Takeaway Tuesday: Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament

Tanner Bibee (Photo courtesy Don Hudson)

Bibbe still dealing

Zero point zero. No, we’re not referring to John Blutarsky’s GPA from the cult classic film Animal House. We are referring to Tanner Bibee‘s earned run average.

In two games, Bibee has pitched a total of 13 innings and faced 45 batters. Batters are hitting .222 vs. Bibee, walking three times and striking out 12 for a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Also, Bibee has only surrendered one extra base hit, a double, in the early season.

The biggest statistic for Bibee is the two shutouts to start the season. We don’t expect his ERA to remain zero all season but starting off with 13 innings of shutout baseball will help keep it low. Stanford will be a huge test this Friday but Bibee is up for the challenge.

The Titans are hoping he can duplicate his 6 2/3rd inning gem he tossed vs Stanford in the Palo Alto Regional. Up north, Bibee gave up five hits and one walk, resulting in two earned runs. The 11 strikeouts really showed how Bibee likes to throw strikes and attack the zone. That same attitude and approached has translated to 2019.

Timmy Josten (Photo courtesy Don Hudson)

Josten rebounded

Let’s be real. Timmy Josten‘s debut as a Division 1 starting pitcher out in Arizona could not have been more disastrous. Giving up five runs, all earned, including a grand slam in the first inning against Vanderbilt could have taken its toll on the young lefty’s psyche. Add to it that he completed the inning but did not come out of the dugout for the second, that could rattle anyone’s confidence.

By comparison, Tanner Bibee’s first collegiate start he faced Stanford the opening weekend of the 2018 season. Bibee was lit up to the tune of completing 1/3 inning, gave up four earned runs and finished the season with 108.00 ERA.

Many Titan fans questioned if Timmy would get the ball on Saturday at the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament. Speculation was that since the pitching rotation is not set outside of Bibee getting the ball on Fridays, the remainder of the pitching roles were up for grabs.

Josten was given the ball on Saturday vs. Fresno State and responded with a nine K outing. Josten was a little shaky to start the game, giving up two singles and walking the third batter. A fielder’s choice scored the first Bulldog run while a sacrifice fly scored the second. The third run surrendered while Josten had the ball was unearned.

Josten was the hard luck loser on the game after going six full innings, walking only one batter, giving up five hits and striking out a career high nine batters. The lack of run support by the Titans did not help Josten’s W/L record but his ability to battle and strike out batters was evident.

Although the weekend starters may not be finalized until Big West Conference play, Josten proved he can get guys out and miss bats. Hopefully the nine strikeouts against Fresno State will carry more confidence into the Stanford series.

Brandow back to earth

Jason Brandow (Photo courtesy Don Hudson)

Can anyone remember a Titan Baseball freshman debut more spectacular than Jason Brandow‘s Grand Slam against Vanderbilt, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation? With so few grand slams hit in a season, the likelihood of a grand slam being hit by a freshman in their first collegiate at-bat has to be miniscule. But that is exactly how Jason Brandow introduced himself to the college baseball world and Titan Baseball fans everywhere.

You knew it would not last and Brandow would not be able to keep up that torrid pace coming out of that first week in Arizona. Down in San Diego, Brandow started in the outfield all three games and finished with 10 official at-bats. Brandow mustered two hits, both coming on Friday vs. Missouri State and struck out five times over the course of the weekend.

Although it is a very small sample size, Brandow still looks like the coaches will place him in the line-up on a regular basis. He did start all three games in the outfield and it looks as though right field will be his to roam while Jackson Lyon will move to left field.

Neutral sites – No problem

Goodwin Field has been a lonely place for the month of February with the Titans traveling the first two weekends to start the season. The one non-conference game vs. Washington was postponed due to poor field condition with the recent rains. Despite not having a home field advantage, the Titans seem to have had no issue playing at neutral sites. This may play well in that TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha is a neutral site…

Sahid Valenzuela (Photo courtesy Matt Brown)

Through six games away from Goodwin Field, the Titans as a team are batting .296 with four home runs. 10 Titans are hitting .300 or better away from Goodwin Field.

Swinging Sahid

Speaking of getting it done at the plate, Junior shortstop Sahid Valenzuela is hitting .409 with a .536 OBP. Of the regular starting position players, Sahid is seeing the ball quite well to open this season.

After spending part of the summer playing in the Cape Cod League for the Wareham Gateman, Sahid has had 22 at-bats with nine hits, three RBI, four walks, five runs scored and two stolen bases.

By comparison, Sahid finished the 2018 season batting .272 with 22 RBI, 38 runs scored and five stolen bases. That would be considered a sophomore slump compared to his freshman year when he batted .314, pounded out 24 RBI, scored 31 runs, stole three bases and even hit a home run.

Yes, six games is a small sample size but Sahid’s consistency over the first two years at Fullerton has shown his production should stay on pace and his performance trajectory is expected to be quite good.

Brett Borgogno (Photo courtesy Matt Brown)

Slow start for Bogo

Brett Borgogno has gotten off to a slow start to open the 2019 season. You can’t call it a sophomore slump just yet because it’s too early to tell.

After just six games, 29 plate appearances and 25 official at-bats, Bo is hitting .160. He has more strikeouts than hits (6 Ks / 4 hits)

Add to it that Brett started the season slow last year. Not trying to bring up bad memories but Borgogno started the 2018 season 0-for-18 and did not record his first hit until March 16, 2018. The 2018 season started on February 16th up in Stanford and Borgogno went almost a month before gathering a hit his freshman season.

Bogo ended the 2018 campaign batting .246 with 21 RBI, 19 runs scored and two swiped bags. From just the eye test in the stands, you could tell that something switched for Borgogno at the end of the 2018 season and he started to perform up to expectations. The game seemed to slow down a bit for him at the end of last year and we expect him to produce again this year.

The good news is that Brett’s glove has been tremendous at the hot corner committing no errors in 17 total defensive chances.

Jake Pavletich (Photo courtesy Don Hudson)

Pav’s power surge

Where did this guy come from? Jake Pavletich didn’t hit a home run all last year. Now, all of a sudden, he has two and leads the team in rounder trippers?

Whatever Pav did in the off season, more time in the weight room, watching film or just sleeping in the batting the cages, we are all for it. When evaluating last year’s squad, Pavletich’s lack of power was a glaring weakness for the 2018 squad.

Although Pav’s .282 batting average was good last season, his .332 slugging percentage was not what you want out of a right handed first baseman. Pav was fantastic defensively at first base, digging out difficult throws from both Sahid and Hank. Unfortunately at this level of college baseball, you need to bring a power stick to the plate if you also have a first baseman’s glove in the dugout.

Many were surprised, myself included, when Pav was named the starting first baseman. With the power hitting JUCO transfer AJ Curtis coming in, many thought Pav’s role as a super senior would be that of a bench coach than an every day player in 2019. Pav only hit one home run prior to this season, coming in the 2017 season.

Whatever Pavletich did between then and now, don’t go changing. Let’s see if he can obliterate his career homer total before his eligibility expires.

Pitching questions remain

Outside of Tanner Bibee, the pitching roles are still getting sorted out. With just two weekends in the books, Josten has gotten the ball on Saturdays and big freshman righty, Michael Knorr has started Sundays. The bullpen is deep with a mix of newcomers both freshman and JC transfers along with returning veterans.

After not pitching at all in the MLB4 Tournament in Arizona, Kyle Luckham got into the Missouri State and Oklahoma games this past weekend. Luckham saw two innings in each game and even earned the win vs. Oklahoma giving up one hit, walking two and striking out two. On Friday, Luckham finished the Missouri State game going two innings, surrendering a hit, walking one and punching out three.

Pitching coach Steve Rousey (L) and Head coach Rick Vanderhook (Photo courtesy Matt Brown)

With so many arms and just one ball, Rick Vanderhook and pitching coach Steve Rousey have some difficult decisions to make. Which guys are going to be starters and which ones will pitch in relief? Plus, we haven’t even seen Joe Magrisi, the talented freshman right hander out of Torrey Pines High School.

Magrisi is a strong guy that is a workhorse starter from the word go. Magrisi can also rake at the plate but the Hook philosophy is if you want to pick up a bat, you’ll be at the back of the bullpen to close out games. Magrisi wants to be a starter and hasn’t picked up a bat since he arrived on campus.

The coaches have been cautious with Magrisi to start the season, not letting him see any live action in the first two weeks. We’re not sure if that is more a physical precaution because they want to keep his young arm fresh and not burn him out too quickly. Although it did happen in Colton Eastman‘s sophomore season, he experienced elbow soreness and was shelved for a large part of the season. Possibly the coaches understand what a commodity they have in Magrisi and do not want to rush out to show off their new toy and destroy his arm in the process.

Holding Magrisi back from throwing pitches in anger may be more psychological too. Magrisi is a bulldog and wants to get out there and shove. Keeping him penned up might be akin to keeping a junkyard dog on a leash, letting him get more and more pissed off until he tears apart the next thing that steps foot over the fence.

No matter what the rationale, we won’t know the shape of the pitching staff until after the Stanford series. Hook and Rousey have a bunch of non-conference games to figure it out. Once Big West Conference play opens March 29th, we should know the horses that will be getting the ball on the regular.

Looking Ahead

The Titans finally return to home to Goodwin Field for a three game series, hosting the Stanford Cardinal.

The Titans and Cardinal are quite familiar with each other lately having played in Palo Alto as recently as last June. The Stanford junior class will surely remember that their postseason hopes have come to a crashing end at the hands of the Titans in 2017 and 2018. You can guarantee they will look to exact some revenge and ruin the home opening series at Goodwin Field.

The Titans schedule for the weekend:

Fri. March 1 – Stanford – 7:00 PM
Sat. March 2 – Stanford – 6:00 PM
Sun. March 3 – Stanford – 1:00 PM

(all start times pacific standard time)

2 thoughts to “Takeaway Tuesday: Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament”

  1. How do you have so much time on your hands to pretend to be a sports writer and shit on your own team. Long live the Long Beech State Dirtbags.

  2. We chose to be objective about our team and others. Sports reporting and commentary is not about being a cheerleader. You need to call a spade a spade some times. But thank you for reading.

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