Baseball Preview: Arizona

After an outstanding 5-0 week that included sweeps of UCLA and Southern Miss, Cal State Fullerton lost to San Diego 6-2 on Tuesday and travels to Tucson this weekend to face the Arizona Wildcats, who are one of the top teams in the country and are ranked 1st or 2nd in every major poll.

Arizona won 2 of 3 games in a tough series to open the season at Georgia and has followed that up by outscoring their opponents 103-27 in winning eight straight games, although those games were against questionable competition (Sac State, UNLV, South Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas A&M-CC).

LINEUP

Arizona has a very experienced lineup that returns 8 of 9 starters from last season when they hit .306 and averaged 7 RPG so it is no surprise that the Wildcats have gotten off to a good start at the plate. Arizona is hitting .339 as a team, averaging over 10 RPG and about 2 HR's per game. Arizona doesn't need to rely solely on slugging to score runs because they are also patient at the plate, averaging over 6 BB's/HBP's per game, and can run, averaging about 2 SB's per game. They don't play much little ball with bunting except at the bottom of the lineup because they haven't needed to. This is a very well rounded lineup.

The dimensions at Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium are spacious down the lines (360 ft), relatively short to the power alleys (378 ft) and standard (400 ft) to CF. Due to Tucson being over 2000 feet above sea level, the park factors on scoring (according to Boyd's World) significantly favor hitters, especially when the weather warms up and the ball travels well.

If Arizona has a weakness as a team, it is their fielding. The Wildcats were an average fielding team last year, making 78 E's with a .966 fielding %, but this year they have been poor defensively, making 20 E's for a .952 fielding %. The weakest links defensively, and something that Fullerton will look to exploit with how often the Titans bunt, are the corner infielders. 3B Dillon Baird has made 6 E's and 1B C.J. Ziegler has made 3 E's. Arizona is solid up the middle and at C. All three OF's for Arizona have good range and cover ground well.

Infield

Dwight Childs (RH - .182-0-3-0) and Daniel Butler (RH – 1-8) share the catching position with Childs getting most of the starts (7 of 11 games) after being the starter for most of the time last year (.232 avg. in 52 starts) after Butler got hurt. Childs is a little better defensively (3-4 SB's against this year, 29-42 SB's against last year) which is why he is usually in the lineup. Neither is the lineup for their bat and whoever is starting will bat 9th. They combined to go 0-8 last year against Fullerton.

Ziegler plays 1B most of the time and has gotten off to a monster start (LH - .333-8-19-0) after being one of Arizona's main power hitters last year (.355-13-63). Ziegler will be batting 3rd and must be pitched to carefully. Ziegler is patient at the plate (32 BB's last year, 11 this year) and hit 1-9 against Fullerton last year. Brad Glenn (RH - .206-0-5-0) can also play 1B but is usually the DH, batting 5th. Glenn is a 3 year starter (.333-10-62-9 last year) but has gotten off to a very slow start. Glenn is a patient hitter (44 BB's/HBP's last year, 11 this year) and is 3-17 against Fullerton in his career.

Colt Sedbrook (RH - .405-2-10-2) has played all over the infield during his three seasons at Arizona but has settled in at 2B and the 7th spot in the lineup this year and gotten off to a hot start. Sedbrook is a hard-nosed player who is the school's career leader in HBP's and is 3-11 against Fullerton in his career. FR Bryce Ortega (RH - .389-0-2-2) has moved into the lineup the last six games at SS and is the #8 hitter, replacing last year's starter Robert Abel, who is one of the faster runners on the team (6-6 SB's this year, 21-23 last year) but has struggled defensively at SS (15 E's last year, 2 E's in 5 starts this year). JC transfer Baird (LH - .408-2-12-0) is the 3B and has also gotten off to a hot start and is the cleanup hitter.

Outfield

Diallo Fon (LH - .536-2.9-0) was a part-time player last year (.300-2-13-10) but has started to live up to his potential this year (he was ranked in the top 100 in his HS SR class) as he has gotten healthy after some injury problems earlier in his career. Fon is the leadoff hitter and has been the table setter for the lineup with a blazing start. T.J. Steele (RH - .311-3-10-2) is a 3 year starter in CF (.323-7-47-21 last year) with good speed and hits 6th. Steele is 4-18 against Fullerton in his career. RF Jon Gaston (LH - .310-3-13-4) hits 2nd and is another 3 year starter (.319-6-33-12 last year). Gaston is 5-19 against Fullerton in his career.

PITCHING

In addition to having a talented lineup, Arizona also has a deep and talented but occasionally inconsistent pitching staff. Arizona allowed 18 runs in winning the series at Georgia and 19 runs in sweeping Sac State in Tucson before allowing ZERO runs in winning all 3 games in Texas A&M-CC's tournament last weekend.

Starters

Friday – Preston Guilmet (RHP – 2-1, 2.84 ERA, 3 starts, 19 IP, 17 H's, 3 BB's, 26 K's) was the Pac 10's Pitcher of the Year last year (12-2, 1.87 ERA, 135 IP, 100 H's, 34 BB's, 146 K's) so he is obviously a quality pitcher. He was roughed up at Georgia (4 IP, 8 R's, 4 ER) in his first start but in his next two starts he has allowed 3 R's (2 ER) with 0 BB's and 23 K's. Guilmet was outstanding at Fullerton last year, going 7 2/3 IP and allowing 5 H's, 1 unearned run and 1 BB with 9 K's.

Saturday - David Coulon (LHP – 3-0, 2.45 ERA, 3 starts, 18,1 IP, 13 H's, 4 BB's, 26 K's) has been outstanding in two of his starts, holding Georgia to 1 R in 5 1/3 IP and shutting out Texas A&M-CC for 8 innings. Coulon has a live arm and is one of the highest rated SR's for the draft in June but has been inconsistent during his first three seasons due to trouble with his control, which has been better this year. He was a part-time SP last year, going 4-3, 4.98 ERA in 17 games (10 starts) allowing 69 H's and 40 BB's with 62 K's in 69 IP. Fullerton has seen quite a bit of Coulon in relief the last couple of years – 8 IP, 6 H's, 4 R's, 5 BB's, 10 K's.

Sunday – Ryan Perry (1-0, 4.00 ERA, 4 starts, 18 IP, 15 H's, 4 BB's, 14 K's) struggled in his first three starts (one a midweek start) before putting things together last Sunday against Notre Dame (7 IP, 2 H's, 0 R's, 0 BB's, 7 K's). Perry throws hard with a fastball in the mid 90's and is one of the highest rated JR's for the draft in June but has been inconsistent during his career. Last year he was a middle reliever and midweek starter, going 0-2, 6.35 ERA in 14 games (7 starts), allowing 47 H's and 13 BB's with 35 K's in 34 IP as he struggled in returning from an off-season motorcycle accident.

Relievers

As talented as the starting rotation is for Arizona, the relievers might be even more talented. The closer is hard throwing Jason Stoffel (RHP - 5 apps, 5 saves, 1.23 ERA, 7.1 IP, 6 H's, 2 BB's, 9 K's), who has been lights out this year. He had a very good FR season last year, going 5-0, 1.87 ERA with 5 saves in 26 apps, allowing 41 H's and 13 BB's with 55 K's. The setup man has a familiar last name for NFL fans (an article on that topic - http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=3288258) – Daniel Schlereth (LHP – 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 7 apps, 8.2 IP, 6 H's, 5 BB's, 15 K's). Schlereth was the closer for Arizona last year, going 3-1, 2.68 ERA with 8 saves in 24 apps with 37 IP, 28 H's and 27 BB's with 47 K's. Schlereth is another hard thrower but has struggled with his control at Arizona due to having some injury issues. He was an 8th round draft pick last year as a 3rd year soph but decided to return for his JR season.

LHP Eric Berger figures to be more of a factor as the season goes on as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, which forced him to take a medical redshirt last year. Despite that, he was a 9th round draft pick based on how he pitched during his first two seasons. Berger is 1-0, 3.00 ERA in 4 apps with 6 IP, allowing 6 H's and 4 BB's with 7 K's. RHP Mike Colla is 1-0, 3.75 ERA, 4 apps, 12 IP, 15 H's, 6 BB's, 8 K's and split time between the rotation and the bullpen last year (3-3, 5.20 ERA, 16 apps, 7 starts, 55 IP, 66 H's, 24 BB's, 45 K's). He has been hit hard by Fullerton, allowing 11 H's and 8 R's in 4 IP. RHP Cory Burns is 1-0, 4.15 ERA, 3 apps, 4.1 IP, 5 H's, 2 BB's, 6 K's and was a solid middle reliever last year (3-1, 3.62 ERA in 26 apps with 2 saves in 27 IP, 27 H's, 10 BB's, 28 K's).

OUTLOOK

Kindall/Sancet is hardly a welcome location for visiting teams as Arizona went 28-4 at home last season and 5-0 to start this season. If Arizona is firing on all cylinders at the plate and on the mound, it will be very difficult for Fullerton to win this series. Fullerton has pitched well against Arizona the last two seasons with many of the same players in the lineup for the Wildcats, going 5-1 in allowing 14 runs in six games. The Titans are going to have to get better and more consistent starting pitching and put pressure on Arizona's defense to make mistakes and take advantage of those mistakes if Fullerton is going to have a chance at winning this series.