Scouting San Francisco

Cal State Fullerton entered the season ranked #1 in the nation in three of the five national polls and there were some people who thought they would be able to roll through Washington State in the season opening series after they finished 2013 with a losing record.

Those thoughts were only reinforced after the Titans throttled the Cougars 12-0 last Friday but the experienced team from the Palouse wasn't going to go down without a fight. WSU bounced back to give Fullerton all they could handle in the final two games, winning 9-7 in eleven innings before the Titans responded on Sunday to pull out the series win by scoring in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4.

For the second year in a row, Thomas Eshelman helped Fullerton get the season started on the right foot and he was dominant in holding WSU scoreless for seven innings, allowing only three hits with eight strikeouts before heralded freshman Phil Bickford threw two scoreless innings to finish things off. The only scoring threat for the Cougars was stopped in the third when RF J.D. Davis threw a runner out at the plate trying to score from second on a single. Fullerton scored twice in the first to give Eshelman all the runs that he would need when JC transfer Tyler Stieb was hit by a pitch, Jake Jefferies singled and Tanner Pinkston and Greg Velazquez followed later in the inning with RBI singles. The Titans blew things open with four runs in the second when Jared Deacon and freshman Timmy Richards led off the frame with singles, Stieb doubled in a run and Matt Chapman and Jefferies followed with SF's. Davis scored the final run of the inning when he singled, stole second and was singled in by Pinkston. Fullerton piled on three runs in the fourth when Velazquez hammered a three run HR over the screen in LF to drive in Chapman and Pinkston. Jefferies, Davis and Richards had RBI base hits later in the game as the Titans piled up seventeen hits but, in a precursor of things to come during the weekend, also stranded twelve runners.

Fullerton won every game they played on a Saturday in 2013 and every regular season game that Justin Garza started last season but both of those trends came to a screeching halt last weekend in a wild game that WSU won in extra innings. The Cougars got two hits in the first and scored an unearned run in the second but the Titans responded right away as they often did in 2013 with three runs when Davis tripled, Pinkston singled him in, Austin Diemer reached on an error that moved Pinkston to third, Deacon's squeeze bunt drove in a run and Richards' single drove in another run. Fullerton continued to play shoddy defense and WSU continued to hit Garza and scored three runs (one earned) on two doubles, one of which was misplayed, and two errors in the third to take a 4-3 lead and that was the score when Garza left the game in the sixth with the bases loaded. The Cougars cleared the bases against the Titans bullpen to go up 7-3 before Koby Gauna restored order to get out of the inning. Fullerton cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning on a HR by Davis and a pinch-hit RBI single by Clay Williamson. The Titans continued to peck away and cut the lead to one in the seventh on a pinch-hit RBI single by David Olmedo-Barrera. Fullerton tied the game in the eighth when Deacon got to second on a H/E to SS, went to third on a WP and scored on a ground out by Stieb. Gauna threw his third scoreless inning and Fullerton had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth when Davis tripled with one out on a controversial play in which it looked like the WSU CF caught the ball before slamming into the wall but the ball came out when he hit the ground. The Cougars walked the bases loaded to force an out at any base and the strategy worked when they got out of the inning on a 1-2-3 DP. After a fourth scoreless inning in the tenth for Gauna, WSU finally got to him in the eleventh when he left the game with the bases loaded and Jason Monda hit a two out grounder through the hole on the left side for two runs to win the game when Fullerton went down in order for the second straight inning against freshman Ian Hamilton.

Fullerton got out to the lead on Sunday on an RBI single by Richards in the second but stranded two runners in the inning and left the bases loaded in the third to continue their frustrations with runners on base. WSU tied the game in the fourth against Grahamm Wiest and took advantage of more sloppy defense by the Titans to take the lead in the fifth by scoring two unearned runs on a two out double. Fullerton bounced right back once again to tie the game on singles by Chapman and Pinkston, an RBI ground out by Velazquez and an RBI double by Williamson. Davis threw a runner out at home for the second time in the series to end the sixth and Wiest pitched into the eighth, allowing three runs (1 ER) on eight hits with seven K's before being removed with two runners on before Tyler Peitzmeier and Bickford each got outs with the bases loaded to get out of the inning. Richards, freshman Taylor Bryant and Chapman all walked and Richards scored on a wild pitch to give the Titans a 4-3 lead but they once again left the bases loaded to strand thirteen runners through the first eight innings. Bickford walked the leadoff hitter and Davis came in but couldn't hold the lead as WSU got a clutch two out pinch-hit RBI single from Collin Slaybaugh to tie the game. Velazquez led off the bottom of the ninth with a double down the LF line and was bunted to third by Williamson, which forced the infield in and when Deacon pulled a hard grounder towards the hole that the 1B was unable to come up with, Velazquez came home with the game and series winning run.

Fullerton had their hitting shoes on to start the season and hit .360, slugged .500 and scored 24 runs in the series and were also patient at the plate, as they often were in 2013, by getting 21 free base runners on BB's and HBP's but weren't as efficient as they could have been despite averaging eight runs per game by stranding 34 runners in the series. The Titans had seven batters hit over .300 for the weekend with Williamson going 6-8, Pinkston 7-12, Davis hitting four extra-base hits and Velazquez driving in five runs. The Fullerton pitchers had a 2.48 ERA for the weekend and held a dangerous WSU lineup to a .252 average with Eshelman having a dominant start, Wiest having a very good start and Gauna shining out of the bullpen with 4 1/3 scoreless innings before tiring. The main negative of the weekend was some shaky defense by the Titans that allowed WSU to score five unearned runs in the final two games of the series.

Fullerton started this week by playing their first game on the road Tuesday night at USC and continued to play sloppily in losing 6-1 to the Trojans. The Titans committed three more errors to run their official total to seven over the last three games, allowed four unearned runs and threw three wild pitches. Fullerton only got four hits and struck out nine times in a forgettable performance at the plate, with the only run scoring when Stieb drove in Deacon on a ground out. Freshman Chad Hockin made his debut as the starter and allowed three runs (1 ER) on five hits in 2 2/3 IP before Bickford took over and threw the next four innings, allowing three runs (1 ER) on four hits. Miles Chambers also made his debut by throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings to finish things off.

Fullerton continues things this week with their second straight series at home as they welcome the San Francisco Dons to Goodwin Field. This will be the second straight trip to the southland for USF, who came down here last weekend to play Riverside. The Dons dropped the opener 10-2 and bounced back to win 6-3 before losing the final game of the series 8-5. USF evened up their record in their home opener with a 7-6 win against Kansas State when they came from behind and scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth.

San Francisco Dons (2-2)

  • 2013 Overall Record – 34-24
  • 2013 Conference Record – 15-9 (tied for 2nd in the West Coast Conference)
  • 2013 Post-Season – 1-2 at the Eugene Regional – L to Rice (11 inn.), W vs. South Dakota State (13 inn.), L to Oregon
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 50/36 (Fullerton opponent ISR comparison – UCSB 32, Texas A&M 40)
  • Pre-season rankings – 41st by Easton College Baseball Today, 52nd by Perfect Game, received votes from Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA
  • Predicted conference finish – 3rd by the WCC coaches, 1st by Easton College Baseball Today, 3rd by Baseball America and Perfect Game

2013 Summary and 2014 Preview

Nino Giarrantano is in his sixteenth year as the head coach at San Francisco, a school that had very little tradition in baseball except for fielding a team for over a century. It took Giarrantano a while to turn things around before the Dons set a school record with 38 wins in 2005 and followed that up by winning 39 games and getting into regional for the first time in school history in 2006. Over the next four seasons USF was a .500 program that usually finished third or fourth in the WCC before they won their first conference championship in 2011 and upset UCLA in the opening game of the regional before dropping the next two games. USF reverted back to their .500 and middle of the pack ways in 2012 before bouncing back last season to finish tied for second in the WCC and made it to the final of their conference tournament, which helped them to receive an at-large bid to play in a regional for the second time in three years when they played at Oregon and split extra-inning games before getting eliminated by the host Ducks.

USF returned a decent nucleus of position players in 2013 but figured they would have to rely on their pitching despite losing first round pick Kyle Zimmer with their other three SP's back. The Dons got off to a slow start by only winning six of their first fifteen games against a difficult schedule that saw them play weekend series against Cal Poly, UCSB, Arizona and Missouri and a midweek series with Oregon State with all of those games played on the road except for the Cal Poly series. After losing their conference opening series at eventual regular season champ Gonzaga, USF turned things around by winning their next four series including a series at TCU. USF stubbed their toe against the solid pitching staff of LMU before winning their next two series against San Diego and Pepperdine and lost their final series at BYU. The hitters for the Dons got hot in the WCC tournament and scored 18 runs to win the first two games against the strong pitching staffs of Gonzaga and San Diego but lost 2-0 in the tournament final to San Diego. USF was rewarded for playing a strong road heavy schedule with an at-large bid and played well against Rice in the opening game of the regional but lost in eleven innings when the winning run scored on a fly ball lost in the sun and defeated South Dakota State in thirteen innings before running out of gas against Oregon.

USF plays in a park that is tough on hitters and that impacted their stats in 2013 with the team only hitting .264 but that was partly due to not having a deep lineup. Five Dons hit .285 or better but they also had four regulars hit under .250 and that led to their offense running hot and cold. USF scored three runs or less twenty-three times but overall they were pretty efficient by averaging five runs per game. The Dons did a good job of getting on base via walks and HBP's, averaging 4.5 free bases per game. USF had two players who stole 34 bases but the running game wasn't a factor for the rest of the roster with only sixteen steals. The Dons were also selective in the bunting game with three players having 34 SAC bunts and the rest of the roster only having fourteen.

USF had a strong pitching staff in 2013 with a team ERA in the top fifty nationally and was in the top twenty-five in walks allowed per game and K/BB ratio. The Dons weren't a big strikeout staff but because they did such a good job of not putting extra runners on base and they had the best defense in the WCC, they did a good job of not beating themselves. USF allowed only 36 unearned runs and held teams to four runs or less 32 times. The Dons had a solid rotation with all three SP's having ERA's in the mid to high three's but where they often had an advantage over their opponents was an excellent bullpen with five pitchers relievers making at least twenty appearances.

USF returns four of their five leading hitters, including two 1st team All-WCC selections who led the team in just about every statistical category, so they have the potential to have a strong offense if some of the reserves from last season and the newcomers are able to make the lineup deeper than it was in 2013. The Dons were shut down in their opening game last weekend at Riverside but turned that around by scoring eleven runs on 24 hits in splitting the final two games and hit .291 in the series. USF wasn't playing much small ball with only one SAC and one SB.

USF returns two of their starting pitchers but lost four of their relievers that gave the pitching staff so much depth in 2013. The Dons didn't pitch well last weekend at Riverside, something that Big West pitching staffs have become familiar with out there, with only a standout relief appearance preventing a sweep. None of the USF starters went longer than five innings and two of them allowed five runs. The Dons allowed 21 runs in the series, Riverside hit .336 and the pitchers also didn't help themselves by walking fifteen batters and hitting four more. USF bounced back with a midweek win at home against Kansas State, who entered the season ranked in the top 25 before getting swept at Cal Poly. The Dons trailed 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth before scoring three runs to pull off a comeback win.

Offense – Stats from 2013

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 80 from 2009-2012 (decreases offense by 20%). Dimensions are 315 to LF with a 30 ft high wall – 415 to CF – 320 to RF. Ball rarely travels well in the damp air early in the season.
  • Batting Average – .264 (4th in the WCC, 195th in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 4.9 (3/151)
  • Home Runs – 29 (4/79)
  • Slugging Percentage – .364 (4/158)
  • On Base Percentage – .343 (5/209)
  • Walks – 189 (3/162), 3.2 per game
  • HBP's – 75 (1/48)
  • Strikeouts – 376 (4/xx), 6.4 per game
  • Sac Bunts – 48 (4/101)
  • Stolen Bases – 50-76 (5/187)

Lineup

Infield

USF has a decent amount of experience in their infield with returning starters on the corners and behind the plate but have new starters up the middle with a FR at SS and a platoon at 2B between a FR and a reserve from 2013.

C – Soph #28 Ryan Matranga (RH – .185/.261/.282, 3-18-0) came in as a FR and stabilized things defensively while starting 43 of 59 games and was selected to the WCC All-Freshman team. He struggled to adjust to hitting against D1 pitching and only hit .150 in non-conference games but did a little better in WCC games when he hit .235. Matranga is a good bunter and he was second on the team in 2013 with ten SAC's and had another one last weekend and is 2-11 this season.

1B – SR #10 Zach Turner (RH – .333/.380/.504, 8-62-1) was a JC All-American in 2012 after hitting .370 with 12 HR's and brought a power bat to the middle of the lineup, splitting time between 1B and DH while leading the WCC in RBI and leading the team in AVG and HR on the way to earning 1st team All-WCC honors. He takes a big swing to produce his power and led the team and was third in the conference with 52 K's. Turner hit cleanup at Riverside and had two hits and an RBI in each of the final two games of the series.

2B/OF – FR #4 Matt Sinatro (LH) is being looked to as a table setter as the leadoff hitter. He started once at 2B, once in LF and once at DH at Riverside and went 3-12 and had a good game against Kansas State, starting at 2B and going 2-5 and scoring two runs.

2B – Soph #16 Michael Eaton (RH – 1-8 in 2013) barely played last season but is part of a platoon and started two of the games at Riverside and batted ninth.

SS – FR #6 Nico Giarratano (Both) is the coach's son and there are high expectations for him after he showed he had talent at the HS level to be a productive D1 player. He scuffled a bit last weekend at Riverside and went 2-11 but he walked twice, scored four runs and drove in two runs and went 2-5 with an RBI against Kansas State and will bat second.

3B – JR #14 Bob Cruikshank (RH – .286/.353/.390, 1-32-0. '12 – .237/.290/.247, 0-4-1) was a part-time player who started 24 games in 2012 before taking control of the 3B position and starting every game last season. He doesn't have much speed but does a good job of spraying the ball gap to gap and led the WCC with 19 doubles in 2013. Cruikshank will bat sixth and has gotten off to a slow start, going 2-16.

Outfield

USF has a solid amount of experience with four of their five OF's returning, losing only their CF from last season.

LF/DH – JR #22 Brendan Hendriks (LH – .184/.256/.209, 0-8-0. '12 – .311/.373/.361, 0-12-0) had a good FR season and was expected to be a key contributor but hit poorly in 2013 while playing mostly 1B and occasionally in the OF and ended up playing his way out of the lineup. He started to get some things figured out during the summer, hitting .340 in the NECBL and was ranked the #15 prospect in the league and played his way onto the scouts radars and is expected to be drafted in the teens if he puts together a solid season. Hendricks played LF once and has been the DH three times while hitting seventh and has gotten off to a good 6-15 start.

LF – Soph #15 Harrison Bruce (LH – .245 in 49 AB's) was used mostly as a defensive replacement as a FR and is a little guy who didn't hit for much power with only one extra base hit in 2013. He does have good speed and is a threat on the bases. Bruce started once last weekend, going 0-2 with two SF's, and went 3-4 against Kansas State and batted ninth in both games.

CF – #5 Bradley Zimmer (LH – .320/.437/.512, 7-37-19. '12 – .242/.274/.314, 0-15-3) didn't hit much as a FR but started to figure some things out during the summer and played up to his ability level last season when he was 1st team All-WCC after finishing second in the conference in SB's, leading the team in OBP and SLG and ending up second on the team in AVG, HR and RBI. He played for Team USA last summer and increased his draft stock and is a pre-season All-American and expected to be a first round draft pick in June, just like his brother was in 2012. Zimmer has a good approach at the plate and had a strong 29/31 BB/K ratio last season and led the team in walks. He played RF in 2013 but is getting the chance to display his speed in CF this season and went 6-12 at Riverside with two doubles while batting third and went 1-5 against Kansas State.

RF – JR #3 Derek Atkinson (LH – .304/.375/.393, 2-19-1) was a JC transfer who moved right into the lineup last season and hit the ground running, getting off to a fast start before cooling off and hitting .264 in WCC games and going from being a regular to a part-time player. He has been on fire to start the season and is 8-16 with six RBI while hitting fifth and drove in the game winning run against Kansas State.

Defense

Fielding % – .972 (1/59) with 67 errors. USF had the best defense in the WCC in 2013 and allowed only 36 unearned runs and that was a key reason why they were able to finish tied for second in the conference but they have to replace three starters up the middle at 2B, SS and CF with a FR at SS and a platoon of a FR and a 2013 reserve at 2B. Matranga starts at C for his glove, Turner split time at 1B and is solid there, Cruikshank has good range at 3B and led WCC players at that position in assists, and they are average in the corners with Atkinson in RF and the platoon in LF. Zimmer is an excellent athlete who played RF the last two seasons and is moving over to CF. USF didn't field well at Riverside and made five errors on a playing surface that isn't known for being one of the better ones in the Big West and followed that up by making two more errors against Kansas State.

Stolen Base Attempts – 78-102 (9/xx). USF had the worst defense in the WCC against the running game in 2013 but much of that came against the two backup C's whom runners went 35-41 against in 16 starts. Matranga was much better and cut the SB's per game in half at 43-54 in his 43 starts. The Dons have struggled against the running game this season and runners are 9-9 on SB attempts.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 31 (2/xx). Matranga is not a big guy, moves well behind the plate and does a good job of keeping balls in front of him. USF's pitchers have struggled with control this season and they have thrown seven WP's/PB's.

Pitching – Stats for 2013

  • ERA – 3.36 (2/40)
  • AVG – .257 (2/65)
  • HR – 26 (6/xx)
  • BB – 152 (2/14), 2.5 per game
  • HBP – 63 (3/182)
  • K – 389 (3/145), 6.5 per game
  • WHIP – 1.24 (2/30)

Starters

USF returns two of their weekend starters from 2013, one of whom was selected 1st team All-WCC, but lost Alex Balog, a 2nd round pick last June, and swingman Haden Hinkle, who started several games down the stretch and received 1st team All-WCC honors.

SR #53 Abe Bobb (RHP – 5-6, 3.70 ERA, 2 SV, 19 apps, 10 GS, 75 IP, 85 H, 20 BB, 49 K, .297 AVG, 1 HR, 15 HBP, 1 WP, 13-18 SB. '12 – 8-4, 2.18 ERA, 14 GS, 1 CG, 87 IP, 79 H, 12 BB, 66 K, .245 AVG, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 0 WP, 7-9 SB) redshirted in 2011, came back throwing very well and has been one of USF's best pitchers over the past two seasons and received 1st team All-WCC honors in 2013. He started exclusively in 2012 and most of last season but his role was switched and he was working out of the pen most of the time the last month of the season and picked up a save in USF's only win in their regional. Two of Bobb's best starts were against two of the three best teams in the WCC when he held regular season champ Gonzaga to two runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 IP and later in the season allowed only one run in a CG against BYU. His fastball usually sits in the upper 80's and he is crafty with good offspeed pitches and normally has excellent control. He averaged less than 2 BB/9 IP the last two seasons but he wasn't sharp at Riverside and allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks and two HBP's in five innings but did strike out seven batters. Bobb does not do a good job holding runners and can be run on.

SR #43 Ben Graff (LHP – 2-1, 1.44 ERA, 24 apps, 25 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 22 K, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 2-3 SB. '12 – 0-0, 9.31 ERA, 11 apps, 10 IP) is one of the bigger guys you will see on a diamond who doesn't play for Washington State at 6'6", 245 lbs and when you are that big, things don't often come together quickly with mechanics on the mound and he struggled as a FR before pitching very well in 2013 while being limited to one inning outings that allowed him to throw with max effort to pitch in the low 90's. He started to get stretched out as a starter in the Northwoods League over the summer and had a strong 5/39 BB/K ratio in 56 IP. Graff was given a chance to start last Saturday at Riverside but was not sharp, allowing two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 IP, and threw a scoreless inning of relief against Kansas State.

JC transfer #24 Matt Narahara (LHP) is a crafty lefty whose fastball sits in the mid 80's and he has to keep the ball down, which he didn't do at Riverside in allowing five runs on eight hits in 4 IP last Sunday. He didn't have great control at the JC level and allowed 4 BB/9 IP over two seasons and averaged 6 K/9 IP in 2013.

JR #12 Christian Cecilio (LHP – 3-3, 3.96 ERA, 16 GS, 75 IP, 74 H, 19 BB, 49 K, .262 AVG, 3 HR, 13 HBP, 2 WP, 8-11 SB. '12 – 2-6, 3.63 ERA, 22 apps, 13 GS, 52 IP, 60 H, 16 BB, 35 K, .291 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 0 WP, 8-11 SB) did a solid job as a swingman as a FR as a midweek SP and weekend reliever before taking control of a spot in the weekend rotation in 2013. He wasn't usually asked to go much beyond five innings due to the strong bullpen that USF had last season and in starts against Gonzaga, Pepperdine and BYU he didn't allow more than two runs but didn't get past the sixth inning in any of those starts. One of Cecilio's best starts was against San Diego in the WCC tournament final when he held the Toreros to two runs in 6 2/3 IP and he followed that up by allowing one run in 5 IP against South Dakota State in USF's only win in their regional. He had a strong summer in the Cape Cod League and threw six shutout innings in the league championship game for Cotuit. Cecilio isn't a hard thrower and has very good control and has averaged 2.5 BB/9 IP in his first two seasons. He picked up USF's only win at Riverside, relieving Graff in the second inning and allowing one run on five hits in 5 1/3 IP, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him moved into the rotation this weekend.

FR #21 Grant Goodman (RHP) was a 36th round draft pick last June and started the midweek game against Kansas State, allowing four runs (2 ER) on three hits and three BB's in 3 1/3 IP with five strikeouts.

Relievers

The bullpen for USF was probably the strongest area on the ball club in 2013 with numerous reliable and effective options between Hinkle and Bobb (whenever one of them wasn't in the rotation) along with Graff and several other SR's who have moved on, with the result being that there is now quite a bit of inexperience and the Dons had ten relievers pitch at Riverside last weekend.

FR #39 Brock Larson (RHP) is going to get the first crack at being the closer after throwing two scoreless innings to pick up the save in USF's only win at Riverside.

Soph #13 Thomas Cox (LHP – 1-1, 4.72 ERA, 16 apps, 4 GS, 27 IP, 32 H, 5 BB, 16 K, .299 AVG, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 1 WP, 6-6 SB) was expected to possibly break into the rotation after making some midweek starts in 2013 and he made one relief appearance at Riverside, walking two batters and allowing a run in one IP, and allowed three hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings against Kansas State.

JR #33 Sheldon Lee (LHP – 1-2, 6.46 ERA, 14 apps, 2 GS, 15 IP, 20 H, 7 BB, 5 K, .339 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 3-4 SB. '12 – 0-1, 2.00 ERA, 1 SV, 22 apps, 27 IP, 22 H, 11 BB, 23 K, .222 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 2-2 SB) was very effective as a FR but got off to a bad start in 2013 and never really found his groove. He threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win against Kansas State.

JR #18 Logan West (7 IP), JR #17 KJ Edson (4 IP), SR #40 Houston Hibberd (3 IP) and SR #29 Jesse DeLong (3 IP) combined to make 30 appearances in 2013 and each will be expected to step into more important roles as the only returning RHP's in the bullpen. They each made an appearance at Riverside, combining to throw four innings and allowed six runs (5 ER). Two FR RHP's who made their debuts last weekend were #31 Mack Meyer and #20 Andy Frakes, who combined to throw 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Outlook

Fullerton played about as well as a team could play in their season opener last Friday night but did not build any momentum off of that effort and have played three consecutive subpar games and lost two of them. Needless to say, the coaching staff has not been pleased with the team's performance and have been more than willing to voice their displeasure. USF has been doing the opposite of the Titans by playing poorly in their season opener but playing better in winning two of the last three games.

Both of these teams have been hitting the ball well to start the season and their batting averages are within a couple points of each other (.312 for Fullerton, .310 for USF). The Titans have been doing a better job of getting runners on by getting 26 free bases compared to 13 for the Dons. Both teams have been stranding lots of runners with Fullerton leaving 41 runners on base and USF stranding 34 runners. How these teams hit with runners in scoring position will be a key to this series with the offenses being fairly evenly matched thus far.

Fullerton has a significant advantage in pitching with a 2.43 ERA although a major reason why their ERA is that low is due to some poor defense helping to allow nine unearned runs to score over the past three games. To their credit, the Titans pitchers have held their opponents to a .259 AVG and have a solid 4-1 ratio in K's to BB's (32/8) and received two solid starts last weekend. USF has seen their staff ERA balloon by three runs per game from last year to 6.35 over the first four games and their opponents have hit .317 against them. The only starter who gave up less than four runs was pulled in the second inning after giving up two runs and if the Dons are going to have a chance to be competitive in this series they have to get better pitching.

Fullerton has continued to find ways to win weekend series and have now won seventeen straight regular season series and 28 of 29 series since the opening weekend of 2012. USF has a solid program with two regional appearances over the last three seasons but they are in for a tall task to pull off the upset this weekend with the way their pitching has been. The Titans are prohibitive favorites to win this series and have a decent chance to win all three games if they start executing like they are capable of but if they don't, they will keep the Dons in the series and would give them an opportunity to sneak out a win in one of the games but it is unlikely that USF would be able to pull off the upset by winning twice.