Baseball looking toward Omaha

Fullerton, Calif. -- Coming off a disappointing season by incredibly high Titan standards, the Cal State Fullerton Baseball team hopes to rebound from an off year and play their way into a 16th trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

Although the Titans did make it to Omaha last year - via an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament - they finished a substandard 38-25 overall, with a paltry 10-11 record in conference play.

One difference that Titan fans hope will make a positive impact is the addition of new Head Coach Dave Serrano. Serrano left a much-improved University of California Irvine program in the off-season to replace former Titan Head Coach George Horton, who decided to leave the program after 19 successful years in a Titan uniform as a player, assistant and head coach.

Whenever there is a change in coaching regimes, there is always a fear of how the transition will affect the players, but Serrano said he feels his familiarity with the program and Horton's style has made the transition a smooth one.

"A great coaching staff left and probably devastated a lot of these kids, but I think as time has gone by, I think the kids are realizing they're going to be OK," Serrano said. "We didn't assemble this team, but we are very fortunate as a coaching staff of the team that we've inherited."

A possible obstacle the Titans will face is replacing former standout pitcher Wes Roemer. He won 11 games with a 3.19 ERA for the Titans last year. It is hoped that senior Jeff Kaplan, who also won 11 games last year, will be able to fill the void left by Roemer's departure.

"[I want to] keep proving to everyone else that I'm good enough to pitch here and good enough to pitch at the next level," Kaplan said. "I just want to prove that I'm good enough to be a major league pitcher."

As if replacing Roemer wasn't challenging enough, the Titans have huge offensive gaps to fill because John Curtis, Clark Hardman and Evan McArthur, all starters and major Titan contributors last year, are no longer with the program.

The return of Jared Clark, who sat out last year due to injury, should help fill the void, but the Titans will need more. Returning players, such as infielders Corey Jones and Joel Weeks, will be looked to for bigger production and freshmen Gary Brown and Christian Colon are expected to step in and make a big impact for the team immediately.

One thing Titan fans can look forward to this season is an aggressive style of play. Greg Bergeron, an Assistant Coach who came over from UCI with Serrano, will be manning the third-base box. He said he looks forward to forcing the issue on the base path.

"We're going to steal bases, try and be aggressive and try to put pressure on the opposing team's defense," Bergeron said. "It will be an opportunistic offense to where if the other team makes mistakes, hopefully, we'll be able to capitalize on them."

Something new to the baseball calendar this year is a revamped schedule, which has a later start date than usual and more games played in a shorter amount of time. As many as five games may be scheduled in each week. Combine that with travel and schoolwork and the season could get hectic, but Serrano feels the team will be able to handle it.

"We try to create a great atmosphere for them to play in and develop individually and as a team," Serrano said. "I'm excited about their commitment on a daily basis -- not just as baseball players, but the commitment they've already shown in the first semester of their grades."

Titan Baseball kicks off the new year with the Alumni Game on Sunday at Goodwin Field, with pregame festivities due to start at 11 a.m. Their first regular season game is Feb. 22nd against Texas Christian University.