Baseball Preview: Pacific

After bouncing back from their first Big West series loss at home in five years by winning all four games last week against USC and UC Davis, Cal State Fullerton will look to take that momentum into their series against Pacific (9-28-1, 0-6), who was swept last weekend at UCSB.

After winning 30 games each of the past two years, it has been an ugly season in Stockton for Ed Sprague's team both on the field with injuries and several long losing streaks (4+ games on four separate occasions) and off of the field with the suspension of several players in January. Pacific's troubles have been magnified on the road, where the Tigers have gone 2-17 away from Klein Family Field.

LINEUP

Pacific has struggled offensively on the road, scoring four runs or less in 13 of 19 away games. Pacific ranks last in the conference in batting average (.267) but is 2nd in walks (143) and 3rd in K's (249), so the Tigers will be taking lots of pitches and working the count. Pacific doesn't have much power (24 HR's), except for two players who have accounted for half of their HR's. Small ball isn't part of what Pacific does as they are next to last in the conference in SAC bunts and last in the conference by a wide margin in SB's. Their best player in both of those areas (Joey Centanni) is out for the season. Pacific has also struggled defensively this season, ranking next to last in the conference in fielding % and have already made 78 E's that have contributed to 55 unearned runs.

C's - Joe Oliveira (RH - .310 - 1 - 15 - 5) has started most of the time behind the plate. Oliveira has good speed for a catcher, usually bats leadoff and also plays OF when not catching. He is average at blocking pitches (33 WP's/PB's) and decent at throwing out baserunners (23-33 SB's). Mike Walker (LH - .246 - 1 - 15 - 0) has also started to get some time behind the plate after Kurt Wideman had backed up Oliveira earlier this season.

Infield - 1B Kurt Wideman (RH - .226 - 5 - 15 - 0), 2B Zach Chamberlin (LH - .291 - 3 - 25 - 2), SS Denis Hill (RH - .111 - 0 - 6 - 0) and 3B Justin Baum (RH - .378 - 7 - 28 - 2) are the primary infielders. Wideman usually hits 5th or 6th and is an all (5 HR's) or nothing (28 K's) hitter. Brett Manning (LH - .222 - 0 - 3 - 0) might also see some action at 1B. Chamberlin was converted from RF to 2B recently due to the season ending injury to Adam Ching. Chamberlin usually bats 4th or 5th and is one of the better all around hitters for Pacific (5-12, 6 RBI's last week at UCSB) but has struggled defensively with the transition from RF. Hill has taken over at SS and is decent defensively but a liability at the plate and bats 9th. He will usually bunt with runners on base (5 SAC's). Baum hits 3rd in the lineup and is easily the best hitter on the team and needs to be pitched to carefully, which other teams have done (Baum leads the team with 27 BB's). After a good FR season (.332 - 17 - 45) in which he made several FR All-American lists and a poor soph season (.214 - 12 - 46) except for his power numbers, Baum is having an outstanding season at the plate. However, Baum is a poor fielder (14 E's) so he could be tested often by the Fullerton hitters on bunts.

Outfield/DH - With Chamerblin switched to 2B and the season ending injury to Centanni (who was also a SP), that has opened up playing time for others in the OF. John Joines (RH - .260 - 1 - 10 - 0) has been in CF most of the time since Centanni went out of the lineup and usually bats 7th or 8th. The corner OF's lately have been Greg Murray (RH - .250 - 3 - 11 - 0) and Matt Fuson (RH - .254 - 1 - 8 - 0) and Oliveira when he's not catching. Murray has some pop in his bat (2nd on the team in slugging %) and usually bats 6th or 7th. Fuson usually bats 8th. The DH has often been Jason Haar (LH - .232 - 2 - 8 - 0) who also pitches and recently Noah St. Urbain has gotten some time in the lineup (2-17 this season before going 3-9 at UCSB) due to the injuries that Pacific has had.

PITCHING

Pacific has been mediocre at the plate but their pitching has been terrible, ranking last in the conference in opps BA (.330), ERA (5.82) and runs allowed (272) by a wide margin. The Tigers have allowed 5+ runs in 14 of their 19 away games. Injuries and suspensions have taken their toll on the pitching staff with one of their SP's suspended prior to the season and Centanni, their best SP, being shut down last month for the rest of the year due to a shoulder injury.

FRI SP - David Rowse (LHP - 2-5, 6.65 ERA, 11 starts, 66 IP, 25 BB's, 40 K's, .312 BA) had a string of four straight solid starts in the middle of the season but in the last three weeks he has been bombed (15 IP, 29 H's, 24 R's, 20 ER's). Rowse's control is iffy (also has allowed 16 HBP's) and he is prone to giving up extra base hits (17, including 6 HR's). Rowse started their midweek game against San Jose State this week so he will probably be pushed back in the rotation this weekend. He does ok at holding baserunners (7-10 SB's, 2 pickoffs).

SAT SP - Hunter Carnevale (RHP - 2-4, 4.83 ERA, 11 starts, 60 IP, 21 BB's, 28 K's, .331 BA) pitched last Sunday at UCSB (after starting on Sat's for most of the season) so he might be left there with one of the other pitchers going on Sat. Carnevale has been Pacific's most effective pitcher recently, allowing 3 runs in three of his last six starts, including the best start of the weekend at UCSB (6 IP, 6 H's, 3 R's). He has good control but has also been prone to allowing extra base hits (22, including 6 HR's). Carnevale does a poor job of holding runners (9-11 SB's).

SUN SP - As you can imagine with the results for the Pacific pitching staff, this has been a problem for the Tigers. The latest to try his luck was Jason Haar (RHP - 1-2, 6.18 ERA, 2 starts, 13 apps, 28 IP, 11 BB's, 18 K's, .314 BA), who allowed 14 R's (9 ER) in 9 2/3 IP against UC Davis and UCSB. Curtis Pasma (LHP - 0-3, 5.02 ERA, 4 starts, 18 apps, 38 IP, 13 BB's, 35 K's, .297 BA) had a solid midweek start last week against Hawaii (7 2/3 IP, 3 R's) so it wouldn't be a surprise if he ended up starting one of the games this weekend. David Hovey (RHP, 1-1, 9.82 ERA, 15 IP, 4 BB's, 3 K's, .394 BA) and Jake Wild (RHP, 1-5, 6.12 ERA, 32 IP, 17 BB's, 25 K's, .338 BA) have combined for three starts since Centanni's injury and neither was the answer as they combined for 7 IP in those three starts, allowing 17 R's.

Relievers - Pacific's bullpen has struggled as much as their starters have, with the crowning achievement when they allowed 14 runs to UCLA in the 8th inning of their second game after Pacific won the first game against the Bruins. Hovey and Wild will be in the bullpen this weekend along with either Haar or Pasma. Other RHP's besides Haar, Hovey and Wild are Andrew Mintun (5 apps, 6 IP, 3.00 ERA), Casey Neimeyer (5 apps, 5 IP, 3.38 ERA) and Erik Hamren (7 apps, 5 IP, 9.00 ERA). LHP's in the bullpen would be Manning (6 apps, 7 IP, 7.71 ERA) and Isaac Kamai (9 apps, 7 IP, 9.82 ERA).

OUTLOOK

Fullerton's offense has been productive since coming back from their weekend off in the middle of March, scoring 6+ runs in 10 of 13 games. It doesn't look like that trend will change with the way that Pacific has been pitching and playing defense. Despite the SP problems on Sundays, Fullerton's pitching staff has allowed four runs or less in 9 of 13 games. With the way that Pacific has struggled offensively on the road, it doesn't look like that trend will change, either. Fullerton has completely dominated Pacific, sweeping the series the last four years and going 23-1 against the Tigers over the last seven years. It would be very difficult to predict anything but a sweep for Fullerton this weekend.