Preview: UC Irvine Pitching

Irvine's pitching staff has a team ERA of 5.03 and has not been as strong as it was last season when the Anteaters ranked third nationally with a team ERA of 3.27. Irvine's weekend starters have been very good with an ERA of 3.12 and they have one of the best closers in the country.

Where the Anteaters have had major problems is with their middle relievers, who have a collective ERA of 8.09.  The sooner that Fullerton can get into the Irvine bullpen, the more success the Titans are likely to have.

Starters

Friday – JR Daniel Bibona (LHP – 4-1, 2.77 ERA, 6 starts, 39 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 47 K, .221 BA, 3 HR) was the Sunday SP last year (2008 – 9-3, 3.08 ERA, 102 IP, 97 H, 21 BB, 97 K, .257 BA, 6 HR) and has thrived as the #1 SP.  He has had two starts in which he allowed only 1 H (Hawaii, Nevada) and has had only one bad outing, when Texas A&M wore him down in the 6th inning (5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R).   Bibona held down a good hitting Cal Poly team last weekend, allowing 2 R's in the first but nothing else in 7 IP in which he allowed only 1 BB to a very patient team with 8 K's.  Bibona has very good control, with an average fastball in the 86-88 range but his out pitches are his outstanding curveball and changeup.  He is tough to run on and allowed 10-19 SB's last year and 2-7 SB's this season.  Bibona pitched a strong 5 innings against Fullerton last season before allowing 1 R in the 6th and 3 R's in the 7th in the series deciding game (6 2/3 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 6 K).

Saturday – JR Christian Bergman (RHP – 3-1, 2.79 ERA, 6 starts, 42 IP, 40 H, 6 BB, 25 K, .250 BA, 5 HR) was a big reason why Irvine had one of the better pitching staffs in the country last year as a middle reliever who ended up being 1st team all-conference (2008 – 5-2, 1.94 ERA, 25 apps, 60 IP, 59 H, 16 BB, 37 K, .263 BA, 3 HR).  He was outstanding last weekend against Cal Poly and shut out the Mustangs for eight innings (8 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K).  Bergman has had only one poor start (Tulane – 7 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R) and has kept Irvine in the game in each of his other starts.  He has good control and is not overpowering with a fastball in the upper 80's and a sinker-slider mix to get lots of ground balls.  Bergman is very tough to run on, allowing only 3-13 SB's last season and 1-5 SB's this year.  He has allowed 4 R's on 8 H's in 6 IP in three career appearances against Fullerton.

Sunday – Soph Crosby Slaught (RHP – 2-0, 4.08 ERA, 6 starts, 29 IP, 36 H, 9 BB, 25 K, .319 BA, 1 HR) has done a decent job of keeping Irvine in games in his starts, although he has only gotten past the fifth inning in two of six starts and past the sixth inning once.  He was a middle reliever last season (2008 – 1-1, 4.17 ERA, 17 apps, 23 IP, 32 H, 13 BB, 15 K, ,348 BA, 1 HR).  Slaught struggled against Cal Poly last weekend and allowed 5 R's and 9 H's in 4 IP.  He is the hardest thrower of the three SP's with a fastball that touches 90 but he doesn't have the off-speed pitches that the other two SP's have.  Slaught has a good pickoff move with 2 pickoffs but has allowed baserunners to go 4-4 on SB's.  He allowed 3 R's in 2 IP in his only appearance against Fullerton last season.

Relievers

JR Eric Pettis (RHP – 2-0, 3.10 ERA, 7 saves, 11 apps, 20 IP, 21 H, 1 BB, 21 K, .273 BA, 3 HR) has been one of the nation's best closers the last two seasons, ranking 2nd in saves this year after finishing 3rd last season (2008 – 4-3, 2.62 ERA, 17 saves, 31 apps, 45 IP, 37 H, 20 BB, 50 K, .224 BA, 1 HR) when he was 1st team all-conference.  Pettis isn't a one inning closer and is capable of going several innings after being a SP as a FR.  He isn't a hard thrower, with a fastball in the upper 80's, but has outstanding control and pounds the strike zone with a sinker-slider mix.  Pettis was the winning pitcher in the extra inning Saturday game last year against Fullerton when he allowed 2 R (1 ER) on 5 H in 4 IP.      

The middle relief has been anything but for Irvine this season, with occasional good performances followed by bad outings.  None of the middle relievers has an ERA under 6.00.  The only LHP in the bullpen is SR Noel Avison (2-0, 6.17 ERA, 10 apps, 1 start, 12 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 8 K, .347 BA 1 HR), who allowed 3 R on 8 H in 4 IP in his start Tuesday at LMU.  The other relievers are Soph Corey Hamilton (RHP – 0-1, 6.04 ERA, 11 apps, 3 starts, 23 IP, 18 H, 19 BB, 22 K, .228 BA, 1 HR), who is one of the harder throwers among this group but has had major control issues; SR Brock Bardeen (RHP – 4-0, 7.50 ERA, 8 apps, 18 IP, 25 H, 8 BB, 14 K, .347 BA, 1 HR), who kept Irvine in the game by allowing 1 R on 5 H in 3 IP last Sunday against Cal Poly; SR Matt Dufour (RHP – 0-0, 9.18 ERA, 11 apps, 17 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 17 K, .333 BA, 1 HR); Soph Nick Hoover (RHP – 0-2, 12.27 ERA, 7 apps, 2 starts, 11 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 11 K, .347 BA, 2 HR); JR Kyle Necke (RHP – 0-2, 12.00 ERA, 3 apps, 3 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K, .400 BA, 2 HR).