Baseball Preview: UC Riverside

Baseball Preview: UC Riverside

Cal State Fullerton started out the season winning 31 of their first 35 games and swept six of their first eight series before things toughened up a bit and the Titans lost a game in each of the next three series but still won all three of them.

Fullerton was 3-3 over a six game stretch after losing the first game in Hawaii but they responded by shutting out the Rainbows in each of the next two games.  The Titans returned home to Goodwin Field last weekend to face their long-time rivals from Long Beach State and swept the Dirtbags by scores of 3-2, 2-1 and 9-4 to run their winning streak to five games, win all six games against Long Beach this season and improve their record against the Dirtbags to 22-3 over the last five seasons.

As has often been the case this season, Fullerton got out to a lead in the first inning with the help of some poor defense from Long Beach.  After Thomas Eshelman struck out the side in the top of the first, Richy Pedroza walked to get things started in the bottom of the inning against Shane Carle, stole second and advanced to third when the throw went into CF, J.D. Davis walked and Pedroza scored when Michael Lorenzen's ground ball to third was thrown away to put runners on second and third.  The Dirtbags escaped further damage when Davis was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a fly out to RF.  Long Beach manufactured a run in the top of the third on a single by Colton Vaughn, a SAC bunt and a two out single and as the Titans have done many times, they responded by scoring in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead when Carlos Lopez doubled and Davis doubled him in.  Vaughn tripled to lead off the top of the fifth and Eshelman had some uncharacteristic wildness when he hit his second batter and walked his second batter of the season but escaped without allowing a run when he struck out the dangerous 3-4 duo of Juan Avila and Ino Patron to end the inning and Austin Kingsolver led off the bottom of the inning by launching a HR into the Arboretum for the first homer of his career at home to extend the lead to 3-1 and the Titans missed an opportunity to pad the lead when Pedroza followed with a double and was bunted to third by Carlos Lopez but was left stranded there.  The Dirtbags cut into the lead in the seventh when Vaughn doubled for his third hit of the game, was bunted to third and scored on a SF.  Fullerton had another chance to score in the bottom of the inning when Pedroza walked, Lopez doubled him to third and Lorenzen walked to end Carle's night but Matt Chapman curiously attempted to bunt for a hit and popped the bunt to the catcher to end the inning.  Koby Gauna pitched a 1-2-3 inning in relief of Eshelman in the eighth and Lorenzen finished off the game with a 1-2-3 ninth for his Big West leading fourteenth save.  Eshelman improved his record to 8-2 by allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts in seven innings.  Lopez had two doubles and a run, Davis had a double, two walks and an RBI, Pedroza had a double, two walks and a run to lead the offense along with Kingsolver's HR.

The second game of the series was on national TV and the starting pitchers shined under the bright lights of the broadcast with Justin Garza and Jake Stassi trading zeroes for the first six innings.  Garza had his worst outing of the season the first time he faced Long Beach but he was a different pitcher this time and only allowed two batters to reach base in the first six innings on a single and a walk.  Stassi allowed three hits and two walks over the first six innings but managed to keep Fullerton off of the scoreboard.  The Dirtbags got on the scoreboard in the seventh when Vaughn singled, was bunted to second and scored on a long double by Zack Rivera.  The Titans once again responded in the bottom of the inning when Greg Velazquez walked, Chapman bunted him to second and Austin Diember came through with a clutch two out single to drive in Velazquez.  Long Beach didn't score in the top of the eighth and Lopez led off the bottom of the inning with a double to end Stassi's night.  J.D. Davis attempted to bunt Lopez to third and the bunt was misplayed by reliever Jon Maciel to put runners at first and third.  Lopez scored when Lorenzen hit into a double play after Long Beach decided to leave the infield back even though that was the go ahead run.  Lorenzen came into the game to finish things off and wasn't sharp, allowing a walk and two singles to load the bases before getting a ground ball to third for a force out at home and a strike out to end the game and leave the bases loaded for his fifteenth save.  Stassi was the hard luck loser, allowing two runs (1 ER) in 7+ innings and Garza stayed undefeated at 10-0 after allowing a run on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts in eight innings.  Diemer had the only RBI for Fullerton and the runs were scored by Lopez and Velazquez.

As is often the case with Sunday baseball, runs were much more plentiful under the daylight and each team scored in the first.  Jeff McNeil singled for Long Beach to lead off the game, stole second and scored on a SF by Avila but Fullerton responded once again when Pedroza led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a fly out and scored on a single up the middle by Anthony Hutting.  Long Beach took the lead against Graham Wiest in the top of the fourth when Avila was hit by a pitch, Patron singled him to third and Rivera drove in Avila with a SF.  Nick Sabo relieved David Hill in the fourth and gave up a couple of hits but held the Titans off of the scoreboard before Fullerton got to him in the fifth with the help of some poor defense when Kingsolver reached on an error at first by Patron, Pedroza bunted him to second, Lopez's long flyball to the wall in RF popped out of Avila's glove for a two base error, Davis walked to load the bases, a walk to Lorenzen forced in a run to tie the game and end Sabo's day, a passed ball gave the Titans the lead and move the runners up and Hutting's third single of the game drove in two runs to make it a 5-2 game.  Jared Deacon and Chapman walked to lead off the sixth and Lopez came through with two outs with a laser shot into the net in RF for a three run HR to break the game open and bump Fullerton's lead up to 8-2.  Wiest improved his record to 8-2 after throwing seven solid innings, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts.  Lopez and Hutting led the offense with three RBI apiece and Lopez, Deacon and Kingsolver each scored twice.

Fullerton had trouble putting things together on offense against Long Beach in the first two games against a couple of good starting pitchers before breaking out in the third game to finish off the sweep.  The Titans only hit .205 in the series but as they have often done this season, they were very patient and got on base often with walks and HBP's and took advantage of eighteen free bases and five errors by the Dirtbags to score fourteen runs.  Lopez was a catalyst in all three games, going 4-11 with three doubles and a HR, three RBI and four runs, Davis and Pedroza were both 2-7 with four walks and Hutting went 3-4 with three RBI in the only game he started.  The pitching was once again outstanding as it has been almost every weekend and Fullerton had a 2.33 ERA, held Long Beach to a .208 AVG, had a 5/20 BB/K ratio and the starters improved their record to 26-4.

Fullerton will be trying to extend their winning streak this weekend against a team that has traditionally been a nemesis since joining the Big West in 2002, the UC Riverside Highlanders.  Fullerton has had more trouble with Riverside than they have any other conference opponent over the last eleven years and has only gone 18-15 against the Highlanders with Riverside winning four of the series, including last year's series at Goodwin Field for their first series win at Fullerton, and are 9-6 against the Titans at home.  As much as Fullerton has been very consistent on a week to week basis, the Highlanders have been the exact opposite and after sweeping Irvine to start out conference play and 14-10 overall, Riverside has only won four of their last twenty games with three of those wins coming at home against last place Pacific.  The Highlanders have played very well at home and won their first eleven games there before losing four of their last five games at home. 

 

UC Riverside Highlanders (*18-26, 7-11 – 7th).  Riverside will be vacating eight wins for using an ineligible player, which would make them 10-26.

  • 2012 Overall Record – 22-32
  • 2012 Conference Record – 9-15 (8th)
  • 2012 Post-Season – None. 
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 143/126.  This will be adjusted once the eight wins are vacated.  2012 RPI/ISR – 145/110
  • Current ranking/Pre-season ranking – None
  • Predicted conference finish – 5th by Easton College Baseball, 7th by Big West coaches and Perfect Game and 8th by Baseball America


2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

 

UC Riverside won the Big West in 2007 and finished third, fourth and third in the conference in 2008-2010 before finishing fifth in 2011 at 11-13 and were next to last in the conference at 9-15 in 2012 and finished under .500 overall at 22-32 for the first time in four years.  The Highlanders had heavy personnel losses from 2011 and got off to a slow start and never really got going, losing their first three series vs. BYU, at ASU and at Sam Houston State before picking up a series win vs. Sacramento State.  After splitting a series at Fresno State, Riverside lost their next three series at UCSB and at home to Long Beach and Bakersfield.  The Highlanders picked up their second series win of the season at home against UC Davis before being swept at Irvine and losing a series at home to Northridge.  Riverside won only their third series against last place Pacific before springing the biggest upset of the Big West season when they won their first series ever at Fullerton and finished off the year by getting swept at home by Cal Poly.

 

Riverside's offensive approach before BBCOR bats were introduced in 2011 was to play for the big inning by not playing much little ball so it wasn't much of a surprise that they had issues adjusting to the new bats.  The Highlanders were among the worst offensive teams in the conference the last two seasons and were next to last in the Big West in scoring in 2012 and scored four runs or less 31 times.  Riverside only hit .260, was next to last in slugging and struck out more than anybody else in the conference.  The one thing that the Highlanders did well was draw walks and they led the Big West in walks, which helped boost their on base percentage to third in the conference.  Riverside still didn't play much little ball despite swinging BBCOR bats and were only seventh in the conference in SB's and bunted less than anybody else in the Big West.

 

Riverside had a poor 5.85 ERA in 2010 and with the switch to BBCOR bats their ERA tumbled down by over two runs to 3.40 in 2011, which was third in the conference.  The Highlanders weren't nearly as consistent in 2012 and saw their ERA shoot up by about 3/4 of a run per game and were sixth in the conference in ERA, allowing five runs or more 25 times.  Riverside had a solid 2.4 K/BB ratio and was in the top three in the conference both in strikeouts and walks with their pitchers having good control but they had trouble keeping batters off base when they hit the ball and allowed their opponents to hit .283 overall and Big West teams hit .297 against their pitching staff.

 

Riverside expected to be better this season after returning almost their entire lineup and most of their pitching staff from 2012 but things didn't turn out that way.  The Highlanders lost three out of four games in a tournament at Palm Springs and split four games at Sacramento State, a series that was marred by a bench clearing brawl that was instigated by SS Eddie Young.  Riverside returned home and swept St. Mary's before splitting four games at New Mexico and losing their series at Portland.  The program ran into more turmoil as the conference season started when Young was declared ineligible by the NCAA but the Highlanders responded to adversity with their best series of the season when they swept UC Irvine at home but they have skidded off of the road since then, losing sixteen of their last twenty games with three of the four wins coming at home against last place Pacific.  Riverside has lost their other four series at Northridge, at UC Davis, at home to UCSB and at Cal Poly, getting swept in each of the road series.  The Highlanders pitched better last weekend in San Luis Obispo, allowing eleven runs but seeing their offense get shut down and score only five runs.

 

Riverside has hit much better this season, batting almost twenty points higher and scoring a run more per game and they are ranked in the top half of the conference in scoring, AVG, SLG and OBP.  The Highlanders offensive improvement has been even more pronounced at home, where they have hit .331 and averaged seven runs per game while going 12-4 but their inability to hit on the road has sunk their season because they are 6-22 away from home and hitting .240 and averaging 3.4 runs per game on the road other than their four game stat padding series at New Mexico's launching pad.  Riverside has only hit eleven HR's but they are among the conference leaders in doubles and triples and have seen their SLG % go up by about fifty points.  The Highlanders have been walking a lot and striking a lot like they did in 2012 and are second in the Big West in BB's and K's.  Riverside still doesn't bunt much but they are running much more this season and already have eighteen more steals than they had in 2012 with three weeks to go.  The Highlanders offense has started to slow down as their struggles have increased and they have been held to three runs or less in six of their last nine games and they have been held to four runs or less 24 times for the season.

 

Riverside's pitching staff has been very inconsistent and they have seen their ERA go up again this season by almost a run and they have allowed five runs or more 26 times and their pitchers have allowed an average of at least five runs a game in seven of their eleven weekend series.  The Highlanders haven't been missing enough bats and a porous defense has contributed to teams hitting over .300 against them.  Riverside has a 1.5 BB/K ratio and went from ranking in the top three in the conference in walks and strikeouts to seeing their pitchers rank in the bottom three in the Big West in those categories, although they have done a better job of not walking hitters in conference games.  The Highlanders have had one weekend starter s who has been pretty consistent, another one who has been up and down and there has been no reliable answer in the third starting spot but their bullpen has been pretty solid and kept them in games most of the time.


Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 117 (increases offense by 17%).  Standard dimensions, unique features are a 20 ft wall/batters eye in CF and drainage slopes behind the infield dirt down the 1B and 3B lines.  No marine layer due to being inland helps the ball carry better.
  • Batting Average – .278 (5/115); .280 (6th) in conference.  .260 (7th in the Big West, 239th nationally) in 2012; .252 in conference. 
  • Scoring – 235 (4/112), 5.5 per game; 79 (7th), 4.4 per game in conference.  235 (8/246), 4.4 per game in 2012; 93, 3.9 per game in conference.
  • Home Runs – 11 (7/209); 4 (8th) in conference.  13 (6/250) in 2012; 7 in conference. 
  • Slugging Percentage – .376 (4/114); .371 (6th) in conference.  .333 (8/268) in 2012; .326 in conference.    
  • On Base Percentage – .377 (2/52); .368 (3rd) in conference.  .361 (3/137) in 2012; .341 in conference.   
  • Walks – 188 (2/73), 4.3 per game; 65 (3rd), 3.6 per game in conference.  229 (1/71), 4.2 per game in 2012; 83, 3.5 per game in conference.   
  • HBP's – 55 (6/91); 22 (4th) in conference.  61 (5/113) in 2012; 27 in conference.
  • Strikeouts – 298 (1/xx), 6.9 per game; 109 (2nd), 6.1 per game in conference.  386 (1/xx), 7.1 per game in 2012; 171, 7.1 per game in conference.   
  • Stolen Bases – 54-77 (3/114); 18-30 (5th) in conference.  36-57 (7/239) in 2012; 14-21 in conference.
  • Sac Bunts – 30 (8/173); 14 (7th) in conference.  34 (9/203) in 2012; 15 in conference.  


Infield

UC Riverside expected to have an experienced infield coming into the season after only losing one player from 2012, 1B/3B Vince Gonzalez, who was 2nd team All-Big West.  Eddie Young started at SS in 2012 and was starting there earlier this season until being ruled ineligible by the NCAA right before conference play started.

C – SR #36 Bart Steponovich (RH – .262/.333/.292, 0-5-0.  '12 – .183/.241/.198, 0-11-0.  '11 – .290/.377/.323, 0-7-0 in 93 AB's) split time in 2011 but hit his way into more playing time during the second half of the season.  He hit .270 in his first 33 AB's last season but only hit in the .150's after that.  Steponovich kept his job in the lineup because his defensive skills are very good and he has been hitting better this season and hasn't been as much of a liability at the plate.  He has trouble making contact and struck out nearly 1/3 of the time in 2011 and had even more issues in 2012 and was second in the Big West with 46 strikeouts and has struck out about 1/4 of time.  Steponovich is a good bunter and had five SAC's in 2012 and has three this season and will usually be batting 9th and splits time behind the plate.  He went 0-8 at Fullerton in 2012 and is 0-12 in his career against the Titans.

C/1B – SR #7 Clayton Prestridge (RH – .344/.450/.416, 1-23-13.  '12 – .292/.435/.357, 0-24-9) played mostly LF in 2012 and was hitting in the .250's most of the season but got hot over the last fifteen games and has continued to stay hot and is among the Big West leaders in AVG and OBP and will hit third while splitting time between C and 1B.  He will stand in and take a HBP and has been hit 20 times over the last two seasons and is second in the conference with 12 HBP's.  Prestridge is a patient hitter who will see lots of pitches and was third in the Big West in 2012 in walks but is also prone to striking out and had a solid 36/34 BB/K ratio in 2012 and has a 20/29 ratio this season.  He has good speed and led the team in SB's in 2012 and is third in the conference this season.  Prestridge is a gap to gap hitter and has only hit one HR in two seasons despite usually hitting in the middle of the lineup.  He had a seventeen game hitting streak snapped against UCSB two weeks ago and was hitless in two games last weekend at Cal Poly.  Like most of the team, he has hit better at home with a .377 AVG while hitting .327 on the road.  Prestridge was 3-8 with five walks at Fullerton in 2012.

1B – FR #42 Francisco Tellez (LH – .317/.405/.571, 2-12-1) is a part-time starter who has been getting more playing time recently against RHP's and figures to be in the lineup at least twice this weekend because he has been hitting for lots of power with ten extra base hits in only 63 AB's.  He has solid plate discipline with a 9/13 BB/K ratio.

1B/DH – JR #27 Kyle Boudreau (LH – .237/.350/.361, 2-21-3.  '12 – .267/.380/.389, 2-18-1.  '11 – .250/.363/.294, 0-8-1 in 68 AB's) started 16 games in 2011 as a reserve and after a 2-24 start in 2012 hit around .300 after that.   He has been a hot hitter at home with a .343 AVG but has only hit .177 on the road.  Boudreau got off to a hot start this season but has only hit .151 over his last 53 AB's and has seen his playing time dwindle with Tellez playing more.  Boudreau went 2-7 at Fullerton in 2012. 

DH – Soph #48 Kyle Davidson (RH – .256 in 39 AB's.  '12 – .321/.410/.396, 1-9-0 in 53 AB's) hit well in limited playing time as a FR and has only started eight times, usually against LHP's.

2B – Soph #22 Nick Vilter (RH – .245/.361/.328, 1-13-1.  '12 –.229/.369/.337, 1-9-2) split time at 2B as a FR but has been the starter for almost every game this season and will usually hit seventh.  He is big for a middle infielder and has some pop in his bat with ten extra base hits, although he hasn't been too consistent and after going thru a 6-49 slump he has started hitting better lately and is 13-35 over the last twelve games.  Vilter is patient at the plate and leads the team in walks but also has a big swing and is second in the conference in strikeouts and has a 21/46 BB/K ratio.  He went 2-5 with two walks at Fullerton in 2012.

SS – Soph #20 Alex Rubanowitz (LH – .248/.336/.316, 1-15-3.  '12 – .244/.324/.300, 0-9-1) split time at 2B with Vilter as a FR and was playing at 3B earlier in the season but became the everyday SS after Young was ruled ineligible.  He was on a hot streak when he hit .405 over a thirteen game stretch but has been ice cold and has only hit .181 over the last sixteen games.  Like most of his teammates, Rubanowitz has hit much better at home with a .383 AVG and has only hit .157 on the road.  He has switched positions with Vilter the last couple of games with Vilter playing SS so that is something to keep an eye on to see if they continue playing doing that.  Rubanowitz went 1-9 at Fullerton in 2012 but the hit was a big one because it drove in the only run in the series deciding 1-0 win for Riverside.

3B/CF – Soph #8 Joe Chavez (RH – .325/.437/.497, 2-24-15.  '12 – 3-12) rarely got off the bench as a FR but has been one of the constants in the lineup and is having a strong season, leading the Big West in doubles and ranking in the top ten in the conference in runs, OBP and SLG.  He is a patient hitter who is second on the team with 20 walks and will crowd the plate and has 11 HBP's but he also has a big swing and leads the Big West with 50 strikeouts.  Chavez was in a slump where he hit .178 over a twelve game stretch but he has gotten hot again and hit .408 over the last thirteen games.  He will usually hit second, has good speed and leads the conference in SB's.  Chavez played in CF quite a bit earlier in the season but has started at 3B in seven of the last eight games.

3B – JR #16 Cody Hough (RH – .226/.333/.369, 2-9-1.  '12 –.196/.302/.232, 0-8-2) started during most of the non-conference season in 2012 but lost his spot in the lineup due to his issues at the plate.  He hasn't hit much better this season and usually starts at 3B when Chavez moves to the OF.


Outfield

Riverside returned all of their outfielders from 2012 so they are very experienced but that has also created a crowded situation with some players shifting back and forth and Prestridge, one of last season's outfielders, being moved to catcher.

LF – SR #4 Phil Holinsworth (RH – .256/.367/.344, 0-30-6.  '12 – .237/.314/.366, 4-17-3.  '11 – .279/.333/.380, 0-16-4) was the fourth OF in 2011 and got playing time in all three OF spots last season when other OF's were out of the lineup with injuries.  He is a good bunter and has seventeen SAC's over the last three seasons, including five this year.  Hollinsworth is one of several players who have gone into a slump recently and has only hit .200 over the last thirteen games.  He is another player who has hit much better at home with a .298 AVG and has only hit .231 on the road.  Hollinsworth is a good run producer and is second on the team in RBI and usually hits fifth.  He had a game to remember at Fullerton in 2012 when he single-handedly outproduced the Titans offense with two 2-run HR's in Riverside's 6-3 win in the second game of the series.

CF/LF – Soph #6 Devyn Bolasky (LH – .321/.341/.344, 0-9-4.  '12 – .284/.376/.303, 0-8-6) was having a solid season as a FR before he injured a hamstring against Long Beach and missed a month before returning.  He has very little power with only five extra base hits (all doubles) over the last two seasons and is a slap hitter who puts the ball in play and runs to beat out hits as the leadoff hitter.  Bolasky isn't patient at the plate and has only walked five times but he usually puts the ball in play and is one of the toughest players to strike out in the country with only seven strikeouts.  He was in a 4-31 slump before being one of the few players to hit well at Cal Poly and went 7-12 last weekend.  Bolasky has hit .410 at home and was only hitting .235 on the road before his hot streak in SLO.  He will play in LF whenever Chavez moves from 3B to CF.  Bolasky went 0-3 in his only start at Fullerton in 2012.

RF – JR #30 David Andriese (LH – .321/.367/.411, 0-33-3.  '12 – .233/.326/.380, 4-25-3.  '11 – .307/.392/.453, 4-30-1) was one of the better FR in the Big West in 2011 while playing in LF and led the team and was tenth in the Big West in SLG and was honorable mention all-conference.  He injured his wrist four games into 2012 and missed the next thirteen games and never really got going as he went through a sophomore slump due to the injury.  Andriese is a good run producer as the cleanup hitter and leads the team and is eighth in the conference in RBI.  He struck out about 25-30% of the time in his first two seasons but has been doing a better job of making contact for a big hitter in the middle of the lineup and has a 12/25 BB/K ratio.  Andriese was hitting .375 through the non-conference season but has been hitting in the .270's since then.  He has hit .362 at home and .300 on the road.  Andriese went 1-11 at Fullerton in 2012 and is 4-22 in his career against the Titans.


Defense

Fielding % – .950 (10/278) with 84 errors; .954 (10th) with 32 errors in conference.  .966 (7/140) with 70 errors in 2012; .959 with 39 errors in conference.  Riverside had one of the better defenses in the Big West in 2010-2011 but the defense was below average in 2012 and has come off of the rails this season.  The Highlanders are the worst fielding team in the conference and have allowed 73 unearned runs.  Prestridge and Tellez are adequate at 1B, Vilter has good range at 2B but makes too many errors, Rubanowitz has been below average at SS and Chavez has been below average at 3B.  Hollinsworth and Andriese have average range in the corner OF spots and Bolasky has good range in CF. 

Stolen Base Attempts – 35-51 (6/xx); 13-19 (4th) in conference.  42-70 (5/xx) in 2012; 16-30 in conference.   Steponovich was better at throwing out runners in 2012 (35-56) than he has been this season (17-22).  Runners are 7-7 against Prestridge.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 38 (4/xx); 8 (1st) in conference games.  33 (2nd) in 2012; 17 in conference.   Steponovich and Prestridge have been doing a solid job of blocking pitches and giving the pitching staff confidence in throwing off-speed pitches in the dirt.


Pitching

  • ERA – 5.14 (8/227); 4.69 (8th) in conference.  4.13 (6/112) in 2012; 4.13 in conference.
  • AVG – .313 (9/281); .312 (9th) in conference.  .283 (7/179) in 2012; .297 in conference.
  • HR – 20 (8/xx); 8 (7th) in conference.  23 (5/xx) in 2012; 10 in conference.
  • SLG – .376 (9/xx); .371 (9th) in conference.  .392 (7/xx) in 2012; 410 in conference.
  • Walks – 156 (8/174), 3.8 BB/9 IP; 42 (5th) 2.5 BB/9 IP in conference.  155 (3/44), 2.9 BB/9 IP in 2012; 65, 2.7 BB/9 IP in conference.
  • HBP – 38 (7/xx); 23 (3rd) in conference.  36 (1/xx) in 2012; 23 in conference.
  • OBP – .388 (9/xx); .372 (8th) in conference.   .345 (4/xx) in 2012; .358 in conference.
  • Strikeouts – 221 (8/258), 5.4 K/9 IP; 78 (9th), 4.6 K/9 IP in conference.  370 (2/92), 7.0 K/9 IP in 2012; 149, 6.3 K/9 IP in conference.


Starters

Riverside had an experienced weekend rotation in 2012 with two starters back from 2011 and they usually kept the Highlanders in games but wore down a little bit as the season went on and all three allowed conference opponents to hit in the low .300's.  Honorable mention all-conference starter Eddie Orozco moved on and one of the other starters was moved into the closer's role, leaving returning and relievers to take over the other two spots in the weekend rotation.

JR #5 Dylan Stuart (LHP – 3-6, 4.69 ERA, 12 GS, 2 CG, 71 IP, 104 H, 15 BB, 24 K, .351 AVG, 4 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 7-9 SB, 5 pickoffs.  '12 – 7-7, 4.00 ERA, 15 GS, 3 CG, 99 IP, 108 H, 21 BB, 56 K, .281 AVG, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 6 WP, 7-11 SB, 5 pickoffs.  '11 – 1-1, 1.72 ERA, 18 apps, 31 IP, 34 H, 11 BB, 29 K, .301 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 4-9 SB) was a middle reliever in 2011 and ended up pitching well enough to earn Big West FR Pitcher of the Year honors.  Stuart got off to a great start in 2012 when he was Big West pitcher of the week for a shutout against BYU in his first start but was up and down after that, mixing bad outings with good ones and had a great start at Fullerton when he shut out the Titans in a 1-0 complete game win when he induced Fullerton into hitting sixteen groundouts.  He has very good control and is usually around the plate and pitches to contact, which has been a problem this season with Riverside having such a poor defense that turns balls that should be outs into hits and errors and has allowed at least eight hits in each of his last eight starts.  Stuart hasn't made it out of the sixth inning five times but if he gets through the early innings without too much damage he is usually able to pitch deep into games because he keeps his pitch count down and doesn't strike out many hitters with three or fewer strikeouts in his last nine games.  He has allowed 18 R (14 ER) on 31 H in 19 1/3 IP in his last three starts.  Stuart a very good move to first and has picked off ten runners over the last two seasons but when runners are able to run they usually have a pretty good chance to succeed. 

JR #26 Ben Doucette (LHP – 2-5, 4.01 ERA, 11 GS, 61 IP, 68 H, 27 BB, 36 K, .282 AVG, 1 HR, 11 HBP, 4 WP, 2-5 SB.  '12 – 1-1, 1.69 ERA, 5 saves, 24 apps, 27 IP, 22 H, 10 BB, 26 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 1-3 SB.  '11 – 1 IP) was moved into the closer's role for the last six weeks of 2012 after pitching in middle relief earlier in the season and converted all five save chances that he had, including one at Fullerton.  He does a good job of getting sink on his fastball and will sometimes run into control issues if hitters are laying off of it and he has walked at least three hitters in five of his starts, including six walks last week at Cal Poly when he was wildly effective in holding the Mustangs to two runs in seven innings.  Doucette will pitch inside and leads the Big West with 10 HBP's in conference games.  He has been Riverside's best starter lately despite a 1-4 record in Big West games and is seventh in the conference with a 2.65 ERA in Big West play.  Doucette has allowed three runs or less in his last seven starts with a 2.33 ERA.

JR #25 Zach Varela (RHP – 3-0, 0.92 ERA, 14 apps, 3 GS, 29 IP, 24 H, 5 BB, 11 K, .220 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 2 WP, 4-4 SB.  '12 – 0-1, 3.86 ERA, 8 apps, 9 IP, 14 H, 1 BB, 12 K, .350 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 0-0 SB) didn't pitch much in 2012 and was a middle reliever for most of this season, pitching very effectively in that role with a 0.53 ERA in eleven appearances out of the bullpen.  He has started the last two weekends, allowing one run on six hits in four innings vs. UCSB and allowing two runs (1 ER) on five hits in five innings at Cal Poly.  Varela isn't a hard thrower but has very good control and does a good job of getting sink on his fastball.

JR #33 Jacob Smigelski (RHP – 1-1, 6.03 ERA, 6 GS, 31 IP, 45 H, 6 BB, 23 K, .346 AVG, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 5-7 SB) was the Sunday starter for the non-conference schedule but injured his arm against Irvine in his first conference start and hasn't pitched since.

SR #17 Mitch Patito (RHP – 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 4 GS, 19 IP, 18 H, 12 BB, 11 K, .257 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 3 WP, 4-4 SB.  '12 – 3-4, 3.96 ERA, 16 apps, 10 GS, 50 IP, 41 H, 40 BB, 61 K, .227 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 7-11 SB.  '11 – 1-3, 5.75 ERA, 6 saves, 19 apps, 20 IP, 22 H, 18 BB, 24 K, .286 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 4-5 SB.  '10 – 3-0, 1.33 ERA, 3 saves, 21 apps, 27 IP, 13 H, 13 BB, 27 K, .138 AVG, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 1 WP, 3-3 SB) was the closer in 2010 and moved out of that role due to ineffectiveness during 2011 and was the midweek starter the last two seasons but was injured four starts into the season and hasn't pitched since.


Relievers

Riverside brought back a decent amount of experience in their bullpen from 2012 and one of the keys to the success that they have had has been due to converting one of last season's weekend starters into the closer's role.

SR #14 Trevor Frank (RHP – 4-1, 1.91 ERA, 9 saves, 21 apps, 33 IP, 23 H, 8 BB, 37 K, .187 AVG, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 1-1 SB.  '12 – 2-8, 4.63 ERA, 16 apps, 14 GS, 1 CG, 80 IP, 97 H, 19 BB, 40 K, .307 AVG, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 3 WP, 6-14 SB.  '11 – 2-3, 3.35 ERA, 1 save, 13 apps, 12 GS, 83 IP, 84 H, 14 BB, 55 K, .268 AVG, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 4 WP, 2-7 SB.  '10 – 3-3, 8.46 ERA, 17 apps, 8 GS, 50 IP, 79 H, 18 BB, 31 K, .374 AVG, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP, 7-11 SB) moved from a midweek starter/middle reliever to a weekend starter early in 2011 and was in the rotation through the end of last season before being converted into the closer's role in the fall.  He was more of a strike thrower and a pitch to contact guy as a starter but has been able to air it out more as a reliever and has his fastball getting into the mid 90's as the closer and he is third in the Big West in saves.  Because Frank used to be a starter, he is able to go more than an inning when called upon and threw 3 1/3 innings to pick up a save against UCSB two weeks ago.  He didn't allow a run over fifteen straight appearances but has allowed six runs on eleven hits in his last six outings and picked up the loss last Sunday when he allowed two runs after an outfielder misplayed the potential final out, turning a fly ball into a triple.  Frank allowed five runs on sixteen hits and five walks in 13 2/3 IP in his starts against Fullerton over the last two seasons. 

SR #29 Mark Garcia (LHP – 3-4, 5.79 ERA, 17 apps, 3 GS, 42 IP, 48 H, 19 BB, 23 K, .296 AVG, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 3-7 SB.  '12 – 2-1, 2.45 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 40 IP, 42 H, 16 BB, 27 K, .271 AVG, 0 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 0-2 SB.  '11 – 1-2, 4.68 ERA, 17 apps, 25 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 18 K, .306 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 3 WP, 2-2 SB.  '10 – 0-0, 10.80 ERA, 8 apps, 8 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 7 K) has been solid in a middle relief role over the last two seasons as the main guy to get the ball from the starters to the closer.  He has been a workhorse and has often gone 2-3 innings in his appearances and is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA in relief but has a 12.27 ERA in his three starts.

Soph #35 Kevin Sprague (LHP – 1-0, 3.65 ERA, 17 apps, 25 IP, 36 H, 7 BB, 14 K, .346 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 2-5 SB) has also been effective in relief despite allowing a high average due to very good control.  He started on Tuesday against San Diego State and allowed three runs in four innings.  

SR #28 Donovan Gonzales (RHP – 0-5, 9.45 ERA, 12 apps, 2 GS, 20 IP, 34 H, 20 BB, 12 K, .374 AVG, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 WP, 2-3 SB.  '12 – 0-0, 5.50 ERA, 12 apps, 18 IP, 15 H, 5 BB, 6 K, .212 AVG, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB)


Outlook

Unlike with how Fullerton has beaten Long Beach like a drum over the last five seasons, it has been the exact opposite in their series with Riverside because they circle this series on their schedule more than they do any other series that they play.  It looked like the Titans had gotten over their issues when they play the Highlanders after winning the previous four series the teams had played, including an eight game winning streak from 2009-2011, before Riverside pulled off the upset in the series at Goodwin Field last season.  That is the only series that Fullerton has lost since the opening weekend of 2012.

Riverside has hit the ball very well at home but they have started to cool off a bit at the plate lately so it will be interesting to see if they can start to heat up against a strong Fullerton pitching staff that held them in check last season except for Hollinsworth's two homerun game.  The Titans did not hit well against the Highlanders in any of the three games last season but their offense is much better this season and Riverside's pitching staff hasn't been as good as they were in 2012.

Fullerton has a big advantage in the pitching match-up, although Riverside did pitch well in each of the three games at Cal Poly last weekend in holding the Mustangs to three runs.  If the Highlanders can continue to pitch like they did last weekend that will decrease the edge that the Titans have in pitching in this series. 

One area that is a mismatch is how these teams have played in the field.  Fullerton has had an occasional lapse but for the most part has fielded well and has one of the better defenses in the conference, especially during Big West play.  Riverside has been brutal in the field for the entire season and has only played error free ball in twelve of 44 games and the Titans have been making teams pay for making mistakes against them all season.

This could be looked at as a trap series for Fullerton, playing on the road in a place where they have traditionally not played well in between series against Long Beach and Irvine.  The Titans have been a focused team this season and will remember that this is the only team that has won a series against them in the last twenty-four series.  It doesn't figure to be easy this weekend but look for Fullerton to come out of Riverside with a series win.

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