Top-ranked Cal State Fullerton struck the first blow in the battle for West Coast supremacy last night, beating No. 3 Arizona State 7-5 in Tempe. Senior first baseman Jared Clark homered and doubled for the Titans, and freshman lefthander/DH Nick Ramirez pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Kyle Witten.
"The line score doesn’t really show it, but I think Coach (Pat) Murphy would probably agree with me: I don’t think it was the most well-played game of the season," Fullerton coach Dave Serrano said today. "Both teams made mistakes, we gave them too many free passes—we walked six guys, but we were able to overcome that."
The Titans will send sophomore lefty Kevin Rath to the mound tonight and try for the two-game sweep. Serrano said he’s been thrilled by Rath’s development in recent weeks. Rath did not make CSF’s 11-game road trip last month, instead staying in Fullerton to work on his command, but he pitched well against Oral Roberts last week. At 6-foot-6, Rath gets good downward plane on his 87-89 mph fastball and complements it with a very good changeup, a solid curveball and a little slider.
"He’s a future star in this program," Serrano said. "He has the right mentality, and he’s a strapping lefthanded pitcher with three pitches. I’m really anxious to see him pitch tonight. He’ll be a guy who comes out of the bullpen and he’ll be a good fifth starter for us. Of all the pitching staffs I’ve been around, here and at UC Irvine and at Tennessee, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pitching staff that has five legitimate starters throughout the course of a season. If we can continue to develop Kevin, it bodes well for us this year and in the future."
Check tomorrow’s Weekend Preview for more on the Titans and their showdown with UC Irvine. In the meantime, let’s hit the mailbag:
Hawaii has to have the best team in the WAC right now and has some young arms that are going to be great in the future. With a very tough strength of schedule and winning the Rose City invitational with wins over a good Portland team, Oregon and Washington, I think (Hawaii) will sneak up in the WAC. (Hawaii also) won three of four from Mississippi State. If you look at the Irvine series, Hawaii lost three games by one run and it was first series for a young squad. The numbers for the pitching staff aren’t the greatest, but they are getting it done and these arms are young and will only get better. Freshman Matt Sisto has two quality wins against Irvine and Oregon. I think this is a team who should nail down a 3 seed in the regionals and possibly take down a 2 seed.
After winning three of four against a very good Coastal Carolina team, Hawaii is on track to make a serious run at a No. 2 regional seed. Boyd’s World currently ranks Hawaii’s schedule as the eighth-toughest in the nation and ranks the Rainbows eighth in the Ratings Percentage Index. Those numbers will drop in Western Athletic Conference play, but Hawaii’s nonconference work (which also includes a four-game sweep over a suddenly hot Loyola Marymount team) should be enough to earn a No. 2 seed if the Rainbows can win the WAC. Overall, Hawaii is 16-9 heading into this weekend’s WAC-opening series against San Jose State.
"If you look at our league and how some of us schedule, there are different philosophies," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said. "Ours has been to try to schedule nonconference games as difficult as we can. That way if we can finish in the top couple in the league but not necessarily win it, it’ll put us in position to maybe get an at-large bid, RPI-wise. It’s still going to come down to finishing in the top of our league. In ’06, that’s the formula we used: We finished second to Fresno State, but our RPI was 35 or 36, and we got in. It’s funny, while we’ve played a good schedule and we’re hanging in there, there’s more there for us if we can just play a little more consistently across the board. "
Hawaii’s offense, in particular, has been very inconsistent. Other than junior third baseman Vinnie Catricala (.355/.435/.548 with three homers and 20 RBIs), no Rainbow has a .300 or better average, and the team is hitting .245 overall. But the middle of the lineup still has some players who can punish opponents for making mistakes in freshman center fielder Kolten Wong (five homers), senior catcher Landon Hernandez (three homers) and junior first baseman Kevin Macdonald (three homers). Wong, who also can play catcher, became the first Hawaii player to hit three homers in a game at Les Murakami Stadium, against Loyola Marymount last month.
"I thought their lineup was pretty balanced," said a coach of one team who has played Hawaii. "They’re a little older, and they’ve got three hitters in the middle. That lefthanded hitter, Wong, he’s real. He takes a real swing at the baseball—it’s a good hack. Those 3, 4 and 5 hitters are bigger, thicker guys. They can be pitched to, but you can’t make a mistake to them. They’re older, they know how to guess hit. On the mound, I thought their starters were good, not great, but they all threw strikes."
The Rainbows were without their No. 2 starter, Nate Klein (0-1, 4.21), against the Chanticleers due to a forearm muscle strain, but they hope to have him back against the Spartans this weekend. The projected ace, senior lefthander Jared Alexander (0-1, 4.58), has slowly worked his way back from an elbow injury that caused him to miss the last month of last season. He’s a mid-80s, sinker/slider guy with competitive streak, and Trapasso said he’s close to being back to top form.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 righthander Sisto (3-1, 3.69) and 6-foot senior righty Jayson Kramer (1-3, 3.60) have been pleasant surprises in the rotation. The strike-throwing Sisto missed all of his senior year of high school with a forearm injury, and while he still hasn’t returned to his former high-80s velocity, he has mixed four pitches effectively and shown great poise, according to Trapasso.
And sophomore lefthander Sam Spangler (4-0, 1.59 with 24 strikeouts and four walks in 23 innings) has emerged as a legitimate power-armed bullpen anchor to complement sophomore righthander Josh Slaats, who also has power stuff.
"He’s a high-80s, low-90s lefty," Trapasso said of Spangler. "He’s in the zone, down in the zone this year—he’s been a work in progress. He’s really come on for us."
With a pitching staff good enough to keep them in games and a much-improved defense fielding at a .979 clip, the Rainbows look poised to make a run at 13-11 Fresno State in the WAC. But Trapasso’s not getting ahead of himself.
"Obviously it’s wide open," he said. "Looking how Fresno’s done in this early season, I’ve learned not even to look at that, because Mike (Batesole) does such a good job getting his guys ready to go in the second half. There have been a lot of years they’ve looked vulnerable early and turned it on in the second half. And San Jose and New Mexico State (25-3) have great records.
"We’ve got a long way to go."
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog