FULLERTON, Calif.– No. 3 Cal State Fullerton will host the University of San Francisco for the first time ever at Goodwin Field this weekend.
CATCH ALL THE ACTION: Audio for all three games of opening weekend will be streamed for free on fullertontitans.com, and live stats will also be offered. A live video stream will also be available for free on fullertontitans.com.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow @BaseballTitans for daily updates during the 2014 season.
ABOUT USF: Friday's game will be the first meeting between Cal State Fullerton and San Francisco in the Titans 39-year history playing NCAA Division I baseball. The University of San Francisco was founded in 1855 and has an enrollment of 10,000 students. They are a part of the West Coast Conference and their mascot is the Dons. Some notable alumni include former NBA player Bill Cartwright, basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, and five-time MLB all star, 1951 American League Rookie of the Year and World Series champion Gil McDougald.
In 2012, Kyle Zimmer became the highest draft pick ever from the University of San Francisco when he was selected fifth overall by the Kansas City Royals.
Head coach Nino Giarrantano, a graduate of William Jewell College, has been at the helm of the Dons' baseball program since 1999 (15 seasons) and compiled a record of 432-425-1 at USF. He has coached 22 seasons overall and compiled a 742-606-1 record in that stretch.
USF NOTES: The Dons were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference by a vote of the conference head coaches. They received two first-place votes and 66 points overall, two behind No. 2 Pepperdine and eight points behind San Diego, who received six first-place votes. They have three players who were named to the Preseason All-WCC Team, including Friday night starter Abe Bobb and position players Bradley Zimmer, OF, and Zach Turner, IF.
The Dons come into this weekend's series having split their first four games of the season, although three of them came on the road. They dropped two of three at UC Riverside and were outscored 21-13 in the series. But they bounced back on Tuesday when they scored a walk-off victory against Kansas State in their home opener. The Dons trailed 6-4 in the final frame but collected five hits in the inning to plate three runs, capped off by outfielder Derek Atkinson's RBI single to center to score Nico Giarratano.
VERSUS THE WEST COAST CONFERENCE: The Titans hold a 292-99-3 record against teams currently in the West Coast Conference. All-time, the Titans have a winning record against the nine teams in the WCC they have played against. Their most victories have come against former Big West Conference resident Pacific (83) while the fewest wins have come against Santa Clara (4).
Last season, the Titans played six games against teams currently in the WCC. They went 5-1 in those games, although three of those wins came against Pacific, who were in the BWC at the time. They beat Pepperdine twice on the road and their only loss came at San Diego, a 7-3 decision.
GET ON THE BOARD FIRST: The Titans are 1-0 when scoring in the first inning and both of their wins this season have come when the Titans have scored first. The Dons come into the series having been outscored 6-1 in the first inning and are 1-2 when allowing their opponents to get on the scoreboard first, with their lone victory coming at home against Kansas State.
HIT PARADE: In their opening series against Washington State, the Titans hammered out 41 combined hits, reaching double digits in all three games including 17 base knocks on opening night. They managed just four hits Tuesday at USC but are still out hitting opponents 45-36 on the young season. The Titans are 2-0 when out hitting their opponents while both losses have come when they have been out hit by the other side.
The Dons come into the game boasting a similar hitting attack, having notched 44 base hits on the season but Dons' pitchers have allowed opponents to smack 46 hits. They have out hit their opponents in the last three games, but are 1-2 on those occasions. They were out hit 16-5 in their season-opener, a 10-2 loss at UC Riverside.
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET: The Titans are currently hitting .327 (17-for-52) with two outs while their opponents are managing just a .244 batting average (11-for-45).
TIMELY HITTING, STINGY PITCHING: Cal State Fullerton is currently hitting .346 with runners in scoring position, led by sophomore Tanner Pinkston and freshman Timmy Richards who each have a .500 batting average with RISP. They are also hitting .563 with a runner on third and less than two outs through four games this season. Titans pitchers have held opponents to a .286 batting average with runners on second or third.
'GO UP THERE AND STEP INTO ONE!': Life at the plate was a bit painful for the Titans through four games as six batters have been hit by a pitch a total of eight times. Freshman Tyler Stieb and junior Austin Diemer have the dubious honor of leading the team with two HBP's apiece.
THE .400 CLUB: Three Titans are currently hitting .400 or better after four games this season. Sophomore first baseman Tanner Pinkston is at the top of the list with a .500 batting average, collecting seven hits in 14 at-bats this season. He is joined at the top by Clay Williamson and Jared Deacon, both of whom are also batting .500 on the young season. Right fielder J.D. Davis is currently batting an even .400 with six hits in 15 at-bats with four of those hits going for extra bases.
FANNING THE FLAMES: The Cal State Fullerton starting pitching staff has some filthy stuff through four games. Each starter recorded at least five strikeouts on opening weekend, led by Eshelman's eight on opening night which tied a career high. Junior Grahamm Wiest fanned seven in the Sunday finale and Koby Gauna also set a new career-high when he struck out eight Cougars in 4.2 innings of relief on Saturday.
CAN I HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?: The Titans will be holding an autograph session approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of Sunday's finale against San Francisco.
TITANS SUPPORTING CAST: The Cal State Fullerton faithful came out in force on opening weekend to support their Titans as 7,309 fans came out to Goodwin Field to watch the Titans take the opening series from Washington State.
Sunday's series finale drew the most fans with 2,799 Titans fans making the trek to Goodwin Field. On the weekend, the Titans averaged 2,436 fans per game, ranking them No. 20 in the nation on opening weekend. The 7,309 total fans ranked 19th in the country.
WATCH LIST: Matt Chapman, J.D. Davis, Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza were each named to the 2014 preseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List announced by USA Baseball on Friday as the organization marked its first step toward identifying the top amateur baseball player in the country.
Cal State Fullerton's four representatives are tied with reigning PAC-12 champions Oregon State for the most nominations for any school. They also make up half of the Big West Conference's eight representatives on the list.
After a stellar freshman campaign on the mound in 2013, Eshelman makes his first appearance on the initial Golden Spikes Watch List but he is no stranger to the award as he was named to the Golden Spikes mid season watch list and was a semifinalist for the award last season. Eshelman earned seven All-American nods and three freshman pitcher of the year awards in 2013.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander set a new NCAA record in 2013 with a 0.23 walks-per-nine innings mark. He also set a new Titans record with a 27.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio after fanning 83 batters while issuing just three free passes. His 115.2 innings pitched and 1.48 ERA also set new Titans freshman records while his ERA also ranks second in Cal State Fullerton all-time single-season history. In 2014, Eshelman has already piled up the accolades as he's received preseason All-American First Team selections from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Collegiate Baseball.
As for Garza, he earns his first appearance on the Golden Spikes Watch List after an outstanding rookie season of his own. The Ontario, Calif. native also earned seven All-American nods in 2013 and was named the Big West Conference's Pitcher of the Year. Garza finished 2013 with a perfect 12-0 record, tying the Fullerton record for most wins by a freshman and becoming just the fourth Titans pitcher to record at least 12 wins without a defeat, the first since Matt Sorenson in 1999. Garza finished the year with a 2.03 ERA and struck out a team-high 95 batters. In the preseason, Garza has received first team selections to the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball All-America teams and a third-team selection in Baseball America's Preseason All-American team.
Junior infielder Matt Chapman had a stellar sophomore year for the Titans, earning a 2013 Big West Second All-Conference Team selection after hitting .285 with five home runs and putting up a .457 slugging percentage. During the summer, Chapman became the 21st Titan to play for the U.S.A. Collegiate National Team. He was named a preseason Second-Team All-American by Baseball America, which also tabbed him the No. 14 junior in the nation and top prospect from the BWC for the 2014 MLB Draft.
J.D. Davis rounds out the list of Titans on the 2014 Golden Spikes Watch List. In 2013, Davis earned a Big West First Team All-Conference selection after hitting .318 with 11 doubles and 50 RBIs. He launched four home runs and slugged .436 to go along with a .407 on-base percentage. On the mound, Davis was a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities and whiffed 17 batters in 23 innings pitched. He finished the season 1-2 with a 2.74 ERA. During the preseason, Davis was named a Second-Team All-American by Baseball America, which also pegged him as the No. 20 junior in the nation and the No. 3 prospect from the BWC for the 2014 MLB Draft.
PICKED TO WIN IT: Cal State Fullerton was picked as the favorite to win the 2014 Big West title as selected by the nine conference head coaches that voted in the Big West Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll, it was released by the league on Jan. 30.
The Titans were voted to defend their Big West title as the program garnered eight of the nine available first-place votes.
Fullerton, winner of the past four league titles, captured the 2013 league crown with a 23-4 mark, one game ahead of Cal Poly. Fullerton has won 11 conference championships in the Super Regional era (dating back to 1999; 15 years), sharing the titles with Nevada in 2000 and Long Beach State in 2008.
TITANS AND THE BIG WEST:
Overall, Cal State Fullerton has totaled 27 conference championships dating back to 1975, including 11 in the last 15 years. With last season's title, the Titans made their 35th postseason appearance as well.
Cal State Fullerton has posted a dominant 695-239-1 (.743) overall conference record over 39 seasons. Rick Vanderhook, the school's fifth Div. I head coach, has won two straight Big West crowns since 2012, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Augie Garrido (14 conference championships), Larry Cochell (1), George Horton (7) and Dave Serrano (3).
A further breakdown has the Titans winning three PCAA conference championships (1975-76, 1987), eight straight SCBA titles (1977-84) and 16 while playing under the Big West name (1990-91, 94-95, 1997, 1999-2001, 2004-06, 2008, 2010-13). The Big West absorbed the PCAA records in 1990 upon its formation, giving the Titans 19 total Big West championships and a 522-193 (.730; 31 years) PCAA/Big West Conference record.
BUILDING ON EXCELLENCE: Sophomore Thomas Eshelman enters his sophomore year after an outstanding freshman campaign which earned him seven All-American nods and three freshman pitcher of the year awards. Eshelman's rookie season was one of the best in Fullerton history as he set a new Titans single-season record with a 27.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio after striking out 86 while issuing just three walks in 115.2 innings pitched. His 0.23 walks per nine innings set a new NCAA record and he also He also set Fullerton freshman records in innings pitched and ERA with a 1.48 mark, which ranks second in Cal State Fullerton all-time single season history.
TITANS PRESEASON HONORS: The Titans will enter the 2014 season with a boatload of accolades on their belt. Cal State Fullerton was selected as the No. 1 team in the nation by three preseason polls (USA Today Coaches, Collegiate Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) to go along with a No. 2 rank in the Perfect Game Preseason Top 25 poll and a No. 4 selection in Baseball America's preseason poll.
Along with the team accolades, several Titans received preseason All-American honors. Thomas Eshelman received preseason All-American First Team selections from the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball.
Justin Garza was selected to the first team on the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American teams and a third-team selection in Baseball America's Preseason All-American team.
Matt Chapman and J.D. Davis were each named Second-Team Preseason All-Americans by Baseball America.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: In 2014, the Titans will play five opponents that advanced to the 2013 Division I Baseball tournament (Oregon, San Francisco, San Diego, Wichita State, UCLA). Of those opponents, UCLA advanced to the Super Regionals where they defeated the Titans on their way to the College World Series championship…CSF will play three opponents that finished 2013 ranked in Baseball America's Top-25 (No. 1 UCLA, No. 17 Oregon, No. 23 San Diego)…four of Fullerton's opponents were ranked in the top-50 of the NCAA's final top-50 2013 RPI ratings (No. 9 UCLA, No. 11 Oregon, No. 28 Cal Poly, No. 39 San Diego ).
The Dons have a difficult schedule of their own to contend with in 2014 as they will play 13 games against Top 40 opponents according to Collegiate Baseball's preseason Top 40 rankings. They play five games against top-10 teams, including the Titans, and will also play 19 other games against teams receiving votes.
CONTINUED EXCELLENCE: The Titans have won 30-plus games in each of its 39 seasons at the Div. I level and are tied for third in the nation when it comes to most consecutive 30-win campaigns. The only Titan team to win as few as 30 games was the 1989 squad skippered by Larry Cochell. The Titans have never had a losing season at the Div. I level. Fullerton comes in tied for third with Clemson and behind Arizona State and Miami. Pepperdine, which was ranked No. 5, saw its 32-year streak ended in 2010.
Consecutive 30+ win seasons (active)
1. Arizona State 51
2. Miami, Fla. 43
3. Cal State Fullerton 39
THE ROOKIES: Cal State Fullerton's 2014 class was ranked the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation, according to Baseball America's annual evaluation.
Under third-year head coach Rick Vanderhook and recruiting coordinator Mike Kirby, the Titans have welcomed 11 freshmen to Goodwin Field. Fullerton's 2014 class was the only one ranked amongst Big West Conference opponents and one of only three programs from California ranked in the top-25 along with No. 22 Loyola Marymount and No. 24 USC. Collegiate Baseball ranked Fullerton's 2014 recruiting class at No. 7.
From Baseball America's top-25 breakdown, two of Fullerton's 2014 opponents also had ranked recruiting classes; No. 7 Oregon (Feb. 28-Mar. 2) and No. 24 USC (Feb. 18, May 20).
DRAFT DODGERS: Seven Titans on the current roster have been selected previously in the MLB First-Year Players draft. Phil Bickford was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays while Timmy Richards was taken in the 40th round by the Miami Marlins.
TITANS IN THE DRAFT (by round):
Phil Bickford 2013 1st round Toronto Blue Jays
J.D. Davis 2011 5th round Tampa Bay Rays
Austin Diemer 2011 26th round Cleveland Indians
Justin Garza 2012 26th round Cleveland Indians
Jake Jefferies 2012 34th round Washington Nationals
Timmy Richards 2013 40th round Miami Marlins
David Olmedo-Barrera 2012 40th round Oakland Athletics
TOP 50 FRESHMAN: Phil Bickford was ranked as the top freshman by Baseball America in the publication's evaluation of the top 50 freshmen in college baseball released in early February. In addition, Bickford was named the top prospect in the Big West Conference for the 2016 MLB Draft by Perfect Game, who predicted he would be selected in the first or second round.
TOP 100 FRESHMAN: Phil Bickford was also ranked as the top freshman in the country in Perfect Game's evaluation of the top 100 freshman in the country.
TOP 50 SOPHOMORES: Ontario, Calif. native Justin Garza was ranked No. 12 by Baseball America in the publication's evaluation of the top 50 sophomores in college baseball. Garza, the 2013 Big West Pitcher of the Year, was also picked as the No. 1 prospect in the Big West Conference for the 2015 MLB Draft. Thomas Eshelman, the 2013 Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year, was considered the third-best prospect in the Big West Conference for the 2015 draft.
TOP 100 SOPHOMORES: Justin Garza and Thomas Eshelman were also ranked in Perfect Game's evaluation of the top 100 sophomores in the country. Garza came in at No. 17 while Eshelman was ranked at No. 30. In addition, Perfect Game ranked Garza and Eshelman as the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects respectively from the Big West Conference for the 2015 MLB Draft.
TOP 50 JUNIORS: Matt Chapman was ranked No. 14 by Baseball America in the publication's evaluation of the top 50 juniors in college baseball while J.D. Davis was ranked No 20. Chapman, a 2013 Big West All Second Team selection, was also selected as the No. 1 prospect from the Big West Conference for the 2014 MLB Draft. Davis, a 2013 Big West First Team Selection, was ranked as the No. 3 prospect from the Big West Conference for the 2014 MLB Draft.
TOP 100 JUNIORS: Matt Chapman and J.D. Davis were also ranked in the top 40 of Perfect Game's evaluation of the top 100 juniors in college baseball. Chapman was ranked No. 16 while Davis placed No. 40. Furthermore, Perfect Game ranked Chapman as the top prospect from the Big West Conference for the 2014 MLB Draft and predicted he would be drafted in the first or second round. Davis was ranked as the fourth best prospect from the Big West Conference for the 2014 MLB Draft and was predicted to be taken in the second or third round.
TITANS IN THE BIG LEAGUES: The Titans have had 53 former players ascend to the major leagues since their first products, Dan Whitmer and Tim Wallach, got there in 1980. Khris Davis became the 53rd player in 2013 when he made his MLB debut on April 1st in a pinch-hitting appearance for the Milwaukee Brewers. Davis would go on to play in 56 games and make 30 starts in left field. He hit .279 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in 136 at-bats. He posted 10 doubles and a .949 OPS. Davis was one of eight former Titans (Kurt Suzuki, Justin Turner, Ricky Romero, Vinnie Pestano, Brett Pill, Reed Johnson, Mark Kotsay) to play a MLB game in 2013. Davis is currently listed at the top of the Brewers depth chart in left field for the 2014 season. In his three seasons (2007-09) as a Titan, Davis played in 150 games, starting in 122 of them, an hit .296 with 20 home runs and 92 RBIs. He also stole 32 bases in 36 attempts.