Baseball Preview: Oregon Ducks

Baseball Preview: Oregon Ducks

Cal State Fullerton got the 2013 season started off on the right foot by outscoring their opponents 30-9 while winning all four games in the opening weekend at home against USC and Nebraska and on the road at Cal State Bakersfield, which was the first time that the Titans have come out of the blocks over .500 after the opening weekend since 2008.

Fullerton got this week started with their second local road trip as they drove up to Malibu on Wednesday afternoon to play Pepperdine and the Titans improved their record to 5-0 by defeating the previously undefeated Waves 6-3.  Matt Chapman got things started in the first with a two out walk, stole second after being picked off when he beat the throw from first to second, Big West player of the week J.D. Davis continued his hot hitting with an RBI single, Michael Lorenzen struck out but got on base when the ball got by the catcher and Chad Wallach made Pepperdine pay for that with an opposite field double for a 3-0 lead.  Fullerton added onto the lead in the second when Austin Diemer singled, Richy Pedroza singled him to third and Diemer scored on a wild pitch.  The Waves scored a run in the third but the Titans bumped the lead back up to 5-1 in the fifth when Carlos Lopez singled and stole second, Davis reached on an infield single and Wallach continued his hot hitting with an RBI single.  Pepperdine scored runs in the sixth and eighth innings to cut the lead to 5-3 before Fullerton tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when Pedroza and Lopez were hit by pitches and Chapman followed with an RBI single.  Davis was the starting pitcher and picked up the win on a designated staff day with three solid innings, allowing a run on three hits.  Five relievers followed and were effective in allowing two runs on five hits in six innings with Lorenzen picking up his second save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Fullerton rolled into Fort Worth with a great deal of momentum to face TCU, a team that got out of the blocks slowly last weekend when they were swept at Ole Miss and scored only four runs in three games.  Both of those trends continued as the Titans won all three games against the Horned Frogs in dominant fashion by a cumulative score of 20-4 after winning the first game 7-2, the second game 6-2 and the final game 7-0 as Fullerton improved to 8-0, which is the best start the Titans have had since 2003.

Fullerton scored first for the sixth straight game when Pedroza led off with a walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Lopez.  The Titans increased their lead with two runs in the fifth when Diemer singled, Pedroza tripled over a drawn in RF and Chapman greeted the TCU reliever with an RBI single.  As Pedroza scored, he had some choice words for the Horned Frogs catcher and was ejected from the game.  Thomas Eshelman retired the first ten batters of the game before allowing a hit and left the game with two outs in the sixth after giving up two more hits but not surrendering any walks and getting eight strikeouts.  Koby Gauna came in and ended the TCU threat and Fullerton increased the lead in the seventh when Pedroza's replacement, Keegan Dale, reached on a bunt single and ended up scoring on a two out single by Lorenzen.  The Horned Frogs put together two walks and two hits to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh against Gauna but a botched double steal ended the rally when a runner was thrown out at the plate.  TCU continued to rally in the eighth with a double off of Gauna and after Willie Kuhl retired two batters, he walked and hit the next two hitters and Tyler Peitzmeier induced a ground out to leave the bases loaded.  Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the ninth when Dale singled, Lopez tripled him in on a ball to the gap in right center and scored on a wild pitch, Davis was hit by a pitch and scored on a double by Lorenzen.  Peitzmeier retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth for his first career save as Eshelman improved his record to 2-0.

Fullerton once again got off to the lead on Saturday by scoring two runs in the first when they took advantage of the wildness of TCU starter Preston Morrison and some shaky defense when Pedroza reached on an error, Lopez walked, Clay Williamson was hit by a pitch, Lorenzen drove in a run on an infield single, Anthony Hutting was hit by a pitch and Jake Jefferies walked to force in another run.  That would be all the scoring there would be for a while because Justin Garza and Morrison were both dominant over the next 6 1/2 innings.  Morrison allowed only two hits and no walks over his next six innings but Garza was even better over his first seven innings, allowing only one hit in the fifth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.  The Titans were happy to see a reliever come in to start the eighth and once again broke things open against the TCU bullpen when Chapman bunted for a hit, Williamson and Hutting each singled and Jefferies pulled a line drove over the wall in RF for a grand slam to increase the lead to 6-0.  The Horned Frogs finally got to Garza in the eighth with four singles to score two runs before Davis came in to get the final two outs of the inning and he finished things off with a scoreless ninth as Garza improved his record to 2-0 with the win.

Fullerton didn't score in the first inning on Sunday for the first time since opening night but they did score first for the eighth straight game when Lorenzen led off the second with a triple and Greg Velazquez's SF drove him in.  The Titans increased the lead when Diemer led off the third with a single, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and Chapman's bunt single drove him in.  Fullerton put the game away with three runs in the fourth when Lorenzen and Wallach started things off with singles, Velazquez walked, Diemer drove in a run with a ground out, Pedroza walked to load the bases, Lopez's HBP forced in a run and Chapman's walk forced in another run.  The Titans padded their lead with two runs in the ninth when Diemer walked and stole second, Lopez's infield single drove him in, Chapman singled to SS and Lopez went to third on an error on the throw and Chapman scored on a passed ball.  Grahamm Wiest was the beneficiary of all of the scoring and allowed two hits in the first four innings and both runners were wiped on double plays, allowed two hits in the fifth but got out of the jam unscathed and had two batters get on base on errors in the seventh but also got out of that jam as he ended up throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings with one walk and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.  Peitzmeier retired a batter and Gauna got the last four outs to finish things off.

Fullerton hit the ball well against Pepperdine's midweek pitching with eleven hits but things didn't come as easy at the plate in Fort Worth.  The TCU pitching staff held the Titans to a .235 AVG (24 for 102) but Fullerton was very opportunistic and took advantage of seventeen free bases (ten walks, seven HBP's) in order to score twenty runs in the series.  The offensive leaders on the week were Lorenzen (6-16, 3 RBI, 2 H in each game at TCU), Chapman (6-17, 4 RBI, 2 SB), Wallach (4-10, 3 RBI), Lopez (4 RBI) and Diemer (3-6, 5 R) plus Jefferies with the key grand slam on Saturday.  Fullerton's starters continued to mow thru the opposition by going 4-0 with a 0.77 ERA for the week with one walk and 22 strikeouts.  The relievers for the Titans had a solid week with a 2.92 ERA and protected leads in all four games with Peitzmeier making three scoreless appearances.

Fullerton has played five different teams in winning the first eight games but has won going away most of the time.  Things figure to be much different this weekend as one of the best teams in the country over the last 1+ seasons will be coming to visit Goodwin Field with former Titans coach George Horton bringing his Oregon Ducks to his old stomping grounds in a rematch of last season's regional in Eugene.


Oregon Ducks (7-1)

  • 2012 Overall Record – 46-19
  • 2012 Conference Record – 19-11 (3rd place in the Pac 12)
  • 2012 Post-Season – Won Eugene Regional (Wins over Austin Peay, Fullerton and Austin Peay), Lost Eugene Super Regional to Kent State two games to one.
  • 2012 RPI/ISR – 7/5
  • Current ranking – 6th by Collegiate Baseball, 6th by NCBWA, 7th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 8th by Perfect Game and 14th by Baseball America
  • Pre-season ranking  – 6th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 8th by NCBWA, 10th by Collegiate Baseball, 13th by Easton College Baseball, 14th by Perfect Game and 15th by Baseball America
  • Predicted conference finish – 4th by the Pac 12 coaches, Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball today

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

It has been an interesting six year ride for George Horton since he left Fullerton after the 2007 season to head up to Oregon.  His first year in Eugene in 2008 was spent getting the program ready for their first season of baseball since 1981.  The Ducks predictably struggled in 2009 and finished last in the Pac 10 but surprised the college baseball world in 2010 by winning forty games and making it into a regional, finishing second to Florida State.  Oregon had high expectations of moving past a regional into a Super Regional or Omaha in 2011 but they struggled out of the gate and by the time they started playing well it was too late to save their season and they finished in eighth in the Pac 10 and didn't qualify for a regional.  The Ducks had a strong pitching staff in 2011 with a 2.95 ERA that was in the top twenty nationally but their offense finished well in the bottom 100 nationally in hitting and scoring.

Oregon didn't enter last season with sky high expectations like they did in 2011 and they weren't predicted to do much with the Pac 12 coaches picking them to finish in 7th and the rest of the college baseball media picking them to finish anywhere from 7th to 9th.  The Ducks got out to a hot start at 10-1 didn't handle prosperity too well and went 5-7 over the next twelve games, responded by going 11-2 over the next thirteen games, which included a sweep of ASU and series wins on the road at UCLA and Stanford, lost a series at home to WSU when they were banged up, started getting healthier and went on a 15-1 run that wrapped up a national seed and put them in position to win the Pac 12.  Oregon needed to win only one game in the Civil War series at OSU to clinch at least a share of the Pac 12 title but the Beavers got revenge for being swept by the Ducks at the end of the 2011 season by sweeping all three games in Corvallis to prevent the Ducks from winning the conference title.  Oregon hosted a regional for the first time and came from behind in the bottom of the ninth to beat Austin Peay, won a close game with Fullerton and rolled thru Austin Peay to sweep all three games.  The Ducks hosted a Super Regional and looked poised to go to Omaha but Kent State had other ideas and surprised Oregon in the first game, the Ducks came back to win the second game and Kent State won the third game in the bottom of the ninth to advance to the College World Series.

Expectations for Oregon are much higher this season as they enter this season with the goal of getting to Omaha and even though they have been picked to finish fourth by the coaches and the media, that just means that the Pac 12 is loaded because the Ducks were ranked in the top fifteen in every major poll going into the season.  Oregon lost only two regulars from their lineup, one of their starting pitchers and one of their primary set-up men but return pretty much everybody else so they will be bringing back one of the more experienced rosters on the west coast.  The Ducks played like an experienced team when they started their season in Hawaii and they didn't just go out to the islands to get some sun and get out from the damp cold winter for a few days as they won all four games and weren't challenged too much during the series.  The Ducks returned home to face LMU last weekend and the Lions pulled off a 7-2 upset in the opener before Oregon bounced back to win each of the next two games 6-1 to win the series and followed that up with a 3-1 wini against Portland on Tuesday.


Offense
  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 85 (decreases offense by 15%).  Dimensions are 335-375-400-375-325 and the ball usually doesn't carry well until later in the season.  Field turf so the fielders are getting true bounces on ground balls.
  • Batting Average – .221.  2012 – .265 (NCAA ranking – 214, Pac 12 ranking – 10).
  • Scoring – 38 (4.8 runs per game).  2012 – 304 runs (219, 7), 4.7 per game.
  • Home Runs – 1.  2012 – 29 (138, 6).
  • Stolen Bases – 10-14.  2012 – 73-117 (103, 3).
  • Slugging Percentage – .317.  2012 – .370 (177, 9).
  • On Base Percentage – .342.   2012 – .359 (DNR, 9).
  • Walks – 31 (3.9 per game).  2012 – 245 (48, 2), 3.8 per game.
  • HBP's – 13.  2012 – 77 (41, 4).
  • Sac Bunts – 9.  2012 – 88 (2, 1).
  • Strikeouts – 51 (6.4 per game).  2012 – 400 (DNR, 2), 6.2 per game.  Oregon only struck out 19 times in four games at Hawaii but struck out 29 times against LMU.

Oregon didn't have a highly productive offense in 2012 so they had to scratch out runs by bunting and putting runners in motion and relying on getting hits in key situations to manufacture runs.  Despite averaging only 4.7 runs per game, the Ducks were efficient at scoring several runs a game because they were only held to two runs or less eight times and their strong pitching staff allowed them to go 21-5 when scoring either three or four runs, the same record Oregon had when scoring five or more runs in a game.

Oregon got off to a solid start at the plate in the Hawaii series by hitting .293 with most of the damage done when they scored nine runs on sixteen hits in the third game.  The Ducks hit .242 and averaged four runs per game in the other three games on the islands and they continued to have issues at the plate against LMU when they only hit .131 with eleven hits in the series.  Oregon has continued to be opportunistic and had nineteen BB's/HBP's at Hawaii and twenty BB's/HBP's against LMU.  It was more of the same on Tuesday against Portland for the Ducks as they only had three hits in the game but got five BB's/HBP's and cashed three of them in for runs and used an outstanding pitching performance to win 3-1.  Oregon has good overall team speed and they have already hit eighteen doubles and ten SB's and they also have nine SAC's with plenty of hit and run attempts to put runners in motion.
Lineup

Oregon is experienced at each of the infield positions with starters returning at all four spots but they are breaking in a new tandem at catcher.

Infield

C – Soph #16 Shaun Chase (RH – 2-10.  '12 – .178/.250/.356, 2-9-0) and FR #18 Josh Graham (RH – 1-16) will be splitting time behind the plate while replacing defensive standout Brett Hambright.  Chase has good power when he makes contact, which was an issue in 2012 when he struck out 30 times in 73 AB's and he has 6 K's in 10 AB's this season.  Graham is talented and will push Chase for playing time.  They combined to only go 2-14 at Hawaii with each of them starting twice.  Graham started twice against LMU and they combined to go 1-9 in the series.  The catchers have been hitting eighth.

1B – JR #25 Ryon Healy (RH – .345/.441/.552, 1-7-1.  '12 – .312/.378/.419, 4-42-3) is the cleanup hitter and is a big, strong man with raw power potential who should be drafted in the first five rounds in June.  He led the team in hits and total bases and was second on the team in R and RBI in 2012 when he was honorable mention All-Pac 12.  Healy made the all-regional team after going 4-10 with 3 RBI, including a 2-4 game with 2 RBI against Fullerton, and went 9-22 with 6 RBI in the post-season and carried his hot streak into this season when he torched the Hawaii pitching staff by going 8-15 with three doubles, an HR and 4 RBI on his way to winning Pac 12 player of the week honors.  He cooled off against LMU when he went 1-10 but had two key RBI in their win on Saturday.  Healy takes a big swing and led the team with 45 strikeouts in 2012 but has been doing a better job of making contact and only has two strikeouts in 25 AB's.

2B – JR #20 Aaron Payne (LH – .259/.400/.259, 0-3-3.  '12 –.277/.405/.357, 1-27-16) is the engine that makes the offense go as the leadoff hitter and led the Pac 12 in 2012 with 25 HBP's to help him lead the team in R and OBP and earn honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors.  He has very good speed and finished in the top ten in the Pac 11 in triples and SB's.  Payne is an excellent bunter and will use his speed to beat out bunts and was in the top ten in the conference with fifteen SAC bunts in 2012.  He went 2-5 against Fullerton, whom he was a batboy for as a youngster, but struggled in the rest of the post-season and only went 1-14 in the other five games.  Payne got off to a hot start at Hawaii when he went 6-15 and scored four runs but was one of many guys who struggled against LMU and went 0-8, including three strikeouts in Friday's game.  Making contact was an issue for Payne in 2012 because he is an aggressive hitter and was second on the team last season with 42 strikeouts.  He doesn't have any extra-base hits and most of the extra-base power he generates comes from his legs as he runs hits into 2B's and 3B's.

SS – SR #22 J.J. Altobelli (RH – .429/.586/.524, 0-4-2.  '12 – .265/.354/.335, 0-14-6) is the toughest hitter on the team to strike out with only one K, had an outstanding 20/12 BB/K ratio in 2012 and is one of the most likely players that a hit and run play will be put on with.  He missed nearly a month last season with a shoulder injury and was the leadoff hitter before getting hurt and hit 9th after returning and has continued to hit at the bottom of the order.  He went 0-3 against Fullerton and was 4-16 in the post-season.  Altobelli torched Hawaii's staff and went 6-13 with 4 RBI and was one of the few guys who hit well against LMU and he went 3-6, got on base four more times via BB's and HBP's and scored four times.   He shares the team lead with Payne with seven runs and is playing at an All-Pac 12 level in the first two weeks of the season and could end up being drafted in the first ten rounds as a SR sign.

3B – SR #21 Ryan Hambright (LH – 1-28.  '12 – .265/.321/.333, 1-12-0) only started six times in the first 40 games in 2012 but started 19 of the final 21 games to stabilize things at 3B after starter Scott Heineman injured his foot and was lost for the season.  He had trouble hitting against the solid pitching staffs in the Pac 11 and only hit .178 in conference games and was only hitting .228 going into the regional but went 7-11, including 2-3 with an RBI against Fullerton, to win regional MVP honors.  Hambright was one of the few players not to hit well in Hawaii and only went 1-13 with five strikeouts and that continued against LMU when he went 0-12 with five more strikeouts.  He has been hitting fifth but if he continues to hit this poorly he will have to be moved down in the lineup.

Outfield

Oregon played quite a few players in the OF and at DH in 2012 and returns most of them along with a starter from their 2010 season who missed two years after taking a church mission.

LF – JR #2 Brett Thomas (LH – .194/.257/.290, 0-6-0.  '12 –.313/.368/.438, 1-25-9) led the team in AVG, 2B's and 3B's and helped to make the offense go as the only LH bat in the middle of the order in 2012, hit .330 in conference games and was honorable mention All-Pac 12.  He went 5-13 with 4 RBI in the regional, including 1-4 against Fullerton, and was 9-26 with 5 RBI in the post-season.  Thomas had a poor 14/36 BB/K ratio in 2012, which is something he needs to improve on.  He has good speed and is a threat to run when he is on base.  Thomas has been hitting third and went 5-17 with 4 RBI at Hawaii but had an awful series against LMU when he went 0-11 with eight strikeouts.  He started to hit the ball better against Portland with a hit and an SF.

CF – Soph #6 Scott Heineman (RH – .308/.457/.385, 0-5-1.  '12 – .189/.342/.278, 1-9-7) played 3B for the first two months of 2012 before being injured and lost for the rest of the season.  He didn't hit much but he was a very patient hitter with a 19/22 BB/K ratio.  Heineman has very good speed and has been moved to the OF where he can put his speed to good use.  He has been hitting second and got off to a solid start at Hawaii when he went 5-17 and had a good series against LMU when he went 3-8 and got on base five other times via BB's and HBP's and he got three more free bases against Portland.

RF – Soph #29 Steven Packard (LH – 4-18.  '11 and '12 – DNP.  '10 – .333/.412/.440, 2-18-0) was a starter as a FR on the 2010 regional team but was away from the program for two years on a church mission.  He got right back into the swing of things in the fall and won a starting job in a crowded OF this season.  Packard hits seventh and went 3-11 in three games at Hawaii but only went 1-7 against LMU.

DH/RF – JR #4 Kyle Garlick (RH – 2-21.  '12 –.287/.482/.470, 6-41-9) has the best power and speed combo on the team and led Oregon in HR's and SLG and was second in SB, AVG and RBI in 2012.  He is also the most patient hitter on the team and led the Ducks in walks with a solid 29/38 BB/K ratio for a power hitter and was one the team leaders in OBP.  Garlick only went 2-13 in the regional but did have 2 RBI against Fullerton and his struggles continued in the Super Regional when he went 1-10.  He is average in the OF, which is why he will be the DH most of the time.  Garlick has been hitting sixth and has gotten off to a slow start and only went 2-12 at Hawaii and was 0-7 in the first two games against LMU.

JC transfer #13 Tyler Baumgartner (LH) only had one AB in the first six games before being inserted into the lineup at DH on Sunday against LMU as Oregon tried to shake things up and he came through with a bases loaded double that broke the game open and was the DH again on Tuesday.  The double was his only hit in seven AB's.

JR #1 Connor Hoffman (LH – '12 –.239/.315/.331, 3-14-9) was the starting CF most of 2012 and has good speed to patrol the big OF space at Oregon.  He had a poor 13/37 BB/K ratio last season.  Hoffman is an excellent bunter and will try to beat out bunts for hits and had 12 SAC's in 2012.  He went 1-8 in the post-season, going 1-3 against Fullerton, and with Heineman and Packard in the OF mix has been moved into a role as a late inning defensive replacement.

Defense

Fielding .978 (7, 1) – 55 errors.  Double Plays – 57 (24, 3).  Oregon has one of the best defenses in the country and their infield is helped by playing on field turf.  Healy is a good athlete for his size at 1B, Jones and Altobelli are outstanding up the middle as one of the best DP combos on the west coast, Hambright is solid at 3B.  Thomas, Heineman and Packard all have good range in the OF.  Oregon has only made two errors this season.

Stolen Base Attempts – 25-54 (DNR, 1).  This is a key area to watch with Oregon replacing Brett Hambright, who was an outstanding catcher.  Runners are 3-3 against Graham and are 1-4 against Chase and he gunned down three guys against LMU on Saturday.  The Ducks do a very good job of holding runners to help their catchers and picked off fifteen runners in 2012.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 44 (DNR, 6).  The catchers are average at blocking pitchers (8 WP's/PB's) but the pitching staff throws lots of power sinking pitches, which doesn't make their job easy.


Pitching

The strength of Oregon's team in 2012 without question was their pitching staff and they led the Pac 12 in ERA, AVG and K's and went 36-3 when they allowed three runs or less.  The Ducks lost Pac 12 Pitcher of the Year Alex Keudell but return just about everybody else so they should have a strong pitching staff once again this season.  Oregon's pitchers haven't been quite as tough to hit thus far as they were when they were in the top five nationally in 2012 but they have been doing a much better job of throwing strikes and have cut way down on the number of free bases via BB's and HBP's.
  • ERA – 2.38.  2012 – 2.99 (NCAA ranking – 12, Pac 12 ranking – 1)
  • AVG – .250.  2012 –.225 (DNR, 1).  7.2 H/9 IP was #2 nationally.
  • HR – 0.  2012 – 20 (DNR, 4)
  • SLG – .295.  2012 – .295
  • Walks – 18 (2.3 BB/9 IP).  2012 – 243 (DNR, 11).  3.7 BB/9 IP was #151 nationally.
  • HBP – 4.  2012 – 82 (DNR, 1).
  • WHIP – 1.17.  2012 – 1.21 (20, DNR)
  • Strikeouts – 63 (7.9 K/9 IP).  2012 – 439 (DNR, 2).  6.8 K/9 IP was #118 nationally.

Starters

Oregon returns two of their weekend SP's from 2012 and has moved one of their main relievers into a starting role and has a big prospect as another option in the rotation.  The starters have been doing their job with a 2.11 ERA over the first seven games.

Soph #5 Jake Reed (RHP – 1-1, 3.27 ERA, 2 GS, 11 IP, 10 H, 2 BB, 15 K, .238 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 2-2 SB.  '12 – 8-4, 2.92 ERA, 17 GS, 1 CG, 114 IP, 91 H, 42 BB, 67 K, .230 AVG, 3 HR, 17 HBP, 4 WP, 4-9 SB) was projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds out of HS but due to his strong commitment to going to school he was only drafted in the 40th round and he will probably be drafted in the first five rounds in 2014.  He has a fastball that sits in the low 90's and a good changeup with good command of his pitches and was 9th in the Pac 12 in AVG.  Reed was effective in almost every start as a FR and allowed three runs or less in fourteen of his starts and his ERA was inflated in his one poor start when he allowed eight runs at Arizona.  He threw very well in winning both of his post-season starts when he threw seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits with eight strikeouts in the regional clinching game against Austin Peay and held Kent State to two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 IP in the Super Regional and followed that up by pitching in relief for Team USA during the summer.  Reed threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts to pick up the win at Hawaii but struggled against LMU when he allowed five runs (4 ER) on six hits in 5 IP but did strike out a career high nine batters.  His control has been better this season and he has only walked two batters in his two starts.

Soph #27 Thomas Thorpe (LHP – 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 GS, 12 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 10 K, .262 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 0-3 SB.  '12 – 2-0, 2.11 ERA, 35 apps, 1 save, 43 IP, 24 H, 20 BB, 48 K, .176 AVG, 1 HR, 7 HBP, 3 WP, 2-5 SB) was the LHP specialist in 2012 due to the good movement on his sweeping slider that is extremely tough on LH hitters but he can sometimes have trouble with his command.  He didn't allow a run in eighteen straight appearances at one point during last season.  Thorpe appeared in four of Oregon's six post-season games, allowing 2 H and 2 R (1 ER) in 4 2/3 IP with 6 K's.  He has thrown well in winning both of his starts, allowing one run on seven hits in five innings at Hawaii and shutting out LMU for seven innings and allowing only four hits.

FR #19 Cole Irvin (LHP – 2-0, 2.40 ERA, 2 GS, 15 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 7 K, .212 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 1-1 SB) went to Servite and was predicted to be drafted in the first ten rounds but had a strong commitment to going to school and fell to the 29th round.  He has beaten out some strong competition to earn a spot in the rotation after finishing the summer as the #5 prospect in the West Coast League.  His fastball sits in the upper 80's to 90 range and he has a good changeup and very good control.  Irvin picked up a win in his debut when he allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings at Hawaii and followed that up by throwing eight strong innings against LMU, holding the Lions to one run on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

Relievers

Oregon didn't have a deep bullpen in 2012 and relied primarily on three relievers but those three pitchers have been lights out and all three of them are capable of going 2-3 innings.  They have their All-American closer Jimmie Sherfy back but one of the set-up men (Thorpe) is in the rotation and the other has moved on so Oregon is relying on pitchers returning from injuries or who haven't pitched much as the bridge between their starters and their closer.  The bullpen has had some issues with the five relievers other than Sherfy and Christian Jones having allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 IP over the first two weekends.

JR #30 Jimmie Sherfy (RHP – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 apps, 3 saves, 6 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 K, .348 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB.  '12 – 5-3, 2.20 ERA, 36 apps, 19 saves, 61 IP, 36 H, 34 BB, 93 K, .172 AVG, 2 HR, 13 HBP, 4 WP, 5-6 SB) barely pitched in 2011 because he had absolutely no command of his pitches.  He worked hard going into 2012 and was one of the best relievers in the country, finishing second nationally in saves, and was an All-Pac 12 and All-American selection and pitched for Team USA last summer and should be drafted in the first five rounds in June.  He is a power pitcher with a good fastball that sits in the low 90's but his best pitch is an outstanding slider with great movement that he uses as his out pitch and he led the staff and finished sixth in the Pac 12 in strikeouts despite not making one start and had an amazing 13.7 K/9 IP rate.  Oregon is not afraid to bring him in before the ninth inning and he threw over one inning in seventeen of his appearances in 2012.  Sherfy has gotten off to a bit of a slow start by his standards and allowed eleven baserunners in six innings but he has still only allowed one run, which was unearned.

JR #24 Christian Jones (LHP – 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 save, 4 apps, 1 GS, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 9 K, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 0-1 SB.  '12 – Medical redshirt.  '11 –  7-2, 3.24 ERA, 16 apps, 12 GS, 78 IP, 69 H, 34 BB, 73 K, .249 AVG, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP, 4-10 SB) was expected to be the Fri or Sat SP in 2012 and already pitching in the minors but he had elbow surgery in the fall and was a medical redshirt.  Before the injury his fastball was sitting in the 92-94 range but it has been in the upper 80's this season and his slider has been his most effective pitch.  He has been very effective in three relief outings as he works his way back towards rejoining the weekend rotation and made another step in that direction with three scoreless innings and allowed two hits with five strikeouts in a midweek start against Portland.

JR #44 Jeff Gold (RHP – '12 – 8-4, 3.66 ERA, 19 apps, 13 GS, 1 CG, 76 IP, 75 H, 24 BB, 46 K, .262 AVG, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 5 WP, 2-6 SB) was a midweek starter and middle reliever in 2012 until he was moved into the weekend rotation due to an injury to one of the SP's in late April and was effective for a Sunday SP with a 3.62 ERA in Pac 12 games.  He isn't a hard thrower and does a good job of getting sink on his fastball and letting his infielders do the work behind him.  Gold didn't throw well in the post-season and allowed five runs on thirteen hits in six innings in his two starts.  He will be one of the options as the midweek SP and left his start early in the fifth inning at Hawaii when he was hit in the ankle on a comebacker.  He made his first appearance since then on Tuesday night against Portland and was on fire, throwing four hitless innings with seven strikeouts.  Gold will provide depth to the bullpen that has had issues other than Jones in getting the ball to Sherfy.

FR #35 Garrett Cleavenger (LHP) is another lefty in the bullpen and he is gaining the confidence of the coaching staff.  He had two good outings in Hawaii (1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K) but was wild in an inning against LMU when he allowed three walks and he allowed a run on two hits in an inning against Portland.

JR #51 Darrell Hunter (RHP) was an infielder on the 2009 team but missed the last three seasons due to health issues but has returned to the program as a pitcher.  He has made three appearances (4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K).

Soph #23 Jordan Spencer (LHP – 4-2, 4.26 ERA, 12 apps, 6 GS, 1 CG, 38 IP, 31 H, 18 BB, 19 K, .230 AVG, 2 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 3-5 SB) was a swingman who split time between the bullpen and a midweek SP role in 2012 but has only pitched once (1 R in 1 2/3 IP at Hawaii).

JR #3 Brando Tessar (RHP – '12 – 4-1, 3.42 ERA, 11 apps, 9 GS, 1 CG, 53 IP, 44 H, 33 BB, 37 K, .235 AVG, 0 HR, 6 HBP, 3 WP, 1-4 SB) was in the weekend rotation in 2012 until straining a muscle in his forearm in the middle of April and didn't pitch again until making an appearance in the Super Regional.  He is battling shoulder issues and hasn't pitched yet this season.

Outlook

Fullerton has had a pretty easy go of it thus far against a schedule that looked tougher in the first two weekends when it was made but hasn't turned out that way with Nebraska and TCU combining to start the season 1-13.  Things are about to get much more difficult for the Titans this weekend against the team that is most likely the best team that they will play in a weekend series.  Conversely, Oregon has only had trouble in one game this season and Fullerton will be the best team that the Ducks will face until they get into conference play in what figures to be a gauntlet in the Pac 12.

If it seems like Fullerton and Oregon are kind of mirror images of each other, that shouldn't be much of a surprise considering Horton's influence on the Fullerton program as the head coach for eleven years with the two head coaches that followed him having served on his staff when he was the head coach of the Titans.  Both teams emphasize grinding out offense by taking advantage of mistakes that the other team makes and using strong pitching to finish things off.

Fullerton has scored first in all eight games and the best way to neutralize an offense like Oregon's is to get ahead and keep them from bunting and stealing bases.  However, that is easier said than done with the Ducks pitching staff allowing two runs or less in five of eight games, including one run in each of the last three games.  Oregon has been averaging 5.5 free runners by walks and HBP's and have had trouble hitting the ball with a .183 average other than their 16 hit outburst in one game.  The best way for Fullerton to keep the Ducks off the scoreboard is to simply not give them free bases.

There don't figure to be too many runs scored this weekend and the higher the run totals get, the more that will most likely favor Fullerton because the Titans have had the better offense this season.  Oregon's best chance to win this series will be if their pitchers control the Fullerton offense and the Titans are walking and hitting batters, which they haven't been doing.  If Fullerton is able to play their game like they have been doing the first two weeks then the Titans have a solid chance of winning this series but it won't be easy and all of the games will likely be close.

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