Following its 11-6 blowout loss to the University of San Diego Tuesday, No. 8 Cal State Fullerton baseball will refocus its attention on conference play as it heads to San Luis Obispo to take on Cal Poly in a three-game series.
The Titans are coming off their worst loss of the season, giving up the second most runs of 2017 and losing by the largest margin of defeat.
“We sucked. When you strike out 15 times, you’re not going to win very many ball games. But like I told the guys, you’re not going to win every game, we knew that. We need to get better in a lot of areas,” said Titan Head Coach Rick Vanderhook.
Fullerton recorded just five hits on the evening while San Diego racked up 15 hits and 10 RBIs. Two of the Titans’ key offensive weapons struggled mightily at the plate. Scott Hurst and Taylor Bryant, who rank first and second on the team in at-bats and are Fullerton’s more consistent hitters, both went 0-5 at the plate with three strikeouts.
Bryant’s production has especially dipped over the course of the season. After playing just nine games last season due to a concussion that sidelined him for six months, Bryant started off the 2017 campaign with a bang, leading the Big West with a .458 batting average and a .536 on-base percentage. He also tallied eight RBIs in seven games played in the month of February.
The high-octane offense of Bryant has diminished with each passing month. In March, he fell to a .271 average and a .403 on-base percentage. Once again, his play has dipped in the month of April, hitting .226.
On the other hand, Hurst has improved as the season moves into conference play. Hurst started off the season in February with .267 batting average and a .313 on-base percentage. Each month, he has improved in both categories and even after Tuesday night’s struggles, Hurst is posting a .349 batting average with a .420 on-base percentage.
Bryant, Hurst and the rest of the Titan offense hope they can lift their game in time for the series against Cal Poly where they’ll take on the Big West ERA leader in right-handed Spencer Howard, who boasts a 1.59 ERA. Fullerton’s John Gavin is second in the conference with a 2.22 ERA.
Erich Uelman, Howard and Bobby Ay are the projected starters in that order. Uelman and Howard rank fourth and fifth in the Big West in strikeouts with 53 and 52, respectively.
Fullerton will have some reinforcements to help take on the pitching of the Mustangs as shortstop Timmy Richards will return after missing the last three games with a sore groin. Right-fielder Ruben Cardenas will also be back on the diamond after missing the last two games with a lower-back injury that he reaggravated during the USC series.
The projected starters for CSUF are Connor Seabold, Gavin Velasquez (who is still filling in for the injured Colton Eastman) and Gavin, who is the typical Sunday starter. Seabold is second in the Big West with 63 strikeouts.
The Titan pitching staff will have a tough test as two of the Mustangs’ batters rank in the top five in the Big West in batting average.
First pitch of the three-game series is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Baggett Stadium.