After shuffling their lineup throughout the season due to injury (15 batters started in 14 games or more), the Fullerton Titans are primed for a postseason run and attempt to make it to their 6th College World Series in the last decade. The Titans have sent out a ton of inexperienced players this season, yet finished the year with a 40-15 record and won the Big West yet again at a 19-5 clip. Even though he had a down year power wise this year, Nick Ramirez turned it on in Big West play to finish the year with 9 HR and a .285 batting average.
Though it’s not the team from last year that was an out away from Omaha, Fullerton always has the talent to make it there. On the mound, Tyler Pill is slated to start Game 1 against an Illinois team that has reeled off 8 straight victories, and will need his usually inept gameday offense to shine for him (Pill is 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 14 starts). Noe Ramirez will likely get the ball in game 2 (29-5 in his three year career), and from experience watching him will not stand for his last game as a Titan to be in Regional play. The Titans are loaded on the pitching staff with Jake Floethe (member of the 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs championship team), Dylan Floro, and Colin O’Connell (threw a complete game in last year’s regional against Minnesota), and are seemingly built for postseason play.
If the Titans have the #1 pitching staff in this regional, then the Cardinal have #1a. Their top starter Mark Appel is a deceiving 5-6 with a 3.02 ERA and threw a no-no in a NECBL start this past summer, and could be a possible matchup with Noe Ramirez in Game 2 if they can get by a veteran Kansas State squad in game 1. Chris Reed is the guy to watch out of the bullpen this weekend as he’s the workhorse of the relief staff, going 6-2 with 8 saves as he upped his draft status tremendously by keeping Stanford in close games this year as their offense sputtered at times. Their offense was led this season by 3B Stephen Piscotty (.362 average), and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Brian Ragira, not to mention an always dangerous SS in Kenny Diekroeger. The Cardinal were faced with one of the toughest schedules in the country (at Rice, Vandy and Texas the first three weekends of the year), and are a very similar team to the Titans and a little more dangerous at the plate.
While Kansas State’s rotation doesn’t wow you by any means, the bullpen duo of Evan Marshall (1.71 ERA in 29 appearances) and Jason Allen (18 saves) could be the difference in some close games this weekend. Couple that with 2010 Big XII Player of the Year Nick Martini (.326, 24 steals) and Jason King (.333, 10 HR, 57 RBI), and K-State could make a run. They went 7-3 to finish out the year, including a sweep of rival Kansas and two wins against Oklahoma in the Big XII tournament, so they this team isn’t going to sneak up on anyone.
The Illini didn’t start off as a team that looked like it was going to do much in the Big Ten, going 11-15 out of conference, but once they came home to play some games in Champaign, they were rather lights out, going 11-5 at home and riding an 8 game winning streak through the conference tournament to finish the year at 26-24. With three other battle tested programs in their regional, the Illini really can go out there and play with nothing to lose. Justin Parr and Pete Cappetta lead the offense while CF Willie Argo stole 25 bags this year. On the mound, the Illini only got 13 wins out of their weekend starters this year, winning half of their games out of the pen. Though they’ve made a great run, the Illini are a little overmatched in this regional, though anything’s possible.
2. Cal-State Fullerton
4. Kansas State