Ask Dave: Regional Preview Edition

Now, it really gets interesting. The regular season is a memory and this is what it's all about. It's time for the NCAA baseball regionals. This weekend, Cal State Fullerton will host a regional for the third time in four years, with the Titans (43-13) facing the University of San Diego (31-28) Friday at 7 p.m. Arizona (35-21) and Notre Dame (43-16) will meet in the regional opener at 3 p.m. Friday. 

The winner of the regional advances to the super regionals to meet the winner of the Tempe regional that includes Arizona State, UNLV, New Mexico State and Central Connecticut State. By being the No. 7 national seed, the Titans likely would host the super regionals if they advance. It's a busy week of preparation for the Titans, but assistant coach/pitching coach/recruiting coordinator Dave Serrano took a few minutes on Monday to talk to to share his thoughts heading into the regionals. What's the latest on Danny Dorn's availability? 

Coach Serrano: He practiced last week. He'll practice this week. He's been cleared to play. He's got to get back into game shape, but he's doing better. He's not 100 percent yet, but he's doing a lot better. What about Justin Smyres' availability?

Coach Serrano: Justin's had soreness in his throwing shoulder. He got cleared from the doctor and he's been playing in our intrasquad games this past weekend. Will he be in the lineup this weekend?

Coach Serrano: I don't know yet which direction we're gonna go. Coach Horton hasn't made a decision on that. We're gonna go through our practices this week and see where it takes us. Let's look at the pitching rotation. Have you decided on the rotation for the weekend?

Coach Serrano: We haven't solidified anything yet. We're looking at a couple of possibilities. I'd say right now that the leader to probably start Friday's game against San Diego would probably be Jason Windsor. Again, nothing's been set. We're gonna sit down again as a staff and try to come up with the best formula that will take this team through this regional. What will Wes Littleton's role be in the postseason, considering he didn't start the final weekend against Long Beach?

Coach Serrano: I don't know. Again, it's hard to tell when you get into these kinds of tournaments because it can go in a lot of directions. What we'll do as a staff is each and every day we'll sit down and put our heads together and see what starting pitcher we think is gonna give our team the best chance to win. If that means it's Wes Littleton on one of those days, then we're gonna hand the ball to him. That's all there is to it. We just try to make the best decision for what's gonna be in the best interests of the team. Let's talk about the pitching depth. It's something that's been talked about a lot this year because it's such an obvious strength of the team, but now is the time of the year when it's really gonna become evident. Obviously, nobody wants to be forced to battle through the losers bracket, but if it should happen that this team eventually must go through the losers bracket at some point in the postseason, would you say this team is better equipped to handle it than in past years?

Coach Serrano: Oh yeah, I definitely agree. If you're in the winners bracket, I don't think pitching depth really comes into play. But if you have the unfortunate situation to get into the losers bracket, then definitely the deepness of this pitching staff will hopefully help us get through that. But then the following weekend with the super regionals, depth isn't much of a factor, when it's just a regular weekend series. The way the format has changed -- you always like to be deep in pitching, don't get me wrong -- but the way the format has changed, you don't have to be as deep as you had to be when there were six-team regionals and you really had to be deep in your pitching. Looking back at that last game against Long Beach with the dramatic walk-off home run by Kurt Suzuki, how big is a win like that, not just to give you the season series edge over Long Beach, but as a way to sort of set the tone for the postseason?

Coach Serrano: Well, any win over Long Beach is always exciting. To beat them in the way that we did, by scoring five in the ninth inning made it that much more exciting. Then when we got out of that game, we had a great week of practice last week. We're hoping to continue the same thing this week going into the regionals. So, hopefully it does get us back on track, with confidence. It was an exciting series, great for college baseball, great for Southern California baseball. It was great to come out on top two out of three. Hopefully, that gives the team confidence. Like I said, we had a great week of practice last week. We had two very good intrasquad games over the weekend. And we'll work hard this week. I don't think there's anything that you need to do to motivate the team this time of year. I don't think Coach Horton's gonna have to go to any drastic measures to get this team excited. If he does, then obviously I don't think you'll see us playing very long. I think the excitement is already there, for what we have in front of us. This team has had a tremendous home-field advantage this year, yet has struggled on the road, more so than past years. Is there any logical explanation for that?

Coach Serrano: I couldn't give you any reason for that. In the past, we've played good baseball at home and had great road records. I don't know what it is. I don't know what has made this team not play quite as good on the road. But again, with our situation the way it is, we'll get the first regional at home, as we know. If we get through that, there's a great chance, if not 100 percent chance, we'd have the second regional at home. Then we'd go on the road to Omaha. That is on the road, but it is a neutral site also. If you have to get motivated to play in Rosenblatt Stadium in the College World Series, you've got a problem. I don't know what the reasoning was, we just weren't quite as good on the road this year. I don't think any of us have an answer as to why that was. But at this point, it shouldn't be a problem. You should be home throughout now ...

Coach Serrano: We should be home all the way through, then hopefully get on a plane to head to Rosenblatt. Looking at the regional pairings overall, any surprises?

Coach Serrano: Yeah, I was surprised at some of the national No. 1 seeds. I think we were all shocked that LSU was ranked so high. I think it's unjustified that a team like Florida State, which has been No. 1 in everyone's poll and has had the No. 1 RPI, gets matched up in a super regional against Texas. I think Rice was on the short end of it. There's a team that was about as good as anyone for a big part of the season, and for them to slip down in the No. 1 seeds was surprising. I thought the West Coast was kind of attacked again. I think they underestimated how good the baseball was out here this year. To have us and Arizona State and Long Beach and Stanford, they gave us four regionals, but the reality is we're all matched up in the super regionals if we get through our regionals, so only two of us can head out to Omaha. In that same sense, we'd be in the same bracket in Omaha, so there's no chance to have a Long Beach State-Cal State Fullerton national championship game or a Cal State Fullerton-Stanford national championship game because if we get to Omaha, we're gonna be playing in the second round. Let's take a look at the three other teams in the Fullerton regional. What can you tell us about each of these teams, looking at San Diego first because that's the first game. You play those guys every year in midweek games, including twice this year, what are your thoughts on them?

Coach Serrano: Well, obviously, they're a team that struggled early and like you said, we did play them midweek. It's a little different, they don't see our best pitching and we don't see their best pitching, for the most part, as far as the starting pitching. Obviously, they're a team that got hot late. They beat a good Pepperdine team two out of three to get an automatic bid. They're probably playing with a little adrenaline right now and more confidence, because they were probably not expected to be in this situation right now. They didn't have a great year throughout, but they got hot late and they're gonna be a formidable challenge for us. Arizona's a team that is a very offensive team and does some things that are probably very similar to us offensively. I don't think they have the pitching we do, but I think offensively they have a lot of weapons like we do. They have left-handed hitting, and they've got some guys that can run on the bases. Notre Dame, I don't have a whole lot of information on them yet. Obviously, they've been good for a few years now. Their backbone usually is their pitching staff. And I'm sure they're gonna have some offensive threats. So, when you look at the big picture, I think it's probably one of the strongest regionals out there again this year. That does it for this regional edition of Ask Dave. It should be a great weekend at Goodwin Field.