Thursday Thoughts: UCR Series & SJSU Mid-Week

Don’t look now but the Titans are threatening to get to .500 and more importantly, reside in the top half of the Big West Conference standings after two weekend of conference play.

After losing a heartbreaker at USC on March 22, the Titans have strung together four consecutive wins heading to Cal State Bakersfield this weekend. A sweep of UC Riverside over the weekend and surviving a scare at the end by San Jose State, four wins in a row puts the Titans still below .500 overall but 5th in the Big West conference standings.

Bakersfield holds the top spot even though they have played only one conference series (UC Riverside) and then went on bye week this past weekend, playing Utah Valley. The Roadrunners show signs they are beatable and if the Titans can steal the series or dare, we say, sweep up in Bakersfield, the Titans could be on the right track and back to their winning ways.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the week that was with some Thursday Thoughts coming out the UC Riverside series and the San Jose State mid-week game.

The Results

Friday, March 25, 2022 vs. UCR: WIN – 1-11
Saturday, March 26, 2022 vs. UCR: WIN – 1-2
Sunday, March 27, 2022 vs. UCR: WIN – 6-16
Wednesday, March 30, 2022 vs. SJSU: WIN – 5-6

Season to date stats

Overall Record: 9-14
Conference Record: 4-2
Streak: WON 4
Last 10: 6-4

Offense

Runs Scored: 127
Hits: 220
Doubles: 35
Triples: 8
Home Runs: 14
RBI: 109
Team Batting Avg: .273
On-Base %: .355
Slugging %: .389
Walks: 91
Extra base hits: 57
Total bases: 313
Hit by pitch: 17
Stolen Bases: 21
Strikeouts: 188

Defense

Errors: 29
Fielding %: .967
Double Plays turned: 11
Passed Balls: 4
Stolen Bases allowed: 18

Pitching

Team ERA: 5.57
Batting average against: .288
Hits allowed: 226
Total Runs Allowed: 142
Walks Issued: 84
Strikeouts: 203
Ks per 9 innings: 8.83
Home runs allowed: 17

Titans of the Week

Winners chosen via Twitter poll

Pitcher of the Week

Rodriguez_Christian
Christian Rodriguez: 6IP – 5H – 1ER – 1BB – 9K – 1.50 ERA (W)

Also considered:
Tyler Stultz: 7IP – 5H – 1ER – 1BB – 8K – 1.29 ERA (W)
Michael Weisberg: 1IP – 1H – 0ER – 1BB – 1K – 0.00 ERA (S)
Evan Yates: 3IP – 1H – 0ER – 0BB – 2K – 0.00 ERA (W)

Batter of the Week


Nate Nankil: 6\10 – .600 – 5R – 2RBI – 2BB – 1K

Also considered:
Caden Connor: 5\15 – .333 – 2R – 4RBI – 0BB – 1K
Zach Lew: 5\11 – .455 – 1R – 5RBI – 1BB – 1K
JT Navyac: 4\10 – .400 – 4R – 1RBI – 1BB – 0K

The Good

Series Sweep

When was the last time the Titans swept a conference opponent? Believe it or not, the last time the Titans swept was against Long Beach State May 16-18, 2019. Keep in mind, Long Beach State’s program was in shambles at the time with Troy Buckley getting fired amidst workplace violence allegations and the Dirtbags finished the season 14-41.

Titan fans have waited nearly three years to walk out of Goodwin Field on a Sunday with a series sweep and it happened a few days ago. The mood at Goodwin Field on Sunday felt more like a sigh of relief rather than exuberance of a conference sweep. Maybe the mood was subdued because it’s been so long that the fans didn’t know how to react? Maybe it was because the wins came over UC Riverside, a program that’s really down in the dumps right now? (More on that in the bad…) Or maybe it is because the Titans scored 10 runs and brought 15 batters to the plate in the first inning on Sunday? Maybe the fans burned all their energy up in that inning and there was not much left after the game ended after three hours and 39 minutes.

No matter how you slice it, a sweep is a sweep and a sweep of a conference opponent, no matter how down they might be, still counts in the win column and in the conference standings. This sweep could be the spark the Titans have desperately needed to get things going in the right direction down the stretch.

4 Consecutive Wins

We’ll ask another question, “When’s the last time the Titans won four in a row?”

Answer: March of last year.

Although last season included four game conference series due to COVID-19 adjustments, the last four game winning streak started in game No. 2 on Saturday, March 20th vs. UC Santa Barbara. The Titans would win the Sunday game 10-9 in 10 innings and then went ahead to win Friday at UC Riverside 4-3 and then the Saturday early game, 18-6.

The second game of the double header ended in a 7-5 loss with the Highlanders plating three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the streak. But enough history. We’re talking about the current four game win streak after the Titans swept UCR and escaped with a victory vs. San Jose State on Wednesday.

In looking at the schedule coming into the UCR series, our conversations with other fans said that the Titans could put together a little winning streak that could really improve the team’s morale and confidence. Winning ball games can do wonders for a team’s psyche and help change the mindset to that of a winner.

Not trying to look too far down the line and ruin the “one game at a time” cliche, but the Titans have an opportunity to string together some victories and build on this win streak.

The series with Cal State Bakersfield starts Friday and although the Roadrunners sit on top of the conference standings, they have only played one conference series. Their opponent? UC Riverside who we have already proven is not a very good team. If the Titans can leave Bakersfield with a series win or possibly a sweep, that will go a long way.

A non-conference mid-week game on April 5th has the Titans visiting UC Irvine before playing their bye week in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Getting some wins vs. UC Irvine (RPI 76) and Michigan (RPI 40), both on the road, can definitely help.

Winning Blowouts & Close Calls

The series sweep vs. UCR showed the Titans can win big, 11-1 on Friday and 16-6 on Sunday, while winning the nail biter games, 2-1 Saturday, too. The Titans survived ninth innings scares both on Saturday vs. UCR and Wednesday vs. San Jose State.

Saturday, Titans closer Michael Weisberg came in to end the ninth inning after Cameron Repetti left the game after two innings of work. Weisberg walked the first batter, struck out the second and then gave up a single to the third batter, Andrew Rivas. Weisberg induced a game ending double play to grab the save.

On Wednesday vs. SJSU leading 6-4 entering the ninth inning, Repetti stayed on to finish the game. The ninth inning did not end without some drama when Repetti allowed two singles to the first two batters before getting Charles McAdoo to fly out. Dalton Bowling singled through the right side, scoring Robert Hamchuk from second. Now at 5-6, Repetti ended the inning with a looking strikeout and Jack Colette struck out swinging to secure the win.

In order for a team to get back to their winning ways, they need to learn to win close games while also blowing the doors off of other teams.

Jackson Lyon Safe Steal
Jackson Lyon safely steals second base in the first inning of Saturday’s game vs. UCR.
(Photo courtesy of Hank Tran)

Run Titans, Run!

After the USC game and heading into the weekend vs. UC Riverside, the Titans had stolen 10 bases. After the San Jose State game, the Titans doubled that number in just four games.

Friday racked up three stolen bases, two from Nate Nankil and one from JT Navyac. Saturday, four more bases stolen with Nankil take two while Jackson Lyon and JT Navyac grabbed one apiece.

Sunday, Caden Connor got into the base stealing business with one of his own while Nankil swiped another bag tallying five for the weekend. Nankil was not done after the Highlanders left town and grabbed two more bags vs. San Jose State. In total, of the 11 stolen bases over the last four games, Nankil pilfered seven of them.

Many of the Titans fans have called for more havoc on the bases and getting men into scoring position without giving up an out by way of a bunt. Hats off to Neil Walton for putting the boys in motion a bit more and creating scoring opportunities on the bases. Hopefully it keeps up and next week by this time, the titans will have about 10 more stolen bases on the board.

Caden Connor vs SJSU
Caden Connor finds himself in the middle of a seven game hit streak following the San Jose State game.

Streaker Update

Checking in on the Titans with streaks going, the previously three extended them and a few others have started some mini-streaks of their own.

Zach Lew got a night’s rest at USC and it did not seem to cool off his base and his ability to reach base safely. Following the series up at UC Santa Barbara, Lew held a 14 game on-base streak. Make it 18 after San Jose State. Lew garnered two hits Friday, a walk on Saturday three hits on Sunday and two hits on Wednesday vs. the Spartans.

Batter of the week Nate Nankil had to get on base first before he could steal his team leading 10 stolen bases. Nankil got two hits nightly over the weekend and was in jeopardy of losing his mini-streak but walked twice on Wednesday to have a four-game on-base streak.

Brendan Bobo had an eight game on-base streak entering the weekend vs. UC Riverside. He kept it alive getting hits in both Friday and Saturday’s games along with a walk on Sunday. Bobo did not pick up a bat on Wednesday vs. SJSU so his streak sits at 11 games reaching base safely.

Caden Connor has come on as of late, finding himself in the middle of a seven game hit streak. The hits started coming from Connor on Saturday vs. UC Santa Barbara, got three hits on Sunday and went 2-for-2 vs. USC. Connor had hits in all three games vs. UCR and went 2-for-3 vs. SJSU.

Jackson Lyon started his on-base streak at University of San Diego with two hits on the night. Lyon walked on Friday vs. UCSB and earned multiple hits on Saturday and Sunday vs. the Gauchos. Lyon continued to get a hit and a walk at USC and went 3-for-4 on Friday vs. UCR. Lyon walked Saturday and Sunday but then got two hits vs. San Jose State. That brings Lyon’s on-base streak to nine heading up to Bakersfield.

The Bad

UCR Errors
UCR Riverside ranks as one of the worst teams in D1 Baseball in 2022.
(Photo courtesy of hank Tran

UC Riverside

The exuberance of sweeping UC Riverside needs to be tempered because the wins came against a program that is in really bad shape this season. Forget the fact that the UCR Athletic Department has threatened to drop all sports go 100% academic. Troy Percival has left, and the program has been in flux for a while now. Add to it, UC Riverside lost a lot of their top flight players to injury prior to visiting Fullerton.

Can you classify a series sweep as a bad thing? No. But in order to see the big picture, you need to take into consideration that UC Riverside was considered the sixth worst team in D1 baseball entering the weekend. Following the series where the Titans put up 27 runs to the Highlanders’ eight runs, the guys from 11.7 moved them up to the fourth worst.

No disrespect to UC Riverside, but out of 301 Division 1 programs, they rank 287 in RPI. Although UCR entered the weekend with a team ERA of 8.88, they actually lowered it, but not by much. It currently sits at 8.29 but that might be helped by beating LMU in the mid-week contest that resulted in a 3-1 win for UCR.

Although sweeping the series and getting back to the habit of winning can always help a ball club, you need to consider the opponent that the Titans swept. A sweep on the road in Bakersfield and then sweeping Michigan the following weekend on the road? That might getting the Titans and their fans puffing their chest and flexing their muscles.

In order to do that, Titans still need to fix…

The Ugly

Titan Baseball grey uniforms
Unfortunately, these four Titans, Caden Connor (5), JJ Cruz (35), JT Navyac (3) and Zach Lew (1) have combined to commit 17 errors in 23 games in 2022.
Photo courtesy of Titan Athletics)

Fielding Errors

We seem to say it each week. Fielding errors continue to plague the Titans and although this weekend vs. UC Riverside they did not turn a win into a loss, they really need to stop.

Friday, the Titans won the game 11-1 on an error-free night. Then came Saturday’s 2-1 victory when Jackson Lyon’s play on Joey Nicolai‘s fly ball was ruled an error. Those that were in attendance or watched on ESPN+ could see that it hit Lyon’s glove before hitting the ground. The Riverside folks were clamoring for it to be scored a hit and we even heard that Nicolai’s brother-in-law went into the press box to convince the official scored to rule it a hit.

Fortunately, Lyon’s error did not factor into the final score but could have resulted in a tie game. Taylor Juline got thrown out at home when Nate Nankil launched a laser from left field to get him at the plate. A fly out put Nicolai on third on a tag up and the inning ended with an Anthony Mata ground out. No harm, no foul and no runs scored as a result of the error but had Nankil and Urman not combined for a tag out at home, it could have turned ugly.

Sunday vs. UCR, the Titans committed three errors on the day, two by JT Navyac. The errors started early with the second batter, Andrew Rivas reaching safely on a throwing error by Navyac. That would have been the second out of the inning but instead, Rivas got to second after Joey Nicolai was hit by a pitch. Rivas ends up on third after a wild pitch and then touched home on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Orick. Scored an unearned run but a run none the less.

In the fourth, Cole Pofek scored from second on Navyac’s second error. Pofek was on second by way of hitting a double but got home by way of the error. Although the score stood at 12-2 before the error, the run did not play a factor in the end result.

The costliest errors come when the error occurs with two outs and extends the inning. That happened in the fifth inning when JJ Cruz playing first base committed an error allowing two runners to advance. The next batter struck out and the runners in scoring position via the error were left stranded but could have been worse had Sean McLeod not struck out.

Just once we would like to have a four game stretch when the Titans go without an error but until that happens, it appears that the errors will stay a permanent resident of the Ugly section.

Looking Ahead

The Titans travel north to Bakersfield to take on the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners in a three game conference series. Bakersfield currently sits on top of the Big West Conference standings at 3-0 after sweeping UC Riverside two weekends ago. CSUB’s RPI sits at 259, below Cal State Fullerton’s 184 RPI ranking. On paper, this looks like a winnable series, but it is on the road.

The Roadrunners only have two offensive players that have taken regular at-bats with over a .300 average. AJ Miller leads Bakersfield with a .329 average and his 85 at-bats leads the team. Andrew Allanson follows with a .313 average and leads the team with six home runs and 21 RBI on the season. It appears that if you can get Allanson out, your chances of winning greatly increase.

On the mound, the titans will face a number of arms much improved over the Highlanders from last weekend. The Roadrunners will start Benji Caggianelli on Friday and he brings his 1.15 ERA to the mound while the Titans will hopefully inflate the .150 batting average he has allowed. Saturday starter Kellen O’Connor looks a bit more vulnerable with a 3.25 ERA and opponents’ batting .306 against him.

Following the Bakersfield series, the Titans hit the road but will stay in Orange County to take on UC Irvine at Anteater Park on Tuesday. Although the Anteaters are a Big West Conference opponent and the titans will end the season facing them, this mid-week game counts as a non-conference game much like San Jose State or USD.

Weekend Probables

Friday, April 1: LHP – Tyler Stultz (2-1, 4.55 ERA) vs. RHP – Benji Caggianelli (1-1, 1.15 ERA)
Saturday, April 2: RHP – Christian Rodriguez (1-3, 4.18 ERA) vs. LHP – Kellen O’Connor (2-2, 3.25 ERA)
Sunday, April 3: RHP – Evan Yates (2-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. RHP – Adrian Santa Cruz (1-0, 3.38 ERA)

Times listed are Pacific time:

April 1, 2022 (Friday) vs. Cal State Bakersfield – 6:05 PM
April 2, 2022 (Saturday) vs. Cal State Bakersfield – 6:05 PM
April 3, 2022 (Sunday) vs. Cal State Bakersfield – 1:00 PM
April 5, 2022 (Friday) vs. UC Irvine – 6:00 PM

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