Baseball Preview: Wichita State

Cal State Fullerton has dropped the last two Big West series they have played, at UC Riverside and at home to UCSB. Fullerton looks to break out of their slump this weekend in a non-conference series at Wichita State.

The Shockers (42-14 - they played seven games in Hawaii earlier this year) are one of the better opponents on Fullerton's schedule and Wichita State has been tough at home having won all six of their weekend series, going 14-4.

LINEUP

Wichita has a solid lineup with seven of hitters in the lineup hitting over .300. Four of Wichita's regulars (along with two semi-regulars) are LH hitters so Dustin Birosak and Paul Canedo could see quite a bit of work this weekend. Wichita has solid power, averaging almost an HR per game (48 in 56 games) along with 100 other extra base hits (83 2B's and 17 3B's). But, hitting the long ball isn't what Wichita does best because running is. Wichita has an astroturf infield (grass outfield) so speed is a big part of their game, both legging out hits into doubles and triples as well as stealing bases (97-120). Offensively, the opponent that Wichita is probably the most similar to in their approach at the plate is Irvine without the bunting (Wichita rarely bunts - 31 SAC bunts this year). Wichita's offensive is explosive when they get on a roll, scoring 6+ runs in 30 games, but much of that was against the softer teams on their schedule. The Shockers have struggled to score runs against the better teams on their schedule, being held to 4 runs or less in 12 of 20 games in weekend series against Pepperdine, Long Beach, Creighton and Evansville and midweek games against Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts, Kansas and Kansas State.

C - Tyler Weber (RH - .316 - 8 - 37 - 0) has started almost every game, usually bats 7th and has some pop in his bat (tied for team lead in HR's, with 7 of the 8 coming during conf play). Weber is a good defensive C both at blocking pitches (Wichita has allowed only 26 WP's and Weber has allowed 4 PB's) and at throwing out baserunners (29-50 SB's).

1B - Derek Schermerhorn (RH - .354 - 5 - 30 - 16) or Danny Jackson (RH - .319 - 4 - 22 - 1). Schermerhorn is one of the team's best hitters but injured an ankle last month and was out of the lineup prior to returning in the past week, with Jackson playing every game at 1B in his place and getting hot during conf play (.373 BA). Speed is a big part of Schermerhorn's game (team leader in SB's) so that will be limited by his ankle injury. Schermerhorn will bat 2nd and when Jackson plays, he hits 4th or 5th.

2B - Damon Sublett (LH - .372 - 4 - 38 - 11) is one of team's best hitters along with Schermerhorn. Sublett is a very good all around player - hitting, running, fielding - and is also thought highly of by MLB scouts as a pitcher (although he hasn't pitched much this year after having arm problems last year). Sublett is also very patient at the plate, leading the team in walks. He usually hits 3rd but sometimes leads off.

SS - Dusty Coleman (RH - .279 - 2 - 17 - 6) is in the lineup for his defense, not his bat. Usually bats 9th.

3B - Conor Gillaspie (LH - .332 - 5 - 47 - 8) is one of the main run producers, sharing the team lead in RBI's, and usually hits 4th or 5th in the middle of the order.

OF - Andy Dirks (LH - .311 - 2 - 21 - 12) and Tyler Hill (LH - .292 - 2 - 20 - 4) have been splitting time in LF, with Dirks getting more starts lately as he has heated up (.352 BA in conf games). Dirks also plays RF, has good speed and usually leads off when he is in the lineup. Hill usually hits 8th. Matt Brown (LH - .329 - 8 - 47 - 15) is usually in CF and is a very good all around player. He shares the team lead in HR's and RBI's and is 2nd in SB's. Brown also plays RF and usually bats in the middle of the lineup. Another CF who could see some playing time is Blake Hurlbutt (RH - .209 - 2 - 11 - 4).

DH - Josh Workman (LH - .266 - 4 - 22 - 10) has been the DH most of the season and usually hits in the lower part of the lineup. It wouldn't be a surprise if either Schermerhorn or Jackson were in the DH spot at least once this weekend.

PITCHING

Wichita has one of the best pitching staffs that Fullerton will see this season. All three SP's have good arms and the Shockers have a deep bullpen. The staff ERA is 2.66 and Wichita is averaging a K per IP (498 K's, 497 IP) while having good control (only 137 BB's) and being tough to hit (.226 BA). Wichita recently lost one of their SP's, Aaron Shafer, to an arm injury so there has had to be some juggling of roles on the pitching staff.

FRI SP - Travis Banwart (RHP - 8-3, 1.63 ERA, 13 starts, 83 IP, 65 H's, 22 BB's, 82 K's, .214 BA, 1 HR) is a tough customer. He has allowed 0 or 1 ER in 10 of his last 11 starts, has a power arm and also has good control. Banwart is also good at holding runners on (7-15 SB's). He is projected to go in the first couple of rounds in the draft next month. With the way Roemer and Banwart have been pitching lately, there don't figure to be many runs scored on Friday.

SAT SP - Rob Musgrave (LHP - 7-1, 2.89 ERA, 13 starts, 75 IP, 67 H's, 11 BB's, 50 K's, .234 BA, 6 HR's) is a control pitcher and more of a "crafty lefty". Good stuff but not overpowering. Musgrave has had some trouble with baserunners (7-10 SB's). He was the Sunday SP prior to Shafer's injury.

SUN SP - Anthony Capra (LHP - 4-0, 2.03 ERA, 18 apps, 4 starts, 49 IP, 41 H's, 21 BB's, 54 K's, .223 BA, 3 HR's) has more of a live arm than Musgrave but has struggled some with his control. Capra was moved into the weekend rotation two weeks ago, throwing well in his first start (5 shutout innings) but getting pulled early last Sunday (3 1/3 IP, 3 R's, 6 H's). He will be on a short leash and probably won't go too far into the game with the depth Wichita has in their bullpen.

Relievers - All of the guys that the Shockers will bringing in from the pen are tough to hit and will be throwing heat but they also have good control. The closer is Noah Krol (RHP - 1-1, 1.93 ERA, 9 saves, 17 apps, 23 IP, 13 H's, 5 BB's, 31 K's, .169 BA). The middle relievers most likely to be used in a close game are Noah Booth (LHP - 6-1. 0.88 ERA, 4 saves, 23 apps, 41 IP, 30 H's, 8 BB's, 34 K's, .205 BA); Kyle Touchatt (RHP - 2-1, 1.73 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 36 IP, 25 H's, 8 BB's, 45 K's, .192 BA); and Andy Womack (RHP - 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 7 apps, 15 IP, 5 H's, 3 BB's, 19 K's, .104 BA).

OUTLOOK

Fullerton's offense was productive last weekend against the mediocre pitching of UCSB but the pitchers didn't come through in the last two games of the series. The UCSB series was pretty much the exact opposite of the Riverside series, where the
pitchers came through for the most part but the hitters struggled all weekend. The series at Wichita looks likely to be similar to the Riverside series, where runs will be tough to come by for both sides if the other pitchers after Wes Roemer bounce back and throw the way they were prior to the UCSB series. George Horton has been less than complimentary of his team's play recently.
How will the team respond? The effort is likely to be there this weekend but the results might not be because this is a tough spot for Fullerton to try to get a series win. The likely result will be that the Shockers will take two of the three games from the Titans.