Baseball Preview: UC Davis

After losing a conference series at Goodwin Field for the first time in five years, Cal State Fullerton bounced back last night with a 7-1 win against USC. Next up on the schedule for the Titans is a non-conference series at future Big West member UC Davis.

Davis got off to a slow start this year at 4-11 but has improved as the season has gone along, winning 3 of their last 4 series with the only series loss during that stretch against Riverside. The Aggies have had difficulty scoring runs at home (averaging 3.5 RPG) and are only 5-10 at Davis.

LINEUP

Davis is a decent hitting team (team average went from .280 to .293 after pummeling Pacific) but the Aggies have struggled with good pitching, being held to 4 runs or less in 13 of 23 weekend games. In the 10 games in which they scored 5 runs or more, eight of those were against some of the lower level teams on the west coast (LMU, Sac State, Pacific). Davis has only hit 8 HR's and doesn't have much power in their lineup with a couple of exceptions. The Aggies primarily try to bunch together hits to score runs and don't walk much, averaging around 3 BB's per game. They do run some (34-44 SB's, team leaders have 5 SB's) and bunt some (28 SAC's, 3 players have combined for 16 of those) but unlike Irvine, little ball is not the major focus of their offensive game. Davis is an average defensive team, having made 48 E's on the season, but they have improved lately and have made 11 E's in the last 11 games after making 37 E's in the first 17 games. Some of that improvement is due to a change at SS.

C - Jacob Jefferies (LH) usually bats 6th or 7th and starts almost every game (after starting part-time last year). Jefferies is a decent hitter who picked up 6 of his 16 RBI's last weekend against Pacific. He is average at blocking pitches (27 WP's/PB's) and is poor at throwing out baserunners (28-30 SB's) so that is an area that Fullerton should look to take advantage of. '07 stats - .286 - 0 HR's - 16 RBI's - 0 SB's.

1B - Evan Hudson (RH) is a JC transfer who has a has solid power (8 extra base hits) and usually bats 5th. '07 stats - .320 - 2 - 16 - 2.

2B - Brandon Oliver (RH) doesn't have much power (1 extra base hit) so he sprays the ball around the field and bunts (7 SAC's) to get on base. Usually bats 8th. Good speed (10 SB's last year), does a decent job defensively. '07 stats - .254 - 0 - 5 - 5.

SS - Matt Dempsey (RH) didn't play much in the first half of the season but since getting into the lineup he has done nothing but rake, hitting .438 in 16 starts. Dempsey went 8-15 at Pacific. Dempsey usually hits 2nd, doesn't have much power (2 extra base hits) or much speed. He is below average defensively (6 E's, .913 fielding %) but has been an improvement over the SS he replaced, FR Justin Schafer (RH), who has hit well but also doesn't have much power (2 extra base hits) and bunts often (5 SAC's). Schafer has made 11 E's, which led to Dempsey replacing him in the lineup. Dempsey - .438 - 1 - 8 - 2. Schaefer - .310 - 0 - 2 - 2.

3B - Daniel Descalso (LH) is the best hitter on the team and usually bats 3rd. Descalso hits for power and average and is also by far the most patient hitter on the team, leading the team in walks with 17. He teed off on Pacific last week, going 7-16 with 5 RBI's. He will steal a base occasionally. He is also solid defensively. '07 stats - .374 - 2 - 22 - 3.

CF - Ryan Royster (LH) has taken over as the starting CF after not playing much early. Royster doesn't have much power (3 extra base hits) and is probably the fastest player on the team and usually bats leadoff. Good range in CF. '07 stats - .284 - 0 - 10 - 0.

RF - Aaron Henke (RH) is the other main power threat in the lineup along with Descalso and he also hits for average. Henke usually bats cleanup and torched Pacific's pitching (9-15). Henke has good speed and is solid in RF. '07 stats - .372 - 2 - 20 - 5.

LF/DH - The LF lately has been Kyle Mihaylo (RH) and he doesn't have much power but has pretty good speed. Other players who will play LF are Michael Hernandez (RH), Grant Hirneise (LH) and Michael Jacobellis (LH). The DH spot is shared by several players, including the LF's, Schafer and Kevin James (LH). Mihaylo - .295 - 1 - 11 - 4. James - .237 - 0 - 3 - 0. Hirneise - .177 - 0 - 8 - 3. Jacobellis - .171 - 0 - 2 - 3. Hernandez - .081 - 0 - 7 - 0.

PITCHING

The Davis pitching staff had lots of injury issues to deal with last year but they have been able to stay pretty healthy this year. The Aggies have had solid outings most of the time from two of their SP's (both JC transfers) but they don't have a solid 3rd SP. They bullpen had been decent prior to an 8th inning debacle in the first game of the Pacific series in which they allowed ten runs.

Friday SP - Trevor Fox (LHP, 3-4, 3.59 ERA, 46 IP, 16 BB's, 29 K's, .240 BA). Fox is a JC transfer who has pitched well in his first year in D1 ball. He has kept Davis in nearly every game and the only game that he really struggled in was against Oregon State. Crafty left with good control but not overpowering. Susceptible to SB's (7-9) and SAC bunts (8 SAC's allowed). Fullerton struggled in their previous 4 games against LHP's (ECU, USD, Long Beach) so runs could be difficult to come by.

Sat SP - Brad McAtee (RHP, 1-2, 4.65 ERA, 41 IP, 24 BB's, 27 K's, .313 BA). McAtee has bounced back and forth between a weekend SP spot and Tuesday SP spot. McAtee has struggled with his control last year (39 BB's in 49 IP) and this year. He has been pulled early in his last two starts against Riverside and Pacific (7 2/3 IP, 7 runs) so it wouldn't be a surprise if Davis used another SP, Bryan Evans (RHP, 1-4, 6.67 ERA, 30 IP, 12 BB's, 16 K's, .313 BA), who has alternated in this spot with McAtee. Evans has also struggled with his control, allowing 23 BB's/HBP's in 30 IP.

Sun SP - Jeff Reekers (RHP, 4-2, 3.86 ERA, 44 IP, 8 BB's, 11 K's, .271 BA). Reekers is also a JC transfer and was very effective in his three starts (5 R's allowed in winning each game, including holding Riverside to one run) prior to the Pacific series, when he struggled in allowing 5 R's in 6 2/3 IP, his first ineffective start since the opening series against Pepperdine. Reekers is an extreme ground ball and control pitcher (look at the BB and K numbers) and does a solid job holding baserunners (3-6 SB's).

Relievers - Davis has four primary relievers that they use, two that are working their way back into the mix after injuries. Those relievers had done a solid job prior to last Thursday's implosion against Pacific but Davis did get a good outing from one of them on Friday that led to the Aggies winning the series against Pacific. The two primary relievers for Davis have been Justin Fitzgerald (0-3, 4.74 ERA, 19 IP, 9 BB's, 13 K's, .224 BA, 3 saves), who had been effective this year before allowing 5 runs in the 8th inning against Pacific and seeing his ERA shoot up by two runs, and Scott Chew (LHP, 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 13 BB's, 13 K's, .304 BA), who is the only LHP who is used regularly out of the bullpen. Both have had control issues so that could come into play in the late innings. The two relievers working their way back from injuries are Eddie Gamboa (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 16 IP, 4 BB's, 6 K's, .283 BA; DNP in '06, 61 IP in '05), who has good control and had primarily been used for 1-2 innings at a time before last Friday (5 IP, 2 R's), and Nik Aurora (0-1, 8.59 ERA, 7 IP, 10 BB's, 4 K's, .300 BA) who has been limited to an inning per appearance before also allowing five runs along with Fitzgerald in the 8th inning implosion last Thursday. Aurora has struggled with his control so this could also be an issue if he is the game in the late innings.

OUTLOOK

Fullerton has won seven of their nine series this season and have only struggled against one opponent (ECU) with the other series loss against Irvine decided by a one run game in the bottom of the ninth. Despite losing the series to Irvine, although Davis did score 34 runs in three games against Pacific it doesn't look like Davis has the type of team that can expose Fullerton's defense the way that Irvine did with a little ball attack. If Davis keeps their pitching rotation in the same order, it would look like Fullerton has a slight advantage in the Friday game the way Roemer is pitching (although Fox has been solid and Fullerton has struggled against LHP), Fullerton should have a significant advantage in the Saturday game the way Kaplan is pitching (that is the #3 SP spot for the Aggies) and Davis has an advantage on Sunday with Urena struggling lately and struggling on the road and Reekers pitching well prior to last week. Davis has been playing well lately and will give Fullerton a battle but the Titans should win two out of three games this weekend.