Baseball Preview: UC Riverside

UC Riverside won the Big West in 2007 and finished third, fourth and third in the conference the next three seasons and was on the fringe of at-large consideration for getting into regionals with RPI's in the 70's in 2009 (33-20) and 2010 (32-23).

Fullerton looked to build on the momentum they got going coming out of their bye week in the Big West schedule when they won all four games against USC and Pacific by a combined score of 40-8 when they went on the road for a second straight conference series when they traveled up the 101 to UCSB.  It was a hard fought series between the Titans and Gauchos and one that got testy at times and Fullerton won their eleventh straight weekend series by holding off UCSB in opener 9-7, seeing their five game winning streak broken in a 7-1 loss in the middle game before coming back with a late rally to win 9-3 in the deciding game of the series.

Fullerton got things rolling right away on Friday against UCSB starter Kevin Gelinas when Richy Pedroza walked and advanced to second on a bad pickoff throw, was bunted over to third by Ivory Thomas, Carlos Lopez doubled him in, Matt Chapman walked, Anthony Hutting tripled them both in and J.D. Davis launched one over the LF wall for a two run HR to wrap up a five run inning in the highest scoring first inning of the season for the Titans.  Fullerton was held off of the scoreboard until the fourth when Pedroza walked again and moved up to third on two wild pitches and was tagged out in a rundown on a fielder's choice by Lopez before Michael Lorenzen ended Gelinas' day with a two run HR that stretched the lead to 7-0.  The Titans scored again in the fifth when Anthony Trajano got on base on an error and Jared Deacon tripled him in and thought they would have an easy win when Chapman hit Fullerton's third HR of the day in the sixth to increase the lead to 9-0.  Dylan Floro had cruised through the first five innings and allowed no runs on one hit thru the first five innings but the wheels started to fall off in the bottom of the sixth when UCSB rallied for four runs on four hits and a walk to cut the lead to 9-4 and things really got dicey when the Gauchos scored three more runs in the seventh to cut the lead to 9-7 before Koby Gauna restored order after balking in the third run of the inning by getting the next two batters out.  Gauna retired all three batters in order in the eighth and Lorenzen finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his Big West leading fourteenth save and Floro picked up the win to improve his record to 8-3.  The Titans' thirteen hit attack was led by Chapman with three hits and two runs, Hutting with two hits, two RBI and a run, Lopez with two hits, two runs and an RBI, Deacon with two hits and an RBI and Lorenzen and Davis with two run HR's.  

The second game of the series went much differently as Fullerton struggled to hit against Andrew Vasquez, as many teams have this season.  The Titans got two hits in the first but stranded both runners and got three walks in the next two innings and also stranded those runners.  UCSB scored in the third off of Kenny Mathews to take the lead and the Titans took advantage of more wildness by Vasquez to tie the game in the fourth when Hutting was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Casey Watkins was hit by a pitch, Pedroza walked to load the bases and a walk to Thomas forced in the run but Fullerton ended up leaving the bases loaded.  The Gauchos took the lead for good with a run in the bottom of the fourth.  Fullerton tried to come back in the fifth when Chapman bunted for a single and Hutting got the sixth walk of the game off of Vasquez to knock him out of the game.  Matthew Vedo came in a struck out the first two hitters he faced to stop the rally and UCSB scored two more runs in the sixth to stretch their lead to 4-1 when Mathews hit the first batter he faced and hit two doubles off of Dmitri De La Fuente and extended their lead to 6-1 in the seventh on a two run HR by Lance Roenicke and tacked on another run in the eighth to finish off the scoring.  Hutting walked three times and Lopez had two hits, and was the only Titan with multiple hits as Fullerton stranded thirteen runners after getting seven walks and two HBP's.  Mathews lost the first game of his career to fall to 5-1 while Vedo picked up the win with three scoreless innings and five strikeouts.  About the only excitement to come out of the latter part of the game occurred afterwards when Vedo had some interesting things to say to the Santa Barbara newspaper when he said he enjoyed making the Fullerton hitters look stupid.

The tension was high for Fullerton on Sunday and they made two errors in the first to give UCSB a quick 1-0 lead.  The Titans took advantage of an error that allowed Lorenzen to reach base when Davis doubled to tie things up in the second.  Fullerton stranded two runners in the third and two doubles by the Gauchos in the bottom of the inning off of Grahamm Wiest gave them a 2-1 lead and they tacked another run onto their lead in the bottom of the fourth.  Fullerton took advantage of the wildness of Zak Edgington to tie the game in the fifth when Thomas and Lopez both walked and Lorenzen doubled them in but failed to take the lead when Lorenzen was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch.  Wiest and Gaucho reliever Jared Wilson pitched scoreless ball in the sixth before the Titans got a rally going in the seventh and Vedo came in to get out of the inning and Wiest put up another zero.  Chapman started the eighth by hitting the ball into the hole at short and the long throw sailed over first and he ended up on second.  Hutting bunted Chapman to third and he scored on Clay Williamson's grounder to second when he beat the throw home to give Fullerton the lead and the Titans fans and dugout took much pleasure in letting Vedo know about it and he responded with a gesture that involved grabbing himself below his belt.  Wiest gave up a double in the bottom of the inning and Lorenzen came into the game to get both hitters out and keep things at 4-3.  Fullerton blew things open with five runs in the ninth when Thomas singled with one out and Lopez surprised the defense with a bunt single and a rattled Vedo gave up an RBI single to Lorenzen and throw in from LF was wild, allowing Thomas to score and Lorenzen to advance to third.  Chapman singled in the third run of the inning and Austin Diemer's RBI double chased Vedo, much to the delight of the Fullerton fans and dugout who gave him another earful.  Diemer scored the final run on a wild pitch that moved him to third that reliever Greg Mahle had to retrieve and threw wildly to the plate trying to make the play.  Lorenzen finished off the game with a scoreless ninth for his fifteenth save and Wiest improved his record after allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and no walks with five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.  The hitting leaders for the Titans were Lorenzen with three hits, three RBI and a run, Thomas with two hits and two runs and Davis with two doubles and an RBI and Hutting and Lopez both scored two runs.

Fullerton started this week with a midweek game against UCLA in a matchup of top ten teams and the Bruins got the better of the Titans for the second time this season with a 6-3 win as Fullerton lost for the sixth time on a Tuesday after winning a series the previous weekend.  UCLA scored twice off of Koby Gauna in the second inning and Fullerton stranded four runners over the first three innings before scoring a run in the fourth but stranding three more.  Chapman singled and Hutting bunted him over and he advanced to third on a passed ball.  Davis walked and Trajano singled in Chapman.  Pedroza's two out single into the hole at short loaded the bases but the Titans weren't able to push anybody else across.  Fullerton tied the game in the fifth with a two out rally off of Bruin starter Grant Watson when Chapman singled, Hutting walked and Davis singled in the run but poor baserunning in the fifth and sixth innings kept the Titans from taking the lead.  UCLA made it a 3-2 game with a run in the seventh off of Dave Birosak and Jose Cardona kept the Bruins from scoring any more runs.  Fullerton tied the game in the eighth without the benefit of a hit when Hutting walked and advanced on a SAC bunt by Matt Orloff, Trajano walked and when Williamson grounded to short, the UCLA SS tried to throw out pinch-runner Diemer at third but the throw got away and allowed Diemer to score with Trajano advancing to third.  Pedroza tried to give the Titans the lead with a safety squeeze but Trajano was thrown out at the plate.  The Bruins scored three runs in the top of the ninth off of Cardona to take the lead and Fullerton went down quietly in the bottom of the inning.  Chapman led the Titans with three hits and two runs and Pedroza and Trajano each had two hits.

Fullerton took a one game lead over Long Beach into the series at UCSB and the Dirtbags helped the Titans extend their lead to two games after losing their series at UC Davis.  The Titans will look to move towards their third straight Big West title this weekend when they play first series at home in four weeks when UC Riverside comes to Goodwin Field.  The Highlanders have had a long year and it would help them salvage something out of this season if they were able to pull off an upset this weekend.

 

UC Riverside Highlanders

  • Overall Record – 19-27
  • Conference Record – 7-11 (8th)
  • Overall and conference record in 2011 – 29-23, 11-13 (5th).
  • 2010 Post-Season – None
  • 2012 RPI/ISR – 164/115.  2011 RPI/ISR – 111/52
  • Current ranking/Pre-season ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 4th by Baseball America and Easton College Baseball, 5th by Big West coaches and Perfect Game

 

2011 Summary and 2012 Preview

UC Riverside won the Big West in 2007 and finished third, fourth and third in the conference the next three seasons and was on the fringe of at-large consideration for getting into regionals with RPI's in the 70's in 2009 (33-20) and 2010 (32-23).  The Highlanders expected to make a run at getting back into a regional in 2011 with all three weekend SP's and their closer returning along with most of their lineup but they couldn't develop any consistency and had a disappointing season.  Riverside lost four of their first five games, won seven in a row, lost seven of their next ten games and followed that slump by winning twelve of sixteen games heading into the series with Fullerton.  The Titans swept the Highlanders at Riverside in what used to be a house of horrors for Fullerton to send them into a 4-7 skid before they won their final series of the season to finish fifth in the Big West for their worst finish in the conference standings in five years.

Riverside's offensive approach before BBCOR bats were introduced last year was to play for the big inning by not playing much little ball as they were last in the Big West in SB and SAC's in 2010 so it wasn't much of a surprise that the Highlanders would have issues adjusting to the new bats.  However, they didn't expect to struggle as much as they did with a veteran team because Riverside was held to four runs or less in 18 of their first 22 games.  The Highlanders started to be more productive on offense and scored five runs or more in 12 of their 16 games heading into the Fullerton series before the Titan staff cooled them off and held them to six runs in the series and Irvine held them to five runs in their series two weeks later. Riverside changed their approach somewhat in 2011 instead of waiting for the big inning and they were more patient at the plate and ran and bunted more than they did in 2010 in an effort to try to generate more offense with the deadened bats.

Riverside had a poor 5.85 ERA in 2010 and expected their pitching staff to bounce back to where they were in 2009 (second in the Big West with a 4.22 ERA) with an experienced group that returned all of their starters along with their closer.  Two of the returning starters had injury problems and were replaced by midweek starters who both pitched well and the Highlanders ERA tumbled down by over two runs to 3.40, which was third in the conference.  Riverside held their opponents to three runs or less in half of their games to help keep the team over .500 despite some of the inconsistency of the offense.  The Highlanders didn't have too many power arms and were in the middle of the pack in the Big West in strikeouts but most of their pitchers had very good control and did an excellent job of keeping the ball down and preventing big innings by allowing the fewest extra-base hits in the conference.

Riverside thought they had a chance to be better despite some heavy personnel losses but they got off to a slow start and have never really gotten going.  The Highlanders lost their first three series vs. BYU, at ASU and at Sam Houston State before picking up a series win vs. Sacramento State.  After splitting a series at Fresno State, Riverside lost their next three series at UCSB and at home to Long Beach and Bakersfield.  The Highlanders picked up their second series win of the season at home against UC Davis before being swept at Irvine and losing a series at home against Northridge.  Riverside bounced back last week to win their third series of the season against last place Pacific.

Riverside knew they might have issues scoring runs after losing six regulars from 2011 and that has been the case as they have gone from having an offense that was in the middle of the pack in the Big West last year to near the bottom this season.  The Highlanders have been held to three runs or less in 19 of their 32 weekend games and averaged under three runs a game against the four best pitching staffs that they have seen (ASU, UCSB, Long Beach, Irvine).  Riverside has been starting several FR and Sophs and expected their offense would improve as the season went along but their offense has continued to average about four runs per game throughout the season.  The Highlanders are extremely patient at the plate and most of their hitters will work counts and see lots of pitches because they lead the Big West both in walks and strikeouts.  Riverside has started to steal a few more bases as the season has gone along, going from stealing 15 bases in the first 25 games to stealing 19 bases over the last 21 games.  The Highlanders don't bunt much and are last in the conference in SAC's.

Riverside returned two of their weekend starters from 2011 and moved the Big West FR pitcher of the year into the other spot but didn't have much experience returning in the bullpen.  The Highlanders rotation hasn't been as consistent as they had hoped it would be and they have allowed five or more runs in 25 of 46 games and they are only 3-23 when allowing over three runs in a game.  Riverside'S Friday starter has been one of the better pitchers in the Big West but their other two starters have gone 7-13 with ERA's in the low fours.  The Highlanders have gotten solid work out of two LHP's in the bullpen but it thins out quickly after them in terms of effective relievers.  The Riverside staff has a good 2.5-1 K/BB ratio and they are in the top three in the conference in walks and strikeouts but they have been getting hit too much and are ahead of only Northridge and Pacific in AVG and SLG.

 

Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 110 (increases offense by 10%).  Standard dimensions, unique features are a 20 ft wall/batters eye in CF and drainage slopes behind the infield dirt down the 1B and 3B lines.
  • Batting Average – .266 (7th).  .280 in 2011 (3rd in the Big West). 
  • Runs Per Game – 201 (8th), 4.4 per game.  275 in 2011 (4th), 5.3 per game. 
  • Home Runs – 10 (6th).  17 in 2011 (7th).  58 in 2010 (2nd). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .339 (8th).  .376 (3rd) in 2011. 
  • On Base Percentage – .366 (2nd).  .358 (3rd) in 2011.
  • Walks – 194 (1st), 4.2 per game.  193 in 2011 (3rd), 3.7 per game. 
  • HBP's – 53 (6th).  38 in 2011 (7th).  53 in 2010 (7th).
  • Strikeouts – 322 (1st), 7.0 per game.  355 in 2011 (4th), 7.1 per game. 
  • Stolen Bases – 34-54 (5th).  36-56 in 2011 (8th).  22-42 in 2010 (9th). 
  • Sac Bunts – 31 (9th).  45 in 2011 (5th).  25 in 2010 (9th).

 

Infield

UC Riverside had a very experienced infield in 2011 with four SR's starting most of the time.  They do have three players returning who were at least part-time starters and have been using less experienced players at the other two spots.

C – JR #36 Bart Steponovich (RH – .194/.256/.204, 0-11-0.  '11 – .290/.377/.323, 0-7-0 in 93 AB's) was splitting time with SR Dan Pellegrino in 2011 but hit his way into the better half of the platoon during the second part of the season.  He started out 9-33 this season but has hit only .160 since then.  Steponovich has kept his job in the lineup because his defensive skills are very good.  He has trouble making contact and struck out nearly 1/3 of the time in 2011 and has had even more issues this season and is second in the Big West with 40 strikeouts.  Steponovich is a good bunter and has five SAC's.  He will usually be batting 9th.  Steponovich went 0-4 in one start against Fullerton in 2011.  FR #24 Drake Zarate (LH – .273/.404/.338, 0-6-0) has hit better than Steponovich and has gotten more playing time recently and has started 20 games between C and DH.   He has scuffled in Big West games and only hit .162 in 37 AB's.

1B/DH – Soph #27 Kyle Boudreau (LH – .246/.395/.377, 2-14-1 in 69 AB's.  '11 – .250/.363/.294, 0-8-1 in 68 AB's) started 16 games in 2011 as a reserve behind SR Brian Horst and after a bad 2-24 start has been one of the hotter hitters on the team and hit .333 since then.   He puts together good AB's and has a solid 13/14 BB/K ratio.  Boudreau will usually be hitting 6th or 7th.

DH – FR #48 Kyle Davidson (RH – .386/.449/.477, 1-9-0 in 44 AB's) didn't play much earlier in the season but has emerged from a group of players who were splitting DH duties to start five times in the last six games and gone 6-21 with an HR and five RBI while usually hitting 6th.

2B – FR #20 Alex Rubanowitz (LH – .262/.355/.323, 0-7-1) and FR #42 Nick Vilter (RH – .238/.380/.381, 1-8-1) have been splitting time with Rubanowitz starting vs. RHP's and Vilter vs. LHP's.  Vilter is big for a 2B and has a little more pop in his bat.  Both have solid BB/K ratios (Rubanowitz 8/11 and Vilter 9/10) and Vilter is second on the team with six HBP's.  Whoever is in the lineup will usually be batting 8th.

SS – JR #3 Eddie Young (LH – .293/.417/.335, 0-21-2.  '11 – .241/.327/.271, 0-9-8; '10 – .270/.362/.357, 0-26-3) has been a versatile player who started at 3B in 2010 and 2B in 2011 and is now playing SS while taking over for 1st team All-Big West SS Trevor Hairgrove.  He is a slap hitter with only eleven extra base hits (all doubles) over the last two seasons.  Young is a good bunter who will use his speed to try to get on base or move runners along and had six SAC's in 2011 and has seven this year (team leader both seasons).  Young is a very patient hitter in the leadoff spot and leads the Big West in walks and has an outstanding 35/18 BB/K ratio.  He ran more in 2011 when he went 8-10 but has only gone 2-6 trying to run thus far.  Young went 2-10 against Fullerton in 2011 and is 4-19 in his career against the Titans.

3B/1B – SR #22 Vince Gonzalez (RH – .359/.398/.436, 0-27-3.  '11 – .247/.317/.292, 0-14-2 in 89 AB's) has split time between 3B and 1B and has been playing more at the hot corner recently.  He was a do much as a part-time starter at 1B in 2011 but has taken a major step forward and easily been the best hitter on the team throughout the season and is in the top ten in the Big West in AVG, H and TB while usually hitting third.  Gonzalez got off to a solid start and currently has a seventeen game hitting streak, during which he has hit .413 with 12 RBI.  He is one of the few hitters in the lineup who will go after pitches early in counts and has a poor 11/32 BB/K ratio.  Soph #16 Cody Hough (RH – .204/.306/.241, 0-8-2) started during most of the non-conference season while taking over for 2nd team All-Big West 3B Ryan Goetz but hasn't hit enough to stay in the lineup and is in the top ten in the Big West with 36 strikeouts.

 

Outfield

Riverside also had two SR's starting in the OF in 2011 who have moved on so they have often been using inexperienced players often out there.

LF – JC transfer #7 Clayton Prestridge (RH – .290/.422/.352, 0-20-9) has been steadily hitting in the .250's to .260's most of the season but has gotten hot and hit .414 over the last nine games.   He has been hitting cleanup lately and is a patient hitter who will see lots of pitches and is fifth in the Big West in walks with a solid 26/30 BB/K ratio.  Prestridge has good speed and has stolen four bases in the last nine games to move into the top ten in the conference in SB's. 

CF – FR #6 Devyn Bolasky (LH – .294/.390/.304, 0-6-6) took over for three year starter and team RBI leader Tony Nix and was having a solid season before injuring his hamstring against Long Beach and missing a month.  He does a solid job of working counts with a 13/16 BB/K ratio but has very little power with only one extra base hit in 120 plate appearances.  Bolasky has been hitting second since returning to the lineup.

RF – FR #30 David Andriese (LH – .254/348/.426, 4-22-2.  '11 – .307/.392/.453, 4-30-1) was one of the better FR in the conference in 2011 while playing in LF and led the team and was tenth in the Big West in SLG.  He injured his wrist after only four games and missed the next thirteen games and got off to a slow start while coming back from the injury.  Andriese has started to heat up and has gone 9-28 with two HR's over the last nine games while usually hitting fifth.  He is another patient hitter and takes a big swing and was in the top ten in the conference in walks and strikeouts in 2011 (27/43).  Andriese went 3-11 against Fullerton in 2011.

OF – JR #4 Phil Holinsworth (RH – .239/.317/.352, 2-13-3.  '11 – .279/.333/.380, 0-16-4) was the fourth OF in 2011 and has gotten playing time in all three OF spots while taking over for Andriese and Bolasky while they were out of the lineup.  His playing time has been limited lately with both of them returning and Prestridge heating up.  Hollinsworth is a good bunter and has twelve SAC's over the last two seasons, including six this year.

 

Defense

Fielding % – .967 (6th) with 58 errors.  .976 in 2011 (2nd) with 51 errors.  2010 – .971 (3rd) with 63 errors.   Riverside had one of the better defenses in the Big West in 2010-2011 with an experienced infield and they only allowed sixteen unearned runs last season.  The defense hasn't been as solid this season and they have allowed 38 unearned runs while trying to have guys settle into the lineup.  Gonzalez is solid when he's at 1B but is playing out of position at 3B.  Rubanowitz and Vilter have been below average at 2B.  Young has good range at SS but leads the Big West with 16 errors.  Prestridge and Bolasky have good range in the OF and Andriese is average.  None of them have plus arms.

Stolen Base Attempts – 36-61 (5th).  34-64 in 2011 (3rd).  Steponovich (29-47) has been very good at throwing out baserunners so it will be difficult to run on him.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 26 (2nd).  43 (3rd).  Steponovich have also been doing a strong job of blocking pitches and giving the pitching staff confidence in throwing off-speed pitches in the dirt.

 

Pitching

  • ERA – 3.85 ERA (6th).  3.40 in 2011 (3rd in the Big West).
  • AVG – .276 (7th).  .269 in 2011 (6th).   
  • Walks – 130 (3rd), 2.9 BB/9 IP.  145 in 2011 (2nd), 2.7 BB/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 28 (1st).  39 in 2011 (3rd).
  • OBP – .342 (4th).  .337 in 2011 (4th).
  • Strikeouts – 326 (2nd), 7.2 K/9 IP.  376 in 2011 (5th), 7.1 K/9 IP. 
  • SLG – .374 (7th).  .338 in 2011 (4th). 
  • HR – 17 (5th).  9 in 2011 (1st). 

 

Starters

Riverside returned all three weekend starters in 2011 but injuries to two of those SP's shuffled things around with two midweek SP's/middle relievers moving into the rotation and both were solid.  FR SP Matt Andriese was a fourth round pick and moved on and the other two SP's returned along with the Big West FR pitcher of the year moving from the bullpen into the rotation.

FRI – SR #21 Eddie Orozco (RHP – 5-5, 2.48 ERA, 12 GS, 3 CG, 83 IP, 86 H, 18 BB, 95 K, .266 AVG, 4 HR, 3 HBP, 6 WP, 9-15 SB.  '11 – 5-2, 2.29 ERA, 12 GS, 71 IP, 61 H, 30 BB, 60 K, .241 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 7-14 SB.  '10 – 1-3, 8.71 ERA, 11 apps, 6 GS, 31 IP, 42 H, 15 BB, 21 K, .333 AVG, 4 HR, 8 HBP, 8 WP, 2-4 SB) has had one of the better arms on the staff since he arrived on campus after being drafted in HS but had trouble with being consistent with his command during his career before moving into the weekend rotation during the Big West part of the schedule in 2011.  He went 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA in five conference starts and ended up fifth in the conference in ERA and was an honorable mention All-Big West selection.  Orozco has continued that success this season and has been one of the better pitchers in the conference and is fourth in ERA and IP and leads the Big West in strikeouts and has an outstanding 16/95 BB/K ratio.  After losing his first start to BYU, he had three straight strong starts against ASU, Sam Houston State and Sacramento State when he allowed only three runs in 23 IP and was Big West pitcher of the week for his CG SHO against Sac State when he held them to three hits and no walks with fifteen strikeouts.  Orozco went 1-4 with two ND's over his next seven starts with a 3.25 ERA before picking up a win last week at Pacific.  He has allowed at least seven hits in each of his last seven starts and has struck out at least seven hitters in each of his last five starts, including ten against Northridge and twelve against Pacific over the last two weeks.  Orozco's best pitches are a low 90's fastball, a good changeup and a solid breaking pitch.  He does a good job of holding runners and has three pickoffs.  Orozco allowed two runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 IP in his start against Fullerton in 2011.

SAT – JR #14 Trevor Frank (RHP – 1-7, 4.02 ERA, 12 GS, 1 CG, 69 IP, 81 H, 15 BB, 37 K, .297 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 5-11 SB.  '11 – 2-3, 3.35 ERA, 1 save, 13 apps, 12 GS, 83 IP, 84 H, 14 BB, 55 K, .268 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 4 WP, 2-7 SB.  '10 – 3-3, 8.46 ERA, 17 apps, 8 GS, 50 IP, 79 H, 18 BB, 31 K, .374 AVG, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP, 7-11 SB) moved from a midweek SP/middle reliever to a weekend starter early in 2011 and was in the rotation most of the season.  He is a strike thrower and more of a pitch to contact guy than Orozco.  After picking up a ND is his first start, Frank lost his next five starts with a 4.60 ERA before turning things around with a CG SHO against UC Davis when he allowed only three hits.  He has struggled in his last three starts with two losses and a ND and allowed 16 R (9 ER) on 28 H in 17 IP, including a loss at Pacific last weekend (3 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 3 ER).  Frank does a good job of holding runners and only allowed 7-18 SB's in the last two seasons.  He allowed 2 R on 8 H and 3 BB in 6 1/3 IP in his start against Fullerton in 2011. 

SUN – Soph #5 Dylan Stuart (LHP – 6-6, 4.18 ERA, 13 GS, 2 CG, 84 IP, 90 H, 17 BB, 53 K, .275 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 4 WP, 6-10 SB.  '11 – 1-1, 1.72 ERA, 18 apps, 31 IP, 34 H, 11 BB, 29 K, .301 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 4-9 SB) was a middle reliever in 2011 and ended up pitching well enough to earn Big West FR pitcher of the year honors.  He is a little harder thrower than Frank with an upper 80's fastball and a changeup as his best pitches.  Stuart got off to a great start when he was Big West pitcher of the week for a CG SHO against BYU but he has been up and down since then.  He allowed nineteen runs over his next three starts before holding Fresno State to one run in a CG win.  After more up and down starts, Stuart bottomed out in losses to UC Davis and Irvine when he allowed 12 R in 7 1/3 IP but has been very good over the last two weeks and allowed only two runs (1 ER) in 15 IP in wins against Northridge and Pacific.  He has a very good move to first and has picked off three runners and base runners are only 10-19 against him over the last two seasons.

Midweek SP – JR #17 Mitch Patito (RHP – 3-3, 4.10 ERA, 14 apps, 9 GS, 42 IP, 34 H, 37 BB, 51 K, .228 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 7-11 SB.  '11 – 1-3, 5.75 ERA, 6 saves, 19 apps, 20 IP, 22 H, 18 BB, 24 K, .286 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 4-5 SB.  '10 – 3-0, 1.33 ERA, 3 saves, 21 apps, 27 IP, 13 H, 13 BB, 27 K, .138 AVG, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB) was the closer in 2010 and moved out of that role due to ineffectiveness during 2011.  He is one of only four pitchers to start a game for Riverside and they didn't have a midweek game this week so he might be available in relief on Fri or Sat but they have two midweek games next week.  Patito is similar to Matthew Vedo from UCSB, hopefully without the propensity to say stupid things to the media, with a low 90's fastball and a solid curveball with a very good 10.9 K/9 IP rate but command has been an issue and he has allowed nearly a BB/HBP per IP all three seasons.  He has been inconsistent and had a strong start at UNLV two weeks ago (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) wrapped around mediocre starts against USD (2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 K) and LMU (3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K).  Patito has allowed a run on four hits in 2 1/3 IP in two career appearances against Fullerton.

 

Relievers

Riverside brought a pretty inexperienced bullpen into the season, with only one pitcher throwing more than eight innings last season, after having a good amount of experience there in 2011.  There isn't much depth in the bullpen and the Highlanders will try to take their starters as deep into games as they can.

Closer – Soph Ben Doucette (LHP – 1-1, 1.96 ERA, 4 saves, 21 apps, 23 IP, 20 H, 10 BB, 22 K, .230 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 1-3 SB.  '11 – 1 IP) has done a solid job since being moved into the closer's role a month ago after pitching in middle relief earlier in the season and has converted all four save chances he has had.  He has allowed only one run in six appearances and six innings in Big West games and will usually not throw much more than one inning.  Doucette does a good job of getting sink on his fastball and will sometimes run into control issues if hitters are laying off of it.

JR #29 Mark Garcia (LHP – 1-1, 2.02 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 36 IP, 32 H, 12 BB, 24 K, .246 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 0-2 SB.  '11 – 1-2, 4.68 ERA, 17 apps, 25 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 18 K, .306 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 2-2 SB.  '10 – 0-0, 10.80 ERA, 8 apps, 8 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 7 K) is the one reliever returning with any appreciable experience and he has been solid in a middle relief role as the main guy to get the ball from the starters to Doucette.  He has been a workhorse and has often gone 2-3 innings in his appearances.  Garcia allowed hits to two of the three Fullerton hitters he faced in 2011.

 

Other relievers

FR #25 Zach Varela (RHP – 0-1, 3.86 ERA, 8 apps, 9 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 12 K, .350 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 0-0 SB)

JR #28 Donovan Gonzales (RHP – 0-0, 4.61 ERA, 10 apps, 14 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 4 K, .212 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB)

SR #32 Gavin Mills (RHP – 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 14 apps, 22 IP, 27 H, 6 BB, 9 K, .351 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 4-4 SB)

FR #15 Antonio Gonzales (LHP – 0-1, 12.46 ERA, 12 apps, 13 IP, 20 H, 6 BB, 11 K, .357 AVG, 5 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP, 2-2 SB)

 

Outlook

Fullerton goes into the series continuing to play well in weekend series and finding ways to win.  The Titans will be motivated to keep winning to stay ahead of Long Beach in the Big West title race and also to stay in the hunt to host a regional at Goodwin Field in a couple of weeks.  Riverside has struggled to put things together in weekend series and they have won only three of the twelve series that they have played.

Fullerton used to struggle with Riverside from the time that they entered the Big West in 2002.  The Highlanders won 13 of the first 22 games that the teams played in the series, including nine of the first ten games played at Riverside.  Fullerton broke that hex in 2009 when they won the final two games of the series in Riverside and the Titans have won the last eight games against the Highlanders, including a sweep at Riverside last season.

Fullerton's offense has started to pick up as the season has gone on and the Titans have scored at least five runs in twelve of their last fifteen games and lead the Big West in AVG and scoring in conference games by a wide margin.  Riverside's offense has had trouble scoring most of the season, usually putting things together against average to poor pitching staffs but struggling when they face frontline pitching.

Fullerton's pitching staff has had their ups and downs over the past few weeks but came through when they needed to last Sunday at UCSB, which is a tough ballpark for pitchers to do well in.  Riverside's pitching has been inconsistent but all three of their starters have the potential to do well when they are on their games and each of them has thrown a shutout this season.   

If Fullerton continues to play consistently over the course of three games like they have since the Florida series then they will win this series.  Riverside's play this season hasn't shown that they should have much of a chance to win the series and they have been a poor road team with only seven wins in 22 games.  Fullerton will be trying hard to sweep this series to make sure they only need to win once at Blair Field in the final series against Long Beach and has a decent chance to sweep the series but it wouldn't be a surprise if Riverside won a game to keep from getting swept for only the second time this season.