The peaks and valleys this early in the season starts off this week’s Thursday Thoughts following the Texas series and the Utah mid-week game. A win on Friday to open the Texas series, followed by a loss on Saturday only to come back and clinch the series in a thrilling, extra innings game. Sunday also included some extracurricular activities at the conclusion, providing a roller coaster weekend for fans.
Hoping that walk-off win excitement on Sunday would carry over to Tuesday vs. Utah, the game fell flat as the Titan bats went silent mustering seven hits in 30 at-bats (.230 team batting average) and the Titans enter the Pepperdine series under .500 with a 4-6 record.
Mother Nature played nice for once this young season and did not cause any problems on the field. Tailgaters outside of Goodwin Field on Sunday morning had to contend with rain but that didn’t seem to bother many. Join us as we take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly that was Titan Baseball this past week.
Friday, March 3, 2023 vs. Texas: WIN – 5-6
Saturday, March 4, 2023 vs. Texas: LOSS – 4-2
Sunday, March 5, 2023 vs. Texas: WIN – 4-5 (11 Innings)
Tuesday, March 7, 2023 vs. Utah: LOSS – 3-2
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 0-0
Streak: LOST 1
Last 10: 4-6
Runs Scored: 55
Home Runs: 4
Team Batting Avg: .263
On-Base %: .372
Slugging %: .373
Extra base hits: 30
Total bases: 129
Hit by pitch: 14
Stolen Bases: 6
Fielding %: .971
Double Plays turned: 10
Passed Balls: 3
Stolen Bases allowed: 7
Team ERA: 5.71
Batting average against: .275
Hits allowed: 101
Total Runs Allowed: 66
Walks Issued: 52
Ks per 9 innings: 9.97
Home runs allowed: 16
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Jason Blood: 5.2IP – 4H – 1ER – 1BB – 5K – 1.69 ERA
Fynn Chester: 4IP – 4H – 2ER – 0BB – 6K – 4.50 ERA – 1W
Peyton Jones: 4.1IP – 2H – 1ER – 3BB – 4K – 2.08 ERA
Evan Yates: 5IP – 6H – 1ER – 1BB – 4K – 1.80 ERA
Vote on this week’s #CalStateOmaha Pitcher of the Week Nominees*:@jtblood13: 5.2IP – 4H – 1ER – 1BB – 5K – 1.69 ERA@FynnChester: 4IP – 4H – 2ER – 0BB – 6K – 4.50 ERA – 1W@peytonjonesy: 4.1IP – 2H – 1ER – 3BB – 4K – 2.08 ERA @evan_yates17: 5IP – 6H – 1ER – 1BB – 4K – 1.80 ERA
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 8, 2023
Batter of the Week
Carter White: 5/10 – .500 – 1R – 1RBI – 0BB – 0K
Jack Haley: 4/15 – .270 – 2R – 0RBI – 0 BB – 5K
Zach Lew: 4/14 – .290 – 3R – 0RBI – 2BB – 3K
Max Ortega: 6/6 – .333 – 1R – 0RBI – 1BB – 2K
Vote on this week’s #CalStateOmaha Batter of the Week Nominees*:@jackhaley25: 4/15 – .270 – 2R – 0RBI – 0 BB – 5K@zachlew20: 4/14 – .290 – 3R – 0RBI – 2BB – 3K@_MaxOrtega_: 6/6 – .333 – 1R – 0RBI – 1BB – 2K@carter__white: 5/10 – .500 – 1R – 1RBI – 0BB – 0K#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 8, 2023
Series win vs. Texas
The Titans reeled in their first series win vs. Texas, going 2-1 on the weekend.
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) March 6, 2023
Winning in walk-off fashion to clinch the series demonstrated the cohesiveness of this team and the fortitude to continue to fight despite adversity vs. a skilled opponent. The Sunday win was marred by a dust up in left center field between the Titans and the Longhorns (we will cover that in the ugly section). The win on Sunday was the second walk-off win (Tulane) this season.
Carter White Rakes
Carter White’s third year in the Titan Baseball program after transferring in from Long Beach City College has started off with a bang. Touting a .600 batting average in eight games, Carter White has been hitting the cover off the ball in the early going.
The Titans have played 10 games total and White has played in eight of them, missing both Friday games vs. Stanford and Texas. Could it be that he missed those games because both Quinn Mathews (Stanford) and Lucas Gordon (Texas) are left-handed pitchers? (White is a left-handed batter.) Possibly.
The more incredible stat remains if you remove the series vs. Stanford where he did not record an official at-bat but walked three times and was hit by a pitch, White has collected nine hits in five games. More incredible than that? In 19 plate appearances, White has yet to strike out. Compare that to the other Titans with 10+ at-bats and the next closest is Max Ortega with Ks in 13 at-bats.
Whether in the outfield or at DH, whether facing a right hander or left hander, Carter White needs to be a fixture in the Titans line-up this weekend vs. Pepperdine. The Titans can’t afford to leave his .600 / .684 / .667 slash line on the bench.
Welcome Back Hollywood
After missing the Stanford, Tulane and Michigan games, Jack “Hollywood” Haley started at short stop vs. Texas this past weekend and Utah on Tuesday. Haley did not exit spring practices 100% healthy but looks back on track after going 4-for-15 (.270) and scoring two runs. In the field, Haley did have one error in 20 total chances (.950) and helped to turn four double plays.
Although Hollywood hasn’t come back like a house on fire, his glove and stick merit him getting a few more looks at short stop vs. Pepperdine this weekend and Arizona next Wednesday.
Team ERA shrinks
After six games vs. Stanford (3), Tulane (1) and Michigan (2), the Titans ERA stood at 7.36. Three games vs. Texas and one vs. Utah, the Team ERA hovers at 5.71. For those not great at math, that’s 1.65 earned runs shaved off in four games.
Two Titan arms still have a 0.00 ERA (Jesse Alfaro and Josh Howitt) although they have not pitched significant innings. Both have made two appearances with Alfaro pitching two innings and Howitt 1.1 innings. Despite the low inning count, they hold 0.00 ERAs headed into the Pepperdine weekend series.
Entering the Texas weekend, Fynn Chester held a 0.00 ERA and still maintained the triple zeros after Friday night, going two innings, striking out four Longhorns and picking up the victory. Unfortunately, Chester let up a two-run home run in relief on Sunday and his seasons long ERA sits at 1.80.
Golden West College transfer Jason Blood continues to impress in the early going, logging 12.2 innings and a 2.84 ERA. He ranks tied for second with Peyton Jones for strikeouts, with 14 on the year. (Trevor Hinkle has 18 Ks in 2023.) In addition to striking guys out, Blood has only walked one batter to join Chester as the only pitchers on the staff to have double digit innings and a single walk to their credit.
Despite the ERA dropping over one and a half points in four games, that ERA could be even lower… which brings us to the next section.
Home Official Scorer
Anyone else notice that blatant errors in the field are scored as hits this early going? We’re not sure if the Goodwin Field official scorer is still learning the game of baseball and doesn’t quite understand the how to score a game or is just inept and unqualified. The truth remains, simple fielding errors are getting ruled as hits.
No matter if the play gets scored a hit or an error, it does not change the fact that a runner reached base safely. However, it does directly affect the earned run average. The most recent error ruled a hit came Tuesday night vs. Utah.
Leading off the top of the second inning with Andrew Morones pitching in relief of Starter Jesse Alfaro, Utah’s Jayden Kiernan hit a ball to the third base side. Zach Lew moved to his left, put a glove on the bouncing ball and it kicked off his glove into shallow left center field. If Lew fields that ball cleanly, an on-line throw would have resulted in an out. An off-line throw would result in an error. Instead, the play was ruled a hit. Kiernan eventually would advance to third and later score on a ground out. Because Kiernan was ruled to have reach base via a hit, the run scored was an earned run tagged to Morones.
During the Texas series, Caden Connor failed to field a ball that slipped between his legs, reminiscent of the Bill Buckner 1986 World Series error. The Goodwin Field official scorer ruled it a hit when it clearly should have been an error.That play was eventually reversed and ruled anerror but it begs the question, why was it ruled a hit in the first place?
We could cite example after example, but you get the point.
If the inaccurate scoring is purposeful, do they believe that by scoring obvious errors a hit for the opponent is helping the Titans by decreasing the number of errors and helping the fielding percentage? You would think if scoring incorrectly was intentional, they would have the pitchers’ best interests in mind and score borderline plays errors.
No matter the reason, the Titans’ team ERA should be even lower than the current 5.71. That’s on the official scorer at Goodwin.
Zach Lew At-bat
In the bottom of the 10th inning and Texas leading 4-3, Zach Lew came to the plate with one out, nobody on, after Caden Connor led off the inning grounding out to first base.
On an 0-1 count, Lew hit a ball sky high to the right field foul line a shade beyond first base. The first baseman, right fielder and second basemen for the Longhorns all converged on the ball but it dropped between all of them for a fair ball.
Lew, assuming the ball was hit high enough to be fielded cleanly, failed to run the ball out. Lew had not even reached the entrance to the runner’s lane at the 45-foot mark by the time the ball dropped. Upon seeing the ball drop fair, Lew turned on the jets and reached first base safely.
Had Lew busted out of the box and ran the ball out, Lew would have easily been standing on second base and the Titans would have had a runner in scoring position with one out. Instead, it appears that Head Coach Jason Dietrich chose to send a message and immediately lifted Lew for a pinch runner, freshman Draven Nushida.
Nushida would eventually tie the game on Carter White’s single to left field and the game would extend to 11 innings.
Hopefully the message was received in-game by Lew with the pinch runner replacement. We have no idea what type of message Lew received after the game but apparently the lesson was learned by Tuesday. Lew started at third base and batted fourth vs. Utah. Lew would go 1-for-4 with a run scored and a strike out vs. the Utes.
Home Run Differential
When it comes to home runs, opponents are hitting four times as many balls over the fence compared to the Titans. The Titans have hit four while opponents have belted 16. Not good.
Goodwin Field is not known as a hitter friendly ballpark. Combine the damp and cold conditions the Titans have played in recently; you would think the ball would not fly all that much. Apparently, the opponents did not get that memo.
Three Titans share those four home runs on the season. Brendan Bobo has hit two while Caden Connor and Zach Lew have one apiece.
Hinkle Struggling Early
In all honesty, Trevor Hinkle’s early season struggles may have him on a short leash as a weekend starter. To open the season in three weekend series starts, Hinkle has posted an 0-2 record, pitched 13.2 innings, surrendered 13 earned runs, walked four and given up a team leading five home runs.
Of the four pitchers that have recorded double digit innings in the early going, Hinkle’s home run numbers along with his ERA (8.56) and hits allowed (22) ranks last. Hinkle’s 18 strike outs leads the team and to his credit, he has only walked four batters.
This weekend series marks Hinkle’s return to face Pepperdine, his former team before coming to Cal State Fullerton via the transfer portal. While at Pepperdine last season Hinkle started on the weekends and performed well.
Without any knowledge or insight as to what the coaches are thinking, this weekend vs. Pepperdine may be a make or break start for Hinkle. Should the struggles continue, Hinkle could find himself in the bullpen and guys like Jason Blood or Fynn Chester could be pushed into a weekend starting role.
We hope Hinkle gets back on track and performs like a front line, weekend start as many projected him entering Cal State Fullerton.
Dust up in Left Field after Game 3 vs. Texas
For those that saw Sunday’s game inside Goodwin Field or watched in on the ESPN+ stream, there was a bit of a dust up in left field after Angelo Aleman’s walk off single won the game and clinched the series for the Titans. No punches were thrown, and it resulted in your typical “baseball fight” with pushing and shoving, getting in each other’s faces and shouting back at the other team. Eventually coaches and even umpires had to step in and separate the players.
A little dust up between teams after the Horns down pic.twitter.com/9OfiygjvLO
— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast 🎙 (@11point7) March 5, 2023
We consider this in the “ugly” column because it was just a bad look for both teams, especially since it happened on a Sunday. Why does this occurring on a Sunday make it worse? Sundays are the days kids ages 12 and under can run the bases post-game.
These kids start lining up near first base side before the game ends and unfortunately had to witness some boorish behavior by both teams. Also, Sunday was a little league day with kids from the West Yorba Linda Little League running out onto the field with the Titans during pregame introductions.Not a good look with so many young and impressionable kids in the house.
Take into consideration some context of how this happened dating back to the Friday night win over Texas to open the series.
It all started before first pitch on Friday when the Longhorn players turned to face their fans behind the visitor’s dugout after the National Anthem and sang “The Eyes of Texas” while holding the Horns Up hand gesture. Some of the Titan players noticed this and you could see the look on their faces that they took the Longhorns’ behavior as a sign of disrespect.
Move to the final out of Friday game when Fynn Chester threw a masterful two innings, striking out four Longhorns including the final batter. Chester then turned towards the Longhorn dugout, shouted something and then gave the soft Horns Down gesture. Clearly the Longhorn players after taking an emotional loss to open the series, didn’t appreciate Chester rubbing a bit of salt in the wound.
Despite the loss, Texas players and coaches gathered outside the dugout, faced their fans and sung The Eyes of Texas again. The Titans were too busy celebrating the win and giving high fives to really notice but a few did.
Saturday’s game ends up being a Texas win but pre and postgame, the Texas players and fans continued to sing their song and essentially treated Goodwin Field as if it were UFCU Disch-Falk Field. Mind you, Texas fans have a cheer where one person our a group will yell, “TEXAS!” and another group away from that group will answer with “FIGHT!”. They do this back and forth three times and then the ones yelling TEXAS will then end the cheer with OU (referring to the University of Oklahoma, Texas’ main rival) and the other group will answer with “SUCKS!”.
This cheer was done on Friday and again on Saturday. However on Saturday, the first group substituted OU for FULLERTON and the other group answered with “SUCKS!”. You be the judge on how well that was received by the Titans fans in attendance.
Now comes Sunday and the dramatic walk-off win is already well documented above. Prior to the extra inning heroics, The Longhorns tied the ballgame with a 2-run home run by Jack O’Dowd off of Fynn Chester. As O’Dowd rounded the bases, he was screaming at Chester and the Titans infielders on his way to touch home plate. Upon returning to the dugout, the Texas bench continued to razz Chester who eventually got out of the inning with the game tied 3-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
In the 10th inning, both teams plated a run each and with each score, both teams did a bit of jawing back and forth. The intensity built in the bottom of the 11th when Brendan Bobo led off and was hit by a pitch for the third time in the game.
Jack Haley sacrificed Bobo to second and Moises Guzman struck out. Down to their final out and a man in scoring position, Texas chose to intentionally walk Caden Connor and bring up the next batter. This spot would have been Zach Lew’s place in the line-up had he not been lifted for Draven Nushida. The Titans coaching staff chose to pinch hit Angelo Aleman for Nushida in this spot.
With two outs and nothing to lose, when Angelo Aleman hit the pitch, Bobo was on his horse and Third Base Coach Josh Belovsky was sending him home before the ball hit the ground. After Bobo touched home plate, he took a soft left turn and shouted something to the Longhorns’ dugout. Bobo was wearing a sliding mitt on his right hand and he was not giving the ‘Horns Down gesture as he ran past. He then joined his teammates near second base for the celebration that eventually migrated to left center field.
As you can see in the photo, some Titan players were giving the ‘Horns Down hand gesture after the teams separated. Clearly the Longhorns did not take too kindly to that, and emotions boiled over to the point the umpires and coaches ended up separating the players.
Nobody was hurt and nobody received a post-game ejection. Just an unfortunate scene that fans of both teams and most notably, little kids had to witness.
An Open Letter to Texas and their Fans
You may think the ‘Horns Down gesture is sacrilegious but your reaction to it perpetuates its use.
Despite the Big 12 Conference deeming the gesture an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in football, many fans, not just your main rival Oklahoma and secondary rival Texas A&M, use it because they know the reaction it will cause. The fallout after Texas A&M outfielder Dylan Rock dropped at horns down after hitting a grand Ssam at Texas last year was incredible.
Texas A&M’s Dylan Rock hit a go-ahead grand slam against #8 Texas and immediately threw Horns Down after reaching home plate 🤣
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) March 30, 2022
If you don’t react and stop making it such a big deal, it will eventually die out. We covered this in our weekly Twitter Spaces conversation, where we compare the Horns Down hand gesture to getting a nickname.
Growing up, some nicknames stick while others die a natural death. The nicknames that follow you forever? The one you object to the most at the beginning. As mean and childish as it may sound, those nicknames stick because it annoys the person the most.
We already gave our unsolicited advice earlier, but it bears repeating. Let it roll off your back. Don’t react as if your next door neighbor backed their car over your cat.
Of course this will take immense coordination and participation from everyone but it is not impossible.
The Titans will hit the highway for the first time this season, traveling up to Malibu to take on the Pepperdine Waves for a three-game series. This scheduled series marks the last weekend of non-conference play before opening Big West Conference games vs. UC Irvine.
The Waves post an identical 4-6 record with the Titans although the Waves enter the weekend on a two-game losing streak. Pepperdine traveled to UC Santa Barbara this past Tuesday, dropping that contest 11-1. On Sunday, the Waves dropped the final game of the South Alabama Invitational 10-1 to Iowa.
Pepperdine welcomed in Boston College to open the season, dropping two of three games to the Golden Eagles. UCLA beat the Waves 11-2 in a mid-week contest before the rains washed out the weekend series with Alabama. The Waves were able to salvage a little bit of playing time, facing off with Cal State Northridge Sunday and Tuesday, splitting those games.
Pepperdine them traveled out to Mobile, Alabama for the South Alabama Invitational beating South Alabama 12-5 on Friday and Southern University 16-0 on Saturday.
Offensively, the Waves can really pound the ball, hitting 15 home runs on the season. On Friday and Saturday of the South Alabama Invitational, Pepperdine belted three home runs in each of those games.
The big bopper in the Waves line-up looks like Ryan Johnson with a team leading seven home runs, .472 batting average and a 1.674 OPS. The good news for the Titans regarding Johnson is that he along with two others (Greg Mehlhaff and John Peck) are tied for second highest in strikeouts with 12 apiece. Connor Bradshaw who is batting .182 through 10 games has struck out the most for the Waves with 16 punch outs.
As you might expect, Friday night starter Shane Telfer leads the Waves in ERA with a 1.13, a team leading 13 strikeouts and holds a 2-0 record. Outside of Telfer, it appears the Waves Saturday and Sunday starters could come from anywhere. Trevor Kniskern started the mid-week vs. UC Santa Barbara but with enough inclement weather causing games to get moved, he could get a chance to throw vs. the Titans.
Tommy Scavone could start the Sunday game seeing how he started the Saturday game vs. Boston College and then the fill in game vs. Northridge in what would have been the Alabama series. Brandon Llewellyn also has received weekend starts but Waves Head Coach Rick Hirtensteiner could still use these non-conference games to sort out his rotation moving forward.
Please note that all games in Malibu are scheduled during daylight hours due to Eddy D. Field Stadium not having lights. With heavy rain forecasted on Friday, that game has been made into a double header on Saturday. The games could even move to Sunday depending on the amount of precipitation received on Friday and Saturday or field maintenance required.
For those not planning on making the scenic drive up Pacific Coast Highway to catch the games in person, note that Pepperdine does not have a contract with ESPN+ like the Big West. The good news is that the games are scheduled to be live-streamed on WCCSports.com.
Saturday, March 11: LHP – Tyler Stultz (1-1, 5.54 ERA) vs. RHP – Brandon Llewellyn (0-1, 10.00 ERA)
Saturday, March 11: RHP – Trevor Hinkle (0-2, 8.56 ERA) vs. LHP – Shane Telfer (2-0, 1.13 ERA)
Sunday, March 12: RHP – Evan Yates (0-0, 4.70 ERA) vs. TBD
Times listed are Pacific time:
March 11, 2023 (Friday) at Pepperdine – 11:00 AM
March 11, 2023 (Saturday) at Pepperdine – 2:00 PM
March 12, 2023 (Sunday) at Pepperdine – 1:00 PM