; '10 – .322/.389/.470, 4-44-5) was forced to redshirt in 2009 due to a paperwork issue with his transfer to Irvine but has been doing nothing but hitting line drives on a consistent basis as the #3 hitter in the lineup the last two seasons and was 1st team All-Big West in 2010 when he hit .371 in conference games. He was one of the few players who kept hitting on the road trip, going 9-29, and wore out Northridge's pitching staff by going 7-12 in the series. Hernandez went 3-12 last season against Fullerton and hit a 2 run HR in the opening game of the series.
Irvine lost several OF's from last season and only has one starter returning with the other two spots being taken over by a part-time player and a redshirt from last year.
LF – SR #7 Drew Hillman (RH – .322/.406/.478, 2-21-4; '10 – .352/.423/.582, 4-19-0 in 91 AB's) hardly left the bench for much of the first couple months of 2010 as a JC transfer but once he got his chance to play, all he did was hit and he went 13-28 in Big West games down the stretch. He has continued to hit well this season as the cleanup hitter and is among the conf leaders in RBI, SLG and TB and had an 11 game hitting streak earlier in the season. Hillman got off to a great start like most of the hitters for Irvine but went only 9-35 in ten games before getting two hits at USD. He is a versatile player who will be a late inning replacement at 3B in save situations.
CF – JR #1 Christian Ramirez (LH – .273/.393/.409, 0-7-0; redshirt in 2010) didn't play last year as a JC transfer with Irvine having a logjam in the OF. He has good speed but didn't get much of a chance to use it early in the season because he was only 6-35 going into the Northridge series before going 6-9 against the Matadors and hitting a two run triple at USD. Six of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases (four 2B's and two 3B's) so the Fullerton OF's will have to be ready to keep him from taking an extra base and turning singles into doubles. Ramirez is a good bunter and bunted twice for hits against Northridge. He will usually hit 8th but was bumped up to 7th in the final two games last weekend. Soph #12 Scott Gottschling (RH – 8-25) got some playing time while Ramirez was struggling but hasn't played in the last four games except as a late inning defensive replacement when Hernandez went in to finish games.
RF – SR #2 Sean Madigan (LH – .303/.451/.395, 0-14-6; '10 – .280/.364/.352, 1-29-1) is in his fourth year as a starter and is the last player left in the program who played for Dave Serrano. He was a regular his first two seasons (hit a combined .330 in '07 and '08) but injured his knee the second weekend of 2009 and had to take a medical redshirt. Madigan usually hit in the top of the lineup earlier in his career but has been hitting 6th most of the time this season. He is a gamer who will do whatever it takes to get on base (14 HBP's the last two years) and is 2nd in the Big West in OBP and he has an outstanding 19/13 BB/K ratio. Madigan only went 4-25 on Irvine's road trip but he torched Northridge's pitching and went 6-10 with 4 RBI in the series. He is Irvine's most aggressive base runner and is 6-10 on SB attempts. Madigan went 3-11 last year against Fullerton and is 9-37 in his career against the Titans.
Fielding % – .976 (1st) with 23 errors. 2010 – .974 (1st) with 62 errors. Crumlich and Hernandez are outstanding on the left side of the infield. Reyes and Fox are good athletes for their positions on the right side of the infield. The OF defense has been solid after being an issue last season with so many players being shuffled in and out of the lineup.
Stolen Base Attempts – 7-21 (1st). 2010 – 33-68 (1st). Larson was a good defensive catcher but Shaeffer has been outstanding at completely shutting down the running game. Fullerton will have to be more careful than usual on the basebaths to avoid running their way out of innings.
WP's/PB's Allowed – 26 (7th). 2010 – 40 (3rd). Shaeffer has had some issues with blocking pitches so the one way that Fullerton might be able to move runners up on the bases is by being aggressive with pitches in the dirt.
- ERA – 2.88 (2nd in the Big West). 3.98 in 2010 (2nd in the Big West).
- BA – .234 (2nd). .267 in 2010 (2nd).
- BB's/9 IP – 3.4 (6th). 2.6 in 2010 (2nd).
- K's/9 IP – 7.3 (6th). 8.0 in 2010 (2nd).
- Extra Base Hits – 49 (3rd), 2.0 per game. 193 (6th), 3.2 per game in 2010.
- HR – 6 (6th). 34 HR in 2010 (2nd).
UC Irvine had to rebuild their rotation after losing three SR starting pitchers and another starting pitcher, Evan Brock, due to an injury and he was expected to be their Friday SP after he led the Big West in AVG and was 3rd in ERA in 2010. The Anteaters have used six starting pitchers and have had trouble with getting their SP's to pitch deep into games and other than their Friday SP, the Irvine starters have gone less than five innings in eleven of the last thirteen games.
FRI – JR #25 Matt Summers (RHP – 3-2, 2.45 ERA, 7 GS, 40 IP, 29 H, 21 BB, 36 K, .201 BA, 0 HR, 9 HBP, 3 WP, 0-2 SB; '10 – 2-2, 8.51 ERA, 21 apps, 4 GS, 31 IP, 40 H, 18 BB, 32 K, .317 BA, 5 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 3-5 SB) barely pitched as a FR and was primarily a middle reliever in 2010 but he had a good summer and has developed into a good SP. He is a good athlete (also played OF last season) and has a live arm with a low 90's fastball with his best secondary pitch a good slider with late movement. Summers is in the top ten in the Big West in ERA, K, AVG and IP and he is tough to hit but he has also had major issues with control so expect Fullerton to work counts. He has walked at least three hitters in four of his seven starts but has not allowed more than three ER in any of his starts (allowed 4 R with 2 ER in two of them). Summers getting his pitch counts up due to his control issues has limited him to only going more than 6 1/3 IP twice. He allowed one run on two hits in 1 2/3 IP in one appearance against Fullerton in 2010.
SAT – FR #30 Andrew Thurman (RHP – 1-2, 3.29 ERA, 9 apps, 4 GS, 31 IP, 35 H, 10 BB, 25 K, .299 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 3-8 SB) did a solid job out of the bullpen in five appearances (12 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 11 K) and took advantage of some of the issues with other starters to move into the rotation. Thurman's longest start has been six innings at Gonzaga two weeks ago (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K) and he wasn't able to get out of the third inning last week against Northridge (3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K). He has been prone to being nervous early in his starts, like he was in his first weekend start three weeks ago at LMU (4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 1 K) so expect Fullerton to try to put pressure on him to see if he will get rattled.
SUN – TBA
The most likely candidate to start is JR #13 Crosby Slaught (RHP – 3-0, 2.38 ERA, 5 GS, 23 IP, 16 H, 8 BB, 19 K, .200 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 2-2 SB; '10 – Redshirt; '09 – 8-0, 4.62 ERA, 16 GS, 76 IP, 87 H, 23 BB, 52 K,.297 BA, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 6 WP, 5-7 SB), who was the Sunday SP in 2009 but was a medical redshirt last season with an elbow injury. He threw well in his first four starts, allowing three runs or less in each of them, but sat out the last three weekends with a sore shoulder. Slaught threw three scoreless innings on Tuesday at San Diego and allowed only one hit and would be on a pitch count as he builds up arm strength while starting on short rest. He has a fastball that sits in the upper 80's and his best pitch is his changeup. Slaught allowed one run on seven hits in 5 2/3 IP in his start at Fullerton in 2009.
UC Irvine wasn't sure what to expect out of their bullpen after losing the two SR pitchers who closed games for them and had thirteen saves in 2010. The Anteaters have been pleasantly surprised by the results from their relievers, who have been called upon early and often and six of them have already appeared in at least nine games. UC Irvine has several LHP options in the bullpen so expect them to see a good amount of work against Fullerton's LH heavy lineup.
SR #14 Brian Hernandez (RHP – 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 11 apps, 6 saves, 12 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 10 K, .182 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 0-1 SB) hadn't pitched since high school but started pitching again during the fall and has been lights out thus far and shares the Big West lead in saves. UC Irvine would prefer that he doesn't go into the game before the 9th inning to limit how much he throws and to keep his glove at 3B.
JR #21 Nick Hoover (RHP – 2-1, 2.05 ERA, 12 apps, 22 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 14 K, .164 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB; '10 – 2-0, 2.48 ERA, 20 apps, 1 save, 29 IP, 18 H, 14 BB, 34 K, .186 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 5-6 SB) was the most experienced returning reliever and he has been a workhorse out of the pen and is tied for 4th in the Big West in appearances. He doesn't have any problems going several innings and last Sat he came into the game in the 4th in relief of Thurman and finished the game by throwing 5 1/3 innings, allowing 1 R on 3 H with 4 K. Hoover threw 2/3 IP against Fullerton last season without allowing a run.
Soph #28 Kyle Hooper (RHP – 3-0, 4.66 ERA, 7 apps, 5 GS, 29 IP, 36 H, 9 BB, 19 K, .316 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 5 WP, 1-5 SB; '10 – 0-0, 7.61 ERA, 18 apps, 24 IP, 45 H, 4 BB, 14 K) got his feet wet last year as a FR, often pitching in midweek games and mop up situations. He was in the rotation for the first month of the season but wasn't able to get out of the 4th inning in his last three starts and was moved to the bullpen. Hooper came into last Sunday's game against Northridge in the 3rd inning and threw 5 1/3 effective innings to get the win, allowing 2 R on 4 H and 1 BB with 5 K. He allowed 2 H in 1/3 IP against Fullerton last season.
Soph #44 Matt Whitehouse (LHP – 1-0, 2.65 ERA, 12 apps, 2 GS, 17 IP, 10 H, 8 BB, 18 K, .167 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB; '10 – 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 10 apps, 6 IP) is tied for 4th in the Big West in appearances. He started two games last week, throwing 4 2/3 shutout innings at USC but struggled against Northridge when he allowed 2 R and only went 2 2/3 IP. He threw 2/3 scoreless innings against Fullerton last season.
Soph #23 Andy Lines (LHP – 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 11 apps, 2 GS, 15 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 11 K, .222 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 1-1 SB; '10 – 1-1, 8.44 ERA, 20 apps, 11 IP) has done a good job out of the bullpen, allowing 3 R in 8 1/3 IP in nine appearances. He had a good spot start at LMU when he threw five shutout innings but struggled in his start at Gonzaga when he allowed 1 R on 1 H and 4 BB in 1 1/3 IP and was moved back to the bullpen last weekend.
FR #16 Jimmy Litchfield (LHP – 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 13 apps, 1 save, 15 IP, 16 H, 2 BB, 12 K, .265 BA, 3 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB) is 3rd in the Big West in appearances and wouldn't be likely to go more than an inning as a situational LHP.
FR #50 Phillip Ferragamo (RHP – 1-0, 2.35 ERA, 9 apps, 15 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 9 K, .226 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB) is one of the biggest players you will see on a baseball diamond at 6'8", 260 and has quite a bit of upside.
For both Fullerton and UC Irvine, 2011 has been a tale of two seasons. The Titans got off to an 8-7 playing only five of their first 15 games at Goodwin Field and have gotten red hot, winning 13 of their last 14 games. The Anteaters got off to a blistering 13-1 start against a schedule played predominantly at home, lost five out of six games on the road and have won their last five games.
One of the keys to this series will be how UC Irvine's offense does playing away from home. The Anteaters have been shut out four times and scored four runs in their other two losses in their six road losses. The pitching for UC Irvine has been solid both at home and on the road but the Anteaters are going to have trouble winning this series if their offense is shut down by a very good Fullerton pitching staff.
Another key to this series will be how the relatively inexperienced pitching staff of UC Irvine handles the pressure of going into Goodwin Field to face a Fullerton team that has gone 10-1 at home after losing the first game of the season and averaged 7.4 runs per game in their last ten home games. If Fullerton is able to put up a solid number of runs with the way their pitchers have been throwing, this figures to be a long weekend for the Anteaters.
The key intangible for this weekend favors UC Irvine. The visiting teams are 12-6 in the six series these teams have played over the previous five seasons and in each of the last four years, the home team was the higher ranked team and the visitors came out ahead each time.
It is doubtful that UC Irvine can win this series without winning the first game with the pitching advantage that Fullerton would be likely to have in the next two games. If the Anteaters are able to sneak out what will probably be a low scoring game on Friday, they have a chance to win the series. If the Titans win the opening game, it would be highly unlikely that UC Irvine would be able to put together back to back solid games on the road the way they have played away from home to win the series with the way that Fullerton has played at Goodwin Field.