Thursday Thoughts: Gonzaga Series & K-State Mid-Week

After opening the season at Stanford, the Titans came home to Goodwin Field. Unfortunately, the Titans were swept in their own yard all three games and lost by a combined run differential of 17-5 to Gonzaga. That includes a 2-0 shutout on Saturday night.

But the Titans did bounce back on Tuesday night vs. Kansas State, winning that one 7-5. Now at 2-5 on the season, it appears the coaching staff has been tinkering with the starting line from game to game to see where guys fit and can contribute the best to their abilities. With seven games out of the way, it appears that the weekend rotation looks like Cameron Repetti on Fridays, Tyler Stultz on Saturdays and Christian Rodriguez on Sundays. The mid-week starter role went to Fynn Chester but that spot could still be in flux with other bullpen guys as they earn trust.

With two weeks to go before the Titans open Big West Conference play March 18th at UC Santa Barbara, we’re hoping that the regular starters will see more consistent time in the field prior to conference play. If we were filling out the line-up card, it would look like this:

2 – Cole Urman
3 – Caden Connor
4 – JJ Cruz
5 – Zach Lew
6 – Jack Haley
7 – Jason Brandow
8 – Damone Hale
9 – Nate Nankil
DH – Jackson Lyon

If you read our Projected 2022 Titan Baseball Roster – Hitters piece, you’ll notice that it mirrors the suggested line-up above. After the first seven games of the season, this appears to be the best line-up that gives the Titans the best opportunity to win games. Will that line-up take the field on Friday vs. Pepperdine? We shall see.

On to the Thursday Thoughts coming out of the Gonzaga series and the K-State mid-week game.

The Results

Friday, February 25, 2022 vs. Gonzaga: LOSS – 12-3
Saturday, February 26, 2022 vs. Gonzaga: LOSS – 2-0
Sunday, February 27, 2022 vs. Gonzaga: LOSS – 3-2 (10 innings)
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 vs. Kansas State: WIN – 7-5

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 2-5
Conference Record: 0-0
Streak: WON 1
Last 10: 2-5

Offense

Runs Scored: 24
Hits: 52
Doubles: 7
Triples: 3
Home Runs: 2
RBI: 20
Team Batting Avg: .230
On-Base %: .313
Slugging %: .314
Walks: 25
Extra base hits: 12
Total bases: 71
Hit by pitch: 3
Stolen Bases: 2
Strikeouts: 64

Defense

Errors: 9
Fielding %: .967
Double Plays turned: 5
Passed Balls: 0
Stolen Bases allowed: 8

Pitching

Team ERA: 4.50
Batting average against: .249
Hits allowed: 58
Total Runs Allowed: 34
Walks Issued: 23
Strikeouts: 43
Ks per 9 innings: 6.24
Home runs allowed: 2

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Tyler Stultz

Pitcher of the Week

Tyler Stultz: 6IP – 2H – 0ER – 2BB – 5K – 0.00 ERA

Also considered:
Gavin Meyer: 3IP – 2H – 1ER – 1BB – 1K – 3.00 ERA
Christian Rodriguez: 7IP – 6H – 1ER – 0BB – 7K – 1.29 ERA
Michael Weisberg: 3.2IP – 0H – 0ER -0BB – 5K – (W) – 0.00 ERA


Jason Brandow

Batter of the Week

Jason Brandow: 3/8 – .375 – 1R – 0RBI – 2BB – 1K

Also considered:
Jack Haley: 3/10 – .300 – 1R – 1RBI – 0BB – 5K
Nate Nankil: 3/9 – .333 – 1R – 1RBI – 0BB – 3K
Austin Schell: 2/8 – .250 – 0R – 1 RBI – 0BB – 2K

The Good

Cameron Repetti
Cameron Repetti delivers to the plate Friday night vs. Gonzaga

Weekend starters boast 1.69 ERA

Through six games, the weekend starters, Cameron Repetti, Tyler Stultz and Christian Rodriguez have allowed six earned runs while pitching 32 total innings. That works out to be a 1.69 ERA for the weekend guys.

If you count Fynn Chester’s three innings of shutout ball from Tuesday night vs. Kansas State, that starter ERA shrinks to 1.54.

The pleasant surprise of the weekend starting staff has come by way of Tyler Stultz’s left arm. In two starts, both on Saturdays, Stultz has pitched 11 innings and has yet to give up an earned run. He has struck out eight and walked three for a 2.67:1 K:BB ratio. Opposing batters have only hit .154 against Stultz and of the six hits he has allowed, only one of them was an extra base hit, a double to Gonzaga’s Tyler Rando.

Despite giving up three earned runs this past Friday vs. Gonzaga, Repetti’s ERA sits at a respectable 2.70. Repetti has a 2:1 K:BB ratio and opponents are batting a paltry .205 against the right-hander. Along with Stultz, Repetti has only allowed a single extra base hit in his first two outings.

Christian Rodriguez came back strong on Sunday vs. Gonzaga and went the longest of all the weekend starters in the early going of the 2022 season. C-Rod threw seven complete innings and now has an ERA of 2.45. More on Rodriguez’s strong performance on Sunday vs. Gonzaga coming later.

Although Fynn Chester has seen innings out of the bullpen this early season, his start on Tuesday classifies him as a mid-week starter. We previously mentioned the three complete innings where he gave up zero runs, he also surrendered only two hits and struck out three K-State Wildcats. Could Chester fill the regular mid-week role where he comes out of the bullpen on weekends but gets the ball to start the Tuesday games, a la Koby Guana from 2012 – 2014?

Despite the Titans’ record sitting at 2-5, the weekend starting rotation is not to blame for the slow start.

C-Rod Stanford Bullpen Pre-game
Christian Rodriguez went 7 complete innings vs. Gonzaga, the longest outting of his career and of all the Titan starters in 2022.
Photo courtesy Titan Athletics

Strong 7 IP from C-Rod

Christian Rodriguez, after starting Sunday vs. Stanford to mixed results, (4.0 IP – 3 H – 2 R – 2 ER – 5 BB – 2 Ks) the Sunday starter for the Gonzaga series was listed as “TBD”. C-Rod got the start and put on a show much to the delight of the 1850 Titan fans in the stands. (More on that later)

Rodriguez went a full seven innings and showed why he can be trusted to handle the Sunday starter duties. He scattered six hits and one earned run crossed the plate while striking out seven Gonzaga Bulldogs. Biggest take-away from his Sunday performance? No walks. None. Compare that to his Stanford performance where he walked five Cardinal batters.

The Sunday game proved a confidence builder for C-Rod to demonstrate he can pitch at a high level and pitch out of high pressure situations. Rodriguez also showed poise and maturity in the second inning when a fielding error allowed Enzo Apodaca to reach base safely. He could have wilted and take on the “here we go again” attitude, but he didn’t. He promptly went after Jaxon Sorensen and got him on a swinging strike out.

Christian Rodriguez is the real deal and we have been singing his praises since he stepped on campus last season. We’re happy to see him coming into his own and demonstrating why he could be a Friday night guy in Division 1 baseball.

Three triples in one inning

On Tuesday night vs. Kansas State, the Titans hit not one, not two but three triples in a single inning.

Sophomore Nate Nankil took a pitch opposite way into right field and sprinted all the way to third base. Nankil popped up after a face first slide and pumped up the crowd and the Titan dugout with a quick air guitar celebration.

After a Jake Harvey foul out to give the Titans one out, Jack Haley delivered a triple to right field, scoring Nankil easily and tying the score at five. Carter White, pinch hitting for Damone Hale, struck out to give the Titans two outs.

During Caden Connor‘s at-bat, Haley scored from third on a passed ball and that set the stage for Connor’s triple, the third of the inning.

Connor shot the ball into the left field area that bounced into the Titans bullpen currently located in foul territory. The Titan relievers scattered and the ball careened back near the foul line. Wildcats left fielder, Dominic Johnson, could not get a handle on the ball and actually kicked it a few times while trying to pick it up. The relay throw was off-line and bounced off the base and into the dugout, allowing Connor to advance and score.

The umpires convened to discuss if the ball had gotten trapped or was somehow lodged under something in left field. To their credit, third base umpire Darrel Mason was going up the foul line and had an excellent look at the play. The umps let the play stand and Connor declared safe at home.

Many in the stands wondered if three triples in a single inning was an NCAA record. Well, it’s not.

The current record is four triples in the same inning and more remarkable, it has happened three times.

  • Wichita St. vs. Missouri S&T, May 3, 1983
  • Washington vs. Portland, April 15, 1974 (5th inn.)
  • Washington vs. Oregon St., May 20, 1966 (6th inn.)

As Mike Martinez put it on the ESPN+ broadcast, “Strange turn of events”. Indeed Mike, but Titan fans will take it any way they can right now.

GHLL Titan tailgate
Parents and kids from the Golden Hill Little League tailgated like champions prior to the Titans taking on Gonzaga on Sunday.

Huge Sunday crowd

Just seven games into the young 2022 season, Sunday’s crowd at Goodwin Field was the biggest we’ve ever seen on a Sunday. Typically Sunday crowds average just under 1,000 but the official attendance numbers clocked in at 1850 this past Sunday.

Sundays are usually the least attended games of the weekend especially when it gets later in the season and the weather warms up. Three hours at Goodwin Field with very little shade and relief, many fans, even hard-core season ticket holders, will opt to stay home and watch the live-stream.

Sunday was unseasonably warm for late-February. The official box score in the weather section proclaimed, “Weather: 77, Somehow got hot“. So what brought out the big crowd in the face of high heat and a Titans team stumbling out of the starting gate? Golden Hill Little League.

Hats off to the GHLL which serves young ball players in Fullerton for coming out in force on Sunday. A select number of kids were lucky enough to run out on the field during player introductions and remain there for the national anthem. They then went up into the stands and many were seen chasing down foul balls. Almost all of them tailgated in Lot A near Yorba Linda Blvd.

In taking a quick look at their website, GHLL will also attend the Friday, April 15th game vs. UC Davis. An entire little league coming out coupled with it being a Friday night, Goodwin Field could resemble the way it looked when the Titans hosted a Super Regional in 2018.

No matter how the Titan Athletic Department is getting it done, hats off to whomever is helping bring the fans back to Goodwin to pre-Covid levels.

The Bad

Wambold Josten Stanford Bullpen
James Wambold (48) and Timothy Josten stretch out in the Titan bullpen up at Stanford earlier this season.
Photo courtesy of Titan Athletics

Bullpen woes

We sung the praises of the weekend starters boasting a 1.69 ERA. So how does the team ERA sit at 4.50 after seven games? If it ain’t the starters, then it has to be the bullpen.

The Titan relievers gave up 20 earned runs in 21 innings pitched after the first two weekends. That works out to a 8.57 ERA for the bullpen. Add in five more earned runs on Tuesday in six additional innings and that comes out to 25 earned runs in 27 innings for the relievers.

After seven games, the Titans bullpen ERA sits at 8.33 heading into this weekend vs. Pepperdine.

The season is still very young and there is plenty of time to right the ship in the bullpen. It does not help that Stanford entered the season ranked No. 5-8 depending on which publication you looked at and the college baseball pundits had Gonzaga projected to win the West Coast Conference. Two tough opponents for sure.

Sticking with the tradition of playing stiff competition early on in order to battle test the team for Big West Conference play has continued under Jason Dietrich. But in order to have success in the non-conference and when it really counts, the bullpen needs to be more reliable than it has been in the first two weeks of the 2022 season.

12 Double-Plays

The Titans have hit into a double-play 12 times in seven games. On Saturday night, the Titans hit into six DPs alone. In a nine inning game with 27 total outs, when 12 of them come via a double-play, no bueno.

Add to it, four of those six Saturday night double-plays ended the inning. Of the 12 double-plays the Titans have hit into in the first seven games, eight have ended the inning.

Yikes. Talk about a rally killer. The good news is that on Tuesday the Titans avoided the double play ball vs. Kansas State and actually turned two of their own defensively.

Damone Hale Stanford at-bat
In just six games, Outfielder Damone Hale’s slash line sits at .429 / .529 / .571 in 17 plate appearances.
Photo courtesy of Titan Athletics

Batting .214 as a team after Gonzaga

We’re not saying this is Déjà vu but the Titans .214 batting average to open the first six games of the season is reminiscent of another recent season. That season? The 2020 COVID-19 shortened season.

With just 16 games in the books in 2020 before everything shutdown, the Titans ended that season with a 4-12 record and a .214 batting average. Of course nobody could have predicted the season would end the way it did but this year’s batting average is eerily similar to the 2020 season.

Add to our previous point regarding the double plays, the 2020 team hit into 11 DPs in 16 games. We don’t mean to beat a dead horse and belabor a point already made in the previous section but one more double-play in 10 less games, again, no bueno.

The team did help their batting average in the K-State mid-week contest. The 11 hits on Tuesday helped raise the team batting average to .230. Still nothing to write home about but at least moving in the right direction.

Cole Urman Catching Stanford
Cole Urman’s injury sustained at Stanford has kept him out of the Titans line-up vs. Gonzaga and K-State.
Photo courtesy of Titan Athletics

Urman’s defense missed

In the Projected 2022 Titan Baseball Roster – Hitters preview, we sang the praises of Catcher Cole Urman. Unfortunately, Urman did not see any time this weekend vs. Gonzaga nor in the mid-week Kansas State game.

Urman appears to have a jammed thumb in his catching hand that he suffered up at Stanford. When it happened, the game was delayed for a bit of time to ensure he could stay in the game. Urman did in fact gut it out and was not removed immediately. The injury may have worsened between Palo Alto and Fullerton and his absence behind the plate this weekend speaks volumes to the potential of an injury.

Speaking of singing those praises, much of it came in the form of Urman’s defense. His ability to catch a good game, his arm to kill threats of stolen bases and his ability to block off-speed pitches that can turn into passed balls or wild pitches is fantastic. Urman is that proverbial “wall behind the plate“.

In the second inning on Friday and Jake Gentry catching, Shea Kramer advanced to third on what was ruled a wild pitch. Later Mason Marenco hit a sacrifice fly to score Kramer.

In the fifth inning after Peyton Jones relieved Cameron Repetti, Grayson Sterling advanced to second and third on two wild pitches. Yup, you guessed it, Sterling eventually scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Jack Machtolf.

In the eighth inning, Enzo Apodaca stole third. Would Apodaca have stolen third or even attempted to steal had Urman been in the game? We’ll never know.

(We’re not saying had Urman been in the game he would have successfully picked off Apodaca. But maybe if he was in the game would have been a deterrent from stealing. The kid has a cannon for a right arm and a snap throw to third is no big deal for him.)

A sacrifice fly scored Apodaca and do we need to go into too much detail about the wild pitch in the top of the ninth inning or you are starting to get the point? This was Friday night alone.

Saturday night didn’t get any better with a swinging strike three on a wild pitch and Marenco reached first safely. He then advanced to second on another wild pitch. After a ground out drove Marenco to third, how did he score you ask? A wild pitch. Had any of these wild pitches been blocked, the results may have been quite different.

Take a look at the Saturday box score. The scoring summary for the 2-0 loss… both runs scored came via wild pitches.

Let’s hope the Urman injury is not too serious and he returns healthy and 100% this weekend when Pepperdine comes to Goodwin Field.

The Ugly

Jackson Lyon Fielding Pre-game
Jackson Lyon taking pre-game grounders prior to Sunday’s Stanford game.
Photo courtesy of Titan Athletics

Errors, errors and more errors

If a team is averaging over one error per game, that is not a recipe for success. In six games in the 2022 season, the Titans have committed seven errors. Unfortunately, shortstop JT Navyac is credited with four of the seven errors.

The only game the Titans have played without and error came on Saturday night vs. Gonzaga. The Titans had 38 total chances and recorded 27 outs without an error. But Saturday night was not “error” free. Did you forget about the wild pitches that led to both Wildcats scoring?

Looking Ahead

Pepperdine dugout

The Titans welcome into Goodwin Field the second of three West Coast Conference foes when they host Pepperdine Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Gonzaga last weekend and Loyola Marymount the following weekend along with Pepperdine all hail from the WCC.

The Titans hold the overall series lead at 71-49. The teams last met in 2021 when Pepperdine defeated Cal State Fullerton 10-4 at Goodwin Field. The Waves are 5-3 overall sweeping the opening series with Villanova but have lost three of their last four. The Waves played in the 2022 Kleberg Bank Classic held on the campus of Texas A&M Corpus Christi where they lost to Iowa (3-1), Wichita State (5-2) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (10-4). They did manage to win one on Sunday, February 27th, a 7-5 victory over TAMUCC.

The big hitter for the Waves is John Peck who enters this weekend hitting .406 with 13 RBI and two home runs. The other hitters to look out for include Charles Masino (.357) and Quintt Landis (.333)

On the mound, Friday starter Brandon Llewellyn holds a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings pitched. Opponents are batting .171 when Llewellyn is on the mound. Saturday starter, Trevor Hinkel will get his first start of the season after making three relief appearances and is tied for the team lead in strike outs (10) with Nathan Diamond.

Of note, the start time for the Saturday game has been moved up to 5 PM local time in order to accommodate the Men’s Basketball game scheduled to appear on ESPNU at 8 PM. (Normally Saturday night games start at 6 pm.)

Weekend Probables

Friday, March 4: RHP – Cameron Repetti (0-2, 2.70 ERA) vs. RHP – Brandon Llewellyn (0-1, 2.31 ERA)
Saturday, March 5: LHP – Tyler Stultz (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP – Trevor Hinkel (0-0, 4.66 ERA)
Sunday, March 6: RHP – Christian Rodriguez (0-1, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP – Dane Morrow (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

Times listed are Pacific time:

March 4, 2022 (Friday) vs. Pepperdine – 7:00 PM
March 5, 2022 (Saturday) vs. Pepperdine – 5:00 PM
March 6, 2022 (Sunday) vs. Pepperdine – 1:00 PM

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