Thursday Thoughts: Long Beach State Series

This week’s edition of Thursday Thoughts has a feel of normalcy and uncomfortableness all at the same time.

It has a feeling of normalcy because for those at Goodwin Field this weekend, it felt as though things were getting back to normal, at least on Saturday. Titan Baseball fans were tailgating in the parking lots outside Goodwin Field and nobody was wearing masks or were afraid to give a handshake or a hug. That was back to normal for a Long Beach State series.

The uncomfortableness came when fans got inside Goodwin. The reminder of this season being the worst in Titan Baseball history was stark and apparent as soon as you walked past the opening in the temporary fencing. The mood inside was somber and felt more like a funeral after many had indulged in tailgating that resembled an Irish wake. You could feel the tension in the air and the fact that the dreaded Dirtbags were occupying the first base dugout, made it even more ominous.

Alas, the Titans salvaged one game out of the four game series with Long Beach State and were able to run their season record to 20 wins. The Titans have one more four-game series to go, a cross-county road trip to UC Irvine starting Friday, and then the season will come to a close. Before we jump ahead to the final series of 2021, we examine what happened this weekend vs. Long Beach State that included some good, some bad and some ugly aspects to it too.

The Results

Friday, May 21, 2021 vs. Long Beach State: LOSS – 9-1
Saturday, May 22, 2021 vs. Long Beach State: WIN – 3-11
Saturday, May 22, 2021 vs. Long Beach State: LOSS – 14-4
Sunday, May 23, 2021 vs. Long Beach State: LOSS – 4-1

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 20-31
Conference Record: 13-19
Streak: LOST 2
Last 10: 1-9


Runs Scored: 234
Hits: 461
Doubles: 80
Triples: 16
Home Runs: 22
RBI: 213
Team Batting Avg: .265
On-Base %: .347
Slugging %: .367
Walks: 179
Extra base hits: 118
Total bases: 639
Hit by pitch: 52
Stolen Bases: 22
Strikeouts: 409


Errors: 58
Fielding %: .970
Double Plays turned: 35
Passed Balls: 5
Stolen Bases allowed: 31


Team ERA: 5.90
Batting average against: .293
Hits allowed: 526
Total Runs Allowed: 325
Walks Issued: 152
Strikeouts: 355
Ks per 9 innings: 7.05
Home runs allowed: 47

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week

Tanner Bibee Fullerton
Tanner Bibee: 4.1 IP – 3H – 0ER – 0BB – 5K

Also considered:

Peyton Jones: 1 IP – 1H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K
Timothy Josten: 1.1 IP – 1H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K
Kyle Luckham: 7.1 IP – 5H – 1ER – 2BB – 5K

Batter of the Week

Austin Schell Fullerton
Austin Schell: 6/13 – .462 – 3R – 7RBI – 0BB – 2K – 1 HR

Also considered:

Caden Connor: 5/14 – .357 – 2R – 0RBI – 4BB – 0K
Jake Harvey: 4/15 – .267 – 2R – 2RBI – 2BB – 4K
Zach Lew: 8/15 – .533 – 0R – 0RBI – 2BB – 5K

The Good

Dillon Brown returned to Cal State Fullerton during Senior Day and was joined by his family to mark the occasion.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Senior Day

The last home game at Goodwin Field has traditionally been Senior Day complete with pre-game ceremonies and presentations for those that have earned a degree from Cal State Fullerton or have exhausted their NCAA eligibility. As with most things, Titan Baseball Senior Day in 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Titan Baseball combined the seniors from 2020 and this year this past Sunday for an extra special yet different Senior Day.

Those seniors being honored were joined by Head Coach Rick Vanderhook, Associate Athletic Director Steve DiTolla, Athletic Director Jim Donovan and CSUF President “First Lady” Julie Virjee on the field.

Four members of the 2020 squad returned that included pitchers Brady Barcellos and Dillon Brown along with outfielders Jeff Pellegrino and Zach Weisz. Two student managers, Jacob Hobson and Garrett Fisher, were also honored as they will be graduating and moving out of the Titan Baseball program.

Nine current Titan seniors received their framed jerseys including Isaiah Garcia, Tanner Bibee, Mathew Sanchez, Timothy Josten, Josh Urps, Max Miller, Andrew Scheinert, Landon Anderson and Ryan Hare. Only Hare, Garcia, Scheinert and Sanchez are guaranteed to not return to the team in 2022. They have all exhausted their collegiate eligibility despite the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season not counting towards their amateur status.

Tanner Bibee is expected to leave Titan Baseball via the MLB draft this year despite having an additional year of eligibility left. Other draft eligible juniors and sophomores like Kyle Luckham, Jason Brandow and Zach Lew might test the MLB Draft waters this year. With the draft expected to be 20 rounds, still down from the 40 rounds it was in 2019, there may not be a lot of Titans leaving via the draft outside of Bibee.

No matter what happens, hats off to Cal State Fullerton Athletics for honoring the seniors with a sense of normalcy this time around. In non-COVID years, the seniors would be joined on the field by family members. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 safety protocols, those family members had to remain in the stands and socially distance. It was not 100% of how it has been done in the past but surely beats doing it via Zoom meeting “out of an overabundance of caution”.

Congratulations to the 2020 and 2021 Titan Baseball seniors.

Schell stays hot

Last week, Junior Catcher/Designated Hitter Austin Schell was voted the Cal State Omaha Batter of the Week. He parlayed his 6-for-13, seven RBI and one home run weekend vs. Long Beach State into a back-to-back winner of Batter of the Week. It probably didn’t hurt that he drove in a ton of runs off of one swing of the bat.

If Schell can maintain his hot hitting, it will be hard for Rick Vanderhook to keep him out of the line-up this weekend vs. UC Irvine.

Passing the torch

From the department of “You Learn Something New Everyday” we learned there has been a Titan Baseball tradition amongst the parents that has been going on for over 20 years. Take a look:

In taking a look at the second photo, peek at the list of Titan Baseball players whose mother or grandmother has worn the Titan Baseball Charm over the years. Even more impressive is that the Jones family has been traveling to California from Utah each weekend to support the team and their player, Peyton Jones.

It’s fitting that in Saturday’s win, Tanner Bibee handed the ball to Peyton Jones to pitch the final frame as one mom did to the other with the Titan Baseball Charm after the weekend was over.

This is a fantastic tradition that were were unaware of until seeing Shellie Bibee’s tweet. We hope this tradition continues for many years and are now wondering who Marishia Jones will pass it to in a few years.

20 Wins

We all know that birthdays, anniversaries, high school reunions and milestones all tend to get celebrated a bit more when the year ends in a zero or a five. 20 wins by an MLB pitcher is the benchmark for a great season as is 100 wins in the MLB.

The Titans beat Long Beach State 11-3 in Saturday’s first game of the double header to bring their overall record to 20 wins. Although 20 wins in a collegiate season is not that great, it does hit a benchmark. Imagine if the Titans were stuck on 19 wins and ended the year that way.

20 wins sounds much better.

The Bad

The 2021 Titans have had to endure watching opponents celebrate on Goodwin Field 15 times this season.

10-15 at Goodwin Field in 2021

The friendly confines of Goodwin Field have not been all that friendly the past few years. The Titans end the 2021 season with a 10-15 record at home. That is the worst record at home in recent history, beating the 2019 club (11-15 at home) by one game.

The last three seasons including the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020, the Titans are a combined 24-37 at home.

The 2021 Titans hold the record for the longest losing streak in program history with twice losing eight games in a row.

Longest losing streaks

Last Thursday’s Thoughts, we listed all of the streaks and records the 2021 Titan Baseball squad has broken this year that have stood for a long time with one, never having a losing season, standing since the program joined the Division 1 ranks. We won’t list them again here but for the morbidly curious, you can check them out here: Thursday Thoughts: Cal Poly Series

Another streak that will hopefully never be achieved again in the history of Titan Baseball is the consecutive games losing streak. The 2021 Titans have the dubious honor of having lost eight games in a row not once, but twice in the same season.

The first eight game losing streak started March 6th vs. UCLA and was followed by losses to Pepperdine, UCLA again, a three game sweep by Arizona State and the first two games of the UC Santa Barbara series. The second eight game losing streak was snapped this past weekend after the first game of the Saturday double header vs. Long Beach State. The second of the record setting losing streaks started by losing the final three games to UC San Diego, getting swept at Cal Poly and losing the Friday game vs. Long Beach State.

The previous longest losing streaks by a Titan team came in 2014 and 1983. In 1983, a six game losing streak that spanned from February 25 through March 6th included loses to Oklahoma State (1), Texas (3) and Texas A&M (2). 2014 saw a streak of six games that spanned from April 12 – 23 when the Titans lost two to UC Santa Barbara, were swept by Cal Poly and then a mid-week loss to Fresno State. (Titan fans may recall the series loss in Santa Barbara in 2014 sparked Rick Vanderhook getting suspended regarding treatment of players that was captured on video on a team bus.)

The sad part is that with four games remaining in this season, there are even more records or “firsts” that could be achieved including worst conference finishing place of any team and most total and conference losses. With the weekend series with UC Irvine still to come, the jury is still out if any of those will be achieved. Here’s hoping they do not come to fruition.

The Ugly

Classless Dirtbags

The rivalry with Long Beach State has been going on for quite some time but the Dirtbags lived up to their name this weekend. They didn’t live up to their name on the front of their jersey by stealing bases and playing hard nosed baseball. The Long Beach State Dirtbags disgraced themselves and the program with their antics and classless behavior.

The most noticeable of their boorish behavior came early in the game on Friday night when in the second inning, Connor Burns hit a lead off home run. When rounding third, the Dirtbags came out of the dugout to greet Burns at the plate and give the expected high fives and helmet bumps. But before Burns crossed home plate, he slowed his home run trot to ensure he was in perfect position to stomp on home plate. In a coordinated effort and in unison, Burns’ Dirtbag teammates all shouted “BOOM!” as his foot stomped the plate.

Long Beach State outfielder Connor Kokx (36) stomps on home plate after hitting a home run in the 9th inning on Sunday.

Burns was the first Dirtbag to introduce the limited crowd on hand at Goodwin Field to their foot stomping antics. Each Dirtbag that homered did the exact same thing. Is there a rule in the college baseball rule book about how a player should touch home plate? No. Was Burns and the other Dirtbag sluggers within their rights to stomp the plate? Sure, they were. Was is good sportsmanship? Probably not. Was it necessary to behave that way and kick a team while it is struggling? Absolutely not.

We get it. As a program, the Dirtbags have been stomped on by the Titans quite a lot over the years. Dating back to the first meeting in 1975, the Titans hold a 157-77 game advantage over Long Beach State. We’ve seen a lot of games between these two teams and can remember some of the most heated games and series dating back to the years when Augie Garrido and Dave Snow led those teams. But this weekend’s behavior by the Dirtbags seemed different and overly disrespectful. Even in those heated rivalry games of the past, there was a level of mutual respect that appeared lacking this weekend.

The coup de grâce of the level of classlessness the Dirtbags showed came in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday. With the Dirtbags already leading 2-1, Connor Kokx hit a two-run home run that would eventually bring the score to 4-1 for the final. After Kokx rounded third base, he looked directly into the Titans dugout and yelled, F*CK YOU RICO!”. He then slowed before reaching home plate and performed yet another Dirtbag plate stomp much to the delight of his teammates.

Cal State Fullerton Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal returns to the dugout after a mound visit while Cameron Repetti was on the mound. Moments later he would be verbally insulted by a Dirtbag player after hitting a home run.

The limited crowd on hand either due to the mid-day heat, the teams’ recent performance or COVID-19 limitations made it rather quiet inside Goodwin Field. I was situated on the third base side shooting photos and could clearly hear what Kokx yelled. Just to ensure I was not imagining things, I asked Don Hudson, who was also shooting photographs in the same area, what he heard. He confirmed that he heard the same thing.

Kokx, from Aliso Viejo, appeared in 10 games and made five starts in the outfield as a freshman before his season was derailed due to injury in 2019. You will remember that 2019 was the year Dan Ricabal was on staff with the Dirtbags. That was the year that then head coach Troy Buckley was relieved of his duties mid-season due to workplace violence. Ricabal and Greg Bergeron took over as co-head coaches for the remainder of that season. The Dirtbags would finish 2019 with a record of 14-41, one of their worst seasons in the long history of the Long Beach State baseball program.

We obviously do not know the background between Titans Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal, nicknamed Rico, and Connor Kokx. Their paths obviously crossed a few times while Ricabal was with the Dirtbags in 2019. We are not privy to what may have transpired between the two or if there are hard feelings between them. But to celebrate a home run in that fashion was just classless and unnecessary.

The most disappointing aspect of this whole ugly incident is that Long Beach State’s head coach Eric Valenzuela did nothing about Kokx’s behavior and insults. In our opinion, to turn a blind eye to it is to encourage this type of clownish behavior.

A word of warning: Hopefully when the Titans return to prominence and they are having their way with the Dirtbags and hitting home runs out of Blair Field, just know that turnabout is fair play. On that same note, we hope the Titans resist the temptation to verbally abuse the other team and their coaches and let their bats and arms do the talking between the lines and on the field.

Looking Ahead

The Titans hit “the road” one more time in 2021 with a weekend series vs. UC Irvine starting Friday. Yes, even though the Titans and Anteaters will be playing in Irvine, it really doesn’t qualify as a road trip. The Titans most likely will bus back and forth within Orange County.

UCI leads the Big West Conference standings and their magic number stands at one in order to win the Big West. That means UC Irvine has to win one game or if UC Santa Barbara loses one game, the Anteaters clinch the conference title. With the title comes a guaranteed berth into the NCAA post season.

As you might imagine, UC Irvine is limiting fan access to Anteater Park due to COVID-19 precautions. Even if you live locally and planned on taking in a game down in Irvine, UC Irvine player-guests and season ticket holders will be allowed in and no tickets will be available for purchase by the general public. You can catch all action streaming if you have ESPN3 since you will not be able to watch the games in person.

The Titans will have their work cut out for them this weekend with the Anteaters sweeping the weekly Big West awards with Field Player of the Week going to Mike Peabody, and for the second time this season, Nick Pinto claimed Pitcher of the Week. Peabody currently holds a 14 game hit streak and leads the Big West with 51 RBI. His .356 average leads the team and his eight homers is second best for the Anteaters behind Dillon Tatum who has 13 round trippers. Peabody and Tatum combined have 21 home runs between them which is one shy of the entire Cal State Fullerton team this year.

On the mound, Pinto normally starts on Saturdays and carries a 3.66 ERA in 14 starts this season. The projected Friday starter, Michael Frias, leads the team with an 8-1 record and boasts a paltry 0.98 WHIP. The Titan batters will definitely have their work cut out for them all weekend with Trenton Denholm and Peter Van Loon both expected to start on the mound this weekend.

Depending on the poll you look at, UC Irvine is ranked in the teens with Baseball America ranking them the lowest at No. 14 and ranks them the highest at No. 17. The projected starters for both the Titans and Anteaters are:

Friday, May 28: RHP – Tanner Bibee (7-5, 3.22 ERA) vs.RHP – Michael Frias (8-1, 3.10 ERA)
Saturday, May 29 (Game 1): RHP – Gavin Kennedy (1-1, 4.70 ERA) vs. LHP – Nick Pinto (6-3, 3.66 ERA)
Saturday, May 29 (Game 2): LHP – Landon Anderson (2-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP – Trenton Denholm (4-2, 5.19 ERA)
Sunday, May 30: RHP – Kyle Luckham (3-8, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP – Peter Van Loon (4-3, 4.77 ERA)

Times listed are Pacific time:

May 28, 2021 (Friday) @ UC Irvine – 3:00 PM
May 29, 2021 (Saturday) @ UC Irvine – 12:00 PM
May 29, 2021 (Saturday) @ UC Irvine – 3:40 PM
May 30, 2021 (Sunday) @ UC Irvine – 1:00 PM

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