Thursday Roundup: Vanderhook Placed On Leave, Titans Lose Again

Maybe this is rock bottom for Cal State Fullerton. The Titans have been one of college baseball’s most disappointing teams in 2014, and Thursday the school announced that head coach Rick Vanderhook has been placed on paid administrative leave.

“The University has received allegations that it is obligated to review,” a Fullerton release stated.

Rick Vanderhook

Rick Vanderhook (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Vanderhook is one of the most outspoken and fiery coaches in college baseball, and he has not been shy about expressing his displeasure with his current team’s lack of leadership and ability to execute on offense and defense. But his blunt motivational style has been effective for decades, making him one of the most respected offensive coaches on the West Coast during his time as an assistant under Augie Garrido, George Horton and John Savage.

Fullerton’s players found out about the Vanderhook situation as they left for Cal Poly on Thursday. Assistants Mike Kirby and Jason Dietrich will serve as co-head coaches until Vanderhook’s status is resolved. The Titans were dominated in Thursday’s series opener, 8-0. They were outhit 16-4, as Justin Garza (3.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 4 ER) struggled in his return to the rotation, and Matt Imhof (6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 9 K) dominated for the Mustangs. Nick Torres (3-for-5, 3 RBI) led the offense for No. 3 Cal Poly, which improved to 9-1 in the Big West, while the unranked Titans dropped to 3-4 in the conference and 18-14 overall.

• Before we get to the Top 25 action, let’s highlight an outstanding individual performance from Thursday. In a midseason statistical analysis published yesterday, our Clint Longenecker noted that East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman’s strikeout rate was markedly lower than the typical strikeout rate for a top 10 overall pick in recent years. On Thursday, Hoffman took a step to remedy that, striking out a career-high 16 over eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball, as the Pirates beat Middle Tennessee State 1-0. Hoffman has had an uneven spring, but there is no question that he has a top 10-caliber arm, and Thursday was an encouraging reminder.

Top 25 Showdowns

(12) Louisiana State at (13) Mississippi: The Tigers won the opener of a big SEC West showdown series 4-3 in 13 innings. Conner Hale (3-for-5, 3 R) doubled in the 13th and scored the winning run on an error by Errol Robinson. Aaron Nola (7.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) and Chris Ellis (8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) were both strong in no-decisions, and both teams used their top bullpen arms, Joe Broussard (3.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER) and Josh Laxer (2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER), so winning the opener was crucial.

Top 25 Upsets

Texas Christian at (6) Texas: Brandon Finnegan (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K) was brilliant in TCU’s 3-0 win in Austin. The Horned Frogs scored three runs in the fifth to beat Parker French (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER). Finnegan, who improved to 7-2, 1.56 on the year, retired 16 of the final 17 hitters he faced, including a streak of 12 straight from the third through the seventh.

Eric Skoglund

Eric Skoglund (Photo by Mike Janes)

(10) Louisville at Central Florida: The Knights clinched the series by sweeping a doubleheader, 8-2, and 4-3 (11 innings). James Vasquez (2-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI) homered in support of Eric Skoglund (8.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) in the opener, as UCF beat a wild Kyle Funkhouser (5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 8 BB, 4 K). The Knights became the first team to score a run against Nick Burdi this season in the nightcap, pushing across an unearned run in the 11th. Trent Thompson worked two perfect innings to pick up the win in relief. UCF is now 25-15 overall, 12-2 in the American Athletic Conference, which it leads by 3.5 games over the Cardinals. UCF has also vaulted to No. 53 in the Boyd’s World RPI rankings, putting the Knights right in the mix for an at-large regional bid.

(17) UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State: The Gauchos came from behind with two runs in the top of the ninth to tie it, but the Dirtbags answered with a run in the bottom of the ninth to win 3-2. Eric Hutting (2-for-4, 2 RBI) delivered a walk-off RBI double to score Michael Hill (2-for-3, 2 R). Andrew Rohrbach (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) was strong in a no-decision for LBSU, while Justin Jacome (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER) pitched well for the Gauchos.

(20) UNLV at Air Force: Travis Neubeck (2-for-4, R, 4 RBI) led the Air Force offense in a 10-9 slugfest, as UNLV’s defense struggled behind Erick Fedde (6 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), who fell to 7-2. It’s a bad loss for the Rebels, as the Falcons are just 12-25 overall, 3-13 in the Mountain West, and No. 208 in the RPI.

Other Top 25 Results

South Florida at (14) Houston: Justin Montemayor (2-for-4) hit a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to cap a two-run rally, as the Cougars came from behind to win 3-2. Aaron Garza (6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) was solid in a no-decision.

Washington State at (23) Oregon: A.J. Balta (3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR, 2B) led Oregon’s 11-hit attack in support of Tommy Thorpe (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K), as the Ducks cruised to an 11-1 win. The Ducks have won seven straight and 11 of 13.