The Titans went on the road to Riverside last weekend and extended their winning streak to seven games by bludgeoning the Highlanders 14-7 and 12-0 before dropping the final game of the series 7-6 on Mother's Day. The win by Riverside also snapped Fullerton's seven game winning streak in the Inland Empire at their former house of horrors.
After a scoreless first inning on Friday, Fullerton jumped on starter Dylan Stuart, who had shut them out in 2012, by scoring four runs in the top of the second when J.D. Davis singled, Michael Lorenzen was hit by a pitch, Chad Wallach bunted them over and reached first when Stuart's throw was wide of the bag, Greg Velazquez singled in two runs and Richy Pedroza and Carlos Lopez followed later in the inning with RBI singles. The Titans added to the lead in the third when Wallach doubled and Velazquez singled him in. Fullerton scored another run in the fourth when Pedroza singled to third and went to second on an error on the throw and Lopez singled him in. The Titans finished off Stuart's night in the sixth with four runs to make it 10-0 when Pedroza walked, Lopez singled, Matt Chapman doubled them in, Lorenzen doubled in Chapman and Wallach doubled in Lorenzen. Thomas Eshelman was the beneficiary of the scoring onslaught and threw five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and lowering his ERA to 1.42 while improving his record to 9-2. After Riverside scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the destruction continued in the top of the seventh when Fullerton scored four more runs after Matt Orloff singled, Pedroza walked, Lopez singled in a run, Chapman tripled in two runs and Davis doubled in a run. The Titans had seventeen hits and were led by Lopez going 4-6 with 2 R and 3 RBI, Wallach going 3-3 with 2 R and an RBI, Chapman going 2-6 with 2 R and 4 RBI, Pedroza going 2-3 with 3 R and an RBI and Velazquez going 2-4 with a R and 3 RBI.
Fullerton stayed as hot as the temperatures were in Riverside on Saturday when they scored six runs in the first inning to pretty much end the game before it had started. Pedroza led off the game against starter Ben Doucette with a walk, Chapman singled him to third, Davis singled in Pedroza and Wallach crushed one to LF for a three run HR. Velazquez kept things going with a walk, Jake Jefferies singled and Austin Diemer doubled them in to finish off the scoring in the inning. The Titans continued to bash the ball in the second when they scored five more runs to end Doucette's night when Chapman nailed a HR to left-center, Davis singled, Lorenzen doubled, Wallach singled them in and Velazquez smacked one out to left-center for a two run HR. That was pretty much it for the scoring because Highlander reliever held Fullerton off of the scoreboard for the next five innings. Justin Garza threw five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.12 and improve his record to 11-0 and Jose Cardona, Tyler Peitzmeier, Willie Kuhl and Koby Gauna each threw a scoreless inning to preserve the shutout. The seventeen hits were pretty evenly distributed with thirteen batters each getting hits, Wallach getting five RBI and Velazquez and Diemer each drove in two runs.
The start of Sunday's game was the exact opposite of the first two games with Riverside jumping on Grahamm Wiest for five runs in the first inning when nothing went right for Fullerton. Two ground ball singles and a double scored a run, a pop to short left that Pedroza lost in the sun scored another run, two more ground balls found holes through the infield to score a run, a based loaded walk scored a fourth run and a double play scored the fifth run of the inning. Wiest allowed another run in the second inning to end his day and it looked like Fullerton was in for a long game with starter Zach Varela throwing well. The Titans scored a run in the fourth when Lorenzen and Anthony Hutting singled and a ground ball to second by Jefferies was booted to score a run. The Highlanders scored a run in the fourth off of Gauna to make it 7-1 and that insurance run came in handy later in the game. Fullerton knocked Varela out of the game in the sixth when they scored two runs after Davis walked, Hutting doubled him in and Jefferies doubled in Hutting. Peitzmeier held down the fort with 3 2/3 scoreless innings to allow the Titans to continue to tighten things up. Fullerton cut the lead to 7-4 in the seventh when Pedroza led off with a single and eventually scored on a ground out by Chapman after Riverside had brought in their closer, Trevor Frank. The Titans scored two runs to cut the lead to one in the eighth when Hutting singled for his third hit of the game and went to second on a wild pitch, Jefferies singled him in and Wallach doubled in Jefferies but was left stranded there. Fullerton started the ninth with singles by Lopez and Chapman and Davis was asked to bunt to move the tying and go ahead runs into scoring position but popped up. Lorenzen followed with an infield single to shortstop to load the bases but Hutting struck out and Jefferies flied out to end the rally and the game.
Fullerton has sometimes had issues on offense against weekend pitching but that definitely wasn't the case at Riverside as the Titans had their second best output in a series this season with 32 runs on 46 hits for a .368 average. Fullerton continued to have a patient approach at the plate and also walked twelve times in the series. The Titans were led at the plate by Wallach (5-10, HR, 10 RBI, 5 R), Chapman (5-15, HR, 6 RBI, 4 R), Pedroza (6-12 with two hits in each game, 2 RBI, 5 R) and Lopez (5-13, 3 RBI) and Lorenzen and Davis both went 4-12 and scored four runs. The freshmen starters Eshelman and Garza improved their combined record to 20-2 with ten scoreless innings and Peitzmeier threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances to lead the pitching staff.
Fullerton got this week started by celebrating Senior Night with a 5-2 win against #8 UCLA to win both midweek games against the Bruins this season. UCLA scored a run in the top of the first off of SR starter Michael Lopez, making the first start of his career, and the Titans had six seniors in the lineup and came out motivated to bounce back from Sunday's loss and jumped on starter Cody Poteet for three runs in the bottom of the inning when Chapman and Lorenzen singled with two outs and Hutting pulled an 0-2 pitch down the line and into the netting above the fence for a three run HR. Fullerton scored in the third without the benefit of a hit when Chapman was hit by a pitch and stole second, Lorenzen and Hutting walked and Wallach's ground out to shortstop scored Chapman. SR David Birosak followed Lopez and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and ended up picking up his first win of the season. After Gauna allowed a run in the fifth to cut the lead to 4-2, the Titans scored a run in the seventh to put the game away when Pedroza walked, moved up on a ground out and a wild pitch and scored on a single by Chapman, the first hit for Fullerton since the first inning. Peitzmeier and Davis combined to throw three scoreless innings and Lorenzen finished things off in the ninth for his Big West leading sixteenth save.
Fullerton is two games ahead of Northridge in the conference standings and has a chance to possibly clinch the Big West championship this weekend, depending on how the Matadors do at Cal Poly, but it won't be easy because the Titans will be welcoming UC Irvine to Goodwin Field. This is an important series for Fullerton because they are looking to stay in contention for a national seed. This is also an important series for the Anteaters because their hopes for getting an at-large berth in a regional are teetering on the brink due to playing a home heavy non-conference schedule that has hurt their RPI and not playing well on the road. Fullerton has played thirteen series against Irvine since they brought their program back for the 2002 season and has won eleven of the series, including the last three, and has a 23-13 advantage in those series. An interesting thing to note is there has only been one series sweep and that occurred in 2004 in Fullerton's most recent national championship season.
UC Irvine Anteaters (31-17, 13-8 – 3rd)
- 2012 Overall Record – 31-25
- 2012 Conference Record – 13-11 (4th)
- 2012 Post-Season – None.
- 2013 RPI/ISR – 59/28. 2012 RPI/ISR – 89/50.
- Pre-season/Current ranking – Pre-season: 30th by Collegiate Baseball, 33rd by NCBWA. Current: 24th by NCBWA, 25th by Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/Coaches Poll
- Predicted conference finish – 2nd by the Big West coaches, Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball.
2012 Summary and 2013 Preview
Irvine finished second to Fullerton in the regular season in 2011 but nearly went to the College World Series after winning all three of their games at the UCLA regional and taking a lead into the bottom of the ninth in the third game of their super regional at Virginia before allowing two runs with two outs, the second time in four years that the Anteaters had been eliminated in a super regional in dramatic fashion under coach Mike Gillespie. Irvine entered 2012 ranked in the mid to high twenties in most of the polls and expected to be playing in a regional for the seventh straight year but things didn't end up that way. After winning three games in the RBI Tournament in Houston, the Anteaters went 6-8 over the next fourteen games and lost a series at home to Washington and dropped two games at Baylor. Irvine started to turn their season around when they won their final two games at Nevada and swept Dartmouth at home and Pacific at home to start Big West play. The Anteaters made their first conference road trip to Cal Poly and were swept by the Mustangs and outscored 17-3 and never really recovered, losing their next two series at home to Fullerton and on the road at Long Beach despite Andrew Thurman only allowing one hit in his win against the Titans and throwing a no-hitter against the Dirtbags. Irvine swept series at home against Riverside and UCSB but dropped their final two conference series at Northridge and at UC Davis to lose all four Big West series they played on the road on the way to finishing 4-8 over the last twelve games and missing the post-season for the first time since 2006.
Irvine had the best offense in the Big West in 2011 and led the conference in scoring, AVG, SLG and OBP but lost several key cogs from that attack and saw their average drop by 25 points and they scored a run less per game, were in the middle of the Big West in most hitting categories and were held to three runs or less 25 times. The Anteaters didn't have much power and hit the second fewest HR's in the conference. Irvine had good plate discipline and was second in the Big West in walks and had the second fewest strikeouts. The Anteaters were once again among the leaders in the conference in SAC's, using bunts and hit and runs as the way to get runners moving because they didn't have much speed in their lineup and were in the middle of the pack in the Big West in SB's and hit into the second most DP's in the conference.
Irvine figured they would have a good pitching staff in 2012 after losing only one starting pitcher from 2011 but that loss was a big one, Big West pitcher of the year Matt Summers. The Anteaters ran into injury problems and lost two of their starters in the first month to season ending injuries and former pitching coach and current Fullerton pitching coach Jason Dietrich did a good job of patching things together with the rotation for Irvine to end up third in the conference in ERA and was the toughest staff to hit, allowing teams to only hit .235 against them. Irvine didn't have many power arms except for Thurman and finished in the middle of the Big West in strikeouts but were effective in pitching to contact with a solid defensive team behind them and had the best opponents' AVG in the conference. The Anteaters allowed four runs or less 31 times.
Irvine came into this season with even lower expectations among the national media and was only mentioned in the low 30's in a couple of the polls. The Anteaters got off to a blazing 11-2 start against a home heavy schedule with only one midweek game played on the road after they swept Baylor and won three out of four games against both Cal and Portland. Irvine had major issues playing on the road in 2012 when they only went 8-15 after their season opening weekend and those troubles resurfaced again this season when they lost the first two games of their series at BYU. The Anteaters returned home and won their series against Nebraska before being swept at Riverside to start Big West play. Irvine returned home for the next two series and swept Hawaii and won their series with Northridge before going on the road and struggling with Pacific, losing the second game 14-13 and winning the series deciding game 1-0. The Anteaters had another tight series at home with last place UC Davis, sweeping the Aggies but needing to come from behind and score in the bottom of the ninth to win two of the games. Irvine's road issues continued at UCSB when they dropped the series to the Gauchos, who rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the series deciding game. Irvine had a must win series at home last weekend against Cal Poly and delivered by winning the series.
Irvine lost four seniors from last season's lineup so they thought they might get off to a slow start offensively but it was the opposite with the Anteaters scalding the ball in the first thirteen games, hitting .337 and averaging 6.5 runs per game. It has been a gradual regression to the mean since then for Irvine, who has hit .270 and averaged five runs per game over the last 35 games. The Anteaters are hitting for more power this season with 19 HR's after hitting only eight in 2012 and are second in the Big West in SLG %. Irvine isn't as patient at the plate without those seniors and is averaging well under three walks per game but they are still doing a good job of making contact with the second fewest strikeouts in the conference. The Anteaters are still bunting quite a bit and are second in the Big West in SAC's but they are running even less than they did in 2012 and are seventh in the conference in SB's and they will put runners in motion often to stay out of double plays and have hit into the second fewest in the Big West after hitting into the second most in 2012.
Irvine brought back another very experienced pitching staff after losing only one starter from 2012 and the results for the most part have been solid but they have had some issues with inconsistency, especially on the road. The Anteaters two returning starters in the weekend rotation have only gone 9-9 but a JC transfer has been lights out and gone 10-0 and is a big reason why they are in the hunt to get into a regional. Irvine's bullpen figured to be a strength due to having so many pitchers returning but they have been up and down and have been shelled in four recent midweek games and blown some leads late. Overall, the staff has been good and they are second in the big West in ERA and opponents' AVG. The Anteaters have starters in all three spots in the weekend rotation who are capable of striking hitters out and are second in the conference in strikeouts and all three of their starters also have excellent control and they have allowed the second fewest walks in the Big West.
- Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 105 from '09-'12 (increases offense by 5%) due to playing most weekend games at home. Irvine's park plays big with lots of room in the gaps for 2B's and 3B's but is tough to hit HR's out of, although the ball will carry out during the day.
- Batting Average – .288 (2nd in the Big West, 67th nationally); .289 in conference (3rd). .274 in 2012 (4/153).
- Scoring – 251 (4/126), 5.3 runs per game; 117 (3rd), 5.6 runs per game in conference. 260 (4/225), 4.6 runs per game in 2012.
- Home Runs – 19 (4/126); 10 in conference (3rd). 8 in 2012 (8/279).
- Slugging Percentage – .397 (2/74); .399 in conference (3rd). .363 in 2012 (4/192).
- On Base Percentage – .364 (3/103); .356 in conference (4th). .363 in 2012 (4/120)
- Walks – 129 (6/273), 2.7 per game; 48 (5th), 2.3 per game in conference. 199 in 2012 (2/148), 3.6 per game.
- HBP's – 69 (1/34); 30 in conference (2nd). 70 in 2012 (3/77).
- Strikeouts – 245 (9/xx; 2nd fewest), 5.2 per game; 107 (8th), 5.1 per game in conference. 269 in 2012 (9/xx, 2nd fewest), 4.8 per game.
- Stolen Bases – 33-50 (7/239); 14-19 in conference (8th). 45-67 in 2011 (4/182).
- Sac Bunts – 56 (2/25); 23 in conference (2nd). 62 in 2012 (2/43).
Irvine went into 2012 with a very experienced infield with SR starters returning at every position except for 3B. Injuries caused some things to be shuffled around with two FR taking over behind the plate. This season, their SR catcher is back from a medical redshirt and they broke in three new starters after losing honorable mention all-conference 1B Jordan Fox, honorable mention all-conference 2B Tommy Reyes and 2nd team all-conference SS D.J. Crumlich, who was also the Big West defensive player of the year.
C/DH – SR #5 Ronnie Shaeffer (RH – .311/.343/.411, 3-34-1. '12 – Medical redshirt – .147/.268/.147, 0-3-0. '11 – .260/.313/.303, 1-31-2. '10 – .318/.370/.439, 3-31-1) was 1st team All-Big West, the MVP of the UCLA regional and the national Gold Glove winner in 2011 but broke a finger on his right hand early last season and was a medical redshirt. He didn't hit well in 2011 or early in 2012 with the BBCOR bats but has hit better this season. Shaeffer got off to a hot start as most of the Irvine players did in the first 12 games when he hit .423 with two HR's and 13 RBI and has hit .268 since then with one HR. He has heated up again recently and hit .370 the last two weeks with five RBI. Shaeffer doesn't walk much but does a very good job of making contact with a 9/12 BB/K ratio and usually hits fifth. He is 7-31 in his career against Fullerton.
C/DH – Soph #11 Jerry McClanahan (RH – .252/.425/.315, 1-15-0. '12 – .276/.415/.388, 2-18-0) got off to a cold start as a FR with only two hits in his first 18 AB's but started hitting better as he got regular playing time after Shaeffer got hurt and hit .313 for the rest of the season. He hit .400 in the first nine games this season but missed ten games with a hairline fracture in his arm and has hit .198 since returning to the lineup. McClanahan is the most patient hitter on the team and leads Irvine in walks and is also second in the Big West in HBP's and is sixth in the conference in OBP despite his hitting struggles. He has only hit .194 in conference games and has gone 2-15 over the last two weeks with five walks. McClanahan splits time with Shaeffer at C and DH and starts once a weekend behind the plate and usually hits sixth. He went 0-6 against Fullerton in 2012.
1B – Soph #33 Connor Spencer (LH – .385/.464/.503, 0-31-2. '12 – .306/.388/.382, 0-30-1. Going into Fullerton – .405/.489/.557, 0-14-0) was the DH as a FR and has taken over for Jordan Fox at 1B. He was among several players who was auditioning for time in the lineup as a FR and hit his way into an everyday role by getting off to a hot start and was hitting over .400 going into the Fullerton series but cooled off significantly during conference play and only hit in the .250's the rest of the season. Spencer got off to another hot start this season and he has stayed hot, leading the Big West in AVG and OBP and he is also among the conference leaders in R, H, 2B, TB and SLG. He hits third and is a line drive hitting machine who sprays the ball gap to gap and has an excellent 20/17 BB/K ratio. Spencer went 1-11 against Fullerton in 2012.
2B – FR #1 Mikey Duarte (RH – .222/.321/.278, 0-10-1) and FR #27 Grant Palmer (RH – .215/.292/.308, 0-7-0) have been splitting time while taking over for Tommy Reyes. Duarte will usually start twice and Palmer once in weekend series. Duarte is only hitting .111 and Palmer is hitting .222 in conference games and whoever is in the lineup will usually hit ninth. Duarte is an excellent bunter and is second in the Big West with ten SAC bunts despite starting in just over half of Irvine's games.
SS – Soph #22 Chris Rabago (RH – .268/.330/.355, 1-21-1. '12 – .286/.365/.405, 1-12-0. Going into Fullerton – .258/.378/.323, 0-2-0 in 31 AB's) is a versatile player who split time behind the plate with McClanahan as a FR after Shaeffer was injured but has settled into the lineup as the replacement for three year starter D.J. Crumlich at SS. He did an excellent job of making contact in 2012 and only struck out six times but has expanded his strike zone as an everyday player and has an 11/24 BB/K ratio. Rabago was one of the few hitters who got off to a slow start and only hit .216 in the first 21 games but has been hitting better since moving into the leadoff role as conference play got started and has hit .303 since then. He went 1-4 in his only start against Fullerton in 2012.
3B – Soph #25 Taylor Sparks (RH – .363/.387/.601, 9-43-5. '12 – .202/.277/.363, 3-12-2) was expected to make an immediate impact in 2012 after being drafted in the 24th round in HS and split time between 3B and RF as a FR but struggled most of the season before hitting a little better in the last six weeks. He had a great summer and was one of the best hitters in the West Coast League and his success there has carried over into this season. Sparks got off to a decent start and was hitting .279 with one HR through the first sixteen games but has been the best hitter in the conference during Big West play and leads the conference in HR's and hits and is second in AVG and RBI for the season and was the conference player of the week after going 7-13 against Cal Poly. He has been hitting out of his mind during Big West games with a .430 AVG, .744 SLG %, 6 HR's and 27 RBI as the cleanup hitter and he is the player that Fullerton cannot let beat them. Sparks isn't perfect and has issues with plate discipline and was fourth in the conference with 44 K's in 2012 and has a poor 5/33 BB/K ratio this season. He struck out in all three AB's in his only start against Fullerton in 2012.
Irvine only returned one starter in the outfield in CF in 2012 with a rotation of players splitting up time in LF and RF. CF Christian Ramirez was honorable mention all-conference but moved on and has been replaced by a JC transfer and there has been a rotation in LF due to injuries with things more stable in RF.
LF – SR #2 Jeff Stephens (RH – .268/.343/.309, 0-12-5. '12 – .288/.345/.340, 0-20-2. Going into Fullerton – .323/.380/.385, 0-10-1) split time early in 2012 before becoming the regular starter as one of the hotter hitters in the lineup early in the season but cooled off during the conference schedule. He started the first sixteen games this season before breaking a hamate bone in his hand and missing the next 21 games before returning to the lineup three weeks ago and has hit .258 over the last nine games while hitting in the lower part of the batting order. Stephens does lots of little things well, is a good bunter (8 SAC's in 2012), has pretty good speed and was a catalyst in the Cal Poly series with his straight steal of home last Friday night. He is an aggressive hitter with only seventeen walks over the last two seasons. Stephens went 0-8 with two RBI against Fullerton in 2012.
LF/2B – Soph #6 Kris Paulino (LH – .185/.349/.200, 0-6-2. '12 – .225/.333/.288, 0-7-1) split time in RF in as a FR and got some playing time between LF and 2B when injuries hit those positions but hasn't started since Stephens returned to the lineup. He does a good job of getting on base by walks and HBP's with eighteen free bases in only 65 AB's but has very little power with only one extra base hit. Paulino had a good series against Fullerton in 2012 and went 3-7 with two RBI.
Soph #7 Ryan Cooper (LH – .227 in 44 AB's. '12 - .250 in 28 AB's) is the main pinch-hitting option against RHP's because he usually makes contact with only four strikeouts. He is a good bunter and had the game winning RBI in the Friday game against UC Davis on a suicide squeeze.
FR #36 Jonathan Herkins (RH – .174 in 23 AB's) looked like he was headed for a redshirt after not playing during the first month of the season but he started eight games while Stephens was out of the lineup and is sixth in the Big West with eight SAC's despite his limited playing time.
CF – JC transfer #21 Dominique Taylor (RH – .301/.362/.434, 3-30-9) took over for Christian Ramirez and has made an instant impact as one of the better hitters in the lineup. He was hitting leadoff earlier in the season before settling into the second spot in the lineup during conference play. Taylor hit .360 with sixteen RBI in the first twelve games and has hit .281 with fourteen RBI since then. He has been a sparkplug as the best athlete on the team and is in the top ten in the conference in hits and doubles and leads the team in SB's. Taylor was in a 1-18 slump before hitting .391 over the last two weeks. Taylor is an aggressive hitter and has a 13-31 BB/K ratio.
RF – SR #12 Scott Gottschling (RH – .250/.342/.383, 2-18-3. '12 – .176/.270/.250, 0-15-2. '11 – .282 in 39 AB's) split time between LF and RF last season while starting 27 times but wasn't able to hit enough to carve out more regular playing time and a major reason why was his inability to make contact and he struck out over 25% of the time. He has been starting almost every game but he is still having issues with plate discipline with a 12/35 BB/K ratio and is sixth in the Big West in strikeouts. Gottschling has been a very productive hitter lately and hit the only two HR's of his career two weeks ago at UCSB and has nine RBI over the last two weeks while usually hitting sixth or seventh.
Fielding % – .980 (1/6) with 35 errors; .973 (4th) with 21 errors in conference. 2012 – .973 (3/41) with 58 errors. Irvine only made eight errors in their first 21 games, which was surprising considering their losses around the infield, but has started to have some issues on defense and has made 27 errors over the 26 games. Spencer does a solid job at 1B and Duarte and Palmer have only made three errors at 2B. Rabago has a good arm with average range at SS but does a good job with getting in position to make plays and hadn't made an error going into conference play but has made seven errors since then. Sparks was below average at 3B as a FR but has become much better. Stephens, Taylor and Gottschling are solid in the OF and Taylor has good range. Taylor and Gottschling have good arms.
Stolen Base Attempts – 20-47 (2/xx); 7-18 in conference (2nd). 2012 – 26-54 (1/xx). Irvine traditionally is one of the toughest teams to run on in the Big West and that didn't change in 2012 despite the injury to Shaeffer with Irvine starting two FR behind the plate and it hasn't changed this season with Shaeffer returning to the lineup. Runners are 14-30 against Shaeffer and 6-13 against McClanahan.
WP's/PB's Allowed – 57 (9/xx); 17 in conference (7th). 2012 – 32 (1/xx). Shaeffer has had issues with blocking pitches during his career and that has been a problem during this season with Irvine allowing the second most WP's and PB's in the conference.
- ERA – 3.29 (2/42); 3.25 in conference (2nd). 3.25 in 2012 (3/36).
- AVG – .247 (2/36); .253 in conference (3rd). .235 in 2012 (1/6).
- HR – 10 (1/xx); 6 in conference (4th). 10 in 2012 (2/xx).
- SLG – .343 (2/xx); .350 in conference (4th). .306 in 2012 (1/xx).
- Walks – 112 (2/8), 2.4 BB's/9 IP; 41 in conference (2nd), 2.0 BB's/9 IP. 159 (5/40) in 2012, 2.9 per game.
- HBP – 34 (8/xx); 10 in conference (10th). 48 in 2012 (5/xx).
- OBP – .309 (2/xx). .305 in conference (2nd). .312 in 2012 (2/xx).
- Strikeouts – 367 (2/29), 7.9 K/9 IP; 170 in conference (1st), 8.2 K/9 IP. 369 (3/121), 6.7 K/9 IP in 2012.
Irvine returned an experienced rotation in 2012 after losing only one starter but injuries hit their rotation hard with two of their starters lost early in the season. They held things together to have one of the better pitching staffs in the conference and the only starter who didn't return was Crosby Slaught.
JR #30 Andrew Thurman (RHP – 5-3, 2.98 ERA, 12 GS, 2 CG, 85 IP, 75 H, 14 BB, 72 K, .244 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 2-8 SB. '12 – 8-3, 2.66 ERA, 15 GS, 4 CG, 98 IP, 68 H, 23 BB, 69 K, .268 AVG, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 2-5 SB. '11 – 4-3, 3.82 ERA, 23 apps, 9 GS, 75 IP, 82 H, 21 BB, 64 K, .284 AVG, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 6-15 SB) was a swingman as a FR and ended up in the rotation later in the season, had a good start against UCLA in their regional and picked up Irvine's only win in the super regional at Virginia with four effective innings out of the bullpen. He was expected to be starting on Sat's or Sun's in 2012 but was moved up to the front of the rotation due to injuries to a couple of starters and was 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA in his first eight starts. Thurman's season changed with his start against Fullerton when he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning and followed that up the next weekend by throwing a no-hitter at Long Beach and was lights out over his last seven starts, going 6-1 with a 1.42 ERA. He has been solid this season but hasn't been as dominant as expected, mixing in good starts with some average ones. Thurman had a 2.24 ERA in his first eight starts but only had a 3-3 record due to some inconsistency by Irvine's offense. He allowed fourteen runs (13 ER) on 27 hits in 19 1/3 over his next three starts at Pacific, vs. UC Davis and at UCSB before rebounding to have his best start of the season last week against Cal Poly when he threw a complete game and held the Mustangs to a run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. Thurman has been much better at home, where he is 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA and opponents have hit .204 off of him, than he has been on the road, where he is 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA where opponents have hit .333 against him. He has outstanding control and has allowed two walks or less in ten of his starts with three walks in each of the other two starts. Thurman's fastball was sitting around 90 last season and he has seen a spike in how hard he is throwing and it now sits in the 92-94 range with occasional bumps up to 95-96 and he has an excellent straight change to go along with a curveball and a slider that he uses with two strikes as swing and miss pitches and he is expected to be drafted in the first two rounds in June.
JC transfer #13 Andrew Morales (RHP – 10-0, 1.79 ERA, 15 apps, 11 GS, 80 IP, 68 H, 17 BB, 71 K, .233 AVG, 1 HR, 5 HBP, 11 WP, 3-6 SB) was the JC state pitcher of the year in 2012 after going 12-1 for Rio Hondo, who had one of the best teams in the area last season. He has made an immediate impact since being moved into the rotation after making a few appearances out of the bullpen. Morales has allowed two runs or less in nine of his starts and has allowed no runs in five of them. He is second in the Big West in wins and ERA, third in AVG and fifth in strikeouts. Morales had a streak of 26 1/3 scoreless innings before allowing seven runs in starts against UC Davis and UCSB before bouncing back with his best start of the season in the series deciding win against Cal Poly when he had ten strikeouts in the first four innings on his way to throwing seven scoreless innings to win the Big West pitcher of the week award for the third time this season. He is a strike thrower who has allowed two walks or less in ten of his eleven starts and relies on a sinking fastball to get hitters to pound the ball into the ground and a slider as his swing and miss pitch with two strikes. Because Morales is usually trying to get hitters to pound the ball into the ground and chase pitches in the dirt, he leads the conference with eleven wild pitches. He has had the most success on the road of Irvine's three starters, where he is 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA and opponents are hitting .277 against him, and has been lights out at home, where he is 8-0 with a 1.35 ERA and opponents have hit .209 off of him.
JR #44 Matt Whitehouse (LHP – 4-6, 3.30 ERA, 14 apps, 12 GS, 2 CG, 79 IP, 68 H, 15 BB, 74 K, .234 AVG, 1 HR, 11 HBP, 9 WP, 3-6 SB. '12 – Medical redshirt – 0-2, 4.15 ERA, 3 GS, 13 IP, 16 H, 3 BB, 17 K, .302 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 2 WP, 1-3 SB. '11 – 4-0, 2.12 ERA, 23 apps, 12 GS, 72 IP, 54 H, 15 BB, 63 K, .208 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 7 WP, 3-6 SB; '10 – 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 10 apps, 6 IP) was pitching out of the bullpen and making midweek starts for the first half of 2011 before moving into the weekend rotation and threw very well during the conference season and ended up finishing second in the Big West in ERA and third in AVG. He was expected to contend for conference pitcher of the year honors in 2012 but came out of his third start at Baylor with a sore shoulder and ended up taking a medical redshirt. Whitehouse has pitched in some bad luck this season and Irvine is 2-7 over his last nine starts and when he has pitched well, they usually haven't hit. He is fifth in the conference in AVG and second in the Big West in strikeouts despite not being a hard thrower with a mid-upper 80's fastball due to an outstanding slider he uses as his swing and miss pitch with two strikes and also has a good changeup. Whitehouse has good control and has only allowed more than two walks in one of his starts but will pitch inside and is fourth in the conference with 11 HBP's. He has allowed four runs or more in three of his last four starts and will swap spots in the rotation with Morales this weekend and start on Sunday. Whitehouse has been excellent at home, where he is 4-3 with a 2.17 ERA and teams have hit .200 against him, but has had his issues on the road, where he is 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA and opponents have hit .308 off of him.
Irvine expected to have a good bullpen due to returning their closer and so many pitchers from 2012 and only losing a couple of their set-up men. Their relievers and midweek guys have been inconsistent with blown saves at home against UCLA and at UCSB on home runs and meltdowns at Pacific, at San Diego State, at UCLA and at home against San Diego on Wednesday night and they are a big reason why Irvine is 9-9 over the last eighteen games.
SR #55 Race Parmenter (RHP – 2-3, 3.54 ERA, 7 saves, 18 apps, 20 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 20 K, .188 BA, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 1-2 SB. '12 – 1-2, 2.28 ERA, 8 saves, 22 apps, 28 IP, 23 H, 11 BB, 28 K, .232 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 2-2 SB) emerged from the group of relievers to end up being the closer in 2012, has continued in that role and is fifth in the Big West in saves. He was throwing well earlier in the season but has started to have trouble and allowed the game tying run against Northridge, two runs in extra innings in the first loss to UCLA and three runs in the Sunday game at UCSB, with the Gauchos winning the game and the series on a walk-off two run HR. Parmenter has a fastball that will touch 90 and a splitter that is tough on RH hitters. He made two appearances against Fullerton in 2012, throwing two scoreless innings and had the save in Thurman's start when he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
JR #16 Jimmy Litchfield (LHP – 1-0, 1.73 ERA, 23 apps, 26 IP, 19 H, 8 BB, 15 K, .200 BA, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 1-2 SB. '12 – 3-2, 3.60 ERA, 1 save, 29 apps, 2 GS, 45 IP, 43 H, 13 BB, 30 K, .251 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 3-6 SB. '11 – 2-1, 2.89 ERA, 3 saves, 34 apps, 44 IP, 43 H, 7 BB, 34 K, .253 BA, 5 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) has been a solid reliever and among the Big West leaders in appearances in each of the last three seasons due to his ability to make multiple appearances on the weekends. He isn't a hard thrower with a low 80's fastball and will rely on throwing changeups and curves to get batters to hit the ball into the ground. Litchfield has allowed five runs over eleven innings in his last seven appearances. In 2011 he allowed three runs in 2/3 IP against Fullerton and in 2012 he walked the only batter he faced in Thurman's start and came back the next day to start the game and allowed two runs on four hits in 2 2/3 IP.
JR #28 Kyle Hooper (RHP – 1-3, 4.76 ERA, 17 apps, 3 GS, 40 IP, 39 H, 12 BB, 34 K, .264 BA, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 7 WP, 3-6 SB. '12 – Medical redshirt – 3-1, 1.30 ERA, 5 apps, 3 GS, 1 CG, 28 IP, 17 H, 3 BB, 28 K, .173 BA, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 1-3 SB. '11 – 3-0, 4.06 ERA, 17 apps, 6 GS, 44 IP, 49 H, 17 BB, 31 K, .290 BA, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 9 WP, 2-10 SB; '10 – 0-0, 7.61 ERA, 18 apps, 24 IP, 45 H, 4 BB, 14 K) was mostly a long reliever during his first two seasons despite having one of the better arms on the staff because of his inability to command his pitches. Hooper started to refine his pitches after his Soph season and after making a couple of strong appearance out of the bullpen was moved into the weekend rotation and had two excellent starts before leaving his third start with an elbow injury and missed the rest of the season. He has been inconsistent and was throwing better lately, throwing three scoreless innings against Cal Poly last Saturday, before having a bad start against San Diego on Wednesday night when he allowed five runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 IP.
JR #4 Mitch Merten (RHP – 4-1, 4.10 ERA, 2 saves, 16 apps, 3 GS, 26 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 28 K, .309 BA, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 2-6 SB. '12 – 1-2, 4.13 ERA, 1 save, 22 apps, 33 IP, 29 H, 18 BB, 27 K, .252 BA, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 0-2 SB) only made one appearance in 2011 but became one of the more reliable options in middle relief last season despite having control issues. He missed the non-conference part of the season with a shoulder injury and has pitched quite a bit since returning and hasn't been as effective after throwing pretty well after returning. He is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher with an occasional slider. Merten allowed a hit and a walk in 2/3 IP against Fullerton last season.
JR #34 Evan Brock (RHP – 2-1, 3.18 ERA, 15 apps, 5 GS, 34 IP, 35 H, 9 BB, 27 K, .260 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 2-5 SB. '12 – 2-1, 2.12 ERA, 18 apps, 2 GS, 34 IP, 22 H, 11 BB, 25 K, .186 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB. '11 – Medical redshirt. '10 – 6-4, 3.14 ERA, 1 save, 20 apps, 6 GS, 63 IP, 34 H, 30 BB, 62 K, .162 BA, 4 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 4-9 SB) became one of Irvine's best SP's down the stretch in 2010 but injured his shoulder that fall and was a medical redshirt in 2011. He was slow bouncing back from that injury last season and his pitches didn't have the same life they had prior to his surgery but he started to throw better in conference play with his appearance against Fullerton, when he threw three scoreless innings with five strikeouts against the Titans. Brock has been inconsistent while making several midweek starts earlier in the season and has only made three appearances in Big West games.
JR #50 Phillip Ferragamo (RHP – 1-0, 8.36 ERA, 9 apps, 14 IP, 18 H, 7 BB, 17 K, .340 BA, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 2-4 SB. '12 – 3-5, 3.72 ERA, 1 save, 19 apps, 8 GS, 65 IP, 64 H, 16 BB, 40 K, .259 BA, 2 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 2-3 SB. '11 – 2-0, 2.03 ERA, 19 apps, 27 IP, 23 H, 7 BB, 24 K, .237 BA, 0 HR, 7 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB) is one of the biggest players you will see on a baseball diamond at 6'8", 260 and was effective out of the bullpen in middle relief as a FR and was in a similar role in 2012 before being moved into the weekend rotation due to injuries to Hooper and Whitehouse. He started off the season in the doghouse and was suspended and hasn't thrown well, allowing eight runs in his last two appearances. Ferragamo pitched in relief against Fullerton last season and allowed three runs (2 ER) on six hits in 4 2/3 IP and took the loss in the series deciding game on J.D. Davis' two run HR.
Soph #40 Sam Moore (RHP – 0-0, 5.06 ERA, 11 apps, 11 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 7 K, .238 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 1-2 SB. '12 – 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 4 apps, 4 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K) has only made three appearances in Big West games but threw three scoreless innings against Northridge in one of them.
There are some strong trends that factor pretty heavily into this series. Fullerton has won 25 of their last 26 weekend series going back to the second series of 2012. Irvine has lost seven of their last eight weekend series that they have played on the road. As mentioned earlier, the Titans have won eleven of the thirteen series these teams have played since 2002 and the only two series that Irvine won were in seasons when they were the better team. Irvine is 36-3 in series opening games in conference series over the last five seasons, including winning the first game of each series against Fullerton in the last three seasons before seeing the Titans respond by winning the final two games of each of those series. Finally, the losing team in this series has scored four runs or less in each of the last fourteen games.
Fullerton has sometimes had trouble with hitting weekend pitching but has had a patient approach that has allowed them to put extra runners on base in order to put together rallies and be productive enough to scratch out some runs. That philosophy will be put to the test this weekend against an Irvine starting staff that doesn't give out too many free bases. The Anteaters try to string together hits to put together rallies and there don't figure to be too many walks handed out when they are hitting because they are an aggressive team and Fullerton walks the fewest batters per game in the country.
Fullerton has had the best pitching staff in the conference all season long, both in the rotation and the bullpen, and their pitchers have been especially effective at home most of the time. Irvine's rotation has been close to the equal of the Titans but hasn't been nearly as good on the road and their bullpen has been very inconsistent.
Both teams are very good defensively and rarely give away outs. Fullerton has had occasional mental lapses during midweek games earlier in the season but when it has been crunch time during conference games, the Titans have had the best defense in the Big West conference. Irvine's defense was outstanding during the non-conference schedule and has been solid during conference play but they have had some issues recently.
Irvine is desperate to pull off an upset this weekend to try to stay in contention to get into a regional. Fullerton is motivated to keep plugging away and moving towards a conference championship and a national seed. The Anteaters have been inconsistent, playing .500 ball over the last eighteen games, and have not been a good road team the last couple of seasons. Fullerton has been very consistent in finding ways to win series every weekend this season. The Titans will definitely be tested this weekend but with the way things have gone for these teams this season and the way that they have gone in this series over the years, this looks like it should be a tight series that Fullerton will find a way to win.