Thu Oct 29 06:10pm EDT
All is right in the world of Cal State Fullerton baseball.
In Dave Serrano's first season as coach two years ago, the Titans stormed through regional play before falling just short against Stanford in the Fullerton Super Regional.
Last season, though, the Titans returned to their rightful place in the College World Series after making easy work of teams in regional play and Louisville in super regional action.
The Titans entered the CWS as one of the favorites to win the national title, but fell well short and were eliminated after just two games. Fullerton now hopes to take another step forward and notch its fifth national title in '10.
Accomplishing that goal is a distinct possibility.
The Titans welcome back all three weekend starting pitchers and a plethora of key relievers. They also welcome back enough offense to hit well over .300 in the spring.
It's time to dissect Serrano's Titans.
Cal State Fullerton's five keys
1. Learn from last year's CWS appearance -- The Titans put together a great campaign last season, but each time they were pushed to the limit they seemed to crumble. Fullerton played exceptionally well down the stretch and had little trouble in regional and super regional action. But come time for the CWS, the Titans were confronted by a motivated Arkansas team and a red-hot Virginia team. That spelled trouble for a team that didn't exactly handle much pressure too well throughout the spring. Fullerton learned a very valuable lesson in Omaha last season. This team will enter the spring with more motivation and an excellent attitude and approach.
2. Weekend rotation needs to meet expectations -- The Titans had a fantastic weekend rotation last season and they welcome back all three starters -- Daniel Renken, Noe Ramirez and Tyler Pill. There's no reason for this group of arms to take a step back. If anything, they're expected to take another step forward. Renken had a fantastic junior campaign last season. He started 17 games and compiled a 2.69 ERA in 123 2/3 innings. He also struck out 103 and walked 35 and held opposing teams to a .206 clip. Ramirez, meanwhile, earned Freshman All-America honors after going 9-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 110 2/3 innings. He also struck out 100 and walked 24 and held opposing teams to a .227 batting average. Pill started 16 games and had a 4.06 ERA in 102 innings. He struck out 74 and walked 13 and held opposing teams to a .247 batting average. This will be a fun trio to watch in the spring.
3. Sort out the bullpen roles -- The Titans have an issue that over 240 Division I baseball teams wish they had -- they have too many talented arms in the bullpen with only a few roles to fill. The Titans welcome back relievers Kyle Mertins, Nick Ramirez, Ryan Ackland and Kevin Rath for starters. Mertins had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings last season and Ramirez had a 2.61 ERA with seven saves in 41 1/3 innings. Ackland and Rath had ERA's of 3.41 and 5.02, respectively. Also look for the Titans to heavily involve newcomers Ray Hernandez, David Hurlbut, Colin O'Connell and Dylan Floro in their bullpen plans. All four newcomers have left a lasting impression on the coaches this fall. This bullpen should have little trouble compiling great numbers in '10.
4. Replace the power of Jared Clark and Khris Davis -- Most would say the Titans will have an incredibly difficult time replacing Clark and Davis. After all, Clark blasted 17 doubles, 12 homers and 82 RBIs last season. Davis, meanwhile, hit .328 with 25 doubles, 16 homers and 58 RBIs. Serrano, though, has high hopes for junior Corey Jones and redshirt freshman Carlos Lopez in addition to Nick Ramirez. Jones and Lopez each missed last season with injuries and are having exceptional falls in the power department. Ramirez, meanwhile, has trimmed down a bit and also is having a great fall. He batted .287 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs last season. The Titans are in business if Jones, Lopez and Ramirez rise to the occasion. If not, other hitters will have to fit the bill in the power department.
5. Meet expectations at the plate -- Even with some uncertainty at the plate when it comes to power production, the Titans still should have a productive offense with the return of Joey Siddons, Christian Colon and Gary Brown. Siddons was a surprise last season and batted .371 with 23 RBIs, Colon will be back in the spring after sitting out this fall because of an injury, and batted .357 with eight homers and 40 RBIs last season. Brown, meanwhile, is an exceptional athlete that batted .340 with 17 doubles, seven triples, three homers and 40 RBIs. He also was 23-of-31 in stolen bases. The Titans finished last season with a .329 batting average. There's no reason they can't get close or equal that mark in the spring.