UCLA is hosting their first Super Regional since 1986 after starting the season with a 22-0 record before losing to Stanford in Pac-10 play and ended up with the #6 National Seed. UCLA is looking to reach Omaha for the first time since 1998, but will have to get through the Titans, who they were 0-2 against this season.
Fullerton isn’t so used to playing Super Regionals on the road. The program that’s a complete model of consistency has made has played their last 8 Super Regionals at Goodwin Field, their last away Super Regional being the 1999 series victory at Ohio State. Fullerton has history on their side as the Titans are 18-3 since Coach Savage took over the UCLA program. Also, the only other time the Titans lost the opening game of their Regional, they won the National Title (Lost to Pepperdine in the 2004 opener).
Here’s a position by position advantage analysis of the 2010 Los Angeles Super Regional:
Billy Marcoe really doesn’t get enough credit behind the plate. The Titans consistent backstop had a great regional, hitting .474, yet was left off the All-Regional team, beat out by Minnesota’s Kyle Knudson who also played stellar behind the dish. Marcoe started 47 games (.337/3/31) and gives the Titans a definite advantage behind the plate over UCLA, even though he was inconsistent down the stretch of the season including being 1-8 against UCLA during the regular season. Steve Rodriguez started the season off incredibly hot offensively (his first 4 hits went for homeruns) but has cooled off since (.261/8/35). UCLA lucks out by Gary Brown’s limited role on the basepaths as Rodriguez’s Stolen Bases Against was at .771, while Marcoe was at a more respectable .696. Trevor Brown has also been experimented with a limited role behind the plate, as he was Trevor Bauer’s high school catcher.
First Base: Fullerton
Dean Espy (.366/8/48) was the offensive leader in all categories for UCLA this season, but the Second Team All-American Nick Ramirez (.360/16/73) gets the nod here due to being an absolute doubles machine with 28 on the year. Espy homered every 18 AB for the Bruins compared to Ramirez’s every 15.5 AB, but wasn’t an every day starter like Ramirez. The glaring number for Ramirez is his 46 K’s against the K/9 machine that is the UCLA Starting Rotation, but he still managed a .676 slugging percentage over the season.
Second Base: Fullerton
Sophomore Tyler Rahmatulla (.326/6/41/17 doubles) had a great season, but Corey Jones (.378/9/54) would be the Team MVP had he been donning the blue and gold, but is instead a role player in the Titan offense. Jones’s 3 errors on 113 attempts also gives him an advantage here, as he made stab after stab this season for the Titans. Rahmatulla is a threat on the basepaths with 13 SB this season.
Corey Jones has really gotten hot over the last few weeks, and earned Regional MOP honors by hitting .400 and belting 3 HR and 10 RBI. Jones is one of the most experienced players in this lineup dating back all the way to 2007, and missed all of the 2009 season breaking his fibula and ankle in a rope swing mishap while playing in the NECBL over the 2008 offseason. Jones started off the season with good but modest numbers, but has flipped a switch with the move to the 3 spot in the lineup. His recent surge was probably responsible for him being taken in the 7th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by Detroit.
Third Base: UCLA
Freshman Cody Regis (.311/6/40) hit 2 HR in the Los Angeles Regional, including a second inning bomb that set the tone against LSU ace Anthony Ranaudo. His power surge gives him the nod here over Richie Pedroza. The Bruins are going to need Regis to keep the surge going against the Titan lineup, as he was 2-3 with a solo shot in the May 25th matchup off of Fullerton’s Colin O’Connell. Regis has a penchant for 2nd inning long balls it seems. Richie Pedroza, who is listed at a possibly generous 5’5", only hit .158 in the Fullerton Regional and needs to find the consistency he had in conference play to make a difference this weekend for Fullerton.
Christian Colon’s quelled all preseason doubts after coming back from his broken leg suffered while playing with Team USA (blame Canada!), but put up incredible offensive numbers in his return (.388/16/67). His homerun totals have DOUBLED every season since starting out with the Titans, with 4 his Freshman year, 8 last year, and now has 16 in 2010, including a 3 homerun barrage at Washington back on March 19th. Colon hit .476 with 3 doubles, 2 HR and 9 RBI in the Fullerton Regional and led all Titans with 10 hits. Niko Gallego had a rough season at the plate (.261/5/28) but is a definite threat on the basepaths with his 24 steals near the bottom of the Bruin lineup. To Gallego’s credit, he did hit a shot into the left field bleachers at Dodger Stadium against USC this season, so he could have a penchant for big game hitting.
Left Field: Toss Up
The inexperience in left field makes this a total toss up. UCLA went with Freshman Jeff Gelalich in the Regional while Fullerton will go with a platoon of Walker Moore and Casey Watkins, both of who combined for only 26 starts this season.
Center Field: UCLA
Beau Amaral had a pretty decent Freshman campaign as the everyday leadoff man for UCLA, with a team 2nd best .353 batting average and .438 OBP, but is also leading the team with 45 strikeouts. UCLA has a definite advantage in Amaral, as Brown will be only used in limited capacity this weekend and his potent bat will not be used at the plate. Brown, the 24th overall pick by the Giants, 1st Team All American by Collegiate Baseball and Big West Player of the Year, has been held out of action nursing a broken middle finger on his left hand. The Titans have been stellar with him out of the lineup, going 11-2 overall, hitting .349 and stealing 24 bags, but are obviously better with Gary Brown manning the leadoff spot with his .438 BA and .695 SLG over Joey Siddons. Siddons is hitting a respectable .311, but isn’t the 2010 version of Gary Brown, and no one is. The Titans really need Siddons to be consistent this weekend, and has been hitting well since returning from a thumb injury on May 22nd, hitting .359 for the Titans. He definitely needs to watch those stop signs on the basepaths, though.
Right Field: Fullerton
Coach Savage went with Chris Giovinazzo for the Los Angeles Regional over Brett Krill in right field, and while they’re a nice platoon out there, the .286 combined average doesn’t live up to how Tyler Pill has been playing. Pill manned right field for the Fullerton Regional and will stay there as he’s still nursing an arm injury that has kept him from taking the mound. Pill had been a heater going into the Regional Final, ending his 18-game hitting streak Monday night. Giovinazzo is .279 with 3 HR and 16 RBI on the season.
I’d like to give Blair Dunlap the nod here since he has been such a staple of the UCLA lineup over the years, but Carlos Lopez is just hitting THAT well. Maybe experience will triumph over youth here, but the freshman Lopez (.372/7/50) has just been on a different level this season. Serrano moved Lopez out of the three hole for the more experienced Corey Jones, but was still named the All-Regional DH despite the move, and is on the cusp of breaking all types of Freshman records at Cal State Fullerton. The Sr. DH Dunlap had a great year hitting .330 and will be crucial in UCLA’s chances to win a Super Regional. Dunlap was 0-4 with 2 K’s in their last meeting, but in the postseason he fares much better against the Titans, as he was 6-12 with 2 RBI in 3 games against the Titans in the 2008 Regional loss.
Pitching Staff: UCLA
The UCLA pitching staff was the model of consistency all season, while the Titan starting rotation struggled to gain a rhythm a until midseason and has some questions coming into this regional.
The combination of Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, and Rob Rasmussen rivaled the best starting rotations in college baseball all season, and all had K/9 ratios well over 9. Despite the Bruin staff’s minor struggles against Arizona State, the pitching staff was the backbone of the boys from Westwood. Cole registered a 10-2 record to go along with his 3.11 ERA, but his 11.67 K/9 and .194 Batting Average Against are what really stick out. Trevor Bauer (10-3, .272) was solid in Saturday starts, and will get the ball in Game 2. Junior LHP Rob Rasmussen (10-2, 2.90) won the preseason battle for the Sunday starter spot and never looked back, and will get the start in the deciding Game 3. Midweek starter Garrett Claypool (8-3, 2.05) was incredible all year with a .171 Batting Average Against, but 2 of his 3 losses came at the hands of the Titans, including giving up three long balls in the first frame. Claypool can be utilized in relief, but those losses have to stand out even though he fared much better his second outing against the Titans. The Bruin bullpen is hands down one of the most consistent in college baseball, with Matt Grace (3.24 ERA, 30 APP) and Erik Goeddel (3.33 ERA, 33 APP) as the main setup men for Dan Klein, who registered 9 saves this season and 5 wins in relief to go along with his 2.03 ERA.
Not to be outdone, Noe Ramirez had a breakout season as his numbers rivaled Cole’s, registering an 11-1 record and 2.63 ERA, including 2 complete games, and will get the start in Game 1 Friday. Daniel Renken (12-2, 3.95) struggled as the Friday starter early in the year and was replaced with Ramirez as Head Coach Dave Serrano emphasized that he needed the tempo to be set in the opening game after his team started the season 9-9. Tyler Pill was consistent in 9 starts (4-4, 3.36) as the Titan offense sputtered early in the year, but is relegated to RF duty with arm issues. One thing that is concerning for the Titans is that the newly reliable Freshman All-American RHP Dylan Floro (7-1, 3.08) struggled mightily in two games against Minnesota in regional play. Floro does have experience against UCLA as he picked up the win in relief back on April 6th, pitching 2.2 innings. The Titans were reassured with the rotation as Sophomore RHP Colin O’Connell (1-1, 3.46) threw a gem on Sunday night to preserve the Titans season against Minnesota by extending the series to a seventh game, and could see action if the series goes to a third game. He received a no decision after starting the May 25th contest against UCLA, pitching 3.1 innings before Noe Ramirez came in and shut down the Bruin lineup. A wild card for the Titans is the fresh arm of Raymond Hernandez (1-0, 1.80 ERA, 2 APP), who shut down the hot Minnesota lineup on Monday after being academically ineligible all season.