Thursday Thoughts: UC San Diego Series

This week’s edition of Thursday Thoughts has a déjà vu feel to it. We are feeling as though we did the exact same opinion column last week yet it was against a different opponent. Let’s compare the Hawai’i weekend to the UCSD weekend series to see how similar it was.

Both were played at Goodwin Field and both featured a walk-off win in extra innings on Friday. Both weekends resulted in one win on Friday and then the Titans proceeded to lose the double header Saturday and the finale on Sunday. Both weekends rendered a run differential that was lopsided towards the visitors. (32-16 vs. Hawai’i and 21-14 vs. UCSD)

Now with three weekends left in the regular season and 12 games remaining, the Titans sit tied for 6th in the Big West Conference standings with Cal State Northridge at .500. With a 19-24 record and 12 games left, the Titans are currently five games under .500. Even if the Titans sweep Cal Poly up in San Luis Obispo (no easy feat), the Titans will enter the Long Beach State series with a losing record. We’ll touch on the grim prospects of how this season could shape up, breaking records that have held up since the program joined the Division 1 ranks in the “ugly” section.

Before we do that, we will recap this past weekend vs. UC San Diego that included some good, some bad and some ugly aspects.

The Results

Friday, May 7, 2021 vs. UCSD: WIN – 3-6 (16 innings)
Saturday, May 8, 2021 vs. UCSD: LOSS – 5-2
Saturday, May 8, 2021 vs. UCSD: LOSS – 7-5
Sunday, May 9, 2021 vs. UCSD: LOSS – 6-1

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 19-24
Conference Record: 12-12
Streak: LOST 3
Last 10: 3-7

Offense

Runs Scored: 212
Hits: 398
Doubles: 72
Triples: 12
Home Runs: 17
RBI: 192
Team Batting Avg: .268
On-Base %: .350
Slugging %: .367
Walks: 154
Extra base hits: 101
Total bases: 545
Hit by pitch: 47
Stolen Bases: 22
Strikeouts: 350

Defense

Errors: 43
Fielding %: .974
Double Plays turned: 31
Passed Balls: 4
Stolen Bases allowed: 25

Pitching

Team ERA: 5.62
Batting average against: .278
Hits allowed: 418
Total Runs Allowed: 258
Walks Issued: 132
Strikeouts: 315
Ks per 9 innings: 7.31
Home runs allowed: 39

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week

Cameron Repetti: 5 IP – 3H – 0ER – 1BB – 6K

Also considered:

Tanner Bibee: 6.1 IP – 3H – 2ER – 3BB – 4K
Wyatt Johnson: 4 IP – 3H – 0ER – 1BB – 3K
Kyle Luckham: 6 IP – 8H – 2ER – 2BB – 5K

Batter of the Week

Deylan Pigford
Deylan Pigford: 6/19 – .316 – 2R – 3RBI – 1BB – 6K

Also considered:

Caden Connor: 7/22 – .318 – 2R – 3RBI – 0BB – 3K
Nate Nankil: 3/6 – .500 – 2R – 1RBI – 2BB – 1K
Josh Urps: 7/14 – .500 – 3R – 3RBI – 3BB – 1K

The Good

Deylan Pigford Home run vs. UCSD
Deylan Pigford, somewhere within the mob of his teammates, celebrates his walk-off home run in the 16th inning on Friday to beat UCSD 6-3.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Walk-off win Friday Part II

Two Fridays at Goodwin = Two walk-off wins for the Titans.

Last week it was Jake Harvey with a walk-off single to score JJ Cruz from third base to beat Hawai’i. This week, Deylan Pigford dropped a three-run bomb in the bottom of the 16th inning, propelling the Titans to a 5-2 victory over UCSD.

The Titans poured out of the dugout in celebration and greeting Pigford at home plate. They didn’t rip off Piggy’s jersey like they did Harvey the week prior but it was quite the celebration. Maybe the celebration was more subdued because it was the bottom of the 16th inning and the Titans had nearly played a double-header without a break. Which leads us to our next déjà vu moment…

Caden Connor (L) congratulates Deylan Pigford after his game winning home run in the 16th inning.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Wining in Extras Part III

The Titans are still undefeated in extra innings in 2021.

Last Friday’s walk-off home run by Deylan Pigford makes it five games the Titans have gone to extra-innings and have won them all. With five wins in extra-innings and only 19 wins on the season, over 25% of the Titans’ wins have come during free baseball.

Here’s the tally as it stands heading into the Cal Poly series starting tomorrow:

March 21 vs. UC Santa Barbara: 10-9 win in 10 innings
April 24 at CSUN: 6-4 win in 10 innings
April 25 at CSUN: 6-5 win in 10 innings
April 30 vs. Hawai’i: 5-4 win in 11 innings
May 7 vs. UC San Diego: 6-3 win in 16 innings

For the sake of the bullpen and for the players overall ability to get some rest, many Titan fans hope that more wins come within the regulation nine innings.

Tanner Bibee (24) gave Titan fans a scare on Friday vs. UCSD when he experienced discomfort on the mound. Luckily, Bibee was experiencing cramps and was relieved by Michael Wesiberg.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Bibee Just Cramps

In the top of the 7th inning vs. UCSD on Friday, Tanner Bibee on his 103rd pitch appeared in some discomfort. Thankfully it was just cramps and Bibee was lifted in favor of Michael Weisberg who was already warming in the Titan Bullpen.

This is not the first time Bibee has experienced cramps that forced him to exit the game abruptly. You may recall up at UC Davis, Bibee experienced the same thing. At UC Davis, Bibee exited after throwing 101 pitches. We mentioned above, Bibee left the UCSD contest after throwing 103 pitches.

This is good news that it was only cramps vs. UCSD and not something more serious. Titan Nation collectively holds their breath whenever Bibee has some sort of discomfort. Out at Arizona State, Bibee took a rocket shot off of his foot that left him in a walking boot the next day. Titans fans feared the worst but he turned around and pitched the following Friday vs. UC Santa Barbara.

We’re not doctors or nutritionist but we can offer Tanner a bit of advice and a bit of levity with this, probably the greatest baseball interview of all time.

Cameron Repetti has pitched 25 innings and earned 4 wins and 5 saves with a 2.16 ERA on the season. He was back in the line-up playing 3rd base during the Saturday double-header.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

2-Way Cam is Back

We debated if this should go in the “Good” or the “Bad” category. We settled on “the Good” even though it is “bad” that due to injuries, Cameron Repetti has been forced back into action on the infield.

We thought this was a good thing because Repetti is a legitimate two-way threat after locking down the closer role mid-season. His number of at-bats suffered since making the transition to the bullpen and many wondered if they would see Cam at 3rd Base and swinging the bat. If Head Coach Rick Vanderhook could have his way, Repetti would stay in the bullpen until the Titans led late in games and he could come in and slam the door.

Unfortunately injuries to infielders Zach Lew and Jake Harvey have made the Titans thin in the dirt and that translates to Repetti starting both games of this weekend’s double header vs. UCSD. Repetti made a pinch hit appearance in the Sunday game as well.

On the weekend, Repetti went 1/7 at the plate with one RBI, two walks and one strikeout. On the mound, Repetti came in relief on Friday and pitched five innings, scattered three hits, walked one and struck out six. Of note, no UCSD Tritons scored while Repetti was on the mound.

The Bad

With 12 games remaining, the Titans could be looking to some unlikely teams to offer up some help in order to win the Big West Conference in 2021.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Running out of Time Part II

We stated last week that time was running out for the Titans to make a push and go on a hot streak to try and win the Big West Conference title in order to be assured a post-season berth. The Titans responded by going 1-3 vs. UCSD this past weekend and further put stress on themselves.

The Titans currently stand seventh in the Big West standings behind UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Bakersfield, Long Beach State, Hawai’i and Cal State Northridge. Even though Cal State Fullerton and Northridge have identical conference winning percentages (.500), Northridge has the tie breaker on Fullerton by virtue of splitting the series April 23-25 and playing more games. (Blame CSU Bakersfield and COVID-19 protocols)

With three weeks to go, it appears that UC Irvine will remain in the driver’s seat for the conference title. The Anteaters play UC Riverside this weekend at home, travel to Cal State Bakersfield and finish with Fullerton at Anteater Park. Riverside currently sits third to last place in the conference and on paper, do not expect the Highlanders to give Irvine much of a challenge. Bakersfield could pose a threat but that creates other problems in that the Roadrunners are above the Titans in the standings and will only improve their case for a conference championship.

Without crunching all the numbers, it appears that the Titans will need to run the table or play flawless baseball for a chance at the conference title. The best the Titans can finish in conference is 24-12 if they win out. Both UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara already have 21 wins. The Titans will need a lot of help in order to climb the rankings.

17 times after Kyle Luckham has kicked his left leg, he has hit a batter. He currently is tied with two others to lead the NCAA in hit batters in 2021.

Luckham the next Roemer?

Kyle Luckham is fast approaching Wes Roemer’s records and not the good ones. He is fast approaching Roemer’s Titan records for hit batters.

Long time Titan Baseball fans will remember Wes Roemer from the 2005-2007 teams. His name appears in the Titan record books in a number of categories including single season strikeouts (No. 4; 150 Ks; 2007 season & No. 6; 145 Ks; 2006 season) and Fewest Walks per 9 innings pitched (No. 2; 0.41; 2006 season). Roemer also has the honor of his name appearing three times for all three years he pitched for Fullerton in another, yet more dubious category; hit batters.

UCSD’s Logan White was the unlucky recipient of a Kyle Luckham pitch that hit him, marking Luckham’s 17th hit batter of the 2021 season.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Roemer was notorious for plunking batters anytime he was down in the count. Instead of hurting his walk-to-strikeout ratio, Roemer would issue the free pass to first base via a solid fastball to the ribs of an opposing batter and then go to work on the next guy. The NCAA has since fixed how they collect that stat but the number of batters Roemer hit remains staggering.

For the 2021 season, Kyle Luckham has hit a total of 17 batters, tying him for first in the NCAA with Oregon State’s Kevin Abel and Richmond’s Jacob Marcus. With 12 more games to go, Luckham currently stands tied in fifth place on the Titans single season list for hit batters with Jordan DeJong and Dan Naulty. (It should be noted that current pitching coach Dan Ricabal is also on this list, tied for 8th with 15 hit batters when he pitched in the 1993 season.)

If Luckham hits one more batter, he will climb into a fourth place tie with Roemer at 18 hit batters. Roemer hit 18 his freshman year in 2005. With three more projected starts for the remainder of the regular season, he will have to hit seven more batters to take over first place. Roemer holds that record from his sophomore season when he drilled 23 batters in 2006.

Luckham is not the only Titan hurler plunking opposing batters. The Titans as a team have hit 68 batters to date. That ranks 12th in the NCAA in 2021.

The Ugly

George Horton was spotted in the stands at Goodwin Field on Saturday of the UCSD series. In his 11 season as Head Coach for Cal State Fullerton, Horton finished with a .742 winning percentage in conference and a .698 winning percentage overall.
(Photo courtesy of Don Hudson)

Potential Broken Records

Normally breaking records is a good thing but not this particular one. That record, Titan Baseball never fielding a team with a losing record, is in serious jeopardy. (2020 doesn’t count because of COVID-19) Never in 45+ seasons since the program joined Division 1 has Titan Baseball finished below a .500 record.

The 2019 Titans currently hold the record for the worst W/L record at 27-26 and a winning percentage of .509. It was touch and go there for the final weekend to see if the Titans could finish above .500. The opening series loss to Cal State Northridge put the Titans in a precarious position needing to win the final two games of the season to avoid the dubious honor. Thankfully the Titans won the second game 13-10 and then the series finale 9-2 to finish one game above .500.

The 2021 Titans have a bigger, uphill climb ahead of them since the team currently sits five games below .500 with 12 games left on the schedule. No matter what happens this weekend up at Cal Poly, the Titans will return to Fullerton with a losing record. Even if the Titans sweep their weekend opponent, something they have not be able to do all year, they will still be one game under .500.

Never having a losing season is a big record that many Titan Baseball alumni, not just alumni that attended college at CSUF, we’re talking the players, take great pride in never having a losing season. Many Titan Baseball alumni have said that during their time with the program, there was immense pressure to not be the ones responsible for killing the streak of post-season appearances dating back to 1992, breaking the streak of wining at-least 30 games in a season and being the team that finishes with a losing record. The 2019 team took care of the first two (missing the post-season and winning less than 30 games), and the 2021 squad is poised to knock out the winning seasons streak.

The good news is that with 12 games to go, a losing season is not a foregone conclusion. If the Titans can go 9-3 over the next three series vs. Cal Poly, Long Beach State and UC Irvine, they can finish 28-27. The 2021 Titans would equal the winning percentage put up by the 2019 Titans if they can win 75% of their remaining games.

The 2021 Titans are not mathematically assured of a losing record but as we stated earlier, time is running out. Lose four games in the next three weekends and the streak is broken.

Looking Ahead

Brooks Lee
(Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Athletics)

The Titans head north this weekend to take on the Cal Poly Mustangs at Baggett Stadium. The Mustangs are currently four games under .500 with an overall record of 20-24 while sitting second to last place in the Big West standings with a record of 10-18.

This weekend will be the first time Titan fans get to see Brooks Lee, the son of Cal Poly Head Coach Larry Lee, who is a fantastic talent. Brooks suffered a season-ending injury in 2020 before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The younger Lee is hitting .320 on the season and leads the Mustangs in hits (55), RBI (39), Home Runs (7), Doubles (17), Total Bases (99) and slugging percentage (.576). It’s no wonder coming out high school, Brooks Lee turned down a potential $3 million signing bonus. Lee told MLB teams to not draft him in 2019 because he planned to play for his dad at Cal Poly.

On the mound, three Mustang arms have already been tabbed the starters for the weekend. Drew Thorpe is expected to get the ball on Friday and as many expect, Tanner Bibee will get it for Cal State Fullerton. The Mustangs team ERA of 4.94 is not that impressive but is better by comparison to the Titans 5.62 ERA which is nearly a full earned run worse.

Friday, May 14: RHP – Tanner Bibee (6-4, 3.10 ERA) vs. RHP – Drew Thorpe (4-5, 4.17 ERA)
Saturday, May 15 (Game 1): TBD vs. LHP – Andrew Alvarez (5-3, 4.57 ERA)
Saturday, May 15 (Game 2): TBD vs. LHP – Travis Weston (4-6, 3.50 ERA)
Sunday, May 16: TBD vs. TBD

Times listed are Pacific time:

May 7, 2021 (Friday) @ Cal Poly – 5:00 PM
May 8, 2021 (Saturday) @ Cal Poly – 1:00 PM
May 8, 2021 (Saturday) @ Cal Poly – 4:30 PM
May 9, 2021 (Sunday) @ Cal Poly – 1:00 PM

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