The MLB World Series just finished and the Titan Baseball season (unofficially) started this past weekend. Congratulations to Titan alumnus Kurt Suzuki on becoming only the 19th player to have won a College World Series (2004) and an MLB World Series (2019).
The NCAA allows teams to play two exhibition games in the fall and the Titans traveled out to Las Vegas to take on the UNLV Rebels in a 14 innings affair.
The format consisted of two, seven innings games where the score was kept and normal baseball rules applied. (The substitution rule was not closely followed because it was an exhibition.) The first seven inning game ended in a 0-0 tie. In the second game, the Titans fell 3-1. In a surprise move, Brady Barcellos came out of the bullpen and pitched a 15th inning until he got three outs and then the teams met and shook hands at home plate.
We made the road trip out to Las Vegas and here are our initial thoughts and takeaways from the weekend. Some good, some bad, some ugly. But overall, the 2020 Titan Baseball squad should be much improved over last year’s team.
- Pitching – Counting the 15th inning Brady Barcellos threw which rendered zero runs, the pitching staff only gave up a total of two earned runs. That’s a 1.20 staff ERA. Yes, a small sample size but compare that to the staff ERA of 4.81 from last season and it does not take a Billy Bean Money Ball guy to know that is a huge improvement. Only seven hits surrendered over the course of both games is a huge plus as well.
- Guango – Kameron Guangorena‘s time on the Cape was limited but he seems to have picked up where he left off last season. KG started the first game behind the plate and showed some improved defense compared to last season. Guango went 2-for-3 at the plate and started Game 1 with back-to-back singles.
- Bibee – Tanner Bibee started the first game which was no surprise. Bibee was the workhorse of the 2019 pitching staff and was the established Friday night starter. His one inning of work in the UNLV game did not change the assumption he will get the ball on Fridays in 2020. Bibee walked one, struck out one and did not allow a hit. Look for Bibee to post good numbers in the upcoming UCSD exhibition and in the spring.
- Youth on Display – Seven of the nine hitters in the first game starting line-up were freshmen or sophomores. Only Brett Borgogno (junior) and Jeff Pellegrino (senior) were the only upperclassmen in the starting line-up. The rest were freshmen (Cameron Repetti, JJ Cruz, Caden Connor) and sophomores (Kameron Gunagorena, Zach Lew, Jackson Lyon, Jason Brandow). You could count Tanner Bibee on the mound to help the starting line-up of game one gain a little age but he is only a junior. If the starting line-up for game one is the same in February, the Titans will be talented but inexperienced.
- Getting more Physical – By going down the roster, you can see the newcomers for the Titans are a bigger, more physical bunch compared to previous recruiting classes. Every freshman and JC transfer that is new to the team this year are all 6’0″ or taller. One in particular that stood out literally and figuratively was Evan Adolphus. Coming in at 6’3″ and 225 lbs., Adolphus has the size and build to dominate opposing batters. Without making any unfair comparisons, Adolphus looked a lot like Vanderbilt sophomore Kumar Rocker on the mound. Nicco Cole, the 6’4″, 215 lbs. right handed JC transfer from Howard College was also an imposing force on the mound. And the new guys on the mound weren’t the only ones that filled out a uniform. JJ Cruz who played second base primarily throughout Game 1 is 6’3″. Cameron Repetti is also 6’3″ and is expected to hold down either third or first base come February. The new guys have the frames to bulk up and with a little more training table and weight room, these new guys will be the new big men on campus.
- Pitchers who rake – Kyle Luckham pitched two scoreless innings in the first game and then was the Designated Hitter in the second game. Luckham was a two-way player coming out of El Dorado High School but the coaches have a strict policy that if you are a pitcher as a freshman, no picking up a bat. Now a sophomore, Luckham showed off his ability at the plate going 2-for-3 and driving in Austin Schell, the catcher transfer from Golden West College, for the lone run of the second game.
- UNLV bomb – Freshman Peyton Jones opened the bottom of the third inning and gave up a solo home run that smacked the concrete wall above the outfield seats in left. That’s the bad news. The fact that the freshman responded nicely by not allowing any additional base runners showed some poise and maturity.
- Colacchio error – D1 bounce back Demitri Colacchio by way of Univeristy of Utah to Saddleback College and now to Cal State Fullerton committed an egregious throwing error in the bottom of the fourth. The error that eluded Kameron Guangorena who was playing first base, would lead to an unearned run. If Colacchio wants to supplant Brett Borgogno at the shortstop spot, he’ll need to clean up those throwing errors.
- Magrisi balk – It was questionable as to if it was actually a balk or not, but Joe Magrisi was called for a balk in the bottom of the fourth. The balk moved the runner to second after he reached on a single. In scoring position by way of the balk, the RBI double made it 2-0. Magrisi did show a nice pick off move and picked off the man who reached on the error at first. Magrisi also struck out the last batter of the fourth.
- Magrisi didn’t bat – Speaking of Joe Magrisi, it would have been nice to see the guy pick up a bat and take a few hacks. We all know the policy regarding freshman pitchers not hitting but Magrisi is a sophomore and can mash. During summer ball, he would DH on days he did not pitch for the Yakima Pippins. Magrisi was even invited to participate in the WCL home run derby this summer and was the only pitcher to do so. Maybe Magrisi will get a few swings in against UCSD in November because San Diego is his hometown.
- Missing Titans – We understand that Fall Ball games are designed to help coaches evaluate talent and see where guys will fit best once the games count for real. It’s also a time to get the young guys with less experience some live ball action. With that said, it was disappointing to not see veteran returners like Isaiah Garcia, Titus Groeneweg and Dillon Brown get into the games. Dillon Brown actually coached first base when the Titans were at bat along with Landon Anderson. Garcia has one of the better hit tools in college baseball and might battle to play first base in 2020. Hook may have wanted to give other guys some looks there knowing what he has in Garcia after he played all of 2019. Groeneweg and Brown are also known quantities and it might have been better to give other guys more innings since it was an exhibition game.
- Our photos – Unfortunately, we were not allowed to bring in our digital SLR camera and grab quality photos of the game. Instead of playing at their home field on campus, UNLV chose to host the exhibition game at the Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas Aviators. The list of banned and prohibited items including the standard items like fireworks, knives, guns, drugs, outside food and beverage and drones. Also included on that list: cameras with removable lenses. Rather than argue with the event services security guard, back to the car we went to deposit the camera bag. The only photos we could secure were with a smart phone. We’re confident that our photos for the UCSD exhibition game in November will be much improved.