In this week’s edition of Thursday Thoughts, despite dropping the Hawai’i series three games to one, the Titans are still tied for third in the Big West Conference baseball standings. By virtue of losing the Cal State Bakersfield series to COVID-19 protocols within the Bakersfield program, the Titans and Roadrunners share the identical winning percentage at 0.550. Unfortunately, Titan Baseball has an uphill climb to get to the top of the standings in order to earn a post season berth.
We’ll break it all down in this edition of Thursday Thoughts and recap the weekend series with Hawai’i that included some good, some bad and some ugly aspects to it.
Friday, April 30, 2021 vs. Hawai’i: WIN – 4-5 (11 innings)
Saturday, May 1, 2021 vs. Hawai’i: LOSS – 4-1
Saturday, May 1, 2021 vs. Hawai’i: LOSS – 16-8
Sunday, May 2, 2021 vs. Hawai’i: LOSS – 8-2
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 18-21
Conference Record: 11-9
Streak: LOST 3
Last 10: 5-5
Runs Scored: 198
Home Runs: 15
Team Batting Avg: .269
On-Base %: .350
Slugging %: .370
Extra base hits: 93
Total bases: 493
Hit by pitch: 40
Stolen Bases: 20
Fielding %: .971
Double Plays turned: 18
Passed Balls: 2
Stolen Bases allowed: 20
Team ERA: 5.61
Batting average against: .277
Hits allowed: 331
Total Runs Allowed: 205
Walks Issued: 102
Ks per 9 innings: 7.19
Home runs allowed: 31
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Tanner Bibee: 7 IP – 5H – 3ER – 5BB – 4Ks
Ryan Hare: 7.2 IP – 9H – 3ER – 0BB – 6Ks
Gavin Kennedy: 2.1 IP – 2H – 0ER – 1BB – 1K
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha Pitcher of the Week:@TBibee28: 7 IP – 5H – 3ER – 5BB – 4Ks @Ryan_Hare6: 7.2 IP – 9H – 3ER – 0BB – 6Ks
Gavin Kennedy : 2.1 IP – 2H – 0ER – 1BB – 1K@RepettiCameron : 4 IP – 4H – 0ER – 1BB – 1K (W)
Winners announced in Thursday Thoughts#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) May 4, 2021
Batter of the Week
JJ Cruz: 4/8 – .500 – 2R – 0RBI – 0BB – 3Ks
Cole Urman: 6/13 – .462 – 0R – 4RBI – 0BB – 2K
Josh Urps: 4/11 – .364 – 2R – 0RBI – 0BB – 1K
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha Batter of the Week:@jjcruz2019: 4/8 – .500 – 2R – 0RBI – 0BB – 3Ks@TheIsaiahGarcia: 6/16 – .375 – 3R – 3RBI – 0BB – 2K@cole_urman: 6/13 – .462 – 0R – 4RBI – 0BB – 2K
Josh Urps: 4/11 – .364 – 2R – 0RBI – 0BB – 1K#Tusksup
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) May 4, 2021
Walk off win Friday
If you were one of the lucky few to see it in person at Goodwin Field, Jake Harvey’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to score JJ Cruz, you witnessed the jubilant celebration that followed. If you weren’t there or were not watching the live-stream, take a look:
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) May 1, 2021
The walk-off win and ensuing celebration was reminiscent of the other emotional, late-innings wins. The most recent was the Sunday celebration after the Titans beat UC Santa Barbara back in March. The big difference is that a handful of fans were allowed into Goodwin Field this past Friday whereas the UC Santa Barbara series was played in front of empty seats.
Wining in Extras Part II
The Titans are currently undefeated when the game goes into extra innings. We touched on this in last week’s Thursday Thoughts coming out of the Cal State Northridge series, but Friday’s extra innings win extended that streak. The Titans extra inning win streak in 2021 looks like this:
- March 21 vs. UC Santa Barbara: 10-9 win in 10 innings
- April 24 at CSUN: 6-4 win in 10 innings
- April 25 at CSUN: 6-5 win in 10 innings
- April 30 vs. Hawai’i: 5-4 win in 11 innings
It’s nice to see the Titans are able to win close games even after nine innings have passed but with four game series that include double-headers, it would be great to get those victories in regulation. Playing extra innings on top of four games crammed into a three day period can wear on a team.
Still Tied for 3rd in Big West
We hit on this at the top but it needs reiterating. Despite the Titans’ 7-12 non-conference record this season, they are still in the top half of the Big West Standings. Although many Titan fans are not accustomed to being happy with “the top half of the standings”, staying within striking distance is much better than fighting your way from the bottom. But that leads us to our next topic…
Running out of Time
Titan Baseball is running out of time if they want a shot at making the post-season tournament. Starting this weekend with UC San Diego coming to Fullerton, there are only four Big West Conference series left on the schedule. In addition to the limited time to make up ground, the Titans are going to need some help from some very unlikely allies to help their cause.
Despite the college baseball pundits putting out their “Projected Field of 64” that include two Big West programs, (UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara) the Big West is only guaranteed one team making the post-season. The NCAA has to admit every conference champion to the playoffs and the remainder of the field is selected using at-large bids. As of right now, UC Santa Barbara resides in second place in the BWC standings with a 0.714 winning percentage. More importantly, UC Santa Barbara has an RPI of 67. The general consensus among college baseball writers and pundits is that if a team has an RPI between 50-60, they typically will get an invitation to the post-season.
The Big West Conference could come down to the series between UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara this weekend. The Anteaters and the Gauchos are neck and neck in the standings and if UCSB can take the series and win three of the four games, that could help the Titans in the long run. Of course, the Titans need to start winning more in the their final four series starting with UC San Diego this weekend.
The biggest test will come in the final weekend of the season when the Titans face UC Irvine at Anteater Park, May 28-30th. If Irvine already has more than a four game lead on Fullerton by that time, the series will be rendered pointless in regards to Big West standings.
The Titans under Rick Vanderhook have never been shy about sprinting to the end and most recently did it in 2018. If you recall, the Titans finished the Big West Conference slate in 2018 14-4 after coming off the bye week series vs. San Diego State. Temper your enthusiasm because that impressive run came at the expense of the bottom feeders of the Big West Conference that year, Long Beach State, CSUN, UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC Irvine.
Although the 2021 Titans have three of the four series remaining against teams currently residing below them in the standings, (UC San Diego, Cal Poly & Long Beach State) UC Irvine is looming at the end of the season. If the Titans can average a series win over the course of the next four weeks by winning three of the four games, they will finish a projected 30-24. That record may not get the Titans into the post-season without winning the conference based on their RPI as it stands at 111 right now.
The clock is ticking. If the Titans can pull it together and start winning down the stretch, it will definitely help their cause. Unfortunately if UC Irvine remains on their pace as they have held thus far, Titan fans may be looking at another season of missing the post-season.
Game 2 Live Stream on Saturday
Following the UC Davis series in our Thursday Thoughts, we promised we would not complain about the CSUF live-stream. For the record, this is not a complaint. Now that is out of the way, what was up with the live-stream for Game 2 on Saturday vs. Hawai’i?
For the first few innings, there was no audio. Not just no announcer yet we could hear ambient sounds of Goodwin Field. It was zero audio. It felt as though we were watching surveillance camera footage.
Then when the audio was “fixed”, Mike Martinez sounded as if he was calling the game from deep in an elevator shaft. The echo was so pronounced that we started receiving messages via Twitter asking if Mike was doing the game from one of the restrooms.
Check out the archive footage from the game and jump to the 31:30 mark to hear when the audio finally kicks in.
The echo went away around the 35:45 mark and the game went smoothly (the final score not withstanding) from that point.
We messaged Mike Martinez and asked what had happened. The assumption was that in between Game 1 and 2, the mute button was engaged and was not taken off until about 30 minutes into the second game. More than likely the microphone input was not inserted and once discovered, was not inserted all the way and thus produced the echo effect. We can sympathize in that since we do the 1544 Miles to Omaha Podcast, audio equipment can be temperamental and can make for headaches when not properly installed.
Despite the hiccups and the growing pains with the new equipment, the Titans live-stream broadcast is much improved over previous years.
The “New Normal”
It’s sad to say but after decades of dominance, scratching and clawing for a post-season berth may be the ‘new normal’ that Titan Baseball fans will have to come to terms with.
After hosting 12 Regionals including the first one in 2000, the Titans have not hosted a Regional since 2015. Remove the 2018 Super Regional due to an oversight by the University of Washington not even putting in a bid to host post-season games, and the post-season drought is stark. Since 2015, the Titans post-season appearances have all come on the road, Mississippi State (2016) and Stanford (2017 & 2018). Sadly, the 2019 season broke the streak of making the post-season tournament since 1992, which was the second longest streak at that time behind Florida State.
Because 2020 was a lost season due to COVID-19, you can’t count it towards post-season streaks because there was no post-season for any of the teams in college baseball. Linking the 2019 team to this year’s team, if the 2021 Titans fail to make the post-season again, it will mark the second time in program history since joining Division 1 in 1975 that the Titans have failed to make the post-season two years running. (The Titans missed the post-season in 1985 & 1986.)
We’ve said it before and it still remains true to this day; Titan Baseball fans have been spoiled by the amount of success the team has had over the years. Name a non-Power 5 school that has had as much success at Cal State Fullerton in baseball and you have to go pretty deep to find one. You may answer programs like Rice, Wichita State, Fresno State, Pepperdine or dare we say Long Beach State?
With the exception of Long Beach State, each one of the previously mentioned non-power 5 programs have won one National Championship apiece. Of those single National Championships, they all came under legendary coaches like Wayne Graham at Rice and Gene Stephenson at Wichita State. Long Beach’s success came during a small window during the Dave Snow era (1989-2001) and although they went to Omaha four times during those years, they never won a ring.
So what does all of this mean? It means that until the Titans start winning on a regular basis, missing the post-season could be the new normal. And when we say winning on a regular basis, we mean running roughshod over opponents and dominating all aspects of the game. That type of performance in the regular season is what earns teams national seeding and the ability to host post-season games.
The landscape of college baseball has changed dramatically over recent years. A program like TCU went to the College World Series in Omaha four straight years (2014-2017) and then subsequently failed to make the post-season in 2018. The Horned Frogs barely made it into the 2019 post-season and was one of the last teams to get invited.
As for Fullerton, being a small school without football money has not helped. The new construction project currently underway may help attract recruits a little bit but fancy locker rooms will not have stud athletes lining up to play at Fullerton. Let’s be real. There are a ton of college baseball programs out there that have fancy locker rooms. Mercer, a program that has never reached the College World series, just opened up a new clubhouse and locker room facility. Take a look:
The type of players that the Titans target, the “Grinders” that so many fans and alumni pine for from the old days, will come if the winning tradition continues. If state-of-the-art facilities and getting 12 pairs of shoes the minute they step on campus does not impress upon a kid to play in a program, that is the type of kid that wants to win more than he wants to eat or breathe.
Keep in mind, as the fan base gets older, they still can remember the national championships. Many of the kids on this year’s team were still in diapers the last time the Titans dog piled in Omaha. The incoming recruits who have already verbally committed or are still deciding on where to play college baseball, weren’t born in 2004.
Nobody liked it last year when the pandemic hit and wearing masks and staying 6-feet apart was dubbed “the new normal“. Titan Baseball fans may be just as frustrated that the same term can now be affixed to their beloved college baseball program if the team can’t turn things around and make a run.
This Titans have a chance to make up some ground in the Big West Conference standings as UC San Diego comes to Orange County for a four-game series. For those that have not been following college baseball closely, UCSD is the newest member of the Big West Conference after previously playing as a perennial powerhouse in the NCAA’s Division II. The transition to D1 for the Tritons has not been terribly smooth in their first year and they currently hold down second to last place in the Big West standings, ahead of UC Davis.
In looking at just the standings, many could point to the UCSD series as a potential confidence booster for the Titans. Not so fast Titan fans because the same could have been said about UC Davis, who at the time heading into the April 16-18th series, were mired in last place. The Titans won that series 3-1 but without some late game heroics from Cole Urman in Game 2, the Titans could have easily split that series.
Offensively, the Tritons are led by Michael Furman who is hitting .358 in 29 games and carries a 1.016 OPS. Blake Bumgartnber carries the power bat in the Tritons line-up with five home runs on the season.
On the mound, Cameron Leanord leads the Tritons in IP (46.1) and is expected to bring his 6.41 ERA and 1.47 WHIP to the mound at Goodwin Field on Friday night. Three of the four probable starters for UC San Diego have been announced while Sunday’s starter for the Titans has not yet been determined. Expect to see:
Friday, May 7: RHP – Tanner Bibee (6-4, 3.13 ERA) vs. RHP – Cameron Leanord (3-5, 6.41 ERA)
Saturday, May 8: (Game 1): RHP – Ryan Hare (0-2, 5.65 ERA) vs. RHP – Noah Conlon (1-5, 9.93 ERA)
Saturday, May 8: (Game 2): RHP – Kyle Luckham (3-6, 5.92 ERA) vs. UCSD – TBD
Sunday, May 9: TBD vs. RHP – Brandon Weed (2-2, 6.26 ERA)
Times listed are Pacific time:
May 7, 2021 (Friday) vs. UC San Diego – 5:00 PM
May 8, 2021 (Saturday) vs. UC San Diego – 12:00 PM
May 8, 2021 (Saturday) vs. UC San Diego – 3:00 PM
May 9, 2021 (Sunday) vs. UC San Diego – 1:00 PM