Thursday Thoughts: Late and Final for 2021

This edition of Thursday Thoughts was originally set to publish on Friday, June 4th and renamed “Friday Reflections”. Then the news came out at 5 pm that day that Head Coach Rick Vanderhook, in a joint announcement with the Titan Athletic Department, would retire effective December 30, 2021. Until his effective retirement date, Hook will serve in a role as special assistant to the athletic director.

We immediately shelved this column article to let the dust settle on the groundbreaking news that after spending 10 years at the helm of the storied Cal State Fullerton Baseball program, the 2022 season will open with a new coach filling out the line-up card.We plan to reach out to Hooky to request some time to reflect on his 10 years as the head coach but also his long career as an assistant coach as well. We have not reached out to him yet out of respect and to let this decision settle.

Please find the original column below as written two weeks ago in it’s original form with a few minor updates to make it relevant to what has transpired the last few weeks:

The Results

Friday, May 28, 2021 @ UC Irvine: LOSS – 4-10
Saturday, May 29, 2021 @ UC Irvine: LOSS – 0-7
Saturday, May 29, 2021 @ UC Irvine: LOSS – 5-9
Sunday, May 30, 2021 @ UC Irvine: LOSS – 2-4

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 20-35
Conference Record: 13-23
Streak: LOST 6
Last 10: 1-9

Offense

Runs Scored: 245
Hits: 495
Doubles: 86
Triples: 16
Home Runs: 22
RBI: 224
Team Batting Avg: .264
On-Base %: .345
Slugging %: .362
Walks: 191
Extra base hits: 118
Total bases: 679
Hit by pitch: 55
Stolen Bases: 25
Strikeouts: 443

Defense

Errors: 62
Fielding %: .970
Double Plays turned: 36
Passed Balls: 5
Stolen Bases allowed: 31

Pitching

Team ERA: 6.01
Batting average against: .295
Hits allowed: 569
Total Runs Allowed: 355
Walks Issued: 165
Strikeouts: 378
Ks per 9 innings: 7.01
Home runs allowed: 49

Titans of the Year

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Year

Tanner Bibee Fullerton
Tanner Bibee: 89.2 IP – 3.61 ERA – 7-6 W/L – 0 S – 21 – BB – 67 K

Also considered:
Landon Anderson: 37.1 IP – 5.30 ERA – 2-2 W/L – 1 S – 11 BB – 37 K
Kyle Luckham: 82.1 IP – 5.25 ERA – 3-9 W/L – 0 S – 25 BB – 60 K
Cameron Repetti: 32.0 IP – 4.50 ERA – 4-2 W/L – 5 S – 6 BB – 24 K

Batter of the Year


Caden Connor: .325/.417/.387 – 29 R – 22 RBI – 28 BB – 25 K – 0 HR

Also considered:
Jason Brandow: .274/.321/.435 – 21 R – 25 RBI – 6 BB – 40 K – 3 HR
Zach Lew: .284/.369/.361 – 19 R – 15 RBI – 18 BB – 28 K – 0 HR
Deylan Pigford: .277/.340/.454 – 19 R – 18 RBI – 10 BB – 33 K – 3 HR

The Good

It’s Over

What more can we say?

The abject disaster of a season is over and Titan players and fans no longer have to be subjected to eight game losing streaks (two of them in 2021 alone) and ending the season on a six game losing streak.

The good news is the season is over. 20 wins and 35 losses is nothing to celebrate but at least the bleeding has stopped. With a new season comes new players and a renewed hope that this program can be back its winning ways.

Summer Ball Has Already Started

June 4th marks the start of the 64-team Regionals but a number of returning Titan Baseball players and incoming recruits are already playing baseball. Summer Ball has started in many places and some Titans are already making an impact.

Waterloo Bucks: Big fourth, Repetti’s lights-out effort keys Bucks 8-5 sweep of Rochester

Big fourth, Repetti’s lights-out effort keys Bucks 8-5 sweep of Rochester

Speaking of incoming Titans, it appears that incoming JUCO transfer Damone Hale is already making an impact for the Williamsport Crosscutters.

We will be publishing a complete list of Summer Ball teams and places where returning Titans and incoming Titans will be playing this summer. We still need to confirm and compile the list but that should be coming soon.

The construction around Goodwin Field continues to progress. Signs point to a completion date prior to the start of the 2022 season.

Construction Project Making Progress

The last time we were at Goodwin Field for the Sunday meeting vs. Long Beach State, we noticed that the construction project for the Clubhouse / Offices / Bullpen / Meeting Space was making good progress. Rebar was in the ground and walls were being erected.

Over the course of the summer, we will try to get out to campus and take a few photos of the progress and share either here or on our social media channels. Hopefully when this project is finished it will be a nice reward for the players and as a great recruiting tool to entice future players to come to Cal State Fullerton.

More photos of the progress of the construction project captured a few weeks ago.

The Bad

Lost 6 Straight and 14 of 15 Games to End the Season

When you are having a bad season, many like to see how a team finished to use the performance of a barometer of things to come. Losing six straight is definitely not the way you want to end a disastrous season.

We touched on in last week’s Thursday Thoughts that the Titans have already achieved not one but two of the longest losing streaks in Titan Baseball history. The two eight-game losing streaks were the longest of all time. Ending the season on a six-game losing streak brings the total to 22 losses all in a row in one form or another.

The Titans also had two mini-losing streaks that amounted to 3-game losing streaks. The first came in February losing the last game of the Utah series and the first two games at USD. The second 3-game losing streak came in the final three games of the Hawai’i series to open up the month of May.

Transfer Portal

Every year, student-athletes submit their name into the Transfer Portal to leave one college to attend and play sports at another. Cal State Fullerton is no different.

Updated: As of this late posting, a number of players have entered the transfer portal. The first two Titans to submit their names included Kameron Guangorena and Michael Knorr, Since then, Guango made an announcement via social media that he will be transferring to Coastal Carolina.

2020-2021 D1Baseball Transfer Tracker

Others that have since entered the transfer portal include RHP Evan Adolphus, LHP Peyton Jones, LHP Titus Groenweg, RHP Tanner Bibee, INF Josh Urps, RHP Kyle Luckham and LHP Tim Josen. Tanner Bibee’s name showing up on this list made the biggest shock wave within the Titan fan base with fans rushing to the message boards to decry, “Why Tanner have you forsaken us?!?!”.

Clearly, these fans did not remember when Daniel Cope did the same thing in 2019 and promptly got drafted by the Colorado Rockies. Bibee showing up in the transfer portal is leverage to show MLB scouts and front offices that he has options remaining. Most savvy Titan fans were already preparing to a 2022 season without Bibee with him expected to leave via the draft.

If Bibee is not drafted, he can return to Fullerton if he likes the new coaching staff or he can transfer without needing to wait because he already earned his degree. Much like Ryan Hare transferred to Cal State Fullerton this season after earning his degree from UNLV, Bibee can do the same thing if he so chooses.

Do not expect the above listed student-athletes to be the only Titans looking to leave Fullerton. We are hearing that other players are either dissatisfied with the state of the program or have been told there is no scholarship money or have been outright told to look elsewhere.

With a new coaching staff on the horizon, many players may wait and see who is the new coach and then decide to either stay or possibly transfer. Just because a kid puts their name in the transfer portal does not mean they have to transfer. Look at the transfer portal like an online dating service. Athletes put their name out there to let other schools know they are interested in hearing what they have to say. Much like a dating app, you don’t have to accept an offer to go on a date or you may not get any offers to go on a date. At the very least, you can put yourself out there and see what interest you garner.

The lack of scholarship money or not having a place on next year’s team could be attributed to the number of recruits expected to arrive on campus and scholarship money and roster spots promised to those newcomers may conflict with those currently on the team.

This the shortage of scholarship money and roster spots forcing those affected to transfer happens across all college baseball programs. It is not exclusive to Titan Baseball. But we feel for the players who showed flashes of potential in spots who will not be a part of the Titans moving forward.

We will monitor the Transfer Portal closely over the summer and into the fall and update you all on who has entered it looking to leave and those from other schools coming into the program. We wish Guango and any other Titans choosing to transfer the best of luck wherever the end up playing college baseball.

Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal could be on the move again with the uncertainty of the head coaching position at Cal State Fullerton.

Coaches on the Move?

Speaking of D1Baseball, Kendal Rodgers wrote a column regarding the revolving door of head coaches and assistant coaches making moves now that the regular season is over. Rodgers wrote that Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Sergio Brown’s name has been thrown around as a possible head coach for Utah Valley. That was short lived as Utah Valley tweeted they have hired Eddie Smith as their next head coach.

Even though Sergio did not ultimately get the Utah Valley head coaching position, it begs the question, how long will it be before he is selected as a head coach? Titan fans all know Sergio is regarded as a relentless and effective recruiter and rejoiced when he was announced he was coming back to the Titans. Everyone understands that losing a coach is tough but it is understandable when they accept a head coaching position or a lateral move that pays better.

Speaking of paying better, don’t be surprised if Volunteer Assistant Andy Jenkins moves on and is coaching for another team next season. Jenkins was a paid assistant at Oregon State before coming to Fullerton and is probably looking to move back into that role as soon as possible. Jenkins is a rarity in college baseball in that he has been a volunteer assistant but he has a young family with a wife and two young daughters. Guys like that want more stable pay, health insurance benefits, etc. Don’t be surprised if Jenkins leaves for a full-time paid assistant job.

UPDATED: Andy Jenkins has accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Washington, replacing Ronnie Prettyman.

Regarding Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal, it is unclear if he will return next season. We are not privy to the details of his contract and we do not know if his contract is up this year. Although the 2020 season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Titans team ERA sat at 4.78. Now that 2021 is in the books, the team ERA sits at 6.01.

That’s not a ringing endorsement for the pitching performance when an ERA of 3.00 or lower is considered to be good. Combine a team ERA north of three and a team batting average below .300 and you have the recipe for a losing season. (Titans batted .214 in 2020 and .264 in 2021.)

UPDATED: With Rick Vanderhook’s retirement, the likelihood of the new coaching staff retaining Ricabal is quite low. Those chances may plummet to zero if the new head coach is a pitching coach like Jason Dietrich or Dave Serrano and choose to handle head coaching and pitching coach duties. Ricabal got a taste of being the head coach in 2019 at Long Beach State and stated in episode 14 of the 1544 Miles to Omaha podcast that he has no aspirations of becoming a head coach anytime soon. Do not expect Ricabal’s name to come up in conversation when speculating on Hook’s successor.

The Ugly

First Losing Season Ever

The 2021 Titan Baseball season was an unmitigated disaster by Titan Baseball standards.

So many negative records were either set or broken in 2021 that the program appears to be a shadow of its former self. Losing streaks, total losses, fewest wins, mercy ruled, lowest conference finishing spot, etc., etc… the list goes on and on.

In listening to the UC Irvine radio broadcast, the play-by-play announcer was droning on and on about the history of Titan Baseball and the unprecedented success it has enjoyed over the years. He noted that this is the worst year for Titan Baseball but then said regarding the first losing season, “It happens to everybody”.

My initial reaction upon hearing this was, “No it does not! Not to us! We’re F%$#ing Cal State Fullerton! We don’t have losing seasons!”

Losing seasons happen to other college baseball programs. Programs like UC Riverside and Monmouth can be happy with a 20 win season. Merrimack and Tennessee-Martin can applaud finishing ninth place in their conference. But when is the last time any of those teams mention even sniffed the post-season or went to Omaha?

via GIPHY

Sadly, the past three season of futility, including the COVID-19 shortened season, have shown that losing and underperforming is a trend that appears to have no end in sight. Ask yourself, “what do you see within this storied program that gives you hope the program can pull itself out of the current tailspin”?

Titan fans might point to the hire of Sergio Brown as recruiting coordinator and note that help is on the way in form of better recruits. All you need to look at is how well the University of Arizona is performing right now knowing that the current team is comprised of recruits attributed to Sergio’s recruiting efforts. U of A is hosting an NCAA Regional as a Top 5 National Seed after all.

UPDATED: U of A advanced to the College World Series.

That may be true but others might argue that a team can hoard all the most talented players on the planet but if they can not grow and develop as players, what good is recruiting? Hopefully the recruiting and incoming players will develop once they come to Fullerton and can reverse the three-year trend of losing seasons and failing to make the post-season.

Droning on and on how the 2021 season was a disaster will result in repeating ourselves. Hopefully the 2021 season was an outlier
and all Titan fans years from now can point to 2021 and laugh and say, “Remember when the Titans went 20-35 and had a losing season?”.

Looking Ahead

With Rick Vanderhook retiring, the most recent hobby of Titan fans is speculating who will get offered the job. Because Fullerton is a public university within the Cal State system, a job posting needed to be posted and up for roughly 30 days. But just because the job posting was put up does not mean the pool is limited to just those that apply.

We’re confident that CSUF Athletic Director had candidates in mind prior to Hook’s retirement and reached out to those on his short list. A search committee has probably been formed consisting of former players and influential alumni but ultimately the decision falls squarely on Jim Donovan’s shoulders.

We will list those coaches expected to have either applied or Donovan approached and breakdown their likelihood of getting the job. That’s for another column for another day but the clock is ticking.

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