The Titans opened up Big West Conference play with the overwhelming favorite to win the conference by welcoming in the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos to Goodwin Field this past weekend. The Titans came away with a split, losing the first two games and winning the final two vs. UCSB.
The win in Game 1 on Saturday broke an eight game losing streak (more on that in the “ugly” section) and the win in Saturday’s Game 2 of the doubleheader started a two game win streak (more on that in the “good” section).
After just one week of conference play, the Titans and Gauchos currently sit tied in the fifth place spot. UC Irvine is in first by virtue of sweeping UC Davis and newly minted D1 program UC San Diego did not play a Big West opponent.
Before we preview the UC Riverside series, let’s look back and recap the UC Santa Barbara weekend that had some good, some bad and some ugly aspects.
Friday, March 19, 2021 vs. UCSB: LOSS – 9-2
Saturday, March 20, 2021 vs. UCSB: LOSS – 11-4
Saturday, March 20, 2021 vs. UCSB: WIN – 1-4
Sunday, March 21, 2021 vs. UCSB: WIN – 9-10
Season to date stats
Overall Record: 6-12
Conference Record: 2-2
Streak: Won 2
Last 10: 2-8
Runs Scored: 73
Home Runs: 10
Team Batting Avg: .241
On-Base %: .330
Slugging %: .346
Extra base hits: 36
Total bases: 205
Hit by pitch: 15
Stolen Bases: 5
Fielding %: .969
Double Plays turned: 10
Passed Balls: 1
Stolen Bases allowed: 11
Team ERA: 5.76
Batting average against: .267
Hits allowed: 163
Total Runs Allowed: 108
Walks Issued: 55
Ks per 9 innings: 8.00
Home runs allowed: 21
Titans of the Week
Winners chosen via Twitter poll
Pitcher of the Week
Landon Anderson: 6.0 IP – 6 H – 1 ER – 0 BB – 7 Ks
Jake Vargas: 2.1 IP – 1 H – 0 ER – 0 BB – 1 K
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 22, 2021
Batter of the Week
Zach Lew: 6/15 – .400 – 2 R – 3 RBI – 4 BB – 1 K – 0 HR
Brendan Bobo: 3/6 – .500 – 3 R – 2 RBI – 2 BB – 2 Ks – 1 HR
Jake Gentry: 4/10 – .400 – 3 R – 3 RBI – 0 BB – 0 K – 0 HR
Vote on the #CalStateOmaha batter of the week@brendan_bobo: 3/6 – .500 – 3R – 2RBI – 2BB – 2Ks – 1HR@Caden_Connor77: 7/14 – .500 – 1R – 3RBI – 2BB – 3Ks – 0HR@Jakegentry28: 4/10 – .400 – 3R – 3RBI – 0BB – 0K – 0HR@zachlew20: 6/15 – .400 – 2R – 3RBI – 4BB – 1K – 0HR#TusksUp
— Cal State Omaha (@CalStateOmaha) March 22, 2021
2-Game Win Streak
The 2021 Titans were off to one of the slowest starts in recent memory starting the season 4-10 heading into Big West Conference play. The Titans won the second game of the double header and Sunday’s game in thrilling fashion and are currently riding a two-game winning streak.
Any Titan Baseball fan knows that the 1995 squad went on the epic run to win 18 games in a row and eventually won the national championship. But is that the longest winning streak in Titan Baseball history? What is the longest winning streak in the Rick Vanderhook era?
We did some digging in the archives and oddly enough, the longest winning streak in Titan Baseball history came in a year the Titans did not reach the College World Series. The 1978 Titans won 19 consecutive games from April 14th through May 9th. On May 11th, the Titans lost to Chapman 3-1, breaking the streak. The 1978 Titans would eventually get into the Regionals hosted at USC and won their first game vs. Santa Clara. They were bounced from the postseason with a loss to USC and then eliminated by Arizona.
The longest winning streak in the Vanderhook tenure stands at 10 games. The last time a Vanderhook led team won 10 games came in 2015, a year the Titans would visit Omaha for the 17th time in program history. That streak started at Hawaii on May 15th and ended on June 7th when the Titans lost Game No. 2 to Louisville in the Super Regionals. In that streak, the Titans swept Hawaii, Long Beach State and won all three games in the Regional hosted at Goodwin Field.
Vanderhook in 2013 had four, 10-game win streaks. That year, the Titans opened the season winning 10 straight before losing to Oregon on a Sunday. Two more 10-game win streaks came in the middle of the season and the Titans streaked to the end sweeping the final two weekend series over UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge and going undefeated in the Regional hosted at Goodwin Field. The streak ended in the Super Regionals against UCLA, the team that would eventually go on and win the College World Series in 2013.
We’re not suggesting that a meager two-game win streak is the start of a bigger streak. If the Titans can sweep this weekend in Riverside, it could be the start of some positive momentum and inching closer to .500.
Win Despite Giving Up More Than 1 Run
In our Thursday Thoughts following the USC, UCLA and Pepperdine games, we pointed out that the only time the Titans win is when the pitchers give up one run or pitch a shutout. That changed this past Sunday vs. UCSB with the Titans winning 10-9.
The Titans won the second game of the double header on Saturday but that was with a score of 4-1. The pattern of allowing one run or less and getting the win was still in tact until Sunday.
Sunday was a back and forth affair with the lead changing hands or tied eight times by the time Isaiah Garcia won it with a walk-off sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Zach Lew. The celebration that ensued was reminiscent of the now famous “Jumbo Jack” when Jace Chamberlin hit a solo home run vs. Stanford in Game 2 of the 2018 Palo Alto Regional.
The team crowded outside of the first base dugout jumping up and down and a large water jug doused the players similar to the ones you see on football sidelines. You may remember Jake Pavletich doused the team with a water jug after Chamberlin touched home plate.
Although the Titans pitching staff gave up nine runs in the game, the batters responded and put together the walk-off win. Maybe the pitchers can relax a little it even if they give up more than one run.
Live Stream Graphics
With fans still not allowed at Goodwin Field (at least through March) your only way to watch Titan Baseball is via the live-stream feed. Each week the live-stream production improves and this week Titan Baseball fans saw more graphics and information than just the score bug in the top left corner of the screen.
Hats off to the production team at Cal State Fullerton Athletics for improving the quality of the live-stream. If they can dial in the score bug a bit more and have the balls and strikes counter up to date with the current count more often, the live-stream will be very much improved.
No matter the small changes still needed, the improved live-stream has been a blessing in light of fans not permitted in Goodwin Field.
Jake Harvey Return
Welcome back Mr. Harvey. After suffering what appeared to be either an arm injury or shoulder injury vs. USC on March 5th, Jake Harvey returned to action this weekend vs. UCSB.
Harvey returned to the field in Game 1 of Saturday’s double header, pinch hitting for Nate Nankil in the bottom of the eighth inning. Harvey laid down a bunt attempt but was thrown out after the pitcher fielded it. Although Harvey’s plate appearance was not a success, after witnessing that injury, his return so quickly is considered a major victory.
Jake Harvey played sparingly during the weekend and pinch ran for Jackson Lyon in the bottom of the seventh inning after Lyon walked while pinch hitting for Brendan Bobo.
The Sunday game saw Harvey substitute into the line-up and play second base and he got a walk in the bottom of the eighth inning. It appears that with his limited appearances per game vs. UCSB, the coaches and medical staff are easing him back into playing time carefully.
With more rest this week, we fully expect Harvey to see more time in the field and at the plate. He could return to his starting role he was enjoying prior to the injury.
Cal State Bakersfield Series Canceled
On Wednesday, March 24th, Cal State Fullerton Athletics released the following statement.
FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton baseball was set to play CSU Bakersfield in a four-game series April 2-4, however, the Roadrunners will pause all baseball operations as a result of university and department wide health and safety protocols.
At this time, there are no plans to make up the series.
The Titans (6-12, 2-2) head to UC Riverside for a four-game series beginning Friday at 6:00 p.m. PT.
Without saying too much, sounds like Cal State Bakersfield had positive COVID-19 tests within the baseball program. The Roadrunners were scheduled to travel up to Stanford this weekend but that series has been canceled. Canceling the Fullerton series smacks of a 14-day quarantine with too many players catching the virus to pass protocols.
Maybe the Titans can see if there is a hole in another team’s schedule that same weekend and they can put together a non-conference series much like they did with Utah to open the season.
Bibee and Luckham Struggles
Tanner Bibee and Kyle Luckham are the 1-2 punch on the mound the Titans will look to if they are to be successful and threaten to make the post-season. On Friday and the first game on Saturday, Bibee and Luckham looked rather average.
Bibee went 6 2/3rds innings on Friday giving up 11 hits, six earned runs, walking one while only striking out three Gauchos. Bibee was hung with the loss and dropped his W/L record to 2-3. Bibee’s ERA ballooned to 2.90 following the UCSB series.
Luckham’s season ERA sits at 6.35 after Saturday’s Game 1 performance. Luckham threw 119 pitches in 6 2/3rds innings of work, giving up five runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out five.
The biggest blow came in the first inning with one out when Luckham gave up back-to-back home runs to Marcos Castanon and Broc Mortensen. Of all the hurlers on staff, Luckham has given up a team leading six bombs of the 21 allowed thus far. The next two pitchers who are even close to that homer total are Michael Knorr and Ryan Hare who have given up three home runs a piece.
Here’s hoping that traveling to UC Riverside this weekend will be the cure for the pitching woes that both Bibee and Luckham have experienced lately. Two wins to open the series could provide a lot more momentum towards finishing the weekend with a possible sweep.
8-Game losing streak
After the ASU series sweep and suffering their sixth straight loss, the Titans matched the longest losing streaks in program history. The Titans were on a six-game losing streak in 2020 before the season was terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before 2020, the other two longest losing streaks stood at six games and came in the 2014 and 1983 seasons.
The loss to UC Santa Barbara on Friday sent the 2021 Titans into record breaking territory with seven losses in a row. The loss in Saturday’s first game of the double header extended that losing streak to eight games. Thankfully the Titans won the second game of the double header and as we mentioned above, are currently riding a two game winning streak after winning on Sunday.
The Titans travel east on the 91 Freeway to take on the UC Riverside Highlanders for a four-game series starting on Friday, March 26th. Troy Percival announced in November he will be leaving the UCR Head Coach spot, “to spend more time with his family and to guide and support his son Cole, a pitcher who signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent.”
That means Justin Johnson takes over the big chair as interim head baseball coach at UCR and will guide his team against the Titans who are currently on a two-game winning streak.
There are a handful of Highlanders Titan Baseball fans should be concerned with offensively. Four batters with 30+ at-bats are hitting above .300 including Jacob Shanks (.364), Ely Stuart (.344), Travis Bohall (.333) and Dylan Orick (.324). The Highlanders have hit two home runs on the year, with Ortick recording one of them.
On the mound, Zach Jacobs, Jake Lachemann, Abbott Haffarar and Tucker Juline are expected to start this weekend. The exact days they start are up in the air with only Jacobs the one to have solidified the Friday night spot.
Jacobs enters the weekend giving up 20 hits, 12 earned runs, three walks and striking out 13 in 15 2/3rds innings of work. His season ERA sits at 6.89.
Jake Lachemann’s ERA is a whopping 14.81 on the season and holds a record of 0-3. In just over 10 innings of work, Lachemann has surrendered 14 hits, issued nine walks and hit five batters.
Abbott Haffar has started three games and holds a 1-2 record. His ERA sits at 8.16 in 14 1/3rd innings giving up 27 hits while striking out only six opponents.
Tucker Juline has the lowest ERA of the group with a 3.52 ERA. He does not strike out a lot of batters, racking up only five Ks in 15 1/3rd innings. He has surrendered two home runs on the season.
On paper, this looks to be a “get right” type of series where the Titans can gain some momentum and confidence and gather some wins. As we mentioned earlier, Bibee and Luckham on the mound has not been a gimme yet so the Titans should not take the Highlanders lightly. With a team record residing six games below .500, the Titans should look to take out their frustrations on the Highlanders and come out with a sweep or a 3-1 series victory at the very least.
Times listed are Pacific time:
March 26, 2021 (Friday) @ UC Riverside – 6:00 PM
March 27, 2021 (Saturday) @ UC Riverside – 12:00 PM
March 27, 2021 (Saturday) @ UC Riverside – 3:30 PM
March 28, 2021 (Sunday) @ UC Riverside – 1:00 PM