The inaugural Thursday Thoughts for this season starts with optimism for the 2023 campaign despite the team record standing at .500 after the first four games.
Opening the season with a Friday night win vs. Stanford, the weekend ended with heartbreak. On Sunday, the Titans stood one strike away from earning a 11-6 win and dropped the series to the Cardinal. After a weekend series at UC Irvine, where they were swept by the Anteaters, Tulane came into Goodwin Field on Tuesday. The Green Wave left with a record of 0-4 following a walk-off, RBI single by Maddox Latta.
As we do every Thursday, (sometimes early – sometimes late), we recap the prior weekend in Titan Baseball and dive deeper into aspects that were good, aspects that were bad and some aspects that were downright ugly. We’ll break it all down here each week so you can be a more informed fan and follower of Titan Baseball.
Although it is a small sample size, the 2-2 record after four games in 2023 ranks better than the 1-3 record to start 2022.
Friday, February 17, 2023 vs. Stanford: WIN – 1-8
Saturday, February 18, 2023 vs. Stanford: LOSS – 7-5
Sunday, February 19, 2023 vs. Stanford: LOSS – 21-13
Friday, February 21, 2023 vs. Tulane: WIN – 5-6
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 2-2
Conference Record: 0-0
Streak: WON 1
Last 10: 2-2
Runs Scored: 32
Home Runs: 4
Team Batting Avg: .296
On-Base %: .433
Slugging %: .437
Extra base hits: 12
Total bases: 62
Hit by pitch: 6
Stolen Bases: 3
Fielding %: .972
Double Plays turned: 5
Passed Balls: 1
Stolen Bases allowed: 3
Team ERA: 7.54
Batting average against: .223
Hits allowed: 44
Total Runs Allowed: 34
Walks Issued: 25
Ks per 9 innings: 9.73
Home runs allowed: 10
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Jason Blood: 4.1IP – 2H – 1ER – 0BB – 6K – 2.08 ERA
Fynn Chester: 6IP – 2H – 0ER – 1BB – 3K – 0.00 ERA – 1Win – 1 Save
Tyler Stultz: 5IP – 2H – 1ER – 3BB – 7K – 1.80 ERA – 1 Win
Seth Tomczak: 3.2IP – 7H – 2ER – 0BB – 4K – 4.91 ERA
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha Pitcher of the Week*:@jtblood13: 4.1IP – 2H – 1ER – 0BB – 6K – 2.08 ERA@FynnChester: 6IP – 2H – 0ER – 1BB – 3K – 0.00 ERA – 1W – 1 S@Tyler_Stultz5: 5IP – 2H – 1ER – 3BB – 7K – 1.80 ERA – 1 W@SethTomczak: 3.2IP – 7H – 2ER – 0BB – 4K – 4.91 ERA
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) February 22, 2023
Batter of the Week
Maddox Latta: 6/16 – .375 – 3R – 2RBI – 2BB – 4K
Zach Lew: 6/17 – .353 – 6R – 2RBI – 4BB – 3K – 1 HR
Nate Nankil: 7/18 – .389 – 5R – 1RBI – 2BB – 5K
Colby Wallace: 5/13 – .385 – 5R – 3RBI – 7BB – 4K
Vote on this week’s #CalStateOmaha Batter of the Week Nominees*:@LattaMaddox: 6/16 – .375 – 3R – 2RBI – 2BB – 4K@zachlew20: 6/17 – .353 – 6R – 2RBI – 4BB – 3K – 1 HR@nankils619: 7/18 – .389 – 5R – 1RBI – 2BB – 5K
Colby Wallace: 5/13 – .385 – 5R – 3RBI – 7BB – 4K#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) February 22, 2023
With the exception of Tyler Stultz allowing a solo home run in the second inning, the Titans played flawlessly on Friday night.
Stultz went five innings while Fynn Chester, last season’s Sunday starter, came in relief for the remaining four innings. Chester ended up with the save allowing two hits, walking one and striking out three Stanford Cardinal batters. Those three strikeouts came in the eighth and ninth inning. Carter Graham and Braden Montgomery went down on back-to-back swinging Ks to end the eighth and Drew Bowser swung and missed to lead off the ninth.
The defense on Friday looked fluid and in mid-season form. The Titans turned three double plays including the final two outs to end the game on a 4-6-3 DP. More importantly, the defense did not record an error on Friday.
The offense clicked, racking up 13 hits, scoring eight runs and two Titans collected extra base hits. Newcomer Maddox Latta collected three doubles on the night while third year Titan, Nate Nankil grabbed a two-bagger as well. Another newcomer, Moises Guzman, stole a base to keep the offense charging.
The big inning came in the bottom of the seventh, scoring five runs on clutch hitting but also aided by a two Stanford errors. All in all, the win opened up the season on a high note after many college baseball “experts” predicted a Stanford sweep.
Home Runs are back
It took until Sunday, but the power has returned to the Titan bats. Three Titans blasted home runs on Sunday, Caden Connor, Brendan Bobo and Zach Lew dropped bombs but unfortunately those homers proved futile in the grand scheme of the game. (More on that later.)
Coming into his first at-bat on Sunday, Titan slugger Brendan Bobo stepped into the batter’s box 0-for-7 with six strike outs. He clearly looked like he was pressing to get off the schnide and he did in a huge way. Bobo launched a mammoth home run that cleared the batter’s eye in center field while also clearing the bases of base runners. The 3-RBI blast brought home Colby Wallace who had walked and Moises Guzman who stood on first after he singled to left field.
Caden Connor got into the action depositing a solo homer over the right field fence in the bottom of the eighth inning. That started the scoring that would eventually give the Titans an 11-6 lead headed towards the ninth.
The Cardinal would go on and score seven runs in the top of the ninth to take a 13-11 lead. With two outs and one man on, (Caden Connor) Zach Lew destroyed a Braden Montgomery fast ball that cleared the Titan Clubhouse building directly over Jason Dietrich’s office balcony.
On Tuesday’s rainy and cold non-conference tilt vs. Tulane, Bobo added another home run to his total, blasting a solo shot to right centerfield that broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Suffice to say, Neil Walton is not afraid to give batters a green light to hit one over the wall in 2023. The batters are still bunting and sacrificing runners in order to manufacture runs but Walton has shown early that opponents will need to respect the Titans’ power bats.
Kept fighting in losses
The eventual 7-5 loss on Saturday was tied 5-5 heading into the eighth inning. Stanford put together two innings where they scratched across a run in the eighth and another in the ninth. In the bottom of those two innings, the Titans battled despite trailing late. It would have been easy for this year’s crop of players to take the attitude of, “here we go again” and just quit. But they didn’t.
Maddox Latta, coming off a terrific performance on Friday where he went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored three runs, struggled on Saturday. Latta went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Saturday before Jason Dietrich lifted him in the bottom of the ninth. The Titans had loaded the bases but had two outs with Latta’s spot due up. Deetz chose to go with freshman Draven Nushida, a left handed batter to face Stanford’s left-handed closer, Ryan Bruno.
Bruno’s fastball popped 96 and 97 MPH on the radar gun at Goodwin Field and showed why D1Baseball ranked him the No. 2 Relief Pitcher in all of college baseball. Like many high velocity relievers, Bruno was wild at times, walking the bases loaded. Nushida battled valiantly but eventually lined out to short stop Owen Cobb, who made a dynamic and game saving catch to his right. Had Cobb not caught Nushida’s line drive cleanly, Nushida’s first at-bat could have resulted in the Titans tying the game.
Same goes for Sunday’s loss. When Stanford put up a touchdown plus the extra point in the top of the ninth to take the game from the Titans leading 11-6 to trailing 13-11, the Titans could have phoned it in from that point. But they didn’t. Carter White pinch hit for JT Navyac and took one for the team by getting hit by a Toran O’Harran pitch. After a fielder’s choice and a strike out, Zach Lew tied the game with his behemoth homer.
The tenacity and grit the Titans showed in their losses to Stanford appeared again vs. Tulane. Tuesday featured a back and forth game where the lead changed hands or became tied six times before Maddox Latta walked it off with his RBI single in the ninth.
A cold and rainy Tuesday night at Goodwin Field, the umpires called for the mound to get dried out twice in order to continue. When the Green Wave took the 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, the Titans could have slept walked through the remaining innings looking for refuge in their newly build, assuredly warm and dry, clubhouse. But yet again, they didn’t.
Maddox Latta tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single to score Brendan Bobo from third base. Then in the ninth, Latta came to the rescue again. With Bobo coming to the plate with one out, Colby Wallace on third and Moises Guzman on second, with first base open, Tulane Head Coach Jay Uhlman intentionally walked Bobo to set up a potential game ending double play. Latta had other ideas, slapping a single opposite way into right field and was subsequently mobbed by his teammates. The handful of the 644 in attendance that remained until the end, the Titans rewarded them for their dedication and fortitude with an exhilarating walk-off win.
The guile, toughness and willingness to fight until the end no matter the odds nor the circumstances will make the 2023 Titans fun to watch, no matter what the final score.
Newcomers taking lead roles
Jason Dietrich filled out almost the exact line-up card all four days this past week with new faces all over the place. He did not change the 1-4 hitters going with Caden Connor, Nate Nankil, Zach Lew and Colby Wallace. Hitters five through seven alternated between Cole Urman, Moises Guzman and Brendan Bobo depending on the day. Maddox Latta and JT Navyac filled out the bottom of the line-up hitting eighth and ninth respectively. (Max Ortega got the start on Tuesday batting eighth and Latta getting the bump to seventh.)
The three newcomers consistently in the starting line-up all performed well in their debuts in Titan colors. Maddox Latta, voted the Cal State Omaha Batter of the Week via the online Twitter vote, went 6-for-16, averaging .375, scoring 3 runs, driving in 2 RBI, walking twice and striking out four times. We also noted above that against Tulane, Latta’s single in the eighth tied the game and his single in the ninth won it. Not bad for a guy that played Junior College ball last year and hitting in the eighth spot.
Colby Wallace went 5-for-13 and averaged .385 for his first four games. He scored 5 runs, drove in 3 RBI, walked seven times and struck out four times. The Washington transfer also made some excellent plays on defense in left field and saved extra bases and runs with catches out there.
Another outfielder newbie, JC transfer Moises Guzman also performed well. He went 4-for-14 compiling a .286 batting average. He scored three runs, knocked in five RBI, walked three times, struck out six and got hit by a pitch once. Guzman did have a costly error in center field vs. Stanford on Sunday. A misplayed ball in center allowed Tommy Troy to trot home from third base.
Freshman Max Ortega showed why he is considered the heir apparent behind the plate once Cole Urman leaves for the pros. Ortega went 1-for-3, walked and drove in a run on Tuesday. Ortega’s ability behind the plate did not show up in the box score but his defense showed he is not quite on the level as Urman defensively, but the tools are there.
On the mound, newcomer Jason Blood shined in relief on Sunday. The first to relieve Sunday’s starter Evan Yates, Blood ate up 4 1/3 innings giving up two hits, one earned run, walking nobody and striking out six Cardinal batters. His 2.08 ERA helped earn him the Cal State Omaha Pitcher of the Week honors.
Walk-off vs. Tulane
We’ve touched on the Maddox Latta walk-off single vs. Tulane enough. Why not just leave this highlight here:
Walk it off @LattaMaddox! #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/rzWcU4RO5O
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) February 22, 2023
Navyac error plagued again
The glove issues third year player JT Navyac experienced last season have transferred over to the 2023. Navyac committed 11 errors last season and coming out of the weekend, already has two errors. Navyac’s .867 fielding percentage ranks lowest on the team after four games. That’s not what you want to see out of your starting short stop.
If a short stop’s fielding percentage ranks lowest on the team, you would expect his bat to make up for it. Unfortunately, Navyac’s batting average ranks below the Mendoza Line after four games. In those games, Navyac went 2-for-13 at the plate (.154), drove in three runs, walked once and scored once. The most concerning? Eight strikeouts in 13 at-bats. That’s a strikeout percentage of 62%.
If Navyac can improve his glove and his bat this upcoming week vs. Michigan and USC on Tuesday, he could very well climb out of the No. 9 spot in the order. Have another poor hitting and fielding week and he could see Angelo Aleman take his spot.
Friday & Saturday start times
Longtime fans and season ticket holders noticed the start times for the regularly scheduled Friday and Saturday games had been moved up an hour. Instead of Friday’s game starting at 7 PM, it started at 6 PM. Same goes for Saturday. In years past, Saturdays typically started at 6 PM but this year start at 5 PM.
No explanation as to why the start time changes leaving many to speculate the programing deal with the Big West and ESPN+ may have had something to do with it. So why is it in the bad column? What’s the big deal of starting the game an hour sooner?
We’ll answer that question with another question… Did you notice Friday traffic in Orange County can be troublesome at best after getting out of work?
If fans get out of work at 5 PM, they only have an hour to get to the game before first pitch. And let’s face it, the majority of Titan Baseball fans work and have regular jobs. The CSUF students aren’t filling up Goodwin Field after Friday classes adjourn. It would be great if they did, but we haven’t seen it in past seasons and did not see it this past weekend.
So why the earlier start times? We’re not sure and no official word has been given. Maybe nobody has asked the right people this question. But in our opinion, moving the games up an hour only guarantees less people will be in the stands at the start of the game. Or maybe, instead of fighting traffic on a Friday, they will choose to watch the ESPN+ live stream.
On second thought, until told otherwise, we will assume that the Big West Conference and Cal State Fullerton would rather you watch the ESPN+ broadcast and consume all those commercials during mid-inning breaks and pitching changes.
Speaking of pitching changes, the team ERA currently sits at 7.54. Clearly that number is inflated by giving up three touchdowns on Sunday and one touchdown on Saturday to Stanford. Scores that resmemble football scores tend to kill a team’s ERA. That said, the Titan arms, with the exceptions of Jason Blood, Tyler Stultz and Fynn Chester, every Titan arm that pitched more than a 1/3rd of an inning holds an ERA above 4. (Josh Howitt holds a 0.00 ERA but only recorded one out where he walked a batter, hit a batter, allowed a single and struck out a batter.)
Seth Tomczak – 4.91 ERA
Peyton Jones – 8.10 ERA
Trevor Hinkel – 9.00 ERA
Gavin Meyer – 9.00 ERA
Andrew Morones – 9.00 ERA
Evan Yates – 10.13 ERA
Jojo Ingrassia – 19.29 ERA
Ryan Faulks – 45.00 ERA
Carter Herrera – 81.00 ERA
Remove Blood, Howitt, Stultz and Chester’s numbers and the team ERA balloons to 12.23 the first four games. Do we have confidence that Jason Dietrich will get a handle on these guys and improve their ERAs? Absolutely. Do we think hosting Michigan, a team that has scored 22 runs in their first four games may help lower the Titans ERA? Again, absolutely.
10 Home Runs in four games
Another reason why the Earned Run Average after four games rose to over 7.5 came via the big fly. There’s no getting around an earned run when the ball leaves the yard.
Trevor Hinkle was particularly susceptible to the long ball, giving up three homers in four innings. Seth Tomzcak has given up two homers on the season already, both to Tulane on back to back innings. Jason Blood, Jojo Ingrassia, Peyton Jones, Tyler Stultz and Evan Yates, all join them with one homer apiece.
Can facing a hot hitting Stanford squad contribute to the high home run total? Sure, but 10 home runs in the first four games seems a bit high.
Sunday 9th & 10th innings
We do not know where to start or how to determine what aspect of the end of Sunday’s game was worse.
Giving up an 11-6 lead in the ninth? Allowing seven runs to score in the top of the ninth? Stanford scoring eighth runs in the top of the tenth with no answer back? Can we select D: all of the above?
We went back and rewatched the Sunday game vs. Stanford to pinpoint the exact moment when the wheels came off. We narrowed it down to two key moments.
Top of the ninth:
Ryan Faulks relieved Andrew Morones with the Titans leading 9-11. Faulks strikes out Eddie Park for the second out but walks Tommy Troy to load the bases.
Context: New in 2023 is the enforcement of the pitch clock. Pitchers have 20 seconds to deliver to the plate or with a runner on, throw to that occupied base. In previous year’s pitch clock rule implementation, pitchers were allowed to either deliver or step off the pitching rubber in order to reset the clock. Pitchers in the past would simply step off the pitchers plate and fake a throw to an occupied base and the clock would reset.
In order to prevent an infinite number of step offs, the NCAA implemented a rule that a pitcher can step off the pitchers plate once per at-bat without throwing to an occupied base. If he steps off a second time without throwing to an occupied base or the clock expires before delivering to the plate, the batter is awarded a ball in the count.
With two outs and facing Carter Graham, Faulks was charged with a ball for a pitch clock violation. The count was 2-2 and with the added ball to the count, evened up to a 3-2 full count. Faulks throws the next pitch ruled a ball and Graham gets an RBI for a bases loaded walk. Alberto Rios scored, bringing the score to 10-11. Next at-bat, a bases clearing, 3-RBI double by Braden Montgomery has Stanford leading 13-11. Faulks gets out of the inning by inducing Malcolm Moore to ground out.
We’ve already covered the bottom of the ninth heroics by Zach Lew and his towering home run to tie the game at 13 and send it to extra innings.
The extra innings open with Drew Bowser knocking a double to left field. Faulks gets Henry Gargus to strike out to record the first out. Here’s where the game went sideways…
Facing Alberto Rios, Rios hits a come backer to Faulks. Instead of retiring the batter at first to secure the easy second out of the game, Faulks looks to throw to third in case Bowser advanced. Bowser smartly retreats to second and Faulks throws to second base. Bowser gets back to second safely before a tag. Rios is safe at first on a failed fielder’s choice.
Next batter, Owen Cobb hits a 2-RBI triple to score Bowser and Rios. While facing Eddie Park, a wild pitch scores Cobb from third. Faulks gets pulled and in comes Freshman Carter Herrera.
The poor choice to try and record an out on Bowser would not have ended the inning. But we can all agree that a man on third with two outs in an extra inning, tied game is much more preferrable than runners on first and second with one out.
We can nitpick and play the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game all day but Sunday was a very troubling day, especially at the end. The good news remains that mental mistakes are easily corrected over problems that arise due to lack of talent. If a player cannot simply make a throw or hit a certain pitch, that is harder to correct than a mental mistake. There is the silver lining to Sunday’s meltdown.
JoJo Ingrassia exits with injury
Closer Jojo Ingrassia left Sunday’s game in the top of the ninth inning after taking a rocket shot off of his right knee or shin. Upon watching the replay, it is hard to determine exactly where the ball contacted Ingrassia’s leg. The injury would result in Ingrassia coming out of the game and relieved by Andrew Morones.
Those in attendance at Goodwin Field could hear the ball contact Ingrassia above the crowd noise. Many knew that despite trying to gut it out to stay in the game, Ingrassia would need to leave. With Ingrassia penciled in to fill the closer role, his loss for an extended period of time could prove costly.
We are all hopeful that the injury is not serious and Ingrassia only needed to leave the Stanford game and will be healthy the rest of the way.
The rain has already started to fall in Southern California with the worst of this winter storm expected on Friday. In anticipation of that weather, Titan Athletics Department chose to cancel Friday’s game vs. Michigan and move it to Monday. See the graphic tweeted out by Titan Baseball on Twitter for the adjusted game times for each day.
Michigan opened the season in Arizona playing in the MLB Desert Invitational. Michigan left Arizona with a 2-2 record, winning on February 17 vs. Fresno State 6-2. The Wolverines would then drop their next two games 8-15 to Michigan State and 2-11 vs. UC San Diego. They evened their record vs. Grand Canyon winning 6-4.
This series is the second half of a home and home agreement between Fullerton and Michigan. The Wolverines swept the Titans last year in Ann Arbor, Mich., winning 2-1, 8-2 and 11-10. For those Titans that made the trip to Michigan last year, they truly will have revenge on their mind.
While in Arizona, Michigan saw immediate impacts from transfers and newcomers to their roster. Gabe Sotres and Cody Jefferis appeared in all four games, with Sotres starting three out of the four and Jefferis starting all four. Sotres leads the Wolverines in batting average, hitting .455 across 11 at-bats while adding two home runs. Jefferis batted leadoff and holds a .368 on-base percentage after three hits, three walks and a hit by pitch over the four games. In his second game as a Wolverine, Jefferis accounted for five of the eight runs, scoring twice and batting in three others. Returners Tito Flores and Ted Burton are batting .375 with six hits in 16-at bats and three runs.
On the mound, Connor O’Halloran and Noah Rennard lead the Wolverines. O’Halloran pitched six innings of two-run baseball, adding four punchouts over the Bulldogs in their season opener. In relief, Rennard held Fresno State and Grand Canyon to one run (unearned) over 6.1 innings with six strikeouts against one walk three hits. Jacob Denner started the UC San Diego game and had a solid outing, allowing two runs over five innings. Mitch Voit earned his first career save with a two strong innings of work over Grand Canyon, tallying two strikeouts.
Saturday, February 25: LHP – Tyler Stultz (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. LHP – Connor O’Halloran (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Sunday, February 26: RHP – Trevor Hinkle (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. LHP – Jacob Denner (0-1, 3.60 ERA)
Monday, February 27: RHP – Fynn Chester (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP – Chase Allen (0-0, 2.45 ERA)
Times listed are Pacific time:
February 25, 2022 (Saturday) vs. Michigan – 6:00 PM
February 26, 2022 (Sunday) vs. Michigan – 1:00 PM
February 27, 2022 (Monday) vs. Michigan – 5:30 PM
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