By Dave Perkin
FULLERTON, Calif.—Cal State Fullerton received its second consecutive loss to open the 2010 campaign, losing to Pepperdine 6-0 at Goodwin Field on Saturday night. Ranked No. 4 in the nation entering the season, the Titans have started 0-2 at home for the first time since the 1987 season. Fullerton lost to Oregon on Friday night, 7-3.
Pepperdine starter Matt Bywater, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound junior, pitched brilliantly in notching a complete-game shutout. The crafty lefty allowed just four hits, walked two, and struck out 10.
Bywater cleverly mixes pitches, speeds and locations and deftly kept the Titan hitters off balance all night. Bywater’s 88-89 mph fastball runs, sinks and dips. His low-70s curve and high-70s change magically disappear downward at the last instant. Without warning, Bywater will suddenly slip a high fastball past a startled opponent.
If the second inning were erased, Fullerton starter Noe Ramirez matched Bywater. In his other five innings of work, the sophomore righty allowed 2 hits, one walk and struck out eight.
Unfortunately for Ramirez, the second was his Waterloo. Pepperdine touched Ramirez for six hits and four runs in that frame, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Despite his rough second inning Saturday, Ramirez is a top prospect for the 2011 draft. Tall, lanky and projectable, he fires an 89-90 fastball and adds an excellent 82 change and sharp 76 curve. Ramirez will need more command and consistency with his secondary pitches, and will need to develop more movement to his fastball. His four-seamer has decent arm-side movement, but is dead straight to the glove side. The latter pitch was the one that got Ramirez in trouble in the second.
Approximately 40 pro scouts were in attendance to observe Gary Brown and Christian Colon of Fullerton. Brown, the nation's No. 24 college draft prospect, is probably the fastest player in all of college baseball.
The 6-foot, 180-pound center fielder, who bats and throws righthanded, raced down the first-base line in 3.91 and 3.94 seconds on two separate ground balls. A bunt attempt by Brown, which dribbled foul, found him blazing down the line in 3.69 seconds. As an outfielder, Brown has fine defensive skills and excellent range, and his average arm is acceptable for center or left. Perhaps the closest big league comparison for Brown would be Rob Dernier or a righthanded Scott Podsednik.
Possibly the oldest cliché in baseball is, “You can’t steal first base." Brown’s bat is a concern for scouts. With his great speed, few scouts care if Brown hits for power; however, his timing was poor on Saturday. Brown was too easily fooled and off balance on slow stuff, and often had weak swings on the fastball. One scout BA spoke to stated that Brown needs to use the whole field more and stop rolling his hands over and pulling pitches. The scout added, “He seems to try to start running before he’s finished his swing.”
Colon, the nation's No. 6 college prospect, is off to a bad start. He does not have a projectable frame and Colon does not run particularly well, but he is an excellent defender. While his arm is a not a Rafael Furcal bazooka, Colon’s fielding actions are terrific, and his playmaking ability on the middle infield is equal or superior to anyone in college baseball. The best big league comparisons for Colon might be Orlando Cabrera or Rafael Ramirez, the Braves shortstop of the 1980s.
Both of those players, of course, hit and hit well, and therein lies the biggest question surrounding Colon. He has some quickness and juice in his bat, but in this opening weekend those qualities have not been on display. To be drafted in the first round in June, Colon will have to prove to scouts that he can hit well enough to be an everyday player, not just a utilityman or late-inning defensive replacement. Of course, the general (though not unanimous) scouting consensus is that Colon has a chance to be an above-average hitter in the big leagues, because he handles the bat very well and has an outstanding feel for hitting.
The Titans are probably not worried about their rocky start—as former Fullerton coach George Horton said last week, that program has proved it can pick itself up off the mat. Fullerton finishes the opening weekend by hosting Long Beach State today.
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