For more than a decade, we have enlisted college coaches who have faced the super regional teams to break down the matchups. Sources are given anonymity in exchange for their candor. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
UCLA (42-17) at No. 5 Cal State Fullerton (51-8)
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday: 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Coach: John Savage.
Postseason History: Fifth super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking fifth trip to Omaha (second straight).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Los Angeles Regional. Won in three games, beating San Diego in the final.
|SP||Nick Vander Tuig||R||Jr.||11||4||0||2.51||108||17||77||.233|
Scouting Report From Rival Coach
“One thing I will say about them is if they’re ahead in the sixth inning, the game’s over. The numbers just show that, John (Savage) has so many ways to go. They’ve done a really good job. (Righty James) Kaprielian throws the seventh, (righty Zack) Weiss throws the eighth, Berg the ninth—unless one of them doesn’t throw well, then Berg just comes in and finishes the game. He is the difference maker. He’s tough to hit, wants the ball in the big spot, relishes it. Submarineers are tough to hit. He’s not 72—it’s 78-84. And he’s not a mess against lefthanded hitters, so you can’t just throw up some lefthanded hitters and think you’re going to beat him. I don’t know if Berg’s given up more than a handful of extra-base hits all year (eight). What he’s done is ridiculous. Because he can do it every day. It’s not that, hey, look what he’s done, he has 20 saves in 25 innings. He has like 67 innings. He leads the country in ERA, can strike out a guy an inning, doesn’t walk anybody, doesn’t give up any hits. A lot of times you don’t see a submariner with those strikeout numbers. The slider can give you problems. You want to be as lefthanded as possible when you face him, because then he’s mainly fastball. The changeup isn’t as much a pitch for him. You need to get up in the box and try to take away the sink. If you’re back in the box, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.
“Kaprielian will be 92-95, and the breaking ball is excellent. His only issue at times is you’ve got to be ready to hit the fastball that he’s going to leave over the plate and up. Now, he can also hit his spot, it’s just he’s going to attack early with fastball, then go to the breaking ball. But he can beat you in, beat you away, there’s no fear. It’s good stuff, but he does have a tendency at times to leave that ball up-middle, and you just need to be ready to get your swing off, because it is firm. With Weiss, he’ll be 91-93, and his thing also is when he’s throwing that slider for a strike, it causes a lot of problems. Because he can go first-pitch slider then go 93. His issues come when he struggles with command a little bit with the breaking ball, then has to come with the fastball, has to be a little too precise, gets a couple guys on. But if a guy gets on base, you may see Berg.
“Their starters have been good. Plutko’s obviously a big-game pitcher. The stuff doesn’t overwhelm you, but the next thing you know he’s always winning games. It’ll be seven innings of two runs, seven innings of three runs, then they go to Kaprielian in the pen and it’s big stuff after him. If they have to, they can go to (righthander Cody) Poteet early, and that’s another good arm. Those three starters give them a chance, day in and day out. Vander Tuig will pitch lower in the zone than Plutko. The best way to describe Plutko is he’s just above and just below the hitting zone. He does a good job trying to bury that ball low, but when he misses with a fastball, it’s right at the letters. It may be 88, but it’s just a fly ball. He has that change he can throw in there and a little slider, he can mix and match and go inside. He has a knack for making a pitch when he needs to. He can get in trouble and give up hits, but once he finds his groove he’s pretty good.
“Nick has a little better stuff than Plutko. He throws a little bit harder: He’ll sit more in that 90-91, maybe 92 range, whereas Plutko will probably be in that 87-90 range. Vander Tuig has a very good change. The key to Vander Tuig is when his change and slider are going, he’ll be tough to beat. Because he’s pretty good with the fastball down, mixes to both sides of the plate. At this time of year, it’s all about, can you execute with two strikes, and you have to execute that changeup. And he does have an excellent change. You can run on both Plutko and Vander Tuig. They’ll pick a lot, because they’re a little bit vulnerable to the steal. Those guys have been there and done that other than Watson. Watson didn’t pitch a whole lot in the supers and regionals last year. But Plutko and Vander Tuig and Berg did, so those guys are used to the moment. Watson is four pitches, it’s a good move to first, it’s a good cutter. His biggest thing is when he has that changeup and cutter working, he’s tough. Because he can throw that ball low, cutter comes in on you and causes problems. The curveball’s more a show-me, or with two strikes to show you something different to get you out. He can be tough on you, because he can execute a game plan, and we all know John’s good at mapping out a game plan.
“They’re built for the close game. They don’t really hit a whole lot. They’re very patient, very selective. I think that’s one thing that gives them trouble against a team like Fullerton—just look at the numbers, those kids from Fullerton just pound the strike zone. So it’s going to be hard for UCLA to really get their offense going. As you get them going, they may get a leadoff walk, then they’ll be selective, look for their pitch. Maybe there’s a ball in the dirt, they might end up at third, then they’ll get their RBI. Their averages don’t look great, but Pat Valaika is clutch, he has a knack for the big hit. Kramer’s the same way—Kramer’s their best hitter. They were scoring more runs when Carroll was getting on base earlier in the year, he’s scuffled a little bit. When he gets on base they’re tougher, because he can run, steal bases.
“I think Filia has hit more in the second half. I think in the first half he was really scuffling. He can really hit a fastball, struggles against the offspeed a little bit like most young hitters. He plays hard, and he had such a great summer out in the Northwoods League, so it surprised me that he wasn’t hitting in that .330 range. But when you look at their OBP, they still score their runs. They’re not facing a lefthanded pitcher from Fullerton; I think that’s a weakness for them because they’re really lefthanded. But they’re getting two freshman righthanders the first two days it looks like. They’ll try and skill, bunt, do all that stuff to get on base. But I think that Fullerton’s pretty physical, Fullerton has some speed, so I think Fullerton can play the same game but can hit better. That’s UCLA’s Achilles’ heel: to go toe-to-toe and hit. They rely on you helping them out offensively.
“But they play excellent defense, especially the left side with Kramer and Valaika, and they’re very good in the outfield defensively. I think they’ve gotten a little more offense when Allen plays in the outfield. Carroll in center can really run it down, an excellent defender. I think Filia’s a very good defender. Zeile has turned into a decent catcher with a great arm; he has a chance to be really, really good by next year behind the plate. He was hurt in the fall, that kind of stunted his growth. But he’s really saved them behind the plate. The right side of the infield is OK. I’m sure it’s not what they’re drawing up, but Gallagher’s serviceable at first, Regis makes the plays he’s supposed to make at second. He’s not a mess. He may not get to every ball, but one of the things about their team is, other than Berg, really, it’s a flyball staff. So that position probably doesn’t affect you as much. Valaika has been special on defense. His instincts are really good. He may not have the run tool, but he has a good arm. He seems to be in front of every ball and seems to be able to make every play. And he seems to make the play when they need. Kramer’s real athletic, and he can be really good. He can make the diving play to both sides, he has a strong, accurate arm. And one of the big things is he’s confident. He can play in on the grass and not worry about it. He feels like he’s going to make the play, no fear of the ball being hit down his throat. Valaika and Kramer are always talking—to each other, to the pitcher. They run the deal. That separates them a little bit.”
Cal State Fullerton
Coach: Rick Vanderhook.
Postseason History: 11th super regional appearance (last in 2010). Seeking 17th trip to Omaha (last in 2009).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Fullerton Regional. Won in three games, beating Arizona State in the final.
Scouting Report From A Coach
“I think they’re a different level, I really do. I’m not saying they’re impossible to beat; I think they’re beatable. But phew, you’d better be pretty special and have your ‘A’ game. The reason for that is because their pitching and their defense are spectacular. When your pitching and defense are spectacular, you’re not going to have a bad game. What’s helped Wiest more than anything is they go Eshelman, who’s a pitchability guy, then Garza, who’s a power guy, then back to Wiest, who’s a sink it and average stuff guy, but because teams are getting three different looks, it makes his stuff look that much better. By the time teams get to the fourth inning and figure him out, it’s 5-0.
“If you look at numbers, Garza’s more of a strikeout guy, but Eshelman’s ERA is a little lower. And Eshelman’s doing this on Friday nights; the Titans have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, and he’s matching up with sophomores, juniors and seniors on a Friday. When your Friday guy is setting that tone for the weekend, and he’s a freshman? Good lord. This is what I figured out about Eshelman on video: The stuff just doesn’t look, ‘Wow,’ but it’s pinpoint control, he puts the fastball where he wants. The changeup is good enough, the curveball is good enough, but there’s deception with it. It comes from the ear, it’s a short, quick arm, and it kind of explodes on you a little bit. That’s what I told our hitters: you’ve got to get yourself ready to hit quick, because otherwise the ball’s on you. It’s not this long, loose, high three-quarters; it’s 85-89, it’s got some deception and they don’t see the ball. Combine the deception with pinpoint control, and all you get is a bunch of hitters flinching. They want to swing at the fastball, but they can’t because it’s at the knees away, or at the knees in.
“Garza’s just a stuff guy. It’s a 93 mph fastball with a Noe Ramirez changeup—I mean, it’s a Bugs Bunny changeup, and he throws it for strikes. That’s the key with him. It’s not like you can get it going and stop your bat if it’s in the dirt—it’s in the zone. It’s three legitimate pitches that he puts where he wants. That little cutter that he throws—it’s not a curveball, it’s a cutter/slider. The best way to have success against Garza is to crowd the plate and dive out to that pitch away through the four spot. If he throws you a fastball in, you take it. That was the approach we took, just attacked the four-spot. With Wiest, there’s some funkiness, it sinks. It’s a sinking fastball. He’s pitching on Sundays, and he’s getting seven or eight runs every Sunday. It’s a firm curveball, he’s got a slider and a changeup, so it’s a definite four-pitch mix, any pitch, any time. But I don’t think anything is plus. He’s just giving you different looks, never lets you get comfortable in there.
“Lorenzen’s got the best breaking ball in the country—if somebody’s got a better breaking ball than that, I want to see it. You’ve got a guy with a 98 mph fastball, and it is legitimately 95-98. Watch video, with nobody on base, he comes from the stretch every time, but gives you different looks. He’ll come set, go with a high leg kick, then—bam. Then sometimes he’ll go slide-step on you and—bam, it’s 98. He gives you different looks, plus the stuff.
“It’s about as good a pitching staff as Cal State Fullerton’s ever had, with Koby Gauna, Tyler Peitzmeier, J.D. Davis, Lorenzen, Willie Kuhl. With Kuhl, it’s a slider, you know it’s coming, go up there looking for it, and you still can’t hit it. We told our guys, three out of every four pitches is going to be a slider, and they still couldn’t pull the trigger. Davis has power stuff, 92-94 with a good slider, and he commands the slider. Peitzmeier’s got some deception, kind of comes around the corner a little bit, with a phenomenal changeup that just falls off the table. He’s 82-85, but the changeup is filthy, it just disappears. Gauna, it’s a pretty straight, true fastball, but boy, the slider is good and the changeup is really good. He commands the fastball, pretty much puts it where he wants. They all hold runners, they all throw to their spot.
“They’re strong right up the middle. Wallach is maybe the most improved catcher in the country over three years. He’d never caught before, now he blocks well, receives well, throws well, really had a great rapport with his pitchers, you can see that presence and confidence, it’s phenomenal. Then you’ve got Pedroza and Lorenzen up the middle. Fullerton’s got three of those senior leaders with Pedroza, Hutting and Lopez—those guys get it. You’re not going to see a national championship team without some seniors playing key roles.
“Jefferies is a nice player, he’s going to be really good, I think. He’s in there for the bat, because they’ve got so many older kids everywhere else. (Matt) Orloff can really play defense at a higher level, but the fact Orloff got hurt gave Jefferies a bunch of at-bats, and he’s turned into a pretty darn good player. But it’s been Wallach, Pedroza, Lorenzen in the middle that do it. Those other guys have allowed Jefferies to grow up into this role. Orloff, he makes Rick Vanderhook look like a genius right now—he’s always making plays as a late-inning substitution. Lopez is solid as an older guy at first base. He’s turned himself into an adequate first baseman, a smart player, the whole bit. Lorenzen’s a ridiculous defender, (outfielder Austin) Diemer’s ridiculous, Hutting is adequate. They’re a better team against lefthanded pitching, because Diemer and (Greg) Velazquez are way better offensively than Kingsolver and Hutting. Hutting doesn’t have the speed those other guys have. Kingsolver gives you that dynamic with speed but he’s a below-average hitter. Then you get all those righthanders stacked up—Pedroza, Chapman, Davis, Lorenzen, Wallach, Velazquez—that’s a murderer’s row right there. For a lefthander to try to get through that lineup, good luck.
“This offense is physical, it’s big. This Fullerton offense might be as good as the ‘95 team. They haven’t been able to roll this type of physicality and good hitters, you’re talking smart hitters. They’re inside the ball, they don’t strike out, they’re going to hit for power. What’s special about them is they’re going to beat you in different ways. They don’t have to hit the ball over the fence to beat you, but they can. They don’t have to bunt to beat you, but they will. Lorenzen put down a push bunt with a man on third the other day (against Arizona State). They really are versatile, they’ll slash on you. Hooky’s not a big hit-and-run guy, he’s more run-and-hit on 3-1, 3-2. But they’ll steal a base when they get a chance, and they’re good at it. UCLA will have to really pitch to beat these guys. If they do that, it’s going to be three good games. If Plutko throws like he did on Friday, UCLA’s going to be in trouble. Fullerton hitters will take the walk if you give it to them.
“You’ve got Richy Pedroza, he’s a tone-setter. He’ll see pitches, make guys work. He’s that little gnat that’s in your ear that just won’t go away. He’s 5-foot-4 (listed at 5-6) and plays like he’s 6-foot-2. They exude a level of confidence that is not an arrogance—it really isn’t, because they’re a nice group of kids. Lopez, Pedroza, Wallach, Chapman, Hutting, they’re phenomenal, off-the-charts kids, and they walk around the field with a confidence level that they know they’re going to beat you. They know they’re going to win. It starts with Pedroza leading the game off; he can hit a double, he can drop a bunt down on you. He’ll set a tone, then follow with Lopez who, if he’s not the best pure hitter in college baseball, I don’t know who’s better. He drives balls in the gap, going to two-strike adjust to you. My report with Lopez is don’t throw with any patterns, just completely mix on him. If you go with patterns, there are times he’ll cheat on the fastball in, and times he’ll go the other way and poke a base hit to left field.
“Then you follow with Chapman, who—he’s Phil Nevin. He’s going to be a first-round draft pick next year. Chapman is the one who is professional baseball play-ready. Lorenzen’s a tools guy, no doubt. Chapman’s got tools, big-time power, can really defend. He doesn’t have the speed of Lorenzen, but Chapman is the guy who is the best player on that team. We had such a tough time with Davis too. He’s going to take a changeup away, a fastball away, a slider away and hit a base-hit to right center. He’ll take what you give him as a hitter, then you keep thinking he keeps hitting base hits the other way, but if you try to go in on him, you’d better not miss over the plate, because he’ll hit the ball out of the park.
“Lorenzen grew up around the place, the next Mark Kotsay—there were a lot of labels on the kid. He went through a couple transitional years for Fullerton. Now Hooky’s got the right personality for the team, and Lorenzen has fit right into it. I think that’s why the results are better. He’s more comfortable. The key against him is you’ve got to run fastballs in on him, then set him up for that breaking ball away. Stay with that approach. He’ll turn on pitches and hook them foul, then if you throw a slider at him, he’ll swing over them. He’s a good hitter, because he can beat you in different ways, too. He’ll drop the drag bunt on you, so you’ve got to respect that at third base and play even to a step behind. But he’ll turn on fastballs, so it makes your shortstop play in the six-hole tougher, and the guy can run. So you need a shortstop who can run behind him and make the play and put something on it to get him at first. I’d rather pitch to Lorenzen than Lopez or Chapman. I would say he’s the third-best hitter on the team.
“They won’t scare you at the bottom. Hutting’s got a little pure hitter to him, not a lot of power or speed. That’s why I think they’re weaker against righthanded pitching, because the two guys they play against righties are Kingsolver and Hutting. With Kingsolver, bring the third baseman in, don’t let him bunt on you. Throw a fastball high in the zone, then pull the string and throw a changeup, he’ll swing at one of the two. Wallach is a little bit of a turn-and-burn guy. He’ll be up there and swing hard, look to turn on things. So he’s susceptible to sliders and fastballs in off the plate, so he’ll hook it foul, then come back to the slider.
“We know Fullerton’s going to pitch, and they’ve been dialed in every weekend of the year.”