Fullerton Regional Preview

Fullerton Regional Capsule
Goodwin Field, Fullerton, Calif.
No. 1 Cal State Fullerton (37-19)
30th appearance, at-large, tied for first place in Big West Conference, No. 5 national seed
No. 2 UCLA (31-25)
15th appearance, at-large, third place in Pacific-10 Conference
No. 3 Virginia (38-21)
Eighth appearance, at-large, sixth place in Atlantic Coast Conference
No. 4 Rider (29-26)
12th appearance, automatic, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champion

Cal State Fullerton scrapped its way to Omaha with one of its least talented teams in recent years in 2007, and the Titans lost their best pitcher (Wes Roemer) and best hitter (Clark Hardman) to the draft after the season. They also lost coach George Horton to Oregon, but they replaced him with the reigning national coach of the year, former Fullerton assistant and UC Irvine head coach Dave Serrano. Known as a pitching guru, Serrano worked wonders with the staff he inherited at Fullerton. Senior righthander Jeff Kaplan (11-1, 4.00) recovered from a slow start to earn tri-pitcher of the year honors in the Big West, and junior righty Cory Arbiso (11-3, 4.53) took a major leap forward after going winless in 20 innings his first two years at Fullerton. A stiff shoulder could affect Arbiso this weekend, though Serrano said it’s “nothing major”, and Kaplan had emergency surgery this week after getting a metal fragment in his eye in a freak accident. The Titans expect him to be available for Saturday as well, but it’s something to monitor. Righthander Brian Wilson (1-2, 5.32) will get the start in the opener. Fullerton’s true strength is its dynamic offense, which features excellent pure hitters in outfielders Erik Komatsu (.354/.451/.579 with seven homers and 47 RBIs) and Josh Fellhauer (.350/.408/.540 with seven homers and 37 RBIs). Typical of a Serrano team, the Titans also rank among the national leaders with 72 sacrifice bunts (fourth), 105 hit batsmen (third) and 112 stolen bases (10th).


UCLA reached super-regionals with a freshman-and- sophomore-dominated team in 2007 before losing to Cal State Fullerton, and the Bruins garnered a preseason No. 1 ranking this spring on the strength of their supreme talent on the mound and in the lineup. But UCLA was one of the nation’s major disappointments for most of the year, as its stars pressed and injuries depleted what was expected to be a deep pitching staff. Still, the Bruins won their final two weekend series against Washington State and California to finish third in the Pac-10 and earn a No. 2 seed. Ace lefthander Tim Murphy (5-6, 3.52) threw 16 consecutive scoreless innings in wins against the Cougars and Golden Bears, and sophomore righty Charles Brewer (8-4, 5.09) followed with 5 2/3 strong innings in another shutout of the potent Bears on Saturday. UCLA will need both to remain at peak form this weekend, but even more critical will be getting sophomore lefty Gavin Brooks (6-2, 4.91) to pitch like he did in the postseason last year, when he threw a complete-game two-hitter against Illinois-Chicago in regionals and struck out 12 in a tough-luck 2-1 loss to the Titans in super-regionals. Perhaps UCLA’s greatest asset is its strength up the middle, where catcher Ryan Babineau, shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Alden Carrithers are all standout defenders. Babineau, in particular, will be a key against the potent running games of Virginia and Fullerton; he threw out 43 percent of basestealers this year.


Virginia did not win a season all year against a regional team but took care of business against the bottom half of the ACC to finish 15-15 in conference. The Cavaliers beat North Carolina and Florida State in the ACC tournament before falling to Miami in the championship game. Virginia plays a less intense brand of West Coast baseball, relying heavily on pitching and speed, though it doesn’t employ sacrifices the way Fullerton does. Virginia stole 2.27 bases per game (fifth-most in the nation), with All-ACC shortstop Greg Miclat (.322/.418/.383 with 30 steals in 36 attempts) leading a group of seven Cavs with double-digit steals. The lone power threats in the lineup are juniors Jeremy Farrell (.320 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs) and David Adams (.282 with six homers and 50 RBIs), as UVa. ranks 240th in the nation with 25 homers. But the Virginia pitching staff ranks 18th in ERA (3.88), headlined by national ERA leader Matt Packer (6-2, 1.16 in 62 innings, mostly in relief) and fellow lefthander Pat McAnaney (4-5, 3.67 with 92 strikeouts in 81 innings). Righthander Jacob Thompson (6-4, 4.40) was an All-American last year but displayed less velocity and command for most of this year before coming on down the stretch. The deep bullpen is anchored by Packer and righthanded closer Michael Schwimer (3-1, 1.84 with 13 saves).


Rider surged to a 12-6 start in conference play after sweeping Niagara in late April, but the Broncs dropped nine of their final 11 regular-season games and were no-hit by LeMoyne’s Eric Beaulac. Rider abruptly reversed its fortunes in the MAAC tournament as the No. 4 seed, toppling top-seeded Canisius and going 2-1 against preseason favorite Siena to clinch a regional bid for the first time since 1994. Righthander Jimmer Kennedy (7-4, 3.91) allowed just three hits over eight shutout innings in the win against Siena, which had scored 24 runs the previous day against Manhattan. Two-way star James Hayes (3-2, 3.26 with 11 saves; .335 with 37 stolen bases in 44 attempts) is a major difference maker atop the lineup and at the back of the bullpen.