Last week’s edition of Thursday Thoughts had a déjà vu feel to it. The results of the Hawai’i and UCSD series were eerily similar and appeared to mirror each other. This week feels like uncharted territory because, well, it is.
For the first time in Titan Baseball history, dating all the way back to 1975 when to program joined the Division 1 ranks, for the first time ever, the Titans will finish a complete season with a losing record.
We will examine the streaks that have been lost en route to this most recent one. Sadly, with eight games to go, it could get even worse. Before we do that, we will recap this past weekend at Cal Poly that included some good, some bad and some ugly aspects.
Friday, May 14, 2021 @ Cal Poly: LOSS – 1-5
Saturday, May 15, 2021 @ Cal Poly: LOSS – 3-13 (8 Innings)
Saturday, May 15, 2021 @ Cal Poly: LOSS – 0-10 (7 Innings)
Sunday, May 16, 2021 @ Cal Poly: LOSS – 1-9
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 19-28
Conference Record: 12-16
Streak: LOST 7
Last 10: 1-9
Runs Scored: 217
Home Runs: 19
Team Batting Avg: .263
On-Base %: .345
Slugging %: .363
Extra base hits: 109
Total bases: 582
Hit by pitch: 51
Stolen Bases: 22
Fielding %: .971
Double Plays turned: 32
Passed Balls: 5
Stolen Bases allowed: 27
Team ERA: 5.87
Batting average against: .291
Hits allowed: 480
Total Runs Allowed: 295
Walks Issued: 141
Ks per 9 innings: 7.06
Home runs allowed: 41
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Tanner Bibee: 4 IP – 10H – 4ER – 1BB – 2K
Sam Gomez: 1 IP – 2H – 0ER – 0BB – 0K
Wyatt Johnson: 2.1 IP – 3H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha Pitcher of the Week@landon12_: 4 IP – 3 H – 0ER – 0 BB – 1 K@TBibee28: 4 IP – 10 H – 4ER – 1 BB – 2 K@Samgomez_21: 1 IP – 2 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 0 K
Wyatt Johnson: 2.1 IP – 3 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 2 K
— Cal State NOmaha (@CalStateOmaha) May 18, 2021
Batter of the Week
Caden Connor: 4/15 – .267 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 2K
Tristan Gomes: 1/3 – .333 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 0K
Zach Lew: 4/15 – .267 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 3K
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha Batter of the Week:@Caden_Connor77: 4/15 – .267 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 2K – 0HR@tristancgomes: 1/3 – .333 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 0K – 0HR@zachlew20: 4/15 – .267 – 0R – 0RBI – 0BB – 3K – 0HR@SchellAustin: 4/9 – .444 – 2R – 1RBI – 0BB – 0K – 1HR
— Cal State NOmaha (@CalStateOmaha) May 18, 2021
Zach Lew returns
Zach Lew returned to the Titans line-up and looked to be full strength for the first time since injuring what appeared to be a hamstring vs. California Baptist on April 11th.
Lew went 4-for-15 and played in all four games up at Cal Poly. He hit .267 for the weekend despite going 0-for-4 on Sunday. Lew started the Friday and Saturday pair of games at Third Base and on Sunday started at Second Base.
Nice to see Lew back in action and healthy again.
Urps & Schell dropping Bombs
The Titans added two more home runs to their team totals courtesy of journeymen Austin Schell and Josh Urps. Austin Schell was the first, going deep in the top of the 2nd inning during the first game of the Saturday double header.
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) May 15, 2021
On Sunday, Urps got into the action going yard in the top of the 5th inning with a solo shot that would prove to be the only run scored on the day for the Titans.
T5 | See ya 👋 pic.twitter.com/rvXpiztha8
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) May 16, 2021
Both Schell and Urps are JC bounce back players arriving at Fullerton after going to a Division 1 baseball program out of high school and then going to a Junior College before transferring to Cal State Fullerton. Schell, from Irvine, attended Valparaiso before returning to Golden West College. Urps attended Sacramento State first but then went to Scottsdale Community College prior to transferring to CSUF.
Urps and Schell have three home runs apiece and remain tied with two other Titans, Deylan Pigford and Brendan Bobo for the team lead. Of the 19 home runs hit by the Titans in 2021, 12 of them (63%) have come from those four guys.
Due to the NCAA granting additional years of eligibility to players in 2020 due to the COVID-19 cancellation of the season, both Urps and Schell are Juniors this year and could return to the team in 2022 to play their senior year.
Cal Poly and not Long Beach
We alluded to the streak of 46 years of never having a losing season was broken this past weekend as the Titans lost their 28th game on the season. With that 28th loss and only eight games remaining on the schedule, the Titans are assured of finishing below .500 even if they run the table and go undefeated the rest of the way.
So how is this in the “good” column? It’s good because it happened while playing Cal Poly and not this weekend against Long Beach State.
Although the rivalry between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State has not lived up to its prior standards, it still remains. The luster of the rivalry has dulled recently, namely because Long Beach State had fallen on hard times during the Troy Buckley era when they were playing just above .500 baseball. Despite the Dirtbags’ struggles, they still want to beat Fullerton and the Titans still want to beat them no matter how strong or poor one team is performing.
Can you imagine the trash talk Dirtbag fans would be able to engage in if they were the ones to hand the Titans the definitive loss that forever sealed their fate of having a losing season? Forget the fact that Long Beach State has had 22 losing seasons dating back to the inception of the program in 1954. If you want to compare apples to apples, since 1975, Long Beach State has had 14 losing season to the Titans now one season.
Should we mention that Fullerton leads the rivalry 158-97 and has won seven of the last eight meetings, including four-straight. Putting that into perspective, if the Titans and Dirtbags return to normal and play six games against each other each season, Long Beach State would have to sweep all six games for the next 10 years and still would have a losing record vs. Cal State Fullerton.
Despite all of that history, you don’t think Long Beach would relish the idea of being the ones to have made the Titans secure a losing season for the first time in 46 years?
Fun Fact: The only era in which Long Beach State did not experience a losing season came when Dave Snow was the Head Coach. Many Titan fans know Snow as the coaching prodigy of Augie Garrido. Much of the heralded history and tradition that the Dirtbags have garnered over the years came while Snow was at the helm. Snow was responsible for putting Long Beach State on the map as a “baseball school” and their four trips to Omaha all came while Snow was head coach.
It stinks that Cal State Fullerton broke their streak of consecutive winnings seasons this year but Titans should be thankful it did not come at the hands of the Dirtbags.
Time has run out
Every Thursday it seemed as though we have beating the same horse about the Titans needing to go on a hot streak in order to get into contention to win the Big West Conference and get into the NCAA Tournament. The clock has struck midnight and the Titans are mathematically eliminated from winning the Big West Conference.
With eight games to go over the next two weekends, UC Irvine faces Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Fullerton. Cal State Fullerton faces Long Beach State and UC Irvine. Even if UCI loses all eight and Fullerton wins all eight, Irvine finishes the season with a .625 winning percentage and Cal State Fullerton finishes .500 in the conference.
As of right now, the Titans can play spoiler and try and ruin the seasons of Long Beach State and UC Irvine by winning out. After getting swept by Cal Poly, losing the weekend series to UC San Diego, Hawai’i and splitting with UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge, that is a big ask. The only conference teams the Titans have beaten three games to one have been UC Riverside and UC Davis. It is no coincidence that those two teams currently reside below the Titans in the Big West Conference standings in last place (UC Davis) and second to last place (UC Riverside).
Brooks Lee – One-Man Wrecking Crew
In last week’s Thursday Thoughts during the “Looking Ahead” portion, we told you that Brooks Lee was the Cal Poly Mustang to keep an eye on during that weekend series. We hate it when we’re right, especially when it comes to Titan killers.
Lee was a man possessed at the plate going 9-for-18 (.500) scoring five runs and striking out only once. (Thank you Gavin Kennedy.) Lee drove in seven runs on the weekend including four of them on a grand slam, his one home run on the weekend to go along with his three doubles.
The Mustangs scored 37 runs on the weekend so it was not just Brooks Lee providing the offensive juice. Hitting .500 for the weekend and driving in seven runs equates to him being a big part of it.
Mercy Ruled twice in the same day
Many Titan fans were aghast to learn that the Big West Conference had chosen to adopt the “Mercy Rule” this season. Not that they learned they were implementing it this season but rather learning of it after the Titans were handed a loss on April 23rd at Cal State Northridge in eight innings.
It happened again at Cal Poly… twice… in the same day.
The first game of the double header ended early after eight innings when Myles Emmerson singled to center field, driving in Nick DiCarlo as the 13th run. The Titans had scratched across three runs prior but the 10-run differential called the game early in favor of the Mustangs.
In the second game on Saturday, the mercy rule came into effect even earlier. Leading 10-0 headed to the top of the seventh inning, the Titans sent four men to the plate and Cole Urman was the only one to reach via a walk. The Mercy Rule is 10 runs after six complete and the Mustangs didn’t need their at-bats in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to secure the win.
History… and not in a good way
We’ve teased you enough and unfortunately it is time to address the biggest “Ugly” of them all… Titan Baseball will have a losing record for the time in program history.
Since the program joined Division 1 in 1975, Titan Baseball may not have qualified for the NCAA Tournament but they always finished winning more games than they lost. After 46 years of being able to say that, it is now gone.
46 years is a long time. Add to it that prior to this season, Titan fans, coaches, recruiters and proud alumni could use the term “never” when referring to the program. As in, “Since joining Division 1, Cal State Fullerton Titan Baseball has NEVER had a losing season.”
That’s gone now and will never be recovered. Once a streak is broken dating back to your program’s inception, it’s gone. You can’t just go and start a new streak. That streak is the last of the streaks that have been broken in the past 10 years. Most notably:
- The streak of going to Omaha at least once every four years – Broken in 2013 after losing to UCLA in the Fullerton Super Regional
- The streak of going winless at the College World Series – Extended in 2017 with the 4-6 loss to Florida State from 2007 to present
- The streak of earning an NCAA Regional berth since 1991 – Broken in 2019
- The streak of winning 30+ games in a season – Broken in 2019 with 27 wins
- The streak of winning a National Championship in every decade – Broken in 2019
- The streak of having at least one Titan player drafted in every MLB draft since 1975 – Broken in 2020*
- The streak of never having a losing record – Broken in 2021
*MLB contracted the draft to only five rounds in 2020 and it is assumed that had the draft been larger, one or more Titans would have been drafted.
That’s a lot of streaks broken in the last 10 years with five of them coming in the last three years. Many may say that streaks and records are meant to be broken, but unfortunately, those streaks were something Titan Baseball coaches could entice recruits to come to Fullerton. (Whether those were used to lure recruits or help them make their decision we do not know for sure but if they did, they can’t now.)
Telling a player that your program goes to the playoffs every year since their parents were going to high school is a big deal. Telling a player your program wins 30+ games every year, equivalent to winning 100 games in an MLB season, is a big deal. Telling a player that if they come to Cal State Fullerton they will never experience a losing season is a big deal. Telling a player that if he commits to four years at Cal State Fullerton, the history shows he will play in Omaha at least once. (If he leaves after three years without going to Omaha, he can comfort himself with all the money from his MLB signing bonus.)
Cal State Fullerton can not recruit to those talking points anymore. The last recruiting point of never having a losing season died in San Luis Obispo.
We will take a deeper dive into how the Titan Baseball program has gotten here and will examine everything from player development, culture, the state of college baseball, the use of analytics, what motivates players today, facilities, budget, etc. But that will be in a stand alone column once the season is over and the entirety of the season and the magnitude of losing these streaks can be examined and measured.
They say you should never say never. In the case of Titan Baseball, fans will never be able to say, “The Titans have never had a losing season“.
The Titans come home to Goodwin Field for the final home stand and will faced long-time rival, the Long Beach State Dirtbags. The Dirtbags are currently third place in the Big West Conference standings with a 19-13 conference record and are 21-14 on the season. Long Beach chose not to play any games prior to the Big West Conference slate but were able to schedule the University of Pacific during their scheduled bye week.
This meeting will be the first between the Dirtbags and the Titans since 2019 when the Titans swept all six games that year. This meeting also marks the first time the Titans will face a team led by Long Beach State Head Coach Eric Valenzuela who replaced Troy Buckley after his release mid-season in 2019.
The Dirtbags won their second straight series beating Cal State Bakersfield three games to one and sweeping UC Riverside the previous weekend. On the flip side, Cal State Fullerton was swept up at Cal Poly and dropped the UC San Diego series winning one of the four games.
Offensively, the Dirtbags are led by three players all hitting above .300. Connor Kokx is tied for the team lead in home runs with Jonathan Long who is also one of the big threats. Kokx is batting .362 while Long hits .341. Chase Luttrell leads the Dirtbags in at-bats with 144 on the year while holding a .306 batting average.
On the mound, regular Friday night starter Johnathan Lavallee boasts a 2.20 ERA and a miniscule 0.84 WHIP. Opponents are batting an anemic .156 while striking out 59 times in 173 at-bats. Nearly 35% of the batters Lavallee has faced, he has punched them out and sent them back to the dugout.
In looking at the Long Beach State series preview (Cal State Fullerton has not released theirs as of press time), Tanner Bibee is mysteriously missing from the starting rotation and his normal Friday night starting spot. We won’t speculate as to the reason but as of right now, Tanner Bibee many not finish his career by trying to beat the Dirtbags one more time.
Friday, May 14: RHP – Johnathan Lavallee (6-1, 2.20 ERA) vs. RHP – Ryan Hare (0-4, 6.59 ERA)
Saturday, May 15 (Game 1): LHP – Alfredo Ruiz (4-0, 3.30 ERA) vs. RHP – Gavin Kennedy (1-1, 3.86 ERA)
Saturday, May 15 (Game 2): RHP – Luis Ramirez (3-4, 4.15 ERA) vs. RHP – Wyatt Johnson (0-0, 4.50 ERA)
Sunday, May 16: RHP – Jack Noble (3-2, 2.65 ERA) vs. RHP – Kyle Luckham (3-8, 5.84 ERA)
Times listed are Pacific time:
May 21, 2021 (Friday) vs. Long Beach State – 5:00 PM
May 22, 2021 (Saturday) vs. Long Beach State – 12:00 PM
May 22, 2021 (Saturday) vs. Long Beach State – 3:00 PM
May 23, 2021 (Sunday) vs. Long Beach State – 1:00 PM