The Titans opened Big West Conference play with a bang, taking two out of three at UC Irvine. Coming into the weekend, UC Irvine held a 11-3 record, and many pundits did not give Cal State Fullerton a puncher’s chance to win the series, much less, win one game at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark. We should note, the Anteaters were chosen to finish second in the Big West in the coaches poll.
As we have been saying on social media and in this column each week, the trajectory for the Titans is pointing up. At roughly this time last year following the first Big West Conference series, the Titans held a 4-13 record. Coming out of Irvine, the Titans sit at .500 with an 8-8 record. Not to compare apples to oranges but we would argue the 2023 schedule to date that includes Stanford, Michigan, Texas, Pepperdine and UCI is much more grueling than Stanford, Gonzaga, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara from 2022.
No matter how you slice it, the Titans are now tied with Cal State Northridge and Hawai’i for second place in the Big West after the first week and with a long way to go before Memorial Day. The series win vs. Irvine marks the third week in a row that the Titans have taken two out of three on the weekend. Compare that to last year when the Titans didn’t get their third weekend series win until Mid-April. Add to that, by the Titans winning their third weekend series already, they are 3/4th the way to matching their total weekend series win total from 2022. Safe to say that in Jason Dietrich’s second year, he has the Titans’ arrow pointing up.
With heavy rains on Tuesday and tapering off on Wednesday, the scheduled mid-week contest vs. LMU was postponed. No new date or time has been made public yet. The good news remains that after this round of wet weather passes, Mother Nature looks like She will cooperate for at least a month.
Join us as we look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly that was Titan Baseball this past week against the UC Irvine Anteaters.
Friday, March 17, 2023 @ UC Irvine: WIN – 10-0
Saturday, March 18, 2023 @ UC Irvine: LOSS – 5-12
Sunday, March 19, 2023 @ UC Irvine: WIN – 9-5
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 8-8
Conference Record: 2-1
Streak: WON 1
Last 10: 6-4
Runs Scored: 99
Home Runs: 7
Team Batting Avg: .277
On-Base %: .376
Slugging %: .394
Extra base hits: 50
Total bases: 222
Hit by pitch: 21
Stolen Bases: 11
Fielding %: .974
Double Plays turned: 13
Passed Balls: 3
Stolen Bases allowed: 7
Team ERA: 5.55
Batting average against: .268
Hits allowed: 152
Total Runs Allowed: 98
Walks Issued: 77
Ks per 9 innings: 9.43
Home runs allowed: 18
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Tyler Stultz: 7IP – 6H – 0ER – 1BB – 8K – 0.00 ERA – 1 W
Ryan Faulks: 1IP – 0H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K – 0.00 ERA
Peyton Jones: 5.1IP – 1H – 1ER – 2BB – 3K – 1.69 ERA – 1 W
Vote on this week’s #CalStateOmaha Pitcher of the Week Nominees*:@ryan_faulks2: 1IP – 0H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K – 0.00 ERA@peytonjonesy: 5.1IP – 1H – 1ER – 2BB – 3K – 1.69 ERA – 1 W@Tyler_Stultz5: 7IP – 6H – 0ER – 1BB – 8K – 0.00 ERA – 1 W#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 21, 2023
Batter of the Week
Maddox Latta: 6-for-13 – .460 – 5R – 3RBI – 2BB – 2K
Caden Connor: 5-for11 – .450 – 6R – 5RBI – 3BB – 0K
Colby Wallace: 4-for-7 – .570 – 2R – 3RBI – 0BB – 1K
Carter White: 5/14 – .360 – 4R – 1RBI – 1BB – 2K
Vote on this week’s #CalStateOmaha Batter of the Week Nominees*:@Caden_Connor77: 5/11 – .450 – 6R – 5RBI – 3BB – 0K@LattaMaddox: 6/13 – .460 – 5R – 3RBI – 2BB – 2K
Colby Wallace: 4/7 – .570 – 2R – 3RBI – 0BB – 1K@carter__white: 5/14 – .360 – 4R – 1RBI – 1BB – 2K#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 21, 2023
Third Series Win in a Row
After winning on Friday and losing on Saturday to UC Irvine, the Titans needed a win on Sunday to secure their third series win of the season. The 9-5 win over the Anteaters on Sunday accomplished just that and sent the Titans into a three-way tie with Cal State Northridge and Hawai’i who also split their weekend series.
We touched on this is the opening but it bears repeating. The 2022 Titans only won four weekend series in total while the 2023 Titans have already secured their third. With lowly regarded opponents like UC Davis, UC Riverside and Cal State Bakersfield still on the schedule, the 2023 Titans could double if not triple that series win output from last season.
Tyler Stultz Big West Pitcher of the Week
For the second straight week, a Titan has been named either the Big West Field Player or Pitcher of the week. Last week Maddox Latta took home the conference field player of the week and following the UC Irvine series, it was Tyler Stultz’s turn in the spotlight.
Tyler Stultz tossed seven shutout innings to open the series on Friday while combining with three teammates on a 10-0 shutout to earn him a second Big West Pitcher of the Week honor. Stultz also received the same honor last year following the final series of the 2022 season, coincidentally against UC Irvine. In that award winning effort, Stultz tossed 8.1 innings, striking out 11 Anteaters for another shutout.
This past Friday, Stultz scattered six hits, all of them singles with a season-low one walk while striking out eight Anteaters over 103 pitches thrown. The shutout win improved Stultz’s record to 2-1 on the year. Stultz posted a pair of perfect frames in the second and third, twice got a crucial punch-out with UCI runners at the corners to end the first and fourth, and induced a final batter into a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the seventh.
Nankil Joins the Homer Party
Brendan Bobo, Zach Lew, Caden Connor, Cole Urman and now Nate Nankil have all hit home runs thus far in the 2023 season. Nankil’s home run came in the top of the first inning on Friday with two runners on and 1-2 count.
Crushed it! 💪#TusksUp | @nankils619 pic.twitter.com/sdhRWjsuCn
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) March 18, 2023
The Titans have hit seven homers after 16 games with Brendan Bobo hitting three while the others have one apiece.
Notable coming out of the Friday night win over UC Irvine, that game marked the first shutout of the 2023 season. The last shutout tossed for the Titans also came against the UC Irvine Anteaters, a 2-0 win on May 26, 2022.
On the flip side, the Titans have not been shut out this season. The lowest run output for the Titans comes in at two runs twice, a 4-2 loss to Texas on March 4th and a 3-2 loss to Utah on March 7th.
Freshmen Getting More Time
Both Draven Nushida and Eli Lopez recorded their first collegiate hit this past weekend vs. UC Irvine.
Nushida grabbed his first hit on Friday, going one-for-one in a pinch hit effort; a single through the left side in the top of the ninth inning.
First collegiate hit for @Dnushida808! #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/YtuFAGde8X
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) March 18, 2023
Lopez got his first start, starting at 3rd Base for Zach Lew who was the Designated Hitter on Saturday. Lopez would go 1-for-4 on the day that included his first collegiate hit, a fly into left-center field between two Anteater outfielders in the top of the 7th inning. Lopez would reach third on a throwing error and eventually come home on a sacrifice fly by Maddox Latta.
First collegiate hit for @elixeli7! #TusksUp pic.twitter.com/oT4bFLkTis
— Titans Baseball (@FullertonBSB) March 18, 2023
Zero Errors all Weekend
All coaches want their players to play “error free” baseball and the Titans exited Irvine recording zero errors. The final tally included six errors by the Anteaters while the Titans recorded zero.
Peyton Jones Stellar Two weekends
Lefty reliever Peyton Jones has come out of the bullpen in Evan Yates’ last two starts and effectively boosted the Titans to secure the final game of the three-game series.\
Combining the Pepperdine and UC Irvine games, Jones has pitched 9.1 innings, given up one hit, one earned run, walked three, struck out nine with a two game ERA of 0.96. Jones has not given up a home run in those two appearances and earned himself two wins in the process.
Jason Dietrich may have found the magic elixir for Game 3 wins with the combination of Evan Yates starting and Peyton Jones relieving for extended innings. If that truly is the case, we say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Let’s check in on the streaks heading into this past weekend’s series and see how those players fared:
- Maddox Latta had a 13 game on-base streak heading into the UC Irvine series and extended it to 16 games. Latta had multi-hit games on Friday and Sunday and saved his streak by earning a walk on Saturday.
- Zach Lew had a six game hit streak entering the weekend, however, a 0-for-4 night at the plate on Friday broke that streak. Lew did walk on Friday converting the hit streak to an on-base streak and got a hit on Saturday to extend it. Unfortunately, Lew went 0-for-3 on Sunday and did not get walked or hit by pitch, ending his on-base streak.
- Carter White recorded a hit in all three games vs. UC Irvine to extend his hit streak to 11 games and on-base streak to 14 games. White has reached safely either via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in every game he has played in this season.
Carter White Strikes out Sunday
Entering Sunday’s game, Carter White had yet to strike out on the season. In 47 plate appearances and 38 at-bats, White had zero Ks in 2023.
In his first trip to the plate on Sunday, Carter White looked at strike three to lead off the game and home plate umpire Travis Reininger rung him up. Carter would strike out again in the fifth inning, again on a called third strike.
Although striking out isn’t necessarily “bad”, it was fun to track and see how far he could go without getting punched out.
Despite striking out twice on Sunday, White ranks seventh in Division 1 Baseball at the toughest to strike out. White has played in 14 games, recorded 43 at-bats and struck out twice. That is an average of 21.5 at-bats to every strike out. Still not too shabby.
Evan Yates short outings
Not since Major League Baseball clubs started using an “opener” instead of a traditional starter, starting pitchers were expected to go deep into games. Unfortunately, Sunday starter Evan Yates has not gone very deep into games this season.
Yates’ longest outing came on March 5th vs. Texas. In that game, Yates went five innings, gave up six hits, one earned run, walked one and struck out four. Yates left that game leading 3-1 and in a position for the win had Texas not tied the game in the ninth inning.
In his first start of 2023, Yates lasted 1.2 innings, giving up two hits, three earned runs, walking five, striking out two and surrendering a home run. At Pepperdine, Yates went a complete three innings, giving up the only run scored by the Waves that day before Peyton Jones came in relief.
Most recently, Yates went 2.1 innings vs UC Irvine on Sunday letting up two runs, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out two. Jones again came in to relive Yates on Sunday.
Although the last two outings have resulted in team wins, we would love to see Yates go deeper into games. This would accomplish a number of tasks, including putting him in a position to earn the win while also allowing the bullpen to preserve those precious bullets that will be needed later in the season.
7 Hit Batters
Titan pitchers Josh Howitt, Trevor Hinkle, Jason Blood and Evan Yates combined to plunk seven batters over the course of the UC Irvine series. Howitt hit two on Friday, Hinkle and Blood each hit two on Saturday and Yates thumped one on Sunday.
Outside of the Hinkle and Blood combined four hit batters, the others did not result in any runs scored. Yates plunked Caden Kendle to lead off the top of the third inning, but he ended up getting stranded at third when Peyton Jones came in and ended the inning with the bases loaded.
Howitt on Friday started the ninth inning and drilled Anthony Martinez, the first UCI batter he faced. He then walked Chase Call and got the next two batters to strike out. Seemingly to have settled down, Howitt then plunked Myles Smith to load the bases. Jason Dietrich had seen enough and went to Andrew Morones out of the bullpen.
The game ended on weird play with a 2-6-2-5 caught stealing on Martinez on the third base line for the third out. Although the Friday and Sunday hit batters did not result in any runs scored, the Titans need better control. Free passes no matter if they come via a walk or a hit batter, typically do not bode well for any team.
Now to detail the Saturday hit batters, which leads us to the next section…
Saturday 5th inning
The fifth inning on Saturday was flat out ugly. No way around it. Giving up six runs, all of them earned runs was not the ugly part. It was the way in which the Titans gave them up and giving UC Irvine the lead and the eventual momentum for the remainder of the game made it ugly. UC Irvine’s Tweet summarizing how brutal the inning went was savage.
Here’s the recipe for a 6-run inning 👨🍳 Anteater style
‘Eaters lead 7-1 Top 6th #EatersGottaEat
— UCI Baseball (@UCIbsb) March 18, 2023
Trevor Hinkle opens the fifth inning by allowing a single and then a well-placed bunt by the speedy Jo Oyama put two Anteater runners at first and second. Hinkle then hits Will Bermudez to load the bases.
A sacrifice fly to center field brings in Jacob Stinson, the man that singled to open the inning. Another sacrifice fly brings in Jo Oyama who had tagged up on the previous sac fly. Now with two outs and a man on first, the Titans looked in position to limit the damage to just two runs and trail 3-1 if they can record the next out.
Instead, Hinkle walks Dub Gleed and Chase Call to load the bases again. Myles Smith then walks with bases loaded to bring in another run. Three straight walks and Jason Dietrich goes to the bullpen and brings in the normally trustworthy Jason Blood.
The first batter Blood faces, he hits to bring in yet another run. Bases still loaded full of Anteaters and Blood then walks two more before getting Will Bermudez to fly out and bring the fifth inning to a close.
Of the six runs scored, the first two, crossed the plate as a result of getting a legitimate hit. The remaining four all a result of either walks or hit batters. That’s ugly.
The Titans hit the road for the third time this season, this time a bit further than the 30 minutes bus ride to Irvine. This weekend, the Titans travel to UC Davis to take on the Aggies in a three game series scheduled Friday through Sunday. The UC Davis Aggies did not have a mid-week game schedule this week and with the LMU game postponed due to weather, expect both teams to be well rested and ready for the second weekend of Big West play.
The Aggies come into the weekend after dropping two of three to the visiting Cal State Northridge Matadors. UC Davis played a double header on Saturday and the extra day of rest could be helpful for the 6-10 Aggies.
Although the Aggies are in Northern California, they have been dealing with weather related cancelations as well. UCD Opened the season with a four game set vs. Utah Valley, a series they would split 2-2. The Santa Clara Series was shortened to a double header, much like the Michigan series for Fullerton, splitting that series 1-1. The Aggies lone series win came vs. Seattle, taking both the Saturday and Sunday games. Prior to last weekend vs. CSUN, the Aggies traveled out to Phoenix and were promptly swept by the Arizona State Sundevils three games to none.
As a team, UC Davis ranks last among all Big West teams, batting .229 as a whole. In addition to poor batting average, the Aggies rank last in the Big West in hits (121), triples (1) and on-base percentage (.325). They rank next to last in a number of statistical categories including runs scored (75), RBI (72), total bases (194) and Hit-by-pitch (17).
Offensively, the Aggies do not have a batter hitting above .300. The closest appears to be Damian Stone, batting .293 on the season with 41 at-bats. Next comes Alex Gouveia, batting .292 in 65 at-bats. We should note, Gouveia ranks No. 1 in College Baseball as the toughest to strike out. In 16 games and 65 at-bats, Gouveia has struck out only twice. The big home run threat comes from Jack Gallagher who has hit five dingers thus far in 44 at-bats.
The one aspect of the game the Aggies do well? Fielding. After 16 games in the books, the Aggies field at .979%, committing only 12 errors on the season. A lack of errors but still allowing 6.625 runs per game equates to a high ERA, and UC Davis fits the mold. As a staff, the Aggies hold the highest ERA in the Big West, 6.32. The Aggies issue free passes quite a bit, walking 81 batters thus far, third highest in the Big West while also hitting 23 batters, in a three-way tie for first place in that category with Hawai’i and UC Riverside.
On the mound, of the arms with significant innings for the Aggies, Bryan Green holds the best ERA at 3.54 and leads the team in innings pitched (28). Green starts on Saturdays for the Aggies and the left hander touts a 4-1 record while holding a 0.96 WHIP heading into the Cal State Fullerton Series.
Normal Friday Starter Nate Freeman hasn’t fared as well as Freeman, posting a 0-4 record, 6.41 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP. He looks to have lost the Friday night gig while Sunday starter Rowan Barnes ranks near the bottom of many pitching categories with a 1-2 record, 14.73 ERA and a 2.86 WHIP. The sophomore righty looks to have a short leash with his longest outing coming vs. Seattle on March 5th going 3.1 innings.
UCD will shake things up a bit with Alejandro Huezo scheduled to start on Friday while Carter Delaney gets the ball on Sunday. Huezo has pitched 15 innings thus far with one start to his credit. He enters Friday’s game with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. On Sunday, the Titans will face Carter Delany at the begining of the game. Delaney carries a 3.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP into Game Three of the series.
Comparing the Titans to the Aggies on paper, one would think the Titans should dominate this weekend and record their first three game sweep of the series. No so fast, my friend. In looking back as this past weekend, on paper, the Anteaters looked to have the advantage. But we all saw how that turned out. Whether the Anteaters overlooked the Titans, disregarded them or the Titans were just flat out better than UCI, the fact remains the Titans won that series.
The Titans raised their RPI ranking 85 points after playing UC Irvine and currently sit at 87. UC Davis’s RPI sits at 178 following their series with Northridge. For those that understand RPI rankings, if the Titans do not want to lose that RPI momentum, they really need a sweep up in Davis. Losing just one to a team with an RPI roughly 100 points lower than your own can really drag down your RPI ranking. The Titans need not to look past the UCD Aggies this weekend and grab those valuable wins when they can. A win vs. UC Davis or any of the other perceived bottom feeders within the Big West counts just as much as a win vs. UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine or Long Beach State.
Friday, March 17: LHP – Tyler Stultz (2-1, 4.21 ERA) vs. RHP – Alejandro Huezo (1-0, 4.20 ERA)
Saturday, March 18: RHP – Trevor Hinkle (0-3, 9.25 ERA) vs. LHP – Bryan Green (4-1, 3.54 ERA)
Sunday, March 19: RHP – Evan Yates (0-0, 4.85 ERA) vs. RHP – Carter Delaney (0-0, 3.21 ERA)
Times listed are Pacific time:
March 24, 2023 (Friday) at UC Davis – 2:30 PM
March 25, 2023 (Saturday) at UC Davis – 1:00 PM
March 26, 2023 (Sunday) at UC Davis – 1:00 PM
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