Baseball Preview: CSUN

Cal State Fullerton (38-15, 18-3) already had the Big West conference championship wrapped up going into last weekend's non-conference series with Santa Clara but the Titans didn't play like they didn't have anything to play for in sweeping the Broncos by scores of 8-0, 6-4 and 18-11.

Leading the way at the plate for against Santa Clara were Carlos Lopez (7-12, HR, 8 RBI), Corey Jones (6-9, HR, 5 RBI), Richie Pedroza (6-13, 2 RBI) and Tyler Pill (5-8, HR, RBI). The Titans won their fourth game in a row and 20th in their last 22 games on Tuesday night with a 5-2 victory against #7 UCLA to win both midweek games the teams have played this season. The win over UCLA could potentially have major implications when the NCAA announces the regional field next Monday. Fullerton is hitting .383 and averaging 9.4 runs per game during their 22 game run. Jones (16 games), Pill and Nick Ramirez (11 games) have lengthy hitting streaks going and Pedroza had his 16 game hitting streak snapped against UCLA. 

The starting pitching for Fullerton wasn’t quite as dominant against Santa Clara like it was the previous two weekends but they did more than enough to put the Titans in position to win all three games. Daniel Renken was solid on Saturday and won his eighth consecutive start in allowing four runs in eight innings but the highlight of the weekend was Noe Ramirez throwing eight shutout innings on Friday, allowing only four hits and no walks with 11 K’s, and he won the Big West pitcher of the week award, the third straight week that Fullerton has had a pitcher receive that week honor. The Titans will get ready for regional play by finishing their regular season this weekend at Goodwin Field with a Big West series against the Cal State Northridge Matadors.

Cal State Northridge (29-24, 9-12) thought they had a chance to be better after finishing next to last in the Big West in 2009 with an experienced roster returning both at the plate and on the mound. The Matadors have already clinched a winning record for the first time in Steve Rousey’s eight year tenure as the head coach and by winning a game this weekend can also get into double digits in conference wins for the first time under Rousey. Northridge was on a 10-2 run against the soft part of their non-conference schedule going into Big West play before receiving a dose of reality when they were swept at home by UC Irvine. The Matadors played inconsistently after the Irvine series and lost four of their next six series, including getting swept at Riverside two weeks ago, but Northridge has been on a roll recently in winning five of their last six games including a sweep last weekend at home of Long Beach State.

 

OUTLOOK

The long and winding road that has been the regular season for Fullerton reaches the finish line this weekend. The Titans started out about as poorly as possible by winning only seven of their first sixteen games. Fullerton has gone 31-6 since then by finishing up their non-conference schedule in strong fashion and dominating the Big West conference. The Titans are going to have to make sure they don’t overlook Northridge this weekend because they still have a chance of securing one of the eight national seeds.

Northridge brings an offense into Goodwin Field that has the potential to create all sorts of problems for the Fullerton pitching staff. The Matadors have been red hot at the plate and have scored 53 runs the last six games. However, because Northridge has several hitters that are prone to striking out they are also vulnerable to being shut down like they were in series losses to Irvine, Riverside, Pacific and Bakersfield when they averaged barely over three runs per game. Northridge’s offense also usually hasn’t been as good away from their home ballpark.

Fullerton’s offense has been on fire over the last 22 games and even in the two games that they lost during that stretch the team scored ten runs each time. Northridge pitched well against Long Beach last weekend but over the course of the season they have tended to give up runs in bunches. The Matadors also play poor defense and with the way that the Titans have been hitting, that isn’t a good combination.

The key to this weekend is going to be the approach that Fullerton takes to this series. Northridge has only gone 2-7 against the Titans the last three years but three of the losses were by one or two runs so the Matadors have been competitive most of the time. If Fullerton comes out flat they will have their hands full and Northridge will give them trouble. If the Titans come out with the focus that they have shown over the last two months then Fullerton should win what looks like it could be a high scoring series between two of the best offenses in the Big West.