Saturday - 6:00pm
Sunday - 1:00pm
Two of the premier college baseball programs in the country get together this weekend at Goodwin Field when the Stanford Cardinal take on the Cal State Fullerton Titans. The Cardinal are off to a good start this season after a convincing sweep of visiting Fresno State last weekend. Stanford dominated the Bulldogs in all facets of the game outscoring Fresno by a 27-5 margin. The Cardinal received production from top-to-bottom in the lineup, completely shut down the Fresno offense, and didn't commit a single error. Now comes a much more difficult test with a key non-conference series against the third-ranked Titans.
It's been quite a year for Cal State Fullerton. After a 15-16 start last season, the Titans caught fire en route to a sparkling 19-2 record in Big West play. The momentum carried over into the postseason with Fullerton reaching the College World Series and then bringing home the national title with a two games-to-none sweep of Texas in the championship series. After a whirlwind offseason of celebrations, the Titans get back to work this weekend with a series against their rivals from the Bay Area.
PROBABLE STARTING MATCHUPS
Friday : Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (LHP; 1-0, 1.80) vs. Cal State Fullerton- Ricky Romero (LHP; 14-4, 3.37 last season)
Saturday : Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (RHP; 1-0, 0.00) vs. Cal State Fullerton- Ryan Schreppel (LHP; 3-3, 6.03 last season)
Sunday : Stanford- Greg Reynolds (RHP; 0-0, 8.10) vs. Cal State Fullerton- Scott Sarver (LHP; 3-2, 2.65 last season)
WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH
* Ricky Romero : One of the top pitchers in the country, Ricky Romero gets the ball for the Titans on Friday night. Romero may have been a bit overshadowed last season by Jason Windsor (the ace for the Titans who went 13-4 with a 1.72 ERA and is now in professional baseball), but the junior lefty had a tremendous season worthy of All-American honors. After helping lead Fullerton to the title last spring, Romero moved on to the US National Team (where he was teammates with Romanczuk, Jed Lowrie, and John Mayberry, Jr.). Romero established himself as the ace of the Red, White, and Blue posting a 1.57 ERA in his five starts with over a strike out per inning pitched on average. Romero is a hard-thrower with a fastball that reaches the low 90's in velocity and has earned Preseason All-American recognition this year. There should be plenty of scouts on hand at Goodwin Field Friday night for what should be an outstanding pitching matchup of Romero vs. Romanczuk.
* John Hester : Look for John Hester to have plenty of opportunities to come through with big RBI hits this weekend. The junior catcher bats fifth in the order for Stanford behind Lowrie and Mayberry, Jr. and had an excellent first series of the year going 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and four RBI against Fresno State. Odds are that Titans Head Coach George Horton will do everything in his power not to let Lowrie or Mayberry beat him which means Hester should be coming up in key situations with guys on base. Horton was actually seen at Sunken Diamond last Sunday for the Cardinal-Bulldogs doubleheader, so he has a first-hand look of how well the duo on the right side of the infield is seeing the ball right now. The difference between a series win or loss this weekend could come down to whether Hester is able to come through in the clutch.
* The Bullpens : Like last weekend at Sunken Diamond, expect both teams to go to their bullpens early and often. Stanford starting pitchers will likely be allowed to go further than the 80-85 pitch limit from last weekend, but probably not by much. Meanwhile, the Titans are opening their season so you would expect Horton to be cautious with pitch counts for the time being. That means plenty of work for the relievers and that could be a good thing for Stanford after the bullpen combined to allow just one run in 12 2/3 innings last weekend (0.71 ERA). Fullerton returns nearly their entire bullpen from a year ago (granted, they didn't get much work on Friday's or Saturday's with Windsor and Romero going) to go with a couple of very promising freshman hurlers.
It was quite the opening weekend for the Cardinal as they posted victories of 12-1, 7-0, and 8-4 over Fresno State at Sunken Diamond. Reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Jed Lowrie had a huge series blasting three home runs and driving home seven as part of his 6-for-12 effort at the plate. Fellow Preseason All-American John Mayberry, Jr. also is off to a strong start after his 5-for-10, 4 RBI weekend. In addition, Stanford received a huge contribution from the player hitting in front of the dynamic duo in shortstop Chris Minaker. Minaker went a perfect 5-for-5 in the series-opener and finished with seven hits in his 12 at-bats.
While the offense was outstanding the opening weekend, the pitching was even better. With seven of their top nine pitchers returning from a year ago, it's expected that pitching will be the primary strength of this year's team. So far, so good in that department as the Cardinal staff combined to allow just five runs in the three games against Fresno. Mark Romanczuk overcame a shaky first inning to toss five quality frames in the opener with just one run and two hits allowed. Saturday starter Jeff Gilmore was the top pitcher of the weekend when he fired six shutout innings with only two hits surrendered and six K's. #3 man Greg Reynolds was roughed up a bit getting tagged for eight hits in his 3 1/3 innings, but he still only allowed three runs and left the game with the lead.
The Cardinal pitchers had their outstanding weekend despite the fact that expected closer Jeff Stimpson never saw any action. Stimpson was easily one of Stanford's top pitchers during fall ball and January intrasquad games which will increase his role on the team this year. As a freshman in 2004, Stimpson finished with a 4.68 ERA, but that number rapidly increased up to that mark in the final month of the year after a couple of rocky relief outings. Stimpson, in fact, through the last week of April, had an ERA of just 0.87 (20.2 IP, 11 H, 2 ER) while pitching some long relief and setting up for David O'Hagan. Stimpson and the other sophomore pitchers rapid improvement since the end of last season was documented in an article here on The Bootleg a few weeks ago : http://stanford.Scout.com/2/335136.html
Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Chris Lewis, LF (Jr., 2-for-12, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
2. Chris Minaker, SS (Jr., 7-for-12, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B (Jr., 6-for-12, 3 HR, 7 RBI)
4. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B (Jr., 5-for-10, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
5. John Hester, C (Jr., 6-for-14, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
6. Jim Rapoport, CF (So., 4-for-12, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
7. Michael Taylor, RF (Fr., 0-for-10, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
8. Ryan Seawell, DH (So., 1-for-5, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
9. Adam Sorgi, 3B (So., 3-for-10, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
Fri.- Mark Romanczuk, LHP (Jr., 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5.0 IP, 4 BB, 5 SO)
Sat.- Jeff Gilmore, RHP (Jr., 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 0 BB, 6 SO)
Sun.- Greg Reynolds, RHP (So., 0-0, 8.10 ERA, 3.1 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO)
Notes: Lewis started slow last weekend, but picked up two hits and an RBI in the series finale ... Minaker reached base safely ten times in the three games and scored a run nine of those times ... Lowrie's slugging percentage the opening weekend was a cool 1.250 ... Rapoport belted his first career home run in game three on Sunday evening ... He went 60 at-bats without a home run last season as a freshman ... Taylor had a tough first weekend of college baseball going hitless in 10 at-bats with three strike outs ... Seawell, a right-handed hitter, should see the bulk of the playing time at DH this weekend with the Titans scheduled to throw three lefties ... Ben Summerhays, who bats left-handed, will likely be inserted into the lineup in the later stages of the game if facing a tough right-handed pitcher ... Sorgi also hit his first home run of the season after not leaving the yard once as a freshman while playing part-time.
CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTES
The defending national champions open a new season of baseball this weekend armed with what should be another very strong team. The Titans lost their star hitter and star pitcher from a year ago, but nearly everyone else is back and ready to make another run at Omaha and a title. The primary hitter no longer with the team is All-American catcher Kurt Suzuki who hit .413 last year with 16 home runs and 87 RBI in winning the Johnny Bench Award. The pitcher is the aforementioned Jason Windsor who also racked up incredible numbers en route to First Team All-American and CWS Most Outstanding Player honors. Both Suzuki and Windsor are now playing in the Oakland Athletics organization.
At the plate, nine of Fullerton's regular 11 starters from a year ago are back. This will likely be a Titan team very similar to the 2003 bunch - not necessarily a lot of power, but everyone in the lineup has the ability to hit for a high average and that should result in one of the more high-scoring teams in the country. Fullerton is always a team that has guys that can get on base - whether it be by hit, walk, or HBP. Then when they get on base, there may not be a more proficient team in America of getting guys over, and then getting guys in. I would expect no different in 2005 as there is all kinds of talent in this starting lineup.
Junior left fielder Danny Dorn is now a three-year starter and will be one of the leaders on the team after a sophomore campaign in which he hit .318 with four homers and 59 RBI. Senior DH Felipe Garcia is the top returning hitter, average-wise, after an '04 campaign in which he hit .353 with six home runs and 50 RBI. Stanford fans should remember a couple of faces on the infield as well with junior second baseman Justin Turner (.304-0-34) and senior third baseman Ronnie Prettyman (.324-3-38) also back and ready to go. The Cardinal may catch a break this weekend as sophomore center fielder Clark Hardman has been suffering from a bad back of late. Hardman had a tremendous year last spring when he hit .341 in earning Freshman All-American honors.
Everyone knows about Ricky Romero and the expected big year he's supposed to have as the Fullerton ace. Junior left-hander Ryan Schreppel is penciled in as the Saturday starter to begin the season. Schreppel had an outstanding freshman year in 2003 when he went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA. Cardinal fans will remember Schreppel as the opening day starter last season at Sunken Diamond. The first pitch he threw sailed over Sam Fuld's head and when the dust had settled, Schreppel had allowed six runs (all earned) on just one hit with five walks in a very brief 1/3 of an inning. Injuries have always played a part in Schreppel's career at Fullerton, and he was never quite able to get completely on track last season in posting a 3-3 record with a 6.03 ERA (mainly out of the bullpen). He clearly though does not lack for talent as Schreppel could turn into one of the top left-handed pitchers in the country this season.
Another junior lefty in Scott Sarver will likely get the call on Sunday afternoon. Sarver made 19 appearances last season - 17 of which came in relief - and was a solid contributor on the Titans staff recording a 3-2 record and a 2.65 ERA. One of those two starts came in the CWS when Sarver fired six shutout innings against South Carolina in an elimination game that sent Fullerton to the Championship Series. Meanwhile, a freshman pitcher to keep an eye on this weekend is Jared Clark. Clark was one of the top high school hurlers in the country last year and may find himself in the starting rotation before it's all said and done.
The Titans are ranked third in Baseball America's preseason poll. This ranking is certainly justified considering all of the talent they have returning. The star power of Suzuki and Windsor are no longer here, but with all of the experienced hitters coming back, the Titans should not suffer much, if any, of a drop-off when it comes to scoring runs. And Romero is fully capable of stepping up and becoming one of the best pitchers in the country to replace Windsor. There are some minor question marks with the rest of the pitching staff as many pitchers will now have expanded roles, but like with Stanford, the Titans don't lack for talented players and thus another successful season, possibly ending with a trip to Omaha, should be in the cards.
Probable Starting Lineup: (statistics are from 2004)
C - John Curtis (So., .208, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
1B - Brett Pill (So., .313, 2 HR, 17 RBI)
2B - Justin Turner (Jr., .304, 0 HR, 34 RBI)
3B - Ronnie Prettyman (Sr., .324, 3 HR, 38 RBI)
SS - Neil Walton (Jr., .237, 0 HR, 15 RBI)
LF - Danny Dorn (Jr., .318, 4 HR, 59 RBI)
CF - Bobby Andrews (Jr., .325, 1 HR, 15 RBI)
RF - Sergio Pedroza (Jr., .333, 7 HR, 39 RBI)
DH - Felipe Garcia (Sr., .353, 6 HR, 50 RBI)
Fri.- Ricky Romero, LHP (Jr., 14-4, 3.37 ERA, 155.0 IP, 42 BB, 126 SO)
Sat.- Ryan Schreppel, LHP (Jr., 3-3, 6.03 ERA, 65.2 IP, 38 BB, 49 SO)
Sun.- Scott Sarver, LHP (Jr., 3-2, 2.65 ERA, 37.1 IP, 13 BB, 30 SO)
Notes: Turner has homered just once in his two-year Fullerton career and it was against Mark Romanczuk at the 2003 CWS ... Walton will likely split time at shortstop this year with Blake Davis (.295, 2 HR, 21 RBI in 2004) ... Prettyman led the Titans in stolen bases last year with 14 ... Dorn had a solid year last season, but was even better as a freshman in '03 when he hit .348 with seven homers ... Dorn is a Preseason Third Team All-American ... Andrews is the fastest player on the team and can play anywhere in the outfield ... Hardman, if he plays, has the best outfield throwing arm of anyone on this team and possibly the entire Big West Conference ... Pedroza is the leading returning home run hitter (seven in '04) and it's very possible he wouldn't even be starting if Hardman was in the lineup - just shows you how deep Fullerton's hitting is this season ... Garcia is a Preseason Third Team All-American.