Thursday Thoughts: Arizona State Series

This week’s edition of Thursday Thoughts we’ll discuss how Titan Baseball was swept out of Arizona losing all three games to Arizona State by a 15 run differential. The Titans scratched across six runs while 21 the ASU Sun Devils touched home plate 21 times. The Titans have lost six straight games and their record sits at 4-10 and 2-8 out of their last 10 games.

As you might imagine, fans have already hit the panic button and are bracing themselves for another down year. But before that comes to fruition, there’s this little thing called “conference games” that need to be played before the season gets written off as a total disaster. UC Santa Barbara comes to Goodwin Field this weekend for a four game series and kicks off the 2021 Big West Conference schedule for the Titans.

Before we preview the UCSB series, let’s look back and recap the Arizona State weekend that had some good, some bad and some ugly aspects.

The Results

Friday, March 12, 2021 @ ASU: LOSS – 0-10
Saturday, March 13, 2021 @ ASU: LOSS – 4-6
Sunday, March 14, 2021 @ ASU: LOSS – 2-5

Season to date stats

Record: 4-10
Streak: Lost 6
Last 10: 2-8

Offense

Runs Scored: 53
Hits: 109
Doubles: 13
Triples: 6
RBI: 46
Team Batting Avg: .237
On-Base %: .323
Slugging %: .350
Walks: 49
Extra base hits: 28
Total bases: 161
Hit by pitch: 11
Stolen Bases: 3
Home Runs: 9
Strikeouts: 129

Defense

Errors: 17
Fielding %: .966
Double Plays turned: 7
Passed Balls: 1
Stolen Bases allowed: 10

Pitching

Team ERA: 5.28
Batting average against: .252
Hits allowed: 116
Total Runs Allowed: 78
Walks Issued: 45
Strikeouts: 110
Ks per 9 innings: 8.30
Home runs allowed: 15

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week

Evan Adolphus: 1.0 IP – 0 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 0 K

Also considered:

Ryan Hare: 1.1 IP – 2 H – 1 ER – 0 BB – 2 Ks
Michael Weisberg: 0.2 IP – 0 H – 0 ER – 1 BB – 0 K
Jake Vargas: 1.0 IP – 0 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 1 K

Batter of the Week

Omar Veloz: 8 AB – .625 – 2 R – 5 H – 2 RBI – 0 BB – 1 K – 1 HR

Also considered:

Austin Schell: 13 AB – .154 – 1 R – 2 H – 1 RBI – 0 BB – 2 Ks – 1 HR
Josh Urps: 9 AB – .222 – 1 R – 2 H – 1 RBI – 0 BB – 3 Ks – 1 HR
JT Navyac: 6 AB – .500 – 1 R – 3 H – 0 RBI – 2 BB – 1 K – 0 HR

The Good

Non-Conference is in the Rear View Mirror

With a record of 4-10 and over 70% of the games played in 2021 against PAC-12 schools, the Titans should be looking forward to starting conference play. Head Coach Rick Vanderhook always schedules tough non-conference opponents in order to test his team’s mettle and to place them in the best position to win the conference. Although non-conference games go down on the team’s overall record, it appears Hooky is more focused on the conference and treats non-conference contests as if they don’t matter.

Heading into his ninth conference schedule (2020 never got to conference play before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the remainder of the season), Vanderhook’s squads have won the Big West Conference five out of eight seasons. With the 2019 season the outlier, Vanderhook’s teams have made the post-season seven out of the eight times. Although 2020 (4-12) started off the same way as 2021 has (4-10), nobody knows how the conference schedule would have shaken out.

We understand there are plenty of fans who are quick to point out Vanderhook’s regular season woes of late. Going back to 2015, Vanderhook’s conference record stands at 82-24. That’s a .773 winning percentage. Hook’s non-conference winning percentage is not that high but chalk it up to scheduling stiffer competition to get his team ready for conference play and the fact that the Big West is not a powerhouse conference like the SEC, Big 12 or ACC.

The Titans record heading into this weekend’s series vs. UCSB is not impressive but it does not matter. As long as Hook knows the type of team he is dealing with and can move the chess pieces in order to win conference games, that’s all that matters. Now if the Titans finish the conference slate in the middle of the pack and miss the regionals again, there is reason for legitimate concern.

Could fans be admitted to Goodwin Field with restrictions and capacity limitations by April 2021?
(Photo courtesy of Matt Brown)

Fans at Goodwin in April?

As you know, Cal State Fullerton Athletics opened the spring sports season “fanless” and thus far, only MLB scouts have been allowed into games. Parents of players and season ticket holders have been told to stay away until COVID restrictions have been lessened. That may be as soon as April and the weekend series with Cal State Bakersfield.

Announced on Friday, outdoor spectator sports such as Major League Baseball (and assuming college baseball as well) will be allowed to resume with fans at 20% capacity for California counties in the red tier. With COVID case numbers on the decline, many point to April as the time when outdoor sports can start allowing fans.

Just this past Sunday, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that Orange County will move into the Red Tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy after having met Red Tier metrics.

Of course, the decision to allow spectators is up to the Cal State Fullerton administration. Jennifer McGhen, CSUF Assistant Athletics Director for Sales and Marketing, sent an email to all season ticket holders on February 19, 2021 informing those interested in attending games, that CSUF will not issue season tickets in 2021. McGhen did say in her email:

Though I do not forsee [sic] us having fans this season, should we get the greenlight [sic] to do so and can fulfill all health and safety protocols, we will sell individual game tickets, with Season Ticket holders having presale [sic] priority.

Because Orange County just recently dipped into the Red Tier, CSUF probably did not have enough time to get the logistics lined up in order to allow fans at Goodwin Field this weekend vs. UCSB. After this weekend the Titans hit the road and play at UC Riverside and then return home April 2-4 to take on the Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield.

Will two weeks be enough time for Titan Athletics to prepare and allow at least parents and immediate family into the games come April? That has yet to be determined. Hopefully season ticket holders will receive an email soon alerting them they can purchase tickets individually for the remainder of the home games scheduled.

Omar Veloz HR ccelebration
Omar Veloz (38) is congratulated at the plate by teammates after hitting his first home run of the 2021 season.

2 More Titans join the Bomb Squad

Last week we pointed out that more Titans were getting into the home run groove after Jackson Lyon and Isaiah Garcia went yard vs. USC and Pepperdine respectively. Now add to that list the names Omar Veloz and Josh Urps who now have gone deep. Both Urps and Veloz hit bombs on Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Arizona State.

Austin Schell is the only Titan to have more than one home run on the year. Schell hit his second homer of the season also in Saturday’s game, a solo shot that cleared the left center field wall.

Eight Titans have HRs already and some batters with significant power have yet to hit one. Will this weekend vs. UC Santa Barbara be the series when guys like Nate Nankil, Tristan Gomes, and Brendan Bobo go deep? Just a few short days until we find out.

Tanner Bibee mound visit
Tanner Bibee (24) is comforted by catcher Cole Urman (25) after a Kai Murphy line drive hit the pitcher’s right foot.

Bibee Foot Injury

An injury to your Friday night ace is never a good thing, but considering Tanner Bibee should be good to go on Friday night vs. UCSB, this turned out to be a good thing.

Tanner Bibee walking boot
Tanner Bibee was seen in a walking boot on Saturday.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bibee’s right foot was struck by a batted ball by Kai Murphy. The ball hit Bibee’s foot with such force that it popped into the air and the infielders could not get to it, resulting in Murphy getting a double. Bibee was in noticeable pain and Assistant Athletic Trainer, Justin “J-Bone” Hostert, came out to attend to Bibee. Head Coach Rick Vanderhook was also out of the dugout to check on Bibee.

Bibee tried to walk it off and used a few injury warm-up pitches to assess the damage and gauge his pain tolerance. He stayed in for one more batter, Allbry Major, who singled up the middle to score Murphy. That was it for Bibee and he was relieved by Matthew Sanchez.

The following day, Bibee was seen at the ballpark in a walking boot but appeared to be okay. On Sunday, Bibee had abandoned the walking boot and was walking without a limp and wearing turf shoes.

The main concern is that since the injury is to his right foot and that is his push off foot when pitching. Pitchers tend to deliver to the plate faster when their push off foot is injured in an effort to release the pressure on the injury and mitigate pain. Rushing to the plate could alter pitching mechanics and for a pitcher like Bibee, the slightest change could make him less effective.

The injury appears to be minor and could just be a bruise that should heal by Friday. For the sake of the Titans playoff hopes starting this weekend with conference play, everyone is hoping Bibee’s foot is going to be okay.

The Bad

Friday Night Shutout

How quickly things can turn from one week to the next. A week ago, the Titans cruised to a 5-0 shutout victory over USC on a Friday. This past Friday, the Titans were soundly beaten 10-0 by ASU.

The numbers speak for themselves. All 10 runs scored by the Sun Devils were earned, with Matthew Sanchez saddled with half of them. Freshman Wyatt Johnson saw his second action in two games on Friday and gave up four hits and two runs, both earned.

Although hindsight is 20/20 and we have touched on the Tanner Bibee injury in the previous segment, on Friday the injury appeared to be more serious than it could turn out. Bibee was in obvious pain and was wincing after the ball hit his foot. It looked pretty bad from the spectator seats and up in the press box.

Lastly, the Titans gave up three home runs in total on Friday with the Allbry Major homer the worst of the bunch. Up by eight runs, Major crushed a Wyatt Johnson offering and then proceeded to bat flip as he trotted towards first base. Two schools of thought here:

1) If you don’t want someone to bat flip on you, don’t hang pitches that can get destroyed and go over the wall.
2) When up by eight runs and you do hit a homer, show some class and turn left four times and high five at home plate with your teammates.

Our opinion, it was a bad look for Major and the Sun Devils. Then again, there is no rule against it and it was their choice to do behave that way. To the victors goes the spoils.

Kameron Guangorena cast
Kameron Guangorena underwent wrist surgery and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season.
(Photo courtesy of David Guangorena on Instagram)

Guango gone for the year

Kameron Guangorena did not make the trip to Arizona State this past weekend. This was curious because he played in the USD series and the weekend prior when the Titans played USC, UCLA and Pepperdine. Guango missed the Utah series due to an injury but many speculated it was something minor.

Fans active on social media were met with the above photo posted by Kameron’s father, David Guangorena, on Thursday. On Instagram, David Guangorena wrote:

I would just like to say how proud I am of my son Kameron @special.k27. This past Tuesday evening he had his season ending surgery on his wrist. His wrist ligament popped while at bat at his last game against UCLA. This injury has been bothering him for over a year now and he has done an amazing job working thru it. This is absolutely heartbreaking because this was his year that he has been working so hard for! Even though things have not went as planed at CSUF, we are still grateful for the opportunities he has had. This is just a set back that we know he will battle thru! We know that NO ONE will hold him down! We know Kam will eventually get what he deserves and has worked so hard for. He has maintained a high GPA and I know he will continue to do so. He is an amazing example for his 2 younger brothers and will continue to be.

Kam please know, we will always be behind you and you will achieve everything you have worked so hard for. You will come back stronger than ever from this! Just know you make us proud parents. Continue to grind and work past this. We love you Kam! #31Guango

Guango is in his third year in the Titan Baseball program and is draft eligible this year. It is uncertain if the injury and surgery will prompt him to enter the draft and turn pro, possibly sign as a free agent if he goes undrafted, enter the transfer portal and attend another college or if he will return to Titan Baseball for the 2022 season.

Whatever Guango chooses to do, we wish him a speedy recovery and the knowledge and wisdom to make the right decision for him, his future and his family.

The Ugly

Tristan Gomes
Tristan Gomes recorded the final out vs. ASU on Friday while in cold, windy and rainy conditions.

Friday Night Weather

The official box score weather reported Friday’s game as “Mid-50s, chance of showers“. That chance of showers turned into a certainty and from the seventh inning on, it was quite wet. If you were there, the windy conditions combined with the steady drizzle in the later innings, made it downright miserable.

The fact that the Titans were losing 10-0 didn’t make it any better.

Fans may not be in the stands this weekend when the Titans open conference play vs. UC Santa Barabara

Looking Ahead

As we have mentioned earlier, Big West Conference play starts this weekend when the Titans welcome the UC Santa Barbra Gauchos to Goodwin Field. Keep in mind that with the start of Big West play, each weekend series will be a four game affair with a double-header scheduled for Saturdays.

The Gauchos just completed a sweep of the University of San Francisco this weekend at home after getting swept in a four game series the previous weekend by Oregon. UCSB is currently 9-5 with their other loss coming on opening night vs. Santa Clara.

As you might expect, the three Gaucho weekend starters lead the team on the mound. Rodney Boone leads them with three wins already and boasts a 0.46 ERA. Look for Michael McGreevy and Zach Torra to toe the rubber against the Titans this weekend as well. McGreevy is 2-0 on the season and has a 2.70 ERA.

Offensively, UCSB has two freshmen, Jordan Sprinkle and Zach Rodriguez, with over 20 at-bats that are hitting over .400. Cole Cummings and Marcos Castanon are tied with 53 at-bats and they are batting .377 and .358 respectively. Titan pitchers will need to be very careful when facing Castanon who has four home runs on the year and leads the Gauchos in that category. The previously mentioned Sprinkle is dangerous if he gets on first base and has stolen six bases already this season.

Times listed are Pacific time:

March 19, 2021 (Friday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 5:00 PM
March 20, 2021 (Saturday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 12:00 PM
March 20, 2021 (Saturday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 3:00 PM
March 21, 2021 (Sunday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 1:00 PM

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