Unlike last season when only one of the starting pitchers returned and the weekend rotation relied on an infusion of youth, this year Fullerton has one of the most experienced pitching staffs in the country with all three weekend starting pitchers returning along with both midweek starters. Thomas Eshelman (National Freshman Pitcher of the Year and a 1st Team All-American), Justin Garza (Big West Pitcher of the Year and a 2nd Team All-American) and Grahamm Wiest (Honorable Mention All-Big West) are all back for another season along with J.D. Davis and Koby Gauna, who combined to start nine games. Those five will be joined by Phil Bickford, who was drafted #10 overall in the first round of last June's draft but decided to go to school instead of signing with Toronto. In addition to having plenty of experienced starting pitching options, Fullerton will also have several reliable options in the bullpen despite the loss of 1st Team All-American closer Michael Lorenzen. Gauna and Tyler Peitzmeier both received Honorable Mention All-Big West honors and will be joined in the bullpen by Davis, Willie Kuhl, who was 2nd Team All-Big West in 2012, and FR Ryan Kayoda and Chad Hockin.
The position players for Fullerton aren't quite as experienced as the pitching staff and that will be where most of the questions will need to be answered after losing CF Lorenzen, Big West Co-Field Player of the Year 1B Carlos Lopez, Big West Defensive Player of the Year SS Richy Pedroza and C Chad Wallach, who received 2nd Team All-Big West honors. The Titans do return two players who figure to contend for All-American honors in Davis (1st Team All-Big West as a hitter) and Matt Chapman (2nd Team All-Big West, played for Team USA last summer) and two other regulars in OF Austin Diemer (2nd Team All-Big West) and 2B Jake Jefferies. Players who were part-time players in 2013 such as C Jared Deacon, IF Keegan Dale and OF's Greg Velazquez and Clay Williamson will be looking to become regular contributors this season.
Fullerton is known for traditionally playing one of the tougher schedules in the country and this year is no exception with trips to Oregon, Baylor and Wichita State, who all regularly play in regionals most seasons. The Titans have home series against a very experienced Washington State team opening weekend followed by a visit from San Francisco, who played in regionals in two of the last three seasons, as well a series with long-time rival Long Beach State before getting into Big West play where Cal Poly and UCSB both expect to have strong teams after playing in regionals last season and return most of their rosters while Long Beach and Irvine both have their eyes set on getting back into the post-season. After playing multiple teams on the opening weekend for three of the last four seasons, Fullerton will be hosting a weekend series against one opponent to start the season for the first time since 2009 with Washington State coming down from the Palouse to visit Goodwin Field.
Washington State Cougars
- 2013 Overall Record – 23-32
- 2013 Conference Record – 9-21 (tenth in the Pac 11)
- 2013 Post-Season – None
- 2013 RPI/ISR – 155/111
- Pre-season ranking – 24th by Easton College Baseball Today, 39th by Perfect Game, received votes from Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA
- Predicted conference finish – 8th by the Pac 12 coaches, 4th by Easton College Baseball Today, 5th by Baseball America and 7th by Perfect Game
2013 Summary and 2014 Preview
Donnie Marbut is in his tenth year as the head coach at Washington State, which is one of the tougher places to win in the Pac 11 due to the weather and the remote location of the school away from major areas where coaches find most of their players. It took Marbut a while to build up the Cougars program and he led them to regionals in 2009 and 2010 after finishing in the top three in the conference both seasons. Since then, Washington State has slid back in the conference standings and finished between eighth and tenth in each of the last three seasons but they have much higher expectations this year and will be one of the most experienced teams in the country after returning most of their roster from 2013.
WSU thought they had a chance to contend for a regional in 2013 after getting out to a 15-8 start over the first six weeks. Eight of those wins coming against below average Eastern Michigan and Brown from the Ivy League but they did show some potential by winning series against a solid Cal State Northridge team and a series at Arizona State for the first time in the history of the program. The Cougars were unable to handle prosperity after that series in the desert because they finished the season on an 8-24 skid and lost their last nine conference series.
WSU was second in the Pac 11 in AVG in 2013 with all nine players who had over 100 AB's hitting over .275 but the Cougars weren't able to parlay that into enough run production because they were only seventh in the conference in scoring. Some of the reasons why the Cougars didn't cash enough of those hits into runs were they were not a patient team at the plate and they weren't efficient at getting them over and getting them in. WSU averaged less than three walks per game and were in the bottom 50 nationally and they were near the bottom of the conference in SAC's and SB's. The Cougars scored three runs or less in 19 of their final 32 games and only hit .266 in Pac 11 games once they started facing higher end pitching.
WSU didn't have a strong pitching staff in 2013 and a big reason for that was the lack of power arms because their pitchers didn't miss enough bats. The Cougars were last in the Pac 11 in strikeouts and were near the bottom of the conference in AVG, allowing opponents to hit almost .300 in conference games. WSU's pitchers did do a good job of not beating themselves because they were among the Pac 11 leaders in fewest walks and HBP's. The Cougars pitching staff was not helped out by a defense that was among the worst in the conference and contributed to them allowing sixty unearned runs.
WSU has done well recruiting considering the limitations the program faces with several of the players in the program having been drafted prior to going to school in Pullman. The Cougars have also done a good job of holding onto players who have been drafted with three players who were drafted last June deciding to return to school. The end result is WSU has been able to build an experienced roster that has a chance to play in a regional in June if they are able to put things together.
- Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 117 from 2009-2012 (increases offense by 17%). Dimensions are 335-375-400-385-335. Field turf surface.
- Batting Average – .293 (2nd in the Pac 11, 44th in the NCAA)
- Runs Per Game – 5.3 (7/141)
- Home Runs – 24 (5/104)
- Slugging Percentage – .396 (4/72)
- On Base Percentage – .362 (4/112)
- Walks – 148 (9/259)
- HBP's – 70 (3/66)
- Strikeouts – 361 (5/xx)
- Sac Bunts – 42 (9/139)
- Stolen Bases – 42-76 (7/219)
WSU is very experienced around the infield, returning both catchers and their 2B, SS and 3B with several reserves who have significant playing time also coming back while only losing their 1B from last season.
C – JR #20 P.J. Jones (RH – .276/.359/.336, 1-11-2. '12 – .303/.363/.414, 1-20-3) has usually started twice each weekend the past two seasons. He isn't a big guy and doesn't have much pop but will usually put together solid AB's. Jones was hitting third down the stretch in 2013 due to some injuries to other players but figures to be batting lower in the lineup with everybody back.
C/CF – SR #28 Collin Slaybaugh (LH – .317/.383/.365, 0-16-12. '12 – .296/.367/.368, 0-16-6) is one of the better athletes on the team and is one of the more unusual players in the country because he usually plays in CF twice a weekend and behind the plate in the other game of a series. He batted second last season and does a good job of getting on base and setting the table for the middle of the lineup. Slaybaugh doesn't have much power and strikes out a bit much for a player who relies on his speed to get things going and was tied for third on the team in K's in 2013. He led the team and was in the top ten in the conference in SB's last season and was honorable mention All-Pac 11.
1B/OF – JR #32 Yale Rosen (LH – .314/.368/.490, 7-35-0. '12 – 2-23) played some OF in 2013 but was the DH most of the time. He is in the lineup for his power and led the team in SLG and total bases in 2013, tied for the team lead in HR's and was second in RBI. Rosen takes a big swing to put up his numbers and was second on the team in strikeouts and had a poor 14/43 BB/K ratio. He did well in the Cape Cod League during the summer and was rated the #51 prospect in the league by Perfect Game and could end up being drafted in the first ten rounds due to his power potential.
1B/3B – Soph #10 Patrick McGrath (RH – .259/.286/.276, 0-6-2) figures to be in the 1B/DH mix to replace 1B Brett Jacobs after getting some playing time during the conference season due to some injuries to other players. He didn't hit for much power with only one extra-base hit in 59 AB's despite being a pretty big guy.
2B – Soph #2 Trek Stemp (RH – .331/.372/.421, 1-15-3) beat out a returning starter to win a spot in the lineup as a FR and did an excellent job as the leadoff hitter. He has some pop in his bat despite not being a big guy. Stemp is an aggressive hitter who only walked seven times last season.
SS – JR #3 Trace Tam Sing (RH – .280/.384/.400, 1-17-4. '12 – Medical Redshirt) was drafted in the 26th round last June but decided to return to school and is expected to go 5-10 rounds higher in the draft this June. He does a solid job of spraying the ball around for with some pop in his bat and has decent speed to turn hits into doubles. Tam Sing usually hit ninth in 2013 and was often asked to bunt runners over and led the team with 8 SAC's. He was the most patient hitter in the lineup and led the team with 21 BB's but struck out too much and was tied for second with 37 K's.
3B – Soph #30 Nick Tanlieu (RH – .409/.500/.627, 2-23-1. '12 – Redshirt) had an outstanding FR season going and was leading the Pac 11 in AVG and SLG when he injured his knee in early April and was lost for the season. He was the straw that stirred the drink for the offense and it was no coincidence that WSU struggled once he went out because the Cougars were 15-13 with him in the lineup but only went 7-20 after he was injured. Tanlieu is a difference maker and had a solid 13/17 BB/K ratio for a power hitter.
JR #6 Ian Sagdal (LH – .253/.352/.352, 0-10-1. '12 – .251/.317/.290, 0-20-2) and Soph #5 Shea Donlin (LH – .235/.312/.279, 0-4-3) are utility infielders who got playing time all over the infield last season. Sagdal was the starter at 2B in 2012 before getting beat out by Stemp.
WSU also has an experienced OF, returning two starters and several other players who saw playing time last season.
LF – Soph #11 Ben Roberts (LH – .136/.260/.239, 2-11-2. '12 – Redshirt) will be taking over for Adam Nelubowich and has been slow to develop but is a good athlete who has all of the tools to be successful. He was a 7th round pick out of HS but redshirted in 2012 and hit poorly as a FR last season, primarily due to striking out over a third of the time. The light bulb started to go on for Roberts last summer when he set the NECBL record for doubles and was selected as the best position player in that league.
CF – Slaybaugh will usually start twice during a weekend series and Soph #22 Austin Pernell (LH – .266/.348/.304, 0-8-3) will play in the other game of the series. He doesn't have much power but has good speed and is a threat on the bases.
RF/1B – SR #21 Jason Monda (LH – .294/.346/.422, 7-40-6. '12 – .275/.369/.363, 1-18-6) was drafted in the 6th round last June but surprised quite a few people by becoming the second highest drafted player to return to school from last year's draft. He is a very good athlete for his size. Monda has a smooth swing that generates good power and led the team in HR and RBI and was honorable mention All-Pac 11. One thing that he needs to work on is his plate discipline because he had a very poor 5/44 BB/K ratio for a player of his ability.
Fielding % – .962 (10/202) with 83 errors. WSU had a porous defense in 2013 that was among the worst in the Pac 11 and contributed to allowing 60 unearned runs. Stemp was average at 2B. Tam Sing was fifth in the conference with 16 errors. He has solid tools and would often make the tough play but boot the easy one. Tanlieu was in the lineup for his bat and was below average at 3B. Roberts and Monda are good athletes on the corners and both have strong arms (Monda also pitches) while Rosen is average at best as an OF. Slaybaugh and Pernell have good speed in CF and Slaybaugh has a good arm due to also splitting time at C.
Stolen Base Attempts – 49-69 (5/xx). Jones 31-38 in 2013, 9-17 in 2012. Slaybaugh 17-28, 18-32 in 2012. Both Jones and Slaybaugh do a solid job against the running game.
WP's/PB's Allowed – 43 (3/xx). Jones and Slaybaugh were much improved at blocking pitches last season after giving up 70 WP's/PB's in 2012.
- ERA – 4.14 (7/128)
- AVG – .285 (9/199)
- HR – 26 (9/xx)
- BB – 171 (4/69)
- HBP – 36 (2/15)
- K – 307 (11/236)
- WHIP – 1.45 (5/151)
WSU returns all of three of their starting pitchers from 2013 but has shuffled things up a bit with one of their relievers being moved into the weekend rotation and their Friday SP moving into a midweek role to start the season. The coaching staff recruits like they are fielding a basketball team because six of their pitchers are 6'5" or taller.
JR #23 Tanner Chleborad (RHP – 3-9, 6.92 ERA, 14 GS, 68 IP, 91 H, 22 BB, 41 K, .338 AVG, 10 HR, 7 HBP, 0 WP, 3-5 SB. '12 – 4-3, 4.24 ERA, 13 GS, 74 IP, 80 H, 32 BB, 42 K, .281 AVG, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 9 WP, 1-5 SB) is 6'5" and has the best arm on the staff with a fastball that sits at 92-94 and a good slider. He had a solid FR season and held his own in conference games with an ERA below four. 2013 was pretty much a disaster for Chleborad and he allowed the highest AVG and most HR's on the staff and ended up as the midweek SP for the last month of the season. He had decent control but his pitches tended to straighten out and he would often get too much of the plate, with hitters teeing off as a result. He worked on refining his mechanics and threw better during the fall.
JR #38 Scott Simon (RHP – 3-4, 3.95 ERA, 15 GS, 1 CG, 84 IP, 105 H, 13 BB, 47 K, .302 AVG, 2 HR, 2 HBP, 5 WP, 6-8 SB. '12 – 2-3, 4.09 ERA, 3 SV, 28 apps, 51 IP, 59 H, 15 BB, 26 K, .298 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 4-4 SB) is the tallest pitcher on the staff at 6'7" but is more of a strike thrower than a power pitcher with a fastball in the upper 80's and allowed only 1.4 walks per nine innings in 2013. He uses his height for leverage to throw on a downward plane and keep his pitches low in the zone to produce ground balls. Simon pitched out of the bullpen as a FR before being converted to a starter last season and did a solid job of keeping WSU in games while starting on Saturdays.
SR #21 Jason Monda (LHP – 2-2, 1.57 ERA, 1 SV, 16 apps, 3 GS, 34 IP, 28 H, 12 BB, 22 K, .233 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 4-6 SB) didn't pitch in his first two seasons but did an excellent job as a middle reliever in 2013 and has been moved into the rotation. He has a solid arm with a fastball that touches 90 and a good curveball that he drops in for strikes along with a changeup to keep hitters off balance.
JR #31 Joe Pistorese (LHP – 5-5, 2.78 ERA, 15 GS, 2 CG, 100 IP, 100 H, 26 BB, 61 K, .263 AVG, 4 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 7-11 SB. '12 – 4-3, 2.44 ERA, 15 apps, 12 GS, 66 IP, 61 H, 29 BB, 39 K, .258 AVG, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 7 WP, 2-7 SB) was the Friday SP in 2013 and led the starters in ERA his first two seasons but has been moved into a midweek role to start the season and won't pitch this weeeknd because WSU has a game at Riverside on Monday. He is a battler who has done a good job of giving WSU a chance to win whenever he is on the mound and it wouldn't be a surprise if he worked his way back into the weekend rotation at some point.
WSU expected to return six relievers who threw at least twenty innings in 2013 but their bullpen became a little thinner when they moved Monda into the rotation and lost closer J.D. Leckenby for the season to an injury. He was a 14th round draft pick and big things were expected from him after he decided to come back for his SR season before he was injured.
JR #36 Sean Hartnett (RHP – 2-2, 4.24 ERA, 19 apps, 1 GS, 40 IP, 39 H, 22 BB, 26 K, .262 AVG, 2 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 3-7 SB) is another big guy on the mound for WSU and is one of the harder throwers on the staff with a low 90's fastball along with a slider and changeup and figures to be in the mix for the closer's job. He doesn't have smooth mechanics and had trouble repeating his delivery his first two seasons before starting to figure things out over the summer in the NECBL, where he was one of the top 25 prospects in that league and had a very good 38/5 K/BB ratio in 35 IP.
SR #47 Kellen Camus (RHP – 3-2, 3.67 ERA, 3 SV, 19 apps, 27 IP, 27 H, 15 BB, 28 K, .270 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 1-2 SB) is the opposite of most of the pitchers on the WSU staff because he is under 6' tall. He was one of the most consistent relievers in 2013 and did a good job of missing bats despite throwing his fastball in the upper 80's due to some late life on it. Camus will also be in the mix at closer.
Other experienced RHP's who will figure into the mix in middle relief are Soph #25 Chris McDowell (0-1, 3.55 ERA, 12 apps, 2 GS, 25 IP, 23 H, 11 BB, 16 K, .256 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP, 4-5 SB) and JR #41 Sam Triece (0-2, 4.79 ERA, 12 apps, 1 GS, 21 IP, 16 H, 13 BB, 11 K, .216 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 6 WP, 5-5 SB). McDowell is another big guy at 6'6" and Triece has lots of movement on his pitches, which makes him tough to hit but he also had control issues last season. Both of them threw well during the fall.
The LHP's in the bullpen are Soph #46 Matt Bower (0-0, 5.02 ERA, 11 apps, 14 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 14 K, .267 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 2 WP, 3-4 SB) who is another big guy at 6'5" and FR #17 Layne Bruner, was in Baseball America's top 500 for last June's draft and was a 26th round draft pick who figures to go quite a bit higher in the draft in a few years.
If this season goes as planned for Fullerton they will be playing in Omaha in June. It is a long way from opening weekend until then and the team needs to make sure they stay focused and not believe the hype of their press clippings. WSU has designs on getting back into a regional for the first time since 2010 and will be very motivated to make a statement this weekend.
Fullerton traditionally has gotten off to slow starts by not finishing over .500 after the opening weekend for four straight seasons before turning that around in 2013 by winning all four games against USC, Nebraska and Cal State Bakersfield. WSU has had their issues playing on the road early in the season the last two years, which isn't uncommon for teams from cold weather areas, and lost each of their four non-conference series they played away from Pullman.
WSU has the potential to have one of the better offenses on the west coast with the amount of experience they have back with several impact bats in the lineup but they are going to have to take advantage of the few chances that the Fullerton pitching staff gives them because the Titans hurlers do an excellent job of not beating themselves. Fullerton has to replace several standouts from last season but also has several impact bats in the middle of the lineup and will be looking to put pressure on a Cougars pitching staff that is trying to sort out their roles and a defense that was a major problem last season.
Fullerton will usually have a decided edge on the mound in most series that they play and this weekend doesn't figure to be much different. The pitching staff of the Titans is the backbone of the team and a big reason why fans of the program are dreaming about getting back to Omaha for the first time in five years. WSU has several big guys with upside and potential who took their lumps last season and the Cougars are hoping that they are ready to take the next step forward but this is a tough spot for them to do that this weekend.
Fullerton has won sixteen straight regular season series and 27 of 28 series since the opening weekend of 2012 while WSU lost their last nine series to finish last season so one of these teams is used to winning series and the other one needs to prove that they can. The Titans should be one of the best teams in the country this season while the Cougars could be one of the most improved teams on the west coast. WSU won't make it easy on Fullerton this weekend but the Titans should win this series and it would be a major upset if they didn't.