Fullerton Super Regional Preview
Both Stanford and Fullerton hosted regionals, but had to work their way out of the loser’s bracket to advance to the Super Regional stage. Cal State Fullerton was swept by Stanford the second weekend of the season. Here’s a recap of how each team fared in their regional, and what to look for this weekend.
The Stanford bats went silent in the opening game loss to UC Davis and had to rely on great pitching performances from Austin Yount and Jeremy Bleich to get past Arkansas. It wasn’t until the top of the 9th and down by a run in their elimination game meeting with UC Davis that their bats came alive by scoring 5 runs. In their final 3 wins in this tournament, the Cardinal scored 4 or more runs in an inning 4 different times, including a 6 run inning in the final game against Pepperdine highlighted by regional MVP Sean Ratliff’s grand slam.
The ace of the staff, Erik Davis, had a very rough weekend, giving up 5 earned runs in his 2.2 innings of work against Pepperdine in the regional finale and getting credited with the loss against UC Davis in the opener. . Danny Sandbrink came up huge, throwing a complete game six-hitter against Pepperdine in Game 6. Their bullpen work was outstanding throughout the season and in the regionals, with Drew Storen (1 Win, 2 appearances, 2 ER) being able to shut down hitters and keep his team in ball games as they had to play from behind. No word on who will open the series for Stanford, but look for Davis and Jeffrey Inman to start the first two games.
Fullerton hosts a Super Regional for the 7th time, but they got here the hard way. As the #5 national seed, they lost to UCLA in Game 4 of the Regional after a poor pitching performance from their ace Jeff Kaplan. Kaplan, who had surgery to remove a metal piece from his eye earlier in the week, was not at 100% as he was still recovering and trying to get the medication from the surgery out of his system. Coach Dave Serrano said of Kaplan, “He was by no means using it as a crutch or an excuse. He felt that he had let his team down by not pitching at full strength on Saturday.” Kaplan redeemed himself in the final game against UCLA by pitching 3 solid innings, only giving up 1 run and getting the save. The strength of this Cal State Fullerton team comes from its resiliency.
This is the type of team where if their star is having a bad game, other players will pick up the slack. As bad as Kaplan was in Game 4 of this regional, Cory Arbiso and Brian Wilson were that good. Arbiso pitched a complete game victory in the elimination game against Virginia which saved the bullpen in game against UCLA later in the day. Brian Wilson, the Regional MVP, was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend, pitching a complete game shutout and hitting a homerun in the opener against Rider and coming back against UCLA in Game 7 to pitch 3 more shutout innings before leaving the game in the fourth. Jeff Kaplan, who seems to now be at %100 will get the start in game 1.
Stanford can struggle against left handed pitching because their lineup mostly bats from the left side. That wont be a problem this weekend, as reliever Jason Dovel is the only left hander on the Titans staff. The Titans are going to have to rely on their defense again to get by Stanford. Christian Colon was near perfect at shortstop the entire regional, and Josh Fellhauer played very well in centerfield in the back to back wins against UCLA, seeming to always be in the right place at the right time.
Being that this is the first day of the MLB Draft, I asked Serrano about what effect Christian Colon deciding not sign with San Diego as a 10th round pick had on his program, “Colon, Brown, Renken, and Komatsu all opted out of the draft, our team without those four guys, I don’t think we’re at where were at today without those guys. With an 11.7 scholarship limit, if you get hit hard in the draft, it can set your program back. All those guys showing up have made a big impact on this year’s program.”
Only two wins away from his second straight trip to Omaha with a different team, Dave Serrano outlined what his team needs to do to make it past a Stanford team that has beat them three times already this season, “it always starts with the pitching, we have to get good performances out of our starters. We’ll be aggressive, we’re not going to play it by the book, it allows your team to loosen up and not make it bigger than it is. But it’s going to be more about the offense than the pitching. Not saying Kaplan, Arbiso, and Renken haven’t done a great job, but it’s more about our guys putting runs on the board.”
Game 1 is Friday Night on ESPN2 at 10:30 PM ET.