Thursday Thoughts: UC Riverside Series

Last week’s Thursday Thoughts ended saying that on paper, the UC Riverside series looked to be a “get right” weekend to help the Titans gain some momentum and confidence as they navigate the conference schedule. With the exception of the walk-off home run in Game 2 of the Saturday double-header, that prediction was pretty spot on.

The Titans are now 5-5 in their last 10 games and have raised their team batting average 39 points in two weeks. The Titans were scheduled to play Cal State Bakersfield but due to COVID-19 within the Roadrunner Athletic Department, that series has been canceled. The good news is that the Titans and USD were able to put together a last minute, two-game series to replace that series that will include a nationally televised game to appear on ESPNU.

Before we preview the USD 2-game series, let’s look back and recap the UC Riverside weekend that had some good, some bad and some ugly aspects.

The Results

Friday, March 26, 2021 @UC Riverside: Win – 4-3
Saturday, March 27, 2021 @UC Riverside: WIN – 18-6
Saturday, March 27, 2021 @UC Riverside: LOSS – 5-7
Sunday, March 28, 2021 @UC Riverside: WIN – 16-8

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 9-13
Conference Record: 5-3
Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 5-5

Offense

Runs Scored: 116
Hits: 208
Doubles: 38
Triples: 6
Home Runs: 12
RBI: 104
Team Batting Avg: .276
On-Base %: .364
Slugging %: .390
Walks: 89
Extra base hits: 56
Total bases: 294
Hit by pitch: 22
Stolen Bases: 9
Strikeouts: 194

Defense

Errors: 23
Fielding %: .971
Double Plays turned: 13
Passed Balls: 1
Stolen Bases allowed: 11

Pitching

Team ERA: 5.77
Batting average against: .274
Hits allowed: 206
Total Runs Allowed: 132
Walks Issued: 66
Strikeouts: 167
Ks per 9 innings: 7.83
Home runs allowed: 23

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week


Cameron Repetti: 4 IP – 1 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 2 Ks

Also considered:
Evan Adolphus: 2 IP – 1 H – 0 ER – 1 BB – 1 K
Tanner Bibee: 8 IP – 10 H – 3 ER – 1 BB – 7 Ks
Michael Weisberg: 4 IP – 4 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 6 Ks

Batter of the Week


Caden Connor: 11/22 – .500 – 4R – 6RBI – 0BB – 3Ks – 0HR

Also considered:
Jason Brandow: 4/6 – .667 – 5R – 5RBI – 1BB – 1Ks – 1HR
Deylan Pigford: 4/11 – .364 – 5R – 3RBI – 2BB – 2Ks – 1HR
Carter White: 8/17 – .471 – 4R – 6RBI – 3BB – 0K – 1HR

The Good

Series Win & above .500 in Conference

Titans post-game victory high-five line following Sunday’s win over UC Riverside. The win gave the Titans the series win, winning three of four games.

Although the Titans’ overall record still sits four games under .500, their Big West Conference record is one game above .500. Add to that they took three of four from UC Riverside and it has to be a shot in the arm for the team.

Even with the 7-5 walk-off loss in Game 2 of the double-header (more on that in the “Bad” section) the Titans outscored the Highlanders 43-24 over four games. Double digit runs scored on Saturday’s first game and again on Sunday really helped inflate the Titans’ run total.

The Titans can hopefully keep the momentum going and possibly pick up some RPI points following the UC Riverside series which bring us to our next point…

USD 2-Game Series Added

Kyle Luckham
Kyle Luckham earned the win vs. USD on 2/28/2021 going 7 1/3rd innings, giving up 2 hits, 1 run, walking 1 while striking out 6 USD batters.

The Titans were originally schedule to host Cal State Bakersfield this weekend at Goodwin Field but due to COVID issues within the CSU Bakersfield Athletics Department, the Roadrunners have shut down all team activities for two weeks. After the UC Riverside series, we spoke with head coach Rick Vanderhook about the unexpected open weekend. When asked how the Titans would fill the weekend, Vanderhook responded,

“I think it’s going to be a couple squad games and then I think we’re going to have an Easter Egg hunt at my house on Sunday.”

Although the Easter Egg hunt may still be on for Sunday, the Titans were able to find a dance partner to play two games this weekend. But how did it come about that the University of San Diego and Cal State Fullerton were able to schedule each other on such short notice?

The same circumstances affecting Cal State Bakersfield affected Pepperdine, USD’s scheduled opponent for this weekend. Pepperdine had to shut down activities due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols which left USD without an opponent. We assume a few phone calls were made between Head Coach Rick Vanderhook and USD’s Rich Hill and the two-game series came to fruition.

The first game is scheduled for 5:00 PM Friday at Goodwin Field in Fullerton with Tanner Bibee (3-3, 3.00 ERA) expected to start while USD is expected to counter with Jake Miller (3-1, 2.63 ERA). Saturday’s game will be at Fowler Park in San Diego and start time is scheduled for 5:00 PM. Kyle Luckham (2-4, 6.11 ERA) is expected to get the ball while USD should throw Connor Thurman (2-1, 1.65 ERA) on Saturday.

This two-game set will be the fourth and fifth meeting between the two teams in 2021, with USD winning the series in February two games to the Titans’ one. All three of those contests were in San Diego and one would think that both games of the added series would be in Orange County. Keep in mind, USD was originally scheduled to play Pepperdine in San Diego and ESPNU was going to televise the game. For the opportunity to appear on ESPNU, it is safe to assume the Titans have no issue traveling to San Diego for a fourth time this year.

It was unexpected to be playing USD again but rather than remain idle, hats off to both programs for keeping themselves sharp and giving the college baseball fans some baseball on a weekend that could have become a lost weekend.

Fans Are Back at Goodwin Starting with Cal Baptist Series

Capacity restrictions at Goodwin Field could see the stands looking a lot like this during the Cal Baptist series in a week.

This week, Orange County qualified to move into the Orange Tier under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Prior to this move into the less restrictive Orange Tier, Cal State Fullerton Athletics Department was preparing for fans returning to venues under the Red Tier. The Red Tier stated that outdoor sporting events could allow fans back but only at 20% capacity. The Orange Tier allows for 33% capacity.

The best comparison to make would be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim since they too are located in Orange County. Angel Stadium of Anaheim can hold 45,050 fans and 33% of that capacity sits just under 15,000. The Angels were selling tickets to the game vs. the Chicago White Sox and remained in compliance with state restrictions. It stands to reason that Cal State Fullerton would be able to sell tickets for 33% of Goodwin Field.

There is a catch. Tickets are not available to the general public. Tickets will only be sold to donors and season ticket holders. For the full details on how tickets will be processed and handled, please read the official statement on the Titans Athletics Website.

FullertonTitans.com: Ticket Requests Live For Season Ticket Holders, Donors

The first series fans will be able to purchase tickets will be the non-conference weekend series vs. Cal Baptist, February 9-11.

Caden Connor is on Fire

Caden Connor
Caden Connor touched 1st Base 11 times in 22 at-bats vs. UC Riverside

Two weeks in a row, Caden Connor has taken home the Cal State Omaha Batter of the Week honors. Over the course of eight games consisting of Big West Conference play, Connor is hitting .500 in 36 at-bats. Connor had a seven-game hitting streak ended in the second game of the Saturday double header when he went 0-for-5 for the game.

Connor has played in 18 games in 2021 and has reached base via a hit or walk in 15 of those games. Connor played in two games in February vs. USD and went 1-for-6 in those two games. With the way he has been seeing the ball and more importantly hitting the ball, look for Connor to improve on those numbers this weekend vs. the Toreros.

Who’s this Carter White dude?

Carter White
Carter White signals there is one out in the inning in Sunday’s game vs. UC Riverside.

As impressive as Caden Connor has been over the past two weeks, JC transfer Carter White’s weekend at UC Riverside was equally if not more impressive.

Carter White, from Lakewood, Calif. and arrives at Cal State Fullerton by way of Long Beach City College, was destroying the ball out in Riverside. White’s stat line was almost identical to Connor’s line with a batting average a few points below Caden’s.

White’s three walks were better than Connor’s zero and White hit a home run in the Riverside series while Connor has yet to hit a home run since joining the Titans. Connor’s versatility of being able to play First Base and Outfield combined with White and fellow outfielder Jason Brandow’s recent performance, the Titan outfield looks to be a potent force moving forward. Which brings us to another Titan newcomer who also roams the outfield…

Piggy – small but mighty

Deylan Pigford
Deylan Pigford slash line sits at .357/.441/.714 in 28 at-bats this season.

The Titans of the past have tended to lean towards the smaller, shorter and scrappier type players that tend to get overlooked because of their size. As of late, the Titans have been recruiting taller, bigger and more physical players. Despite moving in that direction, Deylan Pigford is a newcomer that still fits the role of the scrappy grinder that is getting it done when given the opportunities.

Of the 41 players listed on the 2021 Titan Baseball roster, only five are less than 6-foot tall. Pigford is listed at 5-11 but by looking at his stat line, “Piggy” affectionately nicknamed by Vanderhook and teammates, is a giant. Pigford leads the team in slugging percentage (.714) and is tied for first in home runs with both Austin Schell and Jason Brandow with two bombs a piece. Pigford ranks third in on-base percentage (.441) and fourth in batting average (.357) and doubles (4).

All of these stats are coming in 16 games and 28 at-bats. In a number of those 16 games, Pigford was inserted as a pinch runner and did not pick up a bat.

Pigford’s opportunities at the plate have increased since Big West Conference play started and he has made the most of them. In seven games vs. UCSB (3) and UCR (4), Pigford is batting .368 with six runs scored, three doubles, four RBI, a stolen base and a home run. Look for Piggy to get more time this weekend vs. USD.

Two-Way Cam Turning into PO Cam?

Cameron Repetti
Cameron Repetti’s ERA sits at 1.35 and currently leads the Titan staff.

Guess who has the lowest ERA on the Titans pitching staff? If you guessed Tanner Bibee, you would be close but not correct. The Titan with the lowest ERA on the squad is none other than infielder, Cameron Repetti with a 1.35 ERA.

Repetti, still technically a freshman by way of getting his freshman year of eligibility back because of the pandemic, has given up only one earned run in four appearances, all in relief. The lone run came in the final game of the UC Santa Barbara series, a game the Titans would eventually win, earning Cam the W. The day prior, Repetti pitched against the Gauchos and earned the Save.

Repetti got his first start of the season in the infield vs. USC at third base and went 0-for-4 in that game. Repetti has seen time at both third base and first base, mostly off the bench, and is batting .154 in 13 at-bats. Repetti hasn’t picked up a bat since his first relief appearance vs. UC Santa Barbara on March 20th.

Keep in mind, coming out of Cypress High School, Repetti was a two-way star and pitched a no-hitter en route to being named the CIF Southern Section Player of the Year in 2019. With a team ERA sitting at 5.77, just 0.01 lower than it was following the UC Santa Barbara series, it appears Rick Vanderhook and Pitching Coach Dan Ricabal view Repetti’s right arm on the mound more helpful to the team’s success than his bat.

Tanner Bibee (3-3, 3.00 ERA, 32 Ks) appears to be the only bona fide starter on this year’s squad after 20+ games. Kyle Luckham (2-4, 3.11 ERA, 24 Ks) was projected to be the shut down Saturday guy but has not lived up to those expectations. Other weekend starters that have been given a shot have come with mixed results. Peyton Jones (0-1, 12.86 ERA, 3 Ks), Michael Knorr (0-1, 5.72 ERA, 25 Ks) and Landon Anderson (2-1, 5.40 ERA, 18 Ks) have all been given the ball to start a weekend game but have not shown to be 100% dependable.

Repetti may not make the transition to “Pitcher Only” anytime soon because he still is taking batting practice prior to games. With two games slated for this weekend vs. USD and then three games vs. Cal Baptist the following weekend, Repetti may not get starts in the immediate future. But if Cam continues to sling the ball well and keeps getting guys out and putting up zeroes, don’t be surprised if he gets a weekend start when the Titans visit UC Davis the weekend of April 16-18.

The Bad

Game 2 of the Double Header

Ryan Hare
Ryan Hare was tagged with a three run home run vs. UC Riverside and was charged with a blown save on Saturday.

By now, Titan fans have had a chance to let the sting of losing to UC Riverside in Game 2 of the double header wear off. It stinks any time a team loses in walk-off fashion but it was not just the home run by the Highlanders’ Ethan Payne that made that game bad. Lots of things went wrong in that game.

First off, Caden Connor who we mentioned has been swinging a red hot bat lately, went 0-for-5 in the game. Failing to reach base in that game snapped Connor’s seven game hitting streak that dated back to March 14th vs. Arizona State.

Landon Anderson was handed the ball in his second starting opportunity after garnering the win vs. UC Santa Barbara on March 20th. Anderson struggled in the first inning vs. UC Riverside, giving up three hits, four runs, walking one while striking out two. Anderson would get out of the first inning trailing 4-0 and was lifted in favor of Michael Weisberg who started the second inning.

Although the Titans battled their way back to lead 5-4 headed to the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Hare came in to close the game. Hare got Nathan Webb to fly out and Joey Nicolai to ground out to put the Titans one out away from the win. Anthony Mata singled and another single by Ely Stuart brought Ethan Payne to the plate. We all know what happened next… Kaboom! Three run home run and the Highlanders get the walk-off win.

Thankfully the Titans responded the following day with a 16-8 win on Sunday to take the series three games to one. Had the Titans been able to hold on for just one more out, the Titans win streak would stand at six. Instead, the Titans will face USD on a one game winning streak with aspirations to make it three games.

Team ERA of 5.77

Pitchers Landon Anderson (L), Tanner Bibee (middle) & Matt Sanchez (R) leave the bullpen at Arizona State. The pitching staff as a whole currently has a 5.77 ERA.

When predicting the 2021 roster of projected hitters and pitchers, we expected the arms to be the strength of the 2021 Titans roster. After all, the 2020 Titans were hitting an anemic .214 with just two home runs before the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, it appears the roles have flip-flopped and the hitters are the ones carrying the team.

The Titans team ERA sits at 5.77 and only four pitchers who have seen game action have ERAs of 3.00 or lower. We mentioned Cameron Repetti (1.35) leads the team in ERA while Timmy Josten (2.45) is second and Tanner Bibee and Evan Adolphus both have ERAs at 3.00.

Of the pitchers that have thrown double-digit innings in 20+ games, Bibee leads those arms in ERA with Michael Weisberg’s 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3rd innings is next. Everyone else in that double-digit innings group, Landon Anderson (5.40), Michael Knorr (5.72), Kyle Luckham (6.11), Jake Vargas (6.75) and Ryan Hare (7.90) all have ERAs above five.

Here’s hoping the Titan arms can step up to the challenge vs. USD this weekend and shut down their bats. As a team, USD is batting .324 with 190 runs scored and has blasted 21 home runs.

The Ugly

UCR Walk-Off Homer Saturday

We’re not beating a dead horse here because we have already covered the walk-off homer in “the bad” section. What was ugly about that walk-off home run was the live-stream coverage of it.

The single camera behind the plate tracked the home run and unfortunately zoomed in on the pole holding up the safety net. Fans watching at home could not see if the ball cleared the wall or see if the Caden Connor made a leaping attempt to catch the ball before it went over the wall.

The home run was ugly enough. The fact that viewers could not see it and had top rely on the Highlanders play-by-play man to describe it made it all the more ugly.

Looking Ahead

If you skipped to this section, we’d encourage you to go back and read all segments because we’ve covered all aspects of this weekend’s unplanned series vs. the University of San Diego. Look for the Friday game on Big West TV while the Saturday contest down in San Diego will be available nationally on ESPNU.

Times listed are Pacific time:

April 2, 2021 (Friday) vs. USD – 5:00 PM
April 3, 2021 (Saturday) @ USD – 5:00 PM (ESPNU)

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