After watching Arizona State dismantle Cal State Fullerton 10-1 on Wednesday afternoon, something became abundantly clear; the Titans need to grow up and fast. The game got out of hand early with Colin O’Connell throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings as he seemed to be mechanically off, and the Titans gave up two unearned runs in the 4th inning to make the game 8-1 after consecutive errors by Nick Ramirez and Austin Kingsolver. Both players were pulled in the bottom half of the 4th, and was an obvious sign that Coach Serrano wasn’t happy that the players’ heads weren’t in the game. Couple that with the fact that eight of their players will be kept home while the team travels to Hawaii due to suspension, including DH Carlos Lopez, SS Richy Pedroza and 3B Joe Terry, the team will have a chance to see new leaders emerge at the plate and defensively. Their pitching staff is littered with miniscule ERA’s and is the main reason they’re 12-8. The Titans were 9-9 to start last season only to just barely miss going to Omaha, but this team has only shown flashes of what Serrano calls “Titan Baseball” and needs to gel in a hurry to defend their Big West crown. Along with Fullerton, there’s another team with an elite pitching staff that is carrying the ballclub, but not getting much help offensively.
The UCLA Bruins head to the USC campus in major need of a victory for pitcher Gerrit Cole. The potential #1 pick is 1-2 on the year in five starts with 40 K’s over 32.1 innings pitched, but isn’t being helped by a .243 team batting average. The Bruins are 9-7 and looking to avenge a Dodgertown Classic loss to the Trojans, who have been swept three of the last four weekends. The Bruins are still looking for an answer at shortstop as Pat Valaika and Adrian Williams haven’t accounted for one extra base hit all season, but beating a rival can always turn a season around.
The Washington State Cougars were riding high at the end of a four game win streak against Dallas Baptist and Utah Valley, amassing a 9-4 record before being destroyed by Fresno State this past weekend. Only two of the Cougars nine wins are against a possible postseason squad with victories over Bakersfield in the opening weekend, so this weekend is going to define quite a bit for Washington State. The Cougars have one rough schedule ahead of them, as the next five Pac-10 weekends they face at Cal, Stanford, UCLA, at Arizona State, and at Oregon State. Its possible that the Cougs won’t pick up a series win in any of those series, so their most valuable player in this stretch could be Bret DeRooy, who will most likely be their midweek starter for games against Gonzaga. Marbut’s squad is going to need Chad Arnold to return to form in a hurry after giving up five earned in 2 IP last weekend in Fresno in his return from a chip on his elbow. While the young Cougars are surrendering a .304 batting average against, they’re missing offensive production out of guys who were thought to be the foundation of this year’s squad in West Coast League MVP Tommy Richards. They have the talent to win a few series, and play best when counted out, but the Cougars are in definite danger of being left out come tournament time.
UCONN continues to struggle as they enter the weekend with a 8-9-1 record. They lost two out of three games in the College of Charleston tournament then came home this week where they recorded a 16 inning tie against Patriot League foe Holy Cross. The biggest issue for the Huskies has been the offense which is averaging only 4.8 runs this season which is greatly inflated with a couple of runaway victories. The pitching staff hasn’t been very good either as Matt Barnes (3-2, 1.24 ERA) has been the most consistent while Elliot Glynn (0-4, 3.72 ERA) who was expected to be number 1 guy has struggled. They will need to turn these trends around this weekend against Pitt where we will be this weekend with a full report for you next week on the action.
Kansas State (12-7 , 0-3) and Baylor (14-7, 1-2) face off this weekend in Waco as both are clinging to their postseason hopes. Kansas State was swept by Texas last weekend, but have the reigning Big XII Player of the Year on their side as the Wildcats try and get back on track as their pitching staff has done well, giving up only a .217 batting average against this season, but need to produce better at the plate. They’ll have to do so Friday against Logan Verrett (3-1, 3.03 ERA, 36K’s), who has parlayed a strong Cape Cod League into a good start to the season and is looking to pick up his first Big XII win. The winner of this series will gain momentum in the rest of the Big XII season, and the loser will have a lot of ground to make up.