Thursday Thoughts: Hawai’i Series

This weekend marks the halfway point in the 2023 season. After seven weeks, the Titans look ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process. The Titans hold a 14-9 record so far with the UC Santa Barbara series looming.

The last time the Titans started off a season this well through 23 games? You need to go back to the 2017 season when the Titans started off 16-7. That start was aided by the Titans ripping off an 8-game win streak from March 11 – March 21.

If the 2017 season rings a bell, it’s the year the Titans finished third in the Big West Conference behind Long Beach State and Cal Poly. By virtue of a better RPI ranking, the Titans leapfrogged the Mustangs with a berth into the NCAA tournament. We all know what happened then with the Titans advancing to Omaha with a thrilling Super Regional victory over the Dirtbags at Blair Field.

We keep on saying two out of three gets you to Omaha and the Titans have strung together five consecutive weekends of winning two out of three. Are the Titans poised to get back to Omaha like that 2017 team? A big step towards that could come this weekend vs. UC Santa Barbara.

Join us as we look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly that was Titan Baseball this past week against the University of Hawai’i.

The Results

Friday, March 31, 2023 vs. Hawai’i: WIN – 6-7
Saturday, April 1, 2023 vs. Hawai’i: LOSS – 14-10
Sunday, April 2, 2023 vs. Hawai’i: WIN – 11-12

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 14-9
Conference Record: 7-2
Streak: WON 1
Last 10: 8-2


Runs Scored: 164
Hits: 242
Doubles: 61
Triples: 3
Home Runs: 14
RBI: 147
Team Batting Avg: .290
On-Base %: .387
Slugging %: .421
Walks: 110
Extra base hits: 78
Total bases: 351
Hit by pitch: 28
Stolen Bases: 20
Strikeouts: 196


Errors: 21
Fielding %: .975
Double Plays turned: 16
Passed Balls: 5
Stolen Bases allowed: 9


Team ERA: 5.44
Batting average against: .279
Hits allowed: 231
Total Runs Allowed: 141
Walks Issued: 107
Strikeouts: 227
Ks per 9 innings: 9.73
Home runs allowed: 21

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week

Jojo Ingrassia

Jojo Ingrassia : 4.2IP – 4H – 1ER – 1BB – 6K – 1.93 ERA – 2W
Also considered:
Jesse Alfaro: 1IP – 0H – 0ER – 0BB – 0K – 0.00 ERA
Fynn Chester : 4IP – 3H – 2ER – 3BB – 3K – 4.50 ERA
Tyler Stultz: 5IP – 5H – 2ER – 3BB – 4K – 3.60 ERA

Batter of the Week

Nate Nankil: 6-for-12 – .500 – 3R – 6RBI – 3BB – 1K – 1HR
Also considered:
Brendan Bobo : 4-for-14 – .290 – 3R – 2RBI – 1BB – 3K – 1HR
Maddox Latta: 7-for-15 – .470 – 3R – 2RBI – 2BB – 2K
Carter White: 6-for-13 – .460 – 5R – 2RBI – 1BB – 2K

The Good

The Titans huddle up in left field after Sunday’s dramatic win to secure the series win over Hawai’i
(Photo courtesy of Katie Albertson / Titan Athletics)

Fifth Series Win

Many didn’t know it at the time but the Sunday win over Texas over a month ago started a run of series wins that continues into this weekend vs. UCSB. The series win over Hawai’i marks the fifth series win this season. We should note, the Titans managed to win only four series all of 2022 season.

Jace Chamberlin
Forever remembered as the “Jumbo Jack”, Jace Chamberlin’s walk-off home run vs. Stanford in the 2018 Palo Alto regional will go down in Titan Baseball lore as one of the best moments this storied program has had.

By securing the series win over Texas on March 5, the Titans have won 2-out-of-3 vs. Texas, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, UC Davis (3-0 sweep) and now Hawai’i. Not since 2018 have the Titans won five or more weekend series vs. the same opponent. (Tournaments like the MLB4 and the Tony Gwynn Classic do not count because the Titans played three different opponents in the same weekend.) That year, the Titans would win nine weekend series en route to a furious finish to secure the Big West Conference championship.

2018 was also the year that featured the now famous “Jumbo Jack”; the Jace Chamberlin home run in the bottom of the 9th inning in the winners’ bracket Saturday night game vs. Stanford. The Titans would end up winning the 2018 Palo Alto Regional but unfortunately lost in Game 3 of the Super Regional vs. Washington.

Jack Haley walk off hawaii
Jack Haley is mobbed by his Titan teammates after his walk-off single secured the Friday night win over Hawai’i
(Photo courtesy of Hank Tran)

Two Walk-Off Wins

The Titans needed dramatic, walk-off wins Friday and Sunday to secure the series over Hawai’i. Jack Haley provided the heroics on Friday with an RBI single while Brendan Bobo walked it off on Sunday with a towering home run over the right field fence.

On Friday in the bottom of the ninth with Moises Guzman on first base and with two outs, Jack Haley came to bat. Prior to coming for what would be his last plate appearance of the night, Haley had a bunt single to his credit. With two outs and the game on the line, Guzman was running on contact.

On Sunday and in extra innings, Guzman again stood on first representing the tying run after hitting a single to lead off the bottom of the 10th.

We had a feeling something dramatic was about to happen, so we took out the old camera phone and started recording.

Four over .400 for the Weekend

Carter White Cal State Fullerton
Carter White ended the Hawai’i series batting .460
(Photo courtesy of Hank Tran)

The Titans swung the bats with alacrity this past weekend, notching 45 hits, scoring 29 runs, 27 RBI and as a collective, batted .360. Four Titans batted over .400 for the weekend with Cal State Omaha Batter of the Week Nate Nankil batting .500.

Caden Connor batted .440 while Maddox Latta hit .470 and Mr. Consistent, Carter White continues to see the ball well, hitting .460 for the weekend.
Two other Titans hit above .300 for the series including Freshman Catcher Max Ortega (.330) and Moises Guzman (.330). Brendan Bobo hit .290 for the weekend and Zach Lew and Jack Haley both hit .270 .vs Hawai’i.

The Titans will need to carry that over and swing the bats well this weekend vs. UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos pitching staff leads the Big West in several pitching categories and we will take a closer look at UCSB in the “Looking Ahead” segment.

Nate Nankil (4) and Brendan Bobo (in blue) have a combined 8 home runs on the season and account for over 50% of the team’s 14 home runs in 2023.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Albertson / Titan Athletics)

Four HRs vs. Hawai’i

The Bobo bomb has seen plenty of coverage here and on social media, but did you see the other three balls leave Goodwin Field this weekend? Nate Nankil picked up his third home run of the season on Sunday along with newcomers Max Ortega and Moises Guzman blasting their first homers in a Titan uniform.

Moises Guzman had a nice Friday night, playing on his birthday, he homered to left field in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Max Ortega got the start behind the plate on Saturday giving Cole Urman and his legs a much-needed break. Ortega made a case that Jason Dietrich should write his name on the line-up card more often by blasting a solo home run to left center in the bottom of the fourth.

Then on Sunday, with the Titans trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Nate Nankil brought the Titans to within one run with a 2-RBI tank that cleared the scoreboard in left center field.

For the season, the Titans have hit 14 over the fence with eight different Titans going deep. Brendan Bobo leads the team with five nukes with Nate Nankil depositing three himself. Caden Connor, Moises Guzman, Maddox Latta, Zach Lew, Max Ortega and Cole Urman have all hit one this season.

Titans Ranked for 1st Time in a Long Time

The Cal State Fullerton Titans debuted at No 21 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll this week. It’s the first time in a long time the Titans have appeared in any ranking poll.
In addition to the ranking on Collegiate Baseball, the 11Point7 Podcast has ranked the Titans 16th in their Mid-Major Power Rankings. (They rank UC Santa Barbara No. 7) Collegiate Baseball also ranks the Gauchos 11th.

It appears the tough non-conference schedule the Titans played early in the season has paid off and the pundits are taking notice. Despite not playing a mid-week game on Tuesday, the Titans RPI improved six points overnight, up to No. 48.

This bump can be attributed to Texas, Michigan, Pepperdine, UC Davis and UC Irvine all winning their mid-week games. UC Santa Barbara enters the weekend with an RPI of 31 which gives the Titans a golden opportunity to improve their RPI even more with a series win.

Streaker Tracker

Frank the Tank Old School
“We’re going streaking!

Let’s check in on the streaks heading into this past weekend’s series and see how those players fared:

  • Carter White continues to get hits and get on base at a torrid pace this season. Entering the Hawai’i series, White sat on a 15-game hitting streak and an 18 game on-base streak. A hit on Friday and Saturday and four hits on Sunday extends those streaks to 18 game hitting streak and 21 game on-base streak. White has reached safely either via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in every game he has played in this season.
  • Jack Haley has himself a few streaks of his own. Following the Hawai’i series, Haley has recorded a hit in eight straight games dating back to the Sunday game vs. UC Irvine. His on-base streak extends beyond that because on Friday and Saturday at UCI, Haley got hit by a pitch on each of those days. His 12 game on-base streak started in the first game of the double header with Pepperdine where he recorded a hit in each of those games.
  • Nate Nankil sits on a 10 game on-base streak dating back to the first game vs. UC Irvine. In that 10-game stretch, Nankil has recorded at least one hit in nine of the 10 games. The only game he did not get a hit was the UCLA game where he went 0-for-4 but did walk twice. In that same 10 game stretch, Nankil has five multi-hit games.
  • Caden Connor enjoys an 11-game on-base streak now, dating back to Game 3 of the Pepperdine Series. In that game he walked twice and hit safely in nine of the 11 games. The other game in that stretch where Connor went hitless, he walked in the Friday game vs. UC Davis.

The Bad

Jojo Ingrassia gives a fist pump after striking out Aaron Ujimori to end the top of the 10th inning on Sunday
(Photo courtesy of Katie Albertson / Titan Athletics)

Sunday’s “win”

How can a win get categorized as bad? Isn’t it said, “There are no pretty losses and there are no ugly wins.”? Yes, but let us explain.

The Titans didn’t win Sunday’s game more than Hawai’i lost it. Hawai’i gave it away is more like it.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Titans trailed the Rainbows 10-9. Max Ortega pinch hit for Cole Urman to lead off the inning and reached on a throwing error. Ortega would eventually come around to score on a Nate Nankil sacrifice fly that tied the game.

Carter White advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third base when Caden Connor reached on an error. Although Zach Lew grounded out to end the inning, you could see Hawai’i falling apart in the late innings.

The Rainbows looked to have overcome their fundamental mistakes in the top of the 10th with a home run by Kyson Donahue to lead off the extra frame. But we all know a Moises Guzman single followed by the Brendan Bobo tank to right field won the game and secured the series victory.

Had Hawai’i played good, fundamental baseball, the game would have never gone to extra innings.

The Ugly

The Trouble with Saturdays

Although the wet and soggy weather to begin the season has played havoc with the schedule, for the most part, Game No. 2 of a weekend series normally plays on a Saturday. And for the most part, the Titans have struggled mightily on those second games of a series.

Let’s look at those Game 2 results along with some context:

Sat., February 18 vs. Stanford – L, 7-5 (Never led at any point in the game)
Sun., February 26 vs. Michigan – L, 7-3 (Led for three innings but never regained the lead)
Sat., March 4 vs. Texas – L, 4-2 (Never led at any point in the game)
Sun., March 12 @ Pepperdine – W, 10-8 (12 innings needed after tied after 8 innings)
Sat., March 18 @ UC Irvine – L, 12-5 (Led after the second inning but never regained the lead)
Sat., March 25 @ UC Davis – W, 6-4 (Trailed after fifth inning but took the lead with multi-run innings)
Sat., April 1 vs. Hawai’i – L, 14-10 (Rainbows put up crooked numbers in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th innings)

Although the bullpen and bats going silent in many of the Saturday games did not help the Titans on those Saturday losses, the common theme remains; Game 2 of a series, the pitching has not been kind to the Titans.

Without piling on Trevor Hinkle too much, it’s hard to ignore that five of the nine losses on the season have come when he takes the hill. His 0-3 record combined with his 8.02 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched ranks last among weekend starters. Of the 14 pitchers who have made appearances in 2023, Hinkle’s ERA ranks 10th and is dead last among pitchers with 18+ innings. Unfortunately, the category Hinkle leads the staff in? Home runs; with six given up already.

Although many were calling for the Pepperdine start to be Hinkle’s “do or die” start to determine if he would get the ball on the weekends moving forward, he continued to start against UC Irvine (L), UC Davis (No Decision) and Hawai’i (No Decision).

I think it is fair to predict that the Trevor Hinkle experiment as a weekend starter is done. And that is okay. Based on our observations, Hinkle looks best suited for long relief out of the bullpen. In most of his starts, he would get into trouble second and third time through the opponents’ line-up.

There is no shame in coming out of the bullpen to put up three straight innings of zeroes. Knowing that once the line-up turns over, look for signs that he’s faltering and immediately pull him. Set him up for success and to build some confidence back that he can go a bit longer.

Looking Ahead

UC Santa Barbara leads the Big West Conference in home runs (43) entering the series with Cal State Fullerton
(Photo courtesy of UCSB Athletics)

If you look at the Big West standings, this weekend’s match-up between the Titans and the Gauchos pits No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the standings. UC Santa Barbara enters the weekend 5-1 in the Big West and 18-7 overall after losing three out of their last four games. The Gauchos avoided the non-conference weekend sweep at Fresno State, winning the Sunday game.

The Gauchos schedule leading up to this series has been a mixed bag. They opened the season in Surprise, Arizona playing in the Sanderson Ford College Baseball Classic. UCSB then traveled north to Eugene Oregon and swept the Oregon Ducks and then returned home to take 2-of-3 from Xavier.

The Xavier win on Saturday started a nice win streak for the Gauchos, beating Pepperdine, Seton Hall, Cal Poly (non-conference double header), LMU, CSU Bakersfield and winning the first game vs. Cal State Northridge. UCSB Enjoyed an 11-game win streak for roughly 20 days in March.

Something to keep an eye on, Friday night starter Mike Gutierrez may not pitch this weekend depending on his status. He started the Friday games for UCSB and holds a 3-1 record and 1.62 ERA in six starts in 2023. His shortest outing came against Northridge when he went four innings and was replaced in the top of the 5th while leading 2-1. Rather uncharacteristic for Gutierrez and Andrew Checketts for him to exit that early unless there was an injury concern. (Previous outings in 2023, Gutierrez went 5, 5.1, 5, 7 and 7 innings.)

Also note, Gutierrez did not pitch in the non-conference series vs. Fresno State this past weekend. Although we never root for injuries, we are hopeful that Gutierrez will not pitch this weekend. He was 10-1 with a 3.19 ERA last season so him missing the Fullerton series could very well be huge.

As a team, UC Santa Barbara leads the conference in multiple pitching categories including team ERA (3.54), earned runs (87), fewest home runs (13) and fewest hit batters (19). If the Titans expect to have success on offense, the Gauchos pitching staff will make them earn it.

Offensively, UC Santa Barbara ranks middle of the conference in most categories. Their .274 team batting average ranks sixth in the Big West with other categories in the middle as well. They do hit the long ball well, leading the conference with 43 over the fence to date. When they are not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, they are striking out. The Gauchos also lead the conference in punch outs, with batters walking back to the dugout with their bat in their hands 226 times.

If Gutierrez can’t go on Thursday, expect normal Saturday starter Matt Ager to get the ball. Ager holds a 3-1 record in 43.1 IP and 50 strike outs on the season. His 3.32 ERA ranks seventh in the Big West. Tyler Bremmer should get the ball on Friday and enters the weekend with a 5.46 ERA and 41 strike outs. Reed Moring should get the ball on the final day of the series with a 5.06 ERA and 19 Ks in 26.2 IP.

We mentioned that UCSB leads the conference in home runs and three of the top five home run hitters come from Isla Vista. Aaron Parker, Ivan Brethowr and Jared Sundstrom all have seven home runs on the year and remain tied for second with Long Beach State’s Jonathon Long on the conference leaderboard.

Brethowr not only can hit for power but also for average. His .333 batting average leads the Gauchos thus far with 90 at-bats. He also leads the team with 23 RBI and has walked 10 times. Three other Gauchos hit above the .300 mark with Aaron Parker (.329), LeTry McCollum (.313) and Jonah Sebring (.300) all hitting 100 points above the Mendoza Line.

On paper, the battle with UCSB should determine the eventual winner of the Big West Conference. Yes, could the loser of the series go on a run and the winner get cold the remainder of the season? Absolutely. But with the way these two have been playing the last few weeks, the winner of this series puts themselves in the driver seat the rest of the way.

Weekend Probables

Thursday, April 6: LHP – Tyler Stultz (3-1, 3.72 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Ager (3-1, 3.32 ERA)
Friday, April 7: TBA vs. TBA
Saturday, April 8: TBA vs. TBA

Times listed are Pacific time:
April 6, 2023 (Friday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 6:00 PM
April 7, 2023 (Saturday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 6:00 PM
April 8, 2023 (Sunday) vs. UC Santa Barbara – 1:00 PM

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