The Titans had one more challenge put in front of them this weekend when they had a chance to clinch their fourth straight Big West championship by winning their series against their cross county rivals from UC Irvine. Fullerton not only won the series, they swept the Anteaters for only the second time in thirteen series since Irvine brought their baseball program back in 2002 in one of the most exciting series sweeps that anybody would ever hope to see. Fullerton didn't get a hit until the seventh inning in the first game but came storming from behind to win 5-2 with Carlos Lopez getting the go ahead RBI single, got a walk-off HR from Lopez to win the second game 3-2 and got another walk-off HR from Lopez to win the final game 7-5 to finish off the sweep and clinch the conference title.
Fullerton got last week started by celebrating Senior Night with a 5-2 win against #8 UCLA to win both of their midweek games against the Bruins. UCLA scored a run in the top of the first off of SR starter Michael Lopez, who was making the first start of his career, and the Titans had six seniors in the lineup and came out motivated to bounce back from the previous Sunday's loss at UC Riverside, jumping on starter Cody Poteet for three runs in the bottom of the inning when Matt Chapman and Michael Lorenzen singled with two outs and Anthony Hutting pulled an 0-2 pitch down the line and into the netting above the fence for a three run HR to take a 3-1 lead. 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 Chad Wallach's ground out to shortstop scored Chapman. SR David Birosak followed Lopez and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and picked up his first win of the season. After Koby Gauna allowed a run in the fifth that cut the lead to 4-2, the Titans scored a run in the seventh to put the game away when Richy 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. Tyler Peitzmeier and J.D. Davis combined to throw three scoreless innings and Lorenzen finished things off in the ninth for his Big West leading sixteenth save.
Friday's game figured to be a pitchers' duel under the bright lights of the ESPNU broadcast and both starting pitchers shined as Thomas Eshelman and Andrew Thurman were busy trading zeroes through the first five innings. Irvine had a threat in the first when Dominique Taylor tripled but was stranded when Eshelman struck out the dangerous Conner Spencer, the Big West leader in AVG, and Taylor Sparks, the Big West leader in HR's. Fullerton drew two walks in the bottom of the inning but weren't able to push a run across. Both teams were retired in order in each of the next three innings and stranded a runner in the fifth, Irvine getting a single and Fullerton getting another walk. The Anteaters broke through with two runs in the sixth when Taylor singled with two outs, Spencer doubled him in and Taylor singled in Spencer. The Titans got another walk off of Thurman in the bottom of the inning as they continued to build up his pitch count but were still held without a hit. Thurman didn't allow a hit against Fullerton until the ninth in his start against them last season, making 14+ innings that he had held them to only one hit. The Titans finally got to Thurman in the seventh when Lorenzen led off the inning with a single up the middle and Wallach's long RBI double cut the lead to 2-1. Jake Jefferies followed with a walk and with two outs, Pedroza came through with a clutch single to tie the game and end Thurman's night. Mitch Merten came into the game and had an epic fourteen pitch battle with Lopez that the SR first baseman won by roping an RBI single to give Fullerton the lead. Merten hit Chapman to load the bases and Davis broke the game open by singling to drive in two runs. Eshelman gave up a leadoff hit to start the eighth and Peitzmeier came into the game, getting a groundout before giving up a single to Spencer. Lorenzen came into the game from CF to face Sparks, who was the tying run, and struck him out and got a web gem diving catch from defensive replacement 2B Matt Orloff to end the inning and retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventeenth save. Eshelman improved his record to 10-2 with the win, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts.
There were more bright lights on Saturday night with the game being broadcast by Fox Sports West and the starting pitchers for both teams, Justin Garza and Matt Whitehouse, didn't disappoint as they engaged in another pitchers' duel. Fullerton had the only threat in the first two innings when Pedroza led off the game with a walk for the second straight night and Davis singled with two outs but they couldn't push a run across. The Titans took the lead in the third when Lopez walked, Chapman doubled him to third and Lorenzen doubled them both in. Both teams squandered chances in the fourth when Irvine left the bases loaded, the only threat they were able to muster against Garza, and Fullerton had the bases loaded with one out before a double play ended the inning. The Titans also had potential rallies squashed by double plays in the fifth and seventh as Whitehouse did a good job of bobbing and weaving in and out of trouble as he allowed only two runs on ten hits and three walks in 7 2/3 innings. Garza was taken out after a single and a HBP with two outs in the eighth and Peitzmeier benefitted from another outstanding play by defensive replacement Orloff with a diving stop to get Spencer out to end the threat. Lorenzen came in to finish things off and after Hutting made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Sparks and getting a ground out, the wheels came off and the Anteaters got three straight singles to score a run and cut the lead to one. Lorenzen struck out the next batter but the pitch in the dirt got past Wallach to allow the tying run to score before Lorenzen got out of the inning. Irvine brought in closer Race Parmenter to try to get the game to extra innings and after retiring the first two hitters, Lopez came up and took a big cut at the first pitch he saw but missed it, let the second one go by and hammered the next pitch that he saw into the netting above the RF wall to set off a wild celebration at home plate. Lorenzen picked up his third win despite allowing two runs and Garza got a no decision despite allowing no runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 8 2/3 IP.
There were two more good pitchers taking the bump on Sunday with Grahamm Wiest starting against Andrew Morales, who entered the game with a 10-0 record. Fullerton jumped on Morales for two runs in the first when Pedroza once again led off the game with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Chapman walked with one out, Davis singled in Pedroza and Lorenzen's SF scored Chapman. Both pitchers cruised through the next two innings before Taylor tripled off the orange stripe on top of the wall on a ball that was initially ruled a HR and Spencer's SF drove him in to cut the lead to one. Morales retired twelve straight hitters from the second through the fifth and Irvine got through against Wiest in the sixth when Taylor, who was outstanding with a 6-12 series, led off with a single and Spencer doubled him to third, Sparks singled in Taylor for the first run and a ground out scored the second run to give the Anteaters the lead. Pedroza and Lopez walked to start the sixth but Fullerton failed to score and Irvine pushed across two more runs against Wiest in the eighth to take a 5-2 lead. Morales came out of the game after seven innings due to the Titans getting his pitch count up and they jumped on Irvine's bullpen once again when Pedroza led off the inning with a double against Jimmy Litchfield and Chapman singled with one out to chase him from the game. Merten came in and got a strikeout but grooved a pitch to Lorenzen that he smacked to deep right center for a triple to score two runs and cut the lead to 5-4 but was stranded there. Gauna came into the game and left two runners on base when he got Spencer to ground out to end the top of the ninth. Jefferies singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Austin Kingsolver bunted him over and Pedroza walked once again and Irvine went to another reliever with Evan Brock coming into the game. Lopez ended the game by launching another walk-off HR into the net in RF that set off another wild celebration at home for the second straight game as Fullerton clinched their fourth straight conference championship in style.
After pummeling the Riverside pitching staff the previous weekend, Fullerton knew things would be much more difficult last weekend against a strong Irvine starting rotation and their starters were solid, holding the Titans to eight runs on fifteen hits in 20 2/3 IP for a 3.48 ERA. However, Fullerton treated the Anteaters bullpen like they did the Riverside pitchers and scored seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 IP against the Irvine relievers and the Titans ability to repeatedly hit their mistakes was the difference in the series along with Fullerton's patience at the plate in drawing twelve walks against the Anteaters starting pitchers to drive up their pitch counts. Lopez was obviously the hero of the weekend in his final regular season home games with the game winning RBI on Friday and walk-off HR's on Saturday and Sunday to earn conference player of the week honors. Other hitters who had good series were Lorenzen (4-11, 4 RBI), Davis (3-11, 3 RBI) and Pedroza (five walks, four runs). Eshelman and Garza continued their amazing FR seasons and are now a combined 21-2 with a 1.73 ERA and the pitching staff had a 2.33 ERA for the weekend.
Fullerton will wrap up the regular season with a series at the biggest surprise in the conference this season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors. Expectations were low for Northridge as they have been for the last decade but the Matadors far outplayed them by going on a 24-6 run that propelled them into the top part of the Big West standings before struggling the last two weekends when they lost their series at home to UCSB and were swept at Cal Poly. Fullerton has beaten Northridge like a drum over the last decade and gone 29-5 against the Matadors since 2003 and they are looking to see if they can do something about that this weekend.
Cal State Northridge Matadors (31-23, 15-9 – tied for 2nd)
- 2012 Overall Record – 23-30
- 2012 Conference Record – 10-14 (tied for 6th)
- 2012 Post-Season – None.
- 2013 RPI/ISR – 88/56. 2012 RPI/ISR – 157/116.
- Pre-season/Current ranking – None
- Predicted conference finish – 6th by Perfect Game, 7th by Baseball America, 8th by the Big West coaches and Easton College Baseball.
2012 Summary and 2013 Preview
Cal State Northridge hired former Fresno State assistant coach Matt Curtis after the 2010 season and he started making his imprint on the roster by bringing in thirteen newcomers and the Matadors got off to a decent start at 14-11 but many of those games were played against mediocre competition and Northridge wasn't really prepared for what hit them in Big West play and they started out 1-11 before going 5-7 down the stretch. Northridge turned over the roster some more in 2012 with eighteen more newcomers and got off to a solid 6-3 start last season with series wins at Sac State and vs. Northwestern before they went on a 6-15 skid when they lost the final three games of a tournament in San Diego and lost four straight series on the road at Portland, St. Mary's and then at Fullerton and UCSB to start Big West play. The Matadors started playing better when they were able to play some games at home and went 10-6 over the next month, winning series against Cal Poly, Riverside and Irvine. Northridge had a chance to finish in the top half of the conference standings but lost their series to UC Davis and were swept at Pacific, half of the conference wins that the Tigers had, to finish tied for sixth.
Northridge was one of the worst hitting teams in the Big West last season, finishing last in the conference with a .255 average and they only averaged 4.5 runs per game, scoring four runs or less thirty times. The Matadors had an all or nothing offense because they were second in the Big West with 22 HR's but were near the bottom of the conference in SLG % because they weren't doing much except for swinging hard and were among the Big West leaders in strikeouts. Northridge didn't have much team speed because they were also near the bottom of the conference in doubles and triples and had the fewest steals in the Big West. The Matadors started bunting more than they had in the past and were in the middle of the conference with about a SAC bunt per game.
Northridge brought back two of their starting pitchers from 2011 and expected to have a solid rotation with the addition of FR Jerry Keel, who ended up being one of the better SP's in the conference but despite the great year that he had, the rest of the pitching staff imploded and only two pitchers had ERA's under five. The two returning starters were only 6-16 and the Matadors were next to last in the Big West in ERA and were last in opponents AVG with teams hitting over .300 against them. Northridge didn't have the arms to compete besides Keel and were near the bottom of the conference in walks and struck out the fewest number of hitters in the Big West. The Matadors pitchers weren't helped by the defense that was porous as usual and allowed 72 unearned runs.
Northridge had more changes in the off-season with fifteen newcomers arriving as well as two new assistant coaches, former Fullerton assistant Sergio Brown and pitching coach Sam Peraza. Things looked promising with the Matadors getting off to a 4-1 start after winning a series against St. Mary's but then they went on a 2-11 skid and it looked like the same old Northridge after they lost weekend series to USC, Washington State and Sacramento State and a midweek series to Oregon but most of those games were during a stretch of ten straight games away from home. Things started turning around for Northridge when they swept a home series against Utah Valley and all of a sudden they got hot and went 24-6 as the most surprising team in the Big West, sweeping Riverside, Hawaii, Pacific and UC Davis but also losing series during that time at Long Beach and Irvine. The Matadors were getting some national attention and thinking about possibly being a regional team when they were only a game out of first at 14-4 going into their home series with UCSB but they lost the series to the Gauchos. Northridge had a tough series to follow that up with by going on the road to Cal Poly and were swept by the Mustangs, eliminating them from the conference race and officially ending their chances at post-season play.
Northridge isn't hitting much better this season with a .263 AVG that is next to last in the Big West but they have been better in conference play and hit in the .280's. The Matadors have been finding ways to get key hits and have been near the top of the Big West in scoring and are second in conference games and have been helped by being patient at the plate and are third in the Big West in walks. Northridge has also been playing much more small ball to manufacture runs and they lead the conference in SAC bunts and are third in steals. The offense was averaging over five runs a game in Big West play going into the UCSB series but the Matadors only scored eight runs in their five losses during their 1-5 stretch against the Gauchos and Cal Poly and also had trouble earlier in the season when they only scored twelve runs in the final five games of the series at Long Beach and Irvine.
Northridge had a bad pitching staff in 2012 other than Keel but this year it has been a night and day difference with two newcomers joining him to form a good rotation with all three of them having solid ERA's and the depth hasn't been limited to the starters. The Matadors have had eight relievers make at least fifteen appearances and/or throw at least twenty innings with five of them having ERA's under four. Northridge's ERA has improved by about 1 1/2 runs per game and teams are hitting forty points less against them. The Matadors have also improved their control by almost a walk per game and they are striking out over a batter more per game. Northridge's pitchers have also been helped out by a drastically improved defense that has gone from one of the worst in the Big West to one of the best and they have cut their unearned runs in half down to 35.
- Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 115 from '09-'12 (increases offense by 15%) due to not having lights so all games are played during the day and the ball carries well. The dimensions are small for a western ballpark at 325 down the lines, 375 to the alleys and 400 to CF. The playing surface also isn't the best so it helps balls get past infielders.
- Batting Average – .262 (8th in the Big West, 211th nationally); .282 in conference (4th). .255 in 2012 (9/253); .245 in conference.
- Scoring – 273 (4/168), 5.1 runs per game; 129 (2nd), 5.4 runs per game in conference. 236 (6/240), 4.5 runs per game in 2012; 95 in conference, 4.0 per game.
- Home Runs – 21 (4/127); 8 in conference (6th). 22 in 2012 (2/169); 9 in conference.
- Slugging Percentage – .351 (8/196); .372 in conference (5th). .338 in 2012 (7/249); .320 in conference.
- On Base Percentage – .347 (6/193); .358 in conference (2nd). .338 in 2012 (8/253); .316 in conference.
- Walks – 193 (3/135), 3.6 per game; 82 (2nd), 3.5 per game in conference. 179 in 2012 (6/204), 3.4 per game; 71 in conference, 3.0 per game.
- HBP's – 51 (8/180); 21 in conference (8th). 52 in 2012 (8/167); 17 in conference.
- Strikeouts – 356 (2/xx), 6.6 per game; 164 (1st), 6.8 per game in conference. 313 in 2012 (4/xx), 5.9 per game; 143 in conference, 6.0 per game.
- Stolen Bases – 62-88 (3/109); 23-39 in conference (5th). 28-52 in 2012 (9/273); 16-23 in conference.
- Sac Bunts – 64 (1/20); 33 in conference (1st). 55 in 2012 (6/69); 20 in conference.
Northridge lost two team leaders who platooned at C and 1B but returned their other infielders, which has helped to solidify their defense.
C – Soph #9 Alexis Mercado (RH – .283/.341/.385, 1-25-5. '12 – .200 in 35 AB's) didn't play much while sitting behind Marty Bowen and Steven Keller, who was honorable mention all-conference, but has moved into the lineup and done a solid job offensively while usually hitting sixth. He is on a seven game hitting streak, has hits in 15 of his last 18 games and is tenth in the Big West with a .348 AVG in conference games. Mercado has some solid pop in his bat and is among the Big West leaders in doubles. He could have better plate discipline and has an 11/33 BB/K ratio. Mercado does the little things well and has six SAC bunts and five steals. He has hit much better at home (.307) than he has on the road (.268). Mercado went 0-3 at Fullerton in 2012.
1B – JR #10 Josh Goosen-Brown (RH – .276/.339/.365, 2-45-3. '12 – Medical redshirt. '11 – .158 in 38 AB's) didn't play much earlier in his career and was injured in 2012 but has taken advantage of his opportunity with Bowen and Keller moving on and has been an excellent run producer in the cleanup spot and is second in the Big West in RBI. He was in a 4-32 slump before getting two hits in each of the final two games of the Cal Poly series, including his second HR of the season. Goosen-Brown is hitting .330 at home, almost 100 points better than he is on the road. He does a solid job of making contact and has a 14/22 BB/K ratio.
2B – Soph #35 Michael Livingston (LH – .282/.406/.336, 0-11-6. '12 – .179 in 56 AB's) didn't play much as a FR and when he did he hit poorly but took advantage of some injuries to break into the lineup this season. He does an excellent job of seeing lots of pitches and is third in the conference in walks. Livingston was moved into the lineup spot earlier in the season around the same time that Northridge started playing well. He doesn't have much power with six extra-base hits (all doubles). Livingston is a good bunter and has six SAC bunts and has good speed.
Soph #2 Ryan Raslowsky (RH – .286/.359/.371, 0-9-5 in 70 AB's. '12 – .278/.347/.285, 0-12-3) didn't start once in the first thirteen games as a FR but took advantage of an injury to the starter at 2B to get into the lineup and was a sparkplug as the leadoff hitter. He got off to a slow start this season but was starting to hit better when he got injured and missed 22 games before returning for the final game of the UCSB series. He hasn't been able to play in the field and has been the DH for two of the last four games. Raslowsky hit well at Fullerton in 2012 and went 5-13.
SR #5 Tommy Simis (RH – .295 in 44 AB's. '12 – .268/.344/.280, 0-9-0. '11 – .258/.335/.399, 4-29-5) started most of 2011 at 3B before shifting over to SS the last month of the season and took over at 2B in 2012. He led the team in HR and was tied for 2nd in RBI in 2011 and got off to a good start last season before injuring his elbow a couple in late March and missed most of the rest of the year. Simis got a few starts earlier in the season but wasn't able to break into the lineup when Raslowsky got hurt and is a reserve.
SS – SR #6 Kyle Attl (RH – .279/.356/.373, 3-28-6. '12 – .225/.295/.342, 4-22-1. '11 – .241/.310/.319, 1-15-0) started most of 2011 at SS but was benched for the last few weeks of the season due to his struggles on offense. He was back in the lineup last season because his defense helped solidify the middle infield and stayed there despite not hitting much but he did show some pop in his bat and was third on the team with four HR's. Attl has hit much better this season and is second on the team in RBI and is fifth in the Big West with 18 RBI in conference games. His power has come due to taking a big swing and he is third in the conference with 47 strikeouts. He will hit second and he does an excellent job of bunting runners over and leads the Big West with eleven SAC's. Attl did not hit well at Cal Poly and went 1-13 but his only hit was a HR. He went 0-11 at Fullerton in 2012.
3B – FR #37 Nicolas Osuna (RH – .246/.366/.263, 0-16-2) emerged out of a pack of several players who were splitting time at 3B in the first month of the season and has been the regular starter over the last two months. He didn't hit much as he got used to D1 pitching but he is hitting .270 in conference games with 13 RBI and will usually hit in the lower part of the lineup.
FR #26 William Colantono (LH – .159/.247/.225, 0-7-0 in 59 AB's) has gotten an occasional start at 3B and DH as one of only three LH hitters on the roster but hasn't done much with his chances.
Northridge expected to have a better outfield this season with only one SR getting playing time in 2012 but one of their best hitters transferred out and two other starters have been injured with one of them out for the season.
LF – SR #3 Cal Vogelsang (RH – .313/.337/.386, 0-16-3 in 83 AB's. '12 – .278/.308/.359, 1-18-3) broke into the lineup as a JC transfer in 2012 and had a solid season while playing CF. He was starting in CF at the beginning of this season but was injured in early March and missed 31 games and has hit .346 in fourteen games since returning to the lineup. Vogelsang has poor plate discipline with an 8/45 BB/K ratio over the last two seasons. He went 4-13 with two RBI at Fullerton in 2012.
CF – SR #7 Nate Ring (RH – .259/.379/.353, 4-22-14. '12 – .267/.347/.329, 0-18-9) was a part-time player in LF early last season as a JC transfer before carving out more playing time for himself as the season went on. He was starting in LF before Vogelsang got hurt and was moved over to CF and has stayed there due to his good speed, which makes him one of the biggest threats on the bases in the conference and he is third in the Big West in SB's. Ring will usually hit third and is one of the most patient hitters in the conference and is second in the Big West with 37 walks. Unlike most of his teammates, he has had difficulty hitting at home where he has only batted .227. Ring been struggling recently and is hitting .135 over the last fifteen games. He went 3-10 with three RBI at Fullerton in 2012.
RF – Soph #8 Chester Pak (RH – .268/.341/.368, 2-18-12. '12 - .271 in 59 AB's) didn't play much as a FR but got a chance to get more playing time this season and has been a fixture in the lineup. He has been one of Northridge's best hitters in conference games, hitting .319 and leading the team in runs, doubles and total bases. Pak didn't hit well at Cal Poly when he went 2-12 with five strikeouts, which has been an issue for him with a 13/32 BB/K ratio. He has hit much better at home with a .316 average and both of his HR's two weeks ago against UCSB and only hit .241 on the road with two RBI.
DH – FR #38 Anthony Lombardo (LH – .191/.247/.225, 0-10-1) and JC transfer #22 Kyle Ferramola (RH – .194/.351/.371, 2-7-1) have been among several players to take turns at the DH spot, although Ferramola hasn't played much recently. Lombardo is one of the few LH bats on the roster.
JR #13 Miles Williams (RH – .221/.302/.477, 7-23-4. '12 – .258/.349/.396, 6-25-3. '11 – .262 in 65 AB's) moved into the lineup late in 2011 and was the regular RF last season. He was one of the main power threats in the lineup over the last two seasons, was second in the conference with six HR's in 2012 and was leading the Big West this season with seven HR's before a season ending injury in late March.
Fielding % – .975 (4/27) with 51 errors, 35 unearned runs. .976 (2nd) in conference with 22 errors, 15 unearned runs. .964 (8/171) with 74 errors in 2012, 72 unearned runs. .967 with 32 errors in conference, 21 unearned runs. Northridge's defense has steadily improved from poor to below average and this year it has been very good and is right there with the better teams in the conference. Goosen-Brown is a good athlete at 1B and Livingston and Attl have very good range up the middle. Good range in the OF with Vogelsang, Ring and Pak, who all have solid arms.
Stolen Base Attempts – 44-63 (5th), 19-28 in conference (4th). 63-88 (8th) in 2012. Runners are 33-43 against Mercado and 10-13 against the backup catchers who rarely play.
WP's/PB's Allowed – 73 (10th), 38 in conference (10th). 67 (8th) in 2012. Blocking pitches is one of the few areas that Mercado has had issues with because Northridge leads the conference in WP's/PB's.
- ERA – 3.84 (5/93); 3.66 in conference (4th). 5.27 in 2012 (8/219); 4.84 in conference.
- AVG – .272 (6/136); .263 in conference (5th). .305 in 2012 (9/251); .313 in conference.
- HR – 18 (6/xx); 7 in conference (5th). 24 in 2012 (7/xx); 7 in conference.
- SLG – .364 (5/xx); .321 in conference (3rd). .420 in 2012 (9/xx); .407 in conference.
- Walks – 152 (4/33), 2.9 BB's/9 IP; 49 in conference (3rd), 2.1 BB's/9 IP. 185 (7/133) in 2012, 3.6 BB's/9 IP; 74 in conference, 3.1 BB's/9 IP.
- HBP – 59 (4/xx); 34 in conference (2nd). 48 in 2012 (5/xx); 31 in conference.
- OBP – .347 (5/xx). .321 in conference (3rd). .383 in 2012 (8/xx); .384 in conference.
- Strikeouts – 319 (5/207), 6.0 K/9 IP; 138 in conference (4th), 5.2 K/9 IP. 242 (9/285), 4.7 K/9 IP in 2012; 108 in conference, 4.5 K/9 IP.
Northridge returned one of the best pitchers in the Big West from last season in Jerry Keel, the conference FR pitcher of the year, and along with FR Calvin Copping and JC transfer John Salas they have been the backbone of the team and a big reason for the success the Matadors have had this season. All three have very good to excellent control while averaging around two walks allowed per nine innings with batters hitting around .250 against them.
Soph #40 Jerry Keel (LHP – 7-2, 2.27 ERA, 16 apps, 13 GS, 91 IP, 84 H, 20 BB, 69 K, .254 AVG, 1 HR, 12 HBP, 7 WP, 7-12 SB. '12 – 6-3, 2.07 ERA, 16 apps, 13 GS, 91 IP, 88 H, 24 BB, 48 K, .258 AVG, 1 HR, 16 HBP, 0 WP, 11-18 SB) is huge at 6'6", 280 lbs but he's not really a hard thrower despite his size. He relies more on changing speeds and working inside (28 HBP's over the last two seasons) to get hitters out and works up in the zone more to get hitters to pop up or hit weak fly outs. Keel had a few control issues early in his FR season but worked through those quickly and allowed an average of two walks per 9 IP in his Big West starts on his way to finishing second in the conference in ERA. He has been very consistent this season and has allowed two earned runs or less in ten of his starts, walked two batters or less in eleven of his starts and is among the leaders in the Big West in ERA, wins, IP and strikeouts. Keel can sometimes have a little trouble in the first couple of innings and build up his pitch count, which will be part of Fullerton's strategy as it has been all season long. He had his worst start of the season last weekend at Cal Poly when he allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in 3 2/3 IP and has been decent on the road with a 3-2 record and a 3.14 ERA but he has been lights out at home, where he is 4-0 in five starts with a 1.13 ERA. Keel picked up Northridge's only win in the series at Fullerton in 2012 when he allowed one run on nine hits in a CG effort for which he was awarded Big West pitcher of the week honors.
FR #21 Calvin Copping (RHP – 5-5, 3.74 ERA, 13 GS, 77 IP, 83 H, 20 BB, 47 K, .277 AVG, 2 HR, 10 HBP, 17 WP, 6-9 SB) isn't a hard thrower and relies on a sinking fastball and slider to get batters to pound the ball into the ground and because he such sink on his pitches, he leads the Big West in wild pitches and had five of them last weekend at Cal Poly so look for the Fullerton runners to be active against him and looking to take extra bases. He has good control and has walked a little over two batters per 9 IP but he also doesn't mind pitching inside and is among the conference leaders in HBP's. Copping pitched well in his first two starts of the season but struggled in his next four starts when he couldn't get past the fifth inning and bottomed out at Long Beach when he allowed six runs in five innings. He was much better after that start, going 3-1 with two no-decisions over his next six starts and allowed three earned runs or less in five of them, before having a bad start at Cal Poly last weekend when he allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings. Copping also throws much better at home, where he is 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts, than he does on the road, where he is 2-5 with a 5.15 ERA in eight starts.
JC transfer #25 John Salas (LHP – 4-6, 3.30 ERA, 20 apps, 12 GS, 76 IP, 68 H, 12 BB, 50 K, .245 AVG, 4 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 5-9 SB) also isn't a hard thrower but spots his fastball well and gets good movement on it along with his slider and has been tough on hitters, allowing more than six hits in only one of his starts. Much like with the other two pitchers in the rotation, his worst start of the season was last weekend at Cal Poly when he allowed four runs on five hits and two HR's in five innings. Salas was a midweek starter and reliever on the weekends earlier in the season but worked his way into the weekend rotation and averaged six innings a start over six starts in conference play, allowing two earned runs or less in five of them, before his start in SLO. Much like with the other two starters, he has been much better at home where he is 3-2 with a 1.64 ERA than he has been on the road, where he is 1-4 with a 5.57 ERA.
Northridge didn't have much depth on their pitching staff last season with only one pitcher other than Keel having an ERA under five so it's no surprise that they have lots of newcomers pitching meaningful innings and for the most part they have been doing well and shortening the games for their starters to get the ball to their closer.
JR #10 Josh Goosen-Brown (RHP – 2-3, 3.63 ERA, 9 saves, 18 apps, 22 IP, 26 H, 6 BB, 9 K, .295 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 1-1 SB. '12 – Medical redshirt. '11 – 4-3, 4.74 ERA, 5 saves, 19 apps, 4 GS, 49 IP, 72 H, 8 BB, 43 K, .340 AVG, 4 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 9-11 SB) was a part-time closer in 2011 before missing last season. He has been very effective as the closer and is third in the conference in saves and relies on a slider to get batters to hit the ball into the ground. Goosen-Brown had a 1.71 ERA going into his most recent appearance when he went into a scoreless game in the ninth inning against UCSB and allowed five runs in 1/3 of an inning.
FR #30 DJ Milam (RHP – 4-0, 3.30 ERA, 2 saves, 21 apps, 30 IP, 19 H, 7 BB, 16 K, .183 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB) has been very tough to hit and with his size projects to have a bright future. He has been the main set-up guy for Goosen-Brown.
JR #18 Harley Holt (RHP – 3-2, 5.31 ERA, 2 saves, 20 apps, 4 GS, 39 IP, 49 H, 21 BB, 25 K, .329 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 7 WP, 6-10 SB . '12 – 0-3, 3.71 ERA, 3 saves, 19 apps, 4 GS, 44 IP, 50 H, 16 BB, 22 K, .289 AVG, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 4-6 SB) was one of the few effective pitchers on the staff in 2012 and was in the rotation to begin the season but wasn't effective as he was out of the bullpen.
Soph #32 Brandon Warner (RHP – 2-2, 4.98 ERA, 15 apps, 5 GS, 34 IP, 43 H, 1 BB, 13 K, .305 AVG, 4 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 2-2 SB. '12 – 1-3, 5.52 ERA, 18 apps, 5 GS, 44 IP, 63 H, 14 BB, 17 K, .348 AVG, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 8-10 SB) was a midweek starter as a FR and has made some midweeks starts earlier in the season but has been pitching out of the bullpen most of the time. He has excellent control but his problem is he gets too much of the plate and is prone to getting hit.
JC transfer #27 Brycen Rutherford (RHP – 1-1, 3.35 ERA, 14 apps, 5 GS, 38 IP, 34 H, 17 BB, 23 K, .243 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 4-5 SB) has been the midweek starter and allowed one run in eleven innings in his last two starts against San Diego and UCLA. Northridge hasn't had a midweek game for the last two weeks so he will be available in relief.
FR #33 Oscar Sandoval (LHP – 2-0, 3.86 ERA, 21 apps, 12 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 7 K, .311 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB) is the only LHP in the bullpen and is a situational LHP who is only brought in to face one or two hitters.
FR #28 Anthony Cortez (RHP – 0-0, 1.35 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 13 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 17 K, .196 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 3-4 SB) is a situational RHP who will only face one or two batters.)
JC transfer #20 Michael Coates (RHP – 0-0, 5.21 ERA, 19 apps, 1 GS, 19 IP, 24 H, 11 BB, 23 K, .296 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 4-4 SB) is a middle reliever who will throw one to two innings.
It would appear that Fullerton doesn't have much to play for this weekend after wrapping up the Big West title last weekend but that is far from the case because they have much bigger goals to play for, such as hosting a regional and super regional as a national seed. It would also appear that Northridge doesn't have much to play for after being eliminated from conference championship and post-season contention last weekend but the Matadors are going to be motivated to be the first team to win a series against the Titans this season and finish as high as second in the Big West standings.
Fullerton isn't always a consistent hitting team on the weekends but they have been consistent at maintaining a patient approach to work counts, draw walks and drive up the pitch counts for starting pitchers to get into the bullpen of their opponents, a formula that has been productive and made them the best offense in the conference. Northridge has been an opportunistic offense that has been one of the better ones and solid at executing with a small ball approach and manufacturing runs with key hits, although their offense has cooled off over the last couple of weeks.
It will be interesting to see what Fullerton does with their starting rotation this weekend with the series starting one day earlier than normal and the coaching staff probably looking to limit the innings of some of their starters to rest them for the post-season run. The starting rotation for Northridge has been solid all season, especially at home where each of their starters have ERA's under two, and a major reason for the big improvement by the Matadors, although their rotation began to show some cracks last weekend when all three of their starters had their worst starts of the season at Cal Poly.
Fullerton usually is one of the best defensive teams in the conference and this year is no exception and often making the exceptional play to help out their pitchers. Northridge traditionally had a porous defense and made life difficult for their pitchers but this year they turned that around and you have to credit their coaches and players for putting in the hard work to make that happen as they quit beating themselves and giving away games.
This doesn't figure to be an easy series for Fullerton with one goal behind them and more goals coming up while playing at a motivated opponent looking to end their season on a high note. If Northridge puts everything together in all three phases of the game they could possibly pull off the upset this weekend but the senior leaders for Fullerton do not want to end the season on a low and are motivated to finish off the regular season on a positive note so look for the Titans to win a hard fought series.