Baseball Preview: UoP (7-12)

Cal State Fullerton has been riding a tidal wave of momentum throughout the start of the 2013 season, winning their first ten games for the first time in the history of the program and winning all five games last week to increase their winning streak to ten games, which is the first time that the Titans have had two ten game winning streaks in a season since 2001.

Fullerton returned home after sweeping Oral Roberts and swept Nebraska in a two game midweek series with 8-7 (11 innings) and 10-4 wins before going over to Blair Field and sweeping Long Beach State 6-0, 8-6 and 2-1 with two of the crazier finishes to games in a series that has been filled with them over the years to improve the Titans record against the Dirtbags to 19-3 over the last five seasons and the 21-3 start for Fullerton is the best one for the program since 1996.

Fullerton played like they had jet lag at the start of the first game against Nebraska and made three errors in the first two innings and the Cornhuskers parlayed those into a four run lead before the Titans responded as they have all season with four runs in the bottom of the third to tie the game.  Back to back singles by Jared Deacon and Keegan Dale got things going and Austin Kingsolver's single scored two runs to cut the lead in half, walks to J.D. Davis and Tanner Pinkston loaded the bases and Michael Lorenzen's single scored two runs to tie the game.  Fullerton starter Koby Gauna had a rare off game and allowed a run in the top of the fourth and the Titans responded once again with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 6-5 lead when Deacon walked, Austin Diemer singled him to third, Dale's SF tied the game and Richy Pedroza singled in Diemer gave Fullerton the lead.  Gauna gave up a single to start the fifth and his night was done when Willie Kuhl came into the game.  Kuhl threw a pickoff attempt away and that runner ended up scoring to tie the game.  After two straight three up, three down innings for Nebraska the Titans took the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Kingsolver was hit by a pitch and doubled to third by Davis, Pinkston walked and Lorenzen was hit by a pitch that forced in a run but Fullerton left the bases loaded.  Nebraska tied the game in the top of the eighth with the help of the fifth error of the game by the Titans and almost pulled ahead in the ninth before Tyler Peitzmeier came into the game to stop the rally against the team from his home state.  The game stayed tied until the bottom of the eleventh when Kingsolver was hit by a pitch and stole second, Davis walked, Kingsolver stole third, Lorenzen was intentionally walked and a walk to Deacon forced in the run for a walk off win for Fullerton.  The Titans had fourteen hits in the game but the heroes were the relievers with Kuhl (4 2/3 IP, 1 unearned run, 8 K's), Peitzmeier (2 IP) and Michael Lopez (1/3 IP) combining to throw seven innings and allowing one unearned run with Lopez picking up the first win of his career after throwing one pitch with the Cornhusker runner he inherited caught stealing.

Nebraska came out determined to get their first win against Fullerton after losing three times to the Titans and scored runs in the first and third innings but once again Fullerton responded in the bottom of the third to tie the game.  Clay Williamson singled and Dale walked, Williamson stole third and Dale moved up when the throw bounced off of Matt Chapman's helmet, Chapman's SF scored a run, Dale went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground out by Davis.  Nebraska scored a run in the fourth and another in the fifth on a HR by Chad Christensen to take a 4-2 lead before the Titans responded once again, this time with their biggest inning of the season with an eight run rally to put the game away.  Chad Wallach and Deimer were hit by pitches to start the inning, Williamson's bunt single loaded the bases, Chapman's two run single tied the game, Carlos Lopez's RBI single gave Fullerton the lead, Lopez and Chapman executed a double steal and were both driven in on a single by Davis, Jake Jefferies followed with an RBI double, Wallach crushed a ball to deep right center that gave him time to get to third for an RBI triple and he scored on a wild pitch to finish up the scoring in the inning and the game.  It was a staff day for the Titans with six pitchers taking the mound and Kyle Murray picked up his first career win with two scoreless innings and Jose Cardona and Joe Navilhon wrapped things up with scoreless innings.  The leading hitters in the two game series were Davis (5-8, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Lorenzen (4-8, 3 RBI, 3 BB/HBP), Chapman (2-5, 3 RBI), Kingsolver (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 SB) and Dale (2-3, RBI, 3 BB).

The match-up with Thomas Eshelman and Shane Carle on Friday figured to be a pitchers duel and lived up to that billing through seven innings.  Lorenzen got the scoring started in the second by crushing a HR to LF and Fullerton added to the lead in the third when Diemer singled, Pedroza bunted him over and Lopez singled in Diemer.  Those runs would be all that Eshelman would need on a night where he was lights out and allowed only one hit in seven innings, a single in the fifth by Eric Hutting, the younger brother of Anthony Hutting, with no walks and no strikeouts as he increased his streak without allowing a walk to 42 innings.  Fullerton increased the lead to 3-0 in the seventh when Wallach walked, Dale bunted him to second, Wallach went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error by Long Beach's SS to end Carle's night.  The Titans blew things open in the eighth against the Dirtbags bullpen with three runs when Lorenzen doubled, Kingsolver reached on an infield single, Wallach was hit by a pitch, Dale walked to force in a run and Diemer's singled scored two runs.  Davis finished things off with two scoreless innings, allowing only an infield single, and Eshelman improved his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.07 while throwing only 56 pitches in his seven innings of work.

Saturday's game was a tale of two games.  The first part was all about Ino Patron and SP Jake Stassi for Long Beach and the second part was all about the Dirtbags bullpen.  Long Beach got to Justin Garza by manufacturing a run in the first and stretched their lead to 3-0 when Patron hit a long triple to score two runs.  Fullerton got a run back in the fourth when Pedroza and Lopez singled and Pedroza scored on a DP by Davis that thwarted the rally.  The Dirtbags scored two more runs in the fifth on a bases loaded double by Patron that finished Garza's day in the first poor start by the freshman.  Kuhl came into the game and struck out both batters to end the inning and strand two runners in scoring position and kept Long Beach off the scoreboard in the sixth and seventh.  It looked like the Dirtbags 5-1 lead was going to be more than enough with Stassi able to weave in and out of trouble and holding the Titans to one run on seven hits in seven innings before Long Beach went to the bullpen to start the eighth.  What followed was one of the wilder innings in the history of this storied series.  Davis singled and Lorenzen was hit by a pitch to get things started, Wallach reached on an infield single to load the bases and Jefferies walked to force in a run and the Dirtbags went to their closer Jon Maciel, who allowed a pinch-hit single by Hutting to cut the lead to 5-3 and after a strikeout for the second out, pinch-hitter Deacon was hit by a pitch to force in a run.  Pedroza hit a full count chopper up the middle with the runners going and the SS tried to get the force out at 2B but pinch-runner Kingsolver was safe, Jefferies scored to tie the game and Hutting scored all the way from second, beating the throw home for the go ahead run, Pedroza tried to advance to second and Kingsolver was thrown out at home on the play.  Peitzmeier and Gauna combined for a scoreless bottom of the eighth and Fullerton added two insurance runs against Maciel in the ninth when Lopez and Davis singled, a wild pitch moved the runners up, Lorenzen's SF scored one run and Wallach's single scored another.  The Dirtbags scored an unearned run against Gauna in the ninth before Lorenzen finished things off by striking out Patron to end the game for his seventh save and Kuhl picked up the win with his three scoreless innings of relief with four strikeouts.

Sunday baseball usually means that the hitters have a chance to get healthy and pad their stats but that wasn't the case this time with Grahamm Wiest and David Hill both throwing very well in this one.  Both teams squandered opportunities in the first three innings before Fullerton got on the board in the fourth when Lorenzen was hit by a pitch, Williamson walked and Deacon singled in Lorenzen.  The Titans increased the lead in the fifth when Dale walked and Pedroza doubled him in but he ended up being stranded at third and Long Beach cut the lead in half when Patron doubled in a run.  Fullerton stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth against Hill and threatened to score against the bullpen in the eighth when Hutting led off with a double but a blown squeeze play ended the rally.  It looked like Wiest was going to make the one run lead stand up when he retired ten straight batters going into the ninth before allowing a leadoff single and Lorenzen was summoned in from CF to finish off the game.  He allowed a single to the first batter he faced and a SAC bunt moved the runners up with one out.  It looked like Eric Hutting's fly to medium deep CF was going to be a SF to tie the game when Michael Hill, the older brother of the Long Beach SP, beat the throw to the plate.  Fullerton appealed to the umpires that Hill had left 3B early and they agreed, turning a game tying SF into a game ending DP with the Titans winning in one of the more bizarre ways that you will ever see a team win a game.  Wiest improved his record to 4-1 with his outstanding outing, going 8+ innings, allowing one run on seven hits with no walks and a career high nine strikeouts and Lorenzen picked up his eighth save with the help of the ruling from the umpiring crew.

Fullerton didn't have too many offensive standouts against Long Beach and it was a balanced effort with many players contributing with key hits, walks and HBP's.  Lorenzen led the way by going 4-10 with an HR, 2 RBI and 4 R followed by Lopez (4-14), Pedroza (3-11, 2 RBI, 2 BB's), Deacon (3-4, 2 RBI), Diemer (3-6, 2 RBI) and Wallach (2-7, RBI, 3 R).  Thanks to the fifteen hit comeback effort on Saturday, the Titans hit .267 on the weekend but only had six hits in the other two games for a similar output to what they had in hitting in the .235 - .240 range the previous four weekends.  Fullerton continued to stay patient at the plate and drew ten walks and were hit by pitches seven times to help keep the offense going.

Fullerton started this week with a midweek game against LMU and for the second time this season saw a ten game winning streak snapped as the Lions put together a three run rally in the seventh inning to pull off the 3-2 upset as the Titans squandered many opportunities during the game.  There isn't much time for Fullerton to dwell on Tuesday's loss with the weekend calendar pushed up a day due to the Easter holiday and the start of Big West play coming this weekend with the Pacific Tigers visiting Goodwin Field for the final time.  This will be the swan song for Pacific because Pacific, the only private school in the Big West, will be moving on to the West Coast Conference after the season where they will be joining a conference comprised solely of private universities.


Pacific Tigers (7-12)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 16-40
  • 2012 Conference Record – 6-18 (9th)
  • 2012 Post-Season – None
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 169/154.  2012 RPI/ISR – 230/187
  • Pre-season ranking/Current ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 9th by Perfect Game, 10th by the Big West coaches, Baseball America and Easton College Baseball. 


2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

Pacific hit their high water mark under Ed Sprague in 2010 when a veteran squad went 31-23 overall and finished fourth in the Big West at 12-12 after going into a slump late in the season and losing seven of their final nine games and it has been all downhill since then with the Tigers going 19-37, 9-15 in 2011 and 16-40, 6-18 in 2012.  Pacific lost nineteen of their final twenty-three games in 2011 and it didn't get much better with a 4-16 start last season with 1/4 of their wins for the year coming in a four game sweep of Brown and they were 13-40 before sweeping Northridge to end the season.  The Tigers were swept six times in 2012 but haven't been swept yet this season.  However, they also haven't finished up winning a weekend series after losing a series to San Jose State, splitting four games at home against solid Gonzaga and UNLV teams, losing two out of three against a very good tournament field at ASU (ASU, Gonzaga, Arkansas), losing two out of three at TCU with the series deciding game going to the Horned Frogs in extra innings and losing two out of three at Creighton.

Pacific had a good offense in 2009-2010 and knew they wouldn't hit as well with the BBCOR bats and their offense has regressed significantly, going from .277 in 2011 to .269 last season to .253 this season and the Tigers have been averaging just over four runs a game the last three seasons.  Pacific has been held to four runs or less in eleven of their sixteen weekend games and averaged 3.5 runs in those games.  The Tigers will go up to the plate hacking and were in the bottom thirty nationally in walks per game in 2012 and haven't been much more patient this season averaging around three walks per game.  Pacific doesn't attempt to help their OBP by getting hit by pitches and have only been hit eight times.  The Tigers do a decent job of making contact and have improved their strikeout rate from last season.  Pacific tried to run quite a bit in 2012 but were lousy at it and were successful less than half of the time and are running much less this season and about as well with only a 50% success rate.  The Tigers don't bunt that much, usually ranking in the middle of the pack in the conference, preferring to let their hitters swing away unless it's a close game.

Pacific broke in a new rotation in 2012 with none of their starters back from an underachieving staff in 2011 and brought the staff ERA down by close to a run from 6.32 to 5.50.  The Tigers have been pitching even better this season with team ERA coming down again by close to a run to 4.79 led by two starters with ERA's in the low two's.  Pacific had issues with a lack of depth behind their two best starters in 2012 and that has also been the case this season with only a couple of reliable options in the bullpen.  The Tigers have held teams to three runs or less in half of their sixteen weekend games and their starters have given them a chance to be much more competitive than they were in 2012.  Pacific's pitching staff is mostly a ground ball staff and they have allowed only two HR's to lead the conference for the fewest HR's given up.  Despite not having few hard throwers on their pitching staff, the Tigers haven't had good control and are allowing almost five free base runners per game and have a poor 68/77 BB/K ratio and are in the bottom twenty nationally in strikeouts per game.


Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 104 (increases offense by 4%).  Dimensions of 317 to LF with a 20 ft high wall, 380 to left center, 395 to CF, 365 to right center and 325 to RF make this one of the smaller fields in the Big West.
  • Batting Average – .253 (7th in the Big West/209th nationally).  .269 in 2012 (6/192).
  • Scoring – 81 (8/218), 4.3 runs per game.  236 (6/218), 4.2 runs per game in 2012.
  • Home Runs – 5 (6/180).  14 in 2012 (5/239). 
  • Slugging Percentage – .329 (7/210).  .357 in 2012 (5/210).
  • On Base Percentage – .319 (9/255).  .337 in 2012 (9/256).
  • Walks – 57 (10/256), 2.7 per game.  152 in 2012 (9/271), 2.7 per game.
  • HBP's – 8 (10/284).  43 in 2012 (9/220).
  • Strikeouts – 107 (8/xx), 5.6 per game.  337 in 2012 (3/xx), 6.0 per game.
  • Stolen Bases – 9-18 (9/273).  34-72 in 2012 (8/255). 
  • Sac Bunts – 17 (6/112).  43 in 2012 (7/136).

Infield

Pacific has a good amount of experience returning in the infield with starters back at C, 1B and 2B and they have moved their 3B over to SS to replace the only starter they lost from last season.

C – JR #15 Jason Taasaas (RH – .300/.382/.400, 1-8-0.  '12 – .255/.346/.303, 1-12-0.  '11 – .205/.337/.289, 2-13-2 in 83 AB's) shared time as a FR but struggled both at and behind the plate.  He started out hitting .329 over the first 31 games in 2012 but slumped during the Big West schedule and only hit .125 in the last twelve games he played before injuring his arm in the first game against Fullerton and was lost for the season.  Taasaas has a solid approach at the plate and had an 11/15 BB/K ratio in 2012 and is at 8/12 this season.  He has been one of the more consistent hitters on the team, has some pop in his bat and usually hits 6th or 7th.  Taasaas is a workhorse and has caught every game except for one.  He is 0-9 in his career against Fullerton.

1B – Soph #21 Erik Lockwood (RH – .333/.434/.397, 0-9-0.  '12 – .352/.411/.442, 1-26-2) had the unenviable task of taking over for four year starter Martin as a FR but he has stepped into those shoes rather nicely and was 3rd in the Big West in AVG and finished in the top ten in the conference in OBP and SLG as one of the best FR in the Big West.  He does a good job of hitting the ball gap to gap and is usually the cleanup hitter.  Lockwood started out red hot by hitting .409 in the first 14 games and is in the top ten in the conference in OBP but cooled off and went 3-19 in his last five games.  His plate discipline was below average in 2012 with a 12/26 BB/K ratio but is better this season with a 9/14 ratio.  Lockwood was also injured in the first game against Fullerton in 2012 and went 0-1 in the series.

C/DH – JR #13 Riley Drongesen (RH – '12 – .321/.407/.415, 0-17-1.  8 AB's in 2011) would be the backup for Taasaas and Lockwood and be the DH but he is injured and hasn't played this season.  He was a very productive player in 2012 but also battled injuries and was only able to play in 30 games.

2B/LF – SR #9 Tyger Pederson (LH – .193/.314/.298, 1-11-1.  '12 – .279/.386/.324, 0-17-1.  '11 – .285/.354/.306, 0-13-2) is a streaky hitter who is prone to going into prolonged slumps followed by stretches where he gets red hot.  He was hitting .373 going into the series at Fullerton in 2011 while starting at 2B but only hit .208 during the bulk of the conference schedule.  Pederson got off to a slow start in 2012 when he only went 7-31 in the first twenty games, fattened up against Brown when he went 9-16 and hit .227 the rest of the season.  He hit .333 in the first seven games but since then has only hit .128.  Pederson has split time between 2B (9 starts) and LF (4 starts) while usually batting 5th and is second on the team in RBI.  He is patient at the plate and has a good 11/13 BB/K ratio.  Pederson is 2-17 in his career against Fullerton.

SS – SR #10 Dustin Torchio (Both – .276/.313/.395, 1-14-1.  '12 – .296/.369/.352, 0-22-2.  '11 – .369/.419/.451, 1-17-5.  '10 – .222 in 27 AB's) was a reserve as a FR before moving into the lineup in 2011 at 3B and got off to a solid start, hitting in the .320's going into the Fullerton series and he tattooed the ball against the Titans and went 7-12 in the series and took off from there the rest of the season, hitting a scalding .437 in conference games on his way to the Big West batting title and being selected first team All-Big West.  Torchio got off to a solid start in 2012 and was hitting in the .330's going into the conference season but only hit .189 in ten Big West games, was injured against Cal Poly the week before the Fullerton series and missed the last month of the season.  He moved over to SS this season and only hit .225 in the first ten games but has done better lately, hitting .333 over the last nine games while usually hitting 3rd. Torchio is not a big guy and does a good job of spraying the ball around the field with very good plate discipline (16/18 BB/K ratio in 2011, 14/15 in 2012 and 4/7 this season).  He is also a very good bunter and was second in the conference with 15 SAC bunts in 2011.

3B/2B – Soph #4 Curtis Gomez (RH – .217 in 23 AB's.  '12 – .261/.307/.379, 1-15-0.  '11 – .224/.258/.345, 1-10-1 in 58 AB's) was a backup infielder and only started thirteen games in 2011 but was a regular last season because of his defense.  He was hitting .320 going into conference play in 2012 but only hit .231 in Big West games.  Gomez is an aggressive hitter with a poor 8/26 BB/K ratio over the last two seasons.  He was injured earlier in the season but has started the last five games and split time between 2B and 3B while usually hitting in the lower part of the order.  Gomez went 2-11 against Fullerton in 2012.

3B – FR #23 JJ Wagner (RH – .208/.255/.271, 0-1-0) started fourteen games at 3B while Gomez was out of the lineup but didn't start against Creighton once Gomez came back.  He is the best bunter on the team and is second in the conference with six SAC bunts.  Wagner will hit either 2nd or 9th when he is in the lineup.

Outfield

Pacific lost three seniors who started most of the time in the OF and at DH so they are relying on part-time starters and breaking in new players at most of the OF positions.

LF – FR #19 Gio Brusa (Both – .180/.222/.240, 0-6-2) is one of the most heralded recruits to arrive at Pacific in a long time because he is a switch-hitter with good size and power potential who was supposed to be drafted in the first ten rounds out of HS.  His potential has gone untapped thus far and he has struggled getting used to facing D1 pitching but he will continue to see regular playing time to help his development and has started 14 times (13 in LF, 1 at DH).

CF – Soph #3 Tyler Sullivan (LH – .313/.370/.373, 0-3-2.  '12 – .218/.328/.236, 0-8-2) is one of the faster players on the team and any extra base hits he gets will come from his legs because he has only five of them (four 2B's and a 3B) over the last two seasons.  He got off to a slow start as a FR, hit a little better during the conference schedule and has been pretty consistent this season while splitting time between the leadoff and ninth spots in the order.  Sullivan had a decent 16/25 BB/K ratio in 2012 but hasn't been as patient this season and has a 5/14 BB/K ratio and he is tied for the team lead in strikeouts despite not being a power hitter.  He went 1-8 against Fullerton in 2012.

RF – Soph #5 Taylor Murphy (LH – .231/.293/.308, 1-6-0.  '12 – .232/.308/.290, 0-14-1) was a part-time starter in LF in 2012 before playing the last month of the season at 3B when Torchio was out of the lineup.  He started out ok in non-conference games but was overmatched in Big West games and only hit .180.  A major reason for Murphy's struggles as a FR were his inability to make contact because he struck out 25% of the time but he has done much better with his plate discipline this season with a 5/6 BB/K ratio.  He has started 13 times in RF while splitting time between the 5th and 7th spots in the lineup.  Murphy went 2-6 against Fullerton in 2012 and both of his hits were doubles.

LF/RF – SR #24 Jacob Goulder (RH – .219/.286/.313, 1-5-1.  '12 – .152 in 33 AB's) has been the fourth OF and split time between LF (4 starts) and RF (6 starts).  With Fullerton starting all RHP's his playing time could be limited.

DH – FR #8 Brett Sullivan (RH – .257/.321/.329, 0-6-2) has been the DH most of the time and like his brother Tyler, he also has good speed and will usually be the leadoff hitter when he is in the lineup.  He got hot in Pacific's last four games when he went 5-11 with four RBI.


Defense

Fielding % – .969 (7/98) with 23 errors.  2012 – .963 (9/185) with 78 errors.  Pacific's defense was poor in 2012 and much of that had to do with the rash of injuries that hit the team during the season, resulting in players moving around and playing out of position.  They rely more on their infield defense than most teams do because their starters are ground ball pitchers who pitch to contact.  Lockwood is solid at 1B, Pederson is average at 2B, Torchio has done a good job at SS but they have had issues at 3B with Gomez and Wagner combining for six errors.  The middle infielders have done a good job of turning DP's and Pacific ranks in the top 30 nationally in DP's per game.  Sullivan has good range in CF and the corner OF's are average.

Stolen Base Attempts – 19-28 (4/xx).  2012 – 61-80 (8/xx).  Taasaas has had issues holding down the running game the last two seasons (43-56 in 2012, 19-25 this season) and allowed the most steals in the Big West last season.  Look for Fullerton to try to get the running game going this weekend.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 11 (1/xx).  2012 – 59 (7/xx).  Taasaas struggled with blocking pitches in 2012 but has been much better this season and Pacific has allowed the fewest WP's/PB's in the conference.  Their pitchers try to get hitters to pound the ball into the ground so they tend to throw many balls in the dirt, which makes Taasaas' low number of WP's/PB's even more impressive.


Pitching

  • ERA – 4.79 (9/201).  5.50 in 2012 (9/253).
  • AVG – .305 (9/249).  .304 in 2011 (8/250).
  • HR – 2 (1/xx).  24 in 2012 (7/xx).
  • Walks – 68 (7/143), 3.7 BB/9 IP.  187 (8/122) in 2012, 3.5 BB/9 IP.
  • HBP – 21 (4/xx).  71 in 2012 (2/xx).
  • OBP – .389 (9/xx).  .387 in 2012 (9/xx).
  • SLG – .382 (8/xx).  .421 in 2011 (9/xx).
  • WHIP – 1.61 (9/xx).  1.59 in 2012 (9/219).
  • Strikeouts – 77 (10/293), 4.2 K/9 IP.  256 in 2012 (8/283), 4.8 K/9 IP.

Starters

Pacific returned their two best starters from 2012 and brought in a JC transfer who has thrown well so the rotation for the Tigers has been pretty good.  Pacific is an extreme ground ball and pitch to contact staff without power arms.

Soph #35 Michael Hager (RHP – 0-2, 5.64 ERA, 6 apps, 3 GS, 22 IP, 27 H, 8 BB, 11 K, .318 AVG, 1 HR, 5 HBP, 0 WP, 1-2 SB.  '12 – 6-5, 4.36 ERA, 18 apps, 12 GS, 89 IP, 111 H, 13 BB, 35 K, .318 AVG, 3 HR, 8 HBP, 6 WP, 5-11 SB) is a strike throwing control specialist and was in the top 40 nationally in BB/9 IP ratio as a FR.  He started out in the bullpen in 2012 in the first few weeks before being moved into the rotation and ended up earning six of Pacific's sixteen wins and he had a decent 4.36 ERA in Big West games (3.38 ERA against conference teams except for Fullerton).  Hager once again started this season in the bullpen but was moved into the rotation after an excellent relief appearance at ASU when he allowed only one run to the Sun Devils in five innings.  He had a solid start at TCU (6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K) but didn't pitch as well against Creighton (4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K) and Fresno State (4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 1 K).  Hager is a ground ball, pitch to contact pitcher who gives up a big number of hits but few HR's.  He had a terrible start against Fullerton in 2012 and allowed 7 R on 11 H in 3 IP.

JC transfer #29 Cory Popham (RHP – 2-0, 2.18 ERA, 5 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 33 IP, 33 H, 11 BB, 14 K, .268 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 4-5 SB) has given Pacific a solid third starter, which is a spot in the rotation that was basically a disaster area in 2012.  After allowing 4 R in 4 2/3 IP in his first start against San Jose State, he has had four straight good starts against UNLV (a complete game shutout that earned him Big West pitcher of the week honors), Gonzaga (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 K), TCU (7 1/3 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K) and Creighton (5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K).  Popham has been the toughest of Pacific's starters to hit.

Soph #22 Michael Benson (RHP – 2-1, 2.17 ERA, 5 GS, 37 IP, 37 H, 11 BB, 8 K, .280 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 3-6 SB.  '12 – 3-9, 3.34 ERA, 13 GS, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 84 IP, 99 H, 28 BB, 46 K, .279 AVG, 3 HR, 13 HBP, 3 WP, 11-19 SB) was the Friday SP as a FR and had an ERA just under 5.00 in his first four starts before pitching much better as the season went on and he had a 3.51 ERA in Big West games.  He was a hard luck pitcher as the Fri SP for such a bad team and went 1-5 in conference games despite that ERA and led the Big West in losses.  Benson is in the top ten in the Big West in ERA and threw well in his first four starts against San Jose State (6 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K), Gonzaga (7 2/3 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 0 K), Arkansas (8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K) and TCU (8 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 2 K) before not throwing as well at Creighton (7 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K).  He is an extreme ground ball and pitch to contact pitcher who has only allowed three HR's in eighteen career starts.  Benson hasn't had good control in his last two starts with four walks in each start and if his control is off he will have trouble against a patient Fullerton team.  He did a solid job against Fullerton in 2012 before his defense let him down and went 7 2/3 innings against the Titans and allowed 5 R (2 ER) on 10 H and 3 BB with 4 K.

Relievers

Pacific didn't have much pitching depth in 2012 and it was often an adventure when they had anybody besides Benson or Hager on the mound with only one other pitcher having an ERA below 5.00.  Five of those pitchers were SR's so it is a mostly new group in the bullpen and a couple of them have thrown well but there are quite a few ugly ERA's with six relievers having ERA's over seven.

JR #17 Kyle Crawford (LHP – 1-0, 1.08 ERA, 8 apps, 17 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 6 K, .254 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1-3 SB.  '12 – 2-7, 6.23 ERA, 15 apps, 12 GS, 1 CG, 69 IP, 85 H, 25 BB, 32 K, .297 AVG, 3 HR, 10 HBP, 4 WP, 9-13 SB.  '11 – 1-2, 10.00 ERA, 15 apps, 3 GS, 18 IP, 29 H, 6 BB, 6 K, .392 AVG, 2 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB) was the third starter in 2012 and rarely gave Pacific a chance to win when he started but things have much better this season and he has thrown very well as the best option for the Tigers out of the bullpen.  If a game is close he is likely to be the first reliever to come into the game and because he has a background as a starter he doesn't have a problem going 2-3 innings.

JC transfer #16 Kevin Hammann (RHP – 2-1, 1.80 ERA, 1 save, 7 apps, 5 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 3 K, .167 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) and FR #32 Nick Viola (RHP – 0-0, 3.52 ERA, 6 apps, 8 IP, 2 H, 4 BB, 6 K, .083 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) would be the only other relievers that Pacific would be likely to trust in a close game and Viola has one of the better arms on the staff.

Others

JR #20 John Haberman (LHP – 0-3, 9.77 ERA, 5 apps, 3 GS, 16 IP, 29 H, 7 BB, 12 K, .397 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 1-2 SB.  '12 – Started three games, missed the rest of the season with an injury) started the season in the rotation but only threw well in one of his three starts and was replaced by Hager.

SR #37 Travis Lumby (LHP – 0-1, 10.50 ERA, 9 apps, 6 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 4 K, .333 AVG, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB.  '12 – 1-4, 7.12 ERA, 16 apps, 6 GS, 30 IP, 33 H, 23 BB, 20 K, .275 AVG, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 5-7 SB)

Soph #36 Bryce Lombardi (RHP – 0-1, 7.11 ERA, 6 apps, 6 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 2 K, .357 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 4-4 SB.  '12 – 0-1, 8.22 ERA, 14 apps, 2 GS, 23 IP, 29 H, 12 BB, 10 K, .322 AVG, 1 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 7-7 SB)


Outlook

Fullerton has been playing with a great sense of urgency this weekend and has rarely given away games, not losing a game they led in until Tuesday night against LMU.  The Titans have been finding ways to win games and have been putting down the hammer when they have had the chance with four sweeps in the first six weekends.

Fullerton has traditionally beaten Pacific like a drum with the Titans holding an 80-12 all-time advantage in the series.  However, things were much tighter from 2009-2011 when Fullerton only won five of the nine games and Pacific won a series against the Titans for the first time ever in 2009.  Fullerton re-established their dominance in the series last season by sweeping the Tigers in Stockton by a cumulative score of 36-6.

Fullerton is still having issues putting together hits on weekends and things don't figure to be helped with Matt Chapman unavailable for the next few weeks due to a sprained ankle.  As long as the Titans stick with their patient approach at the plate, they should be able to continue to put rallies together this weekend against a pitching staff that relies on pitching to contact and having their fielders do the work.

Fullerton has consistently pitched well all season with only a few hiccups along the way.  Pacific is a team that doesn't have much patience at the plate and the Titans once again lead the nation in fewest walks allowed per game so the Tigers are going to have to earn their runs this weekend, something they have had trouble doing this season.

Pacific has been playing more competitively this season than they did the past couple of years and has the starting pitching that will keep them in games but this is a series that Fullerton should win as long as they stick with what has been working this season.  The Tigers haven't been swept this season but the goal for the Titans will be to accomplish what nobody else has been able to do and that is to sweep Pacific.