Few programs boast the tradition of Cal State Fullerton.
That's exactly why Fullerton coach Dave Serrano still gets motivated when the words Omaha and last season are mentioned in passing.
Serrano and the Titans entered last season with high expectations. They took care of business much of the season, compiling a fantastic 21-3 Big West record and earning an NCAA regional host. They took care of business in regional play but fell short against UCLA in super regional action.
The Titans haven't forgotten that series loss and enter fall workouts with extra motivation.
This will be a fun team to watch come together.
The Titans have some legitimate holes to fill at the plate with the departures of Christian Colon, Corey Jones and Gary Brown, but welcome back four solid hitters in Nick Ramirez, Tyler Pill, Richie Pedroza and Carlos Lopez. The rest of the lineup must take shape and rise to the occasion when spring arrives.
Fortunately, the Titans will have some leeway at the plate because of their pitching staff.
Fullerton enters fall workouts with a fantastic pitching staff that boasts several potential starting pitchers besides Noe Ramirez and Dylan Floro. The bullpen also is loaded with veteran two-way star Nick Ramirez leading the way.
The Titans are far from flawless, but this team enters fall workouts with limited concerns.
Not every team can say that.
Replace Gary Brown and Christian Colon
To say this will be a tough chore this fall and in the spring is an understatement. The Titans lost Brown and Colon, both first rounders, to the draft this past summer. The Titans have some options in the outfield, but likely will look to sophomore Austin Kingsolver to pick up the slack. Kingsolver has much to prove at the plate after batting .247 in 85 at bats last season, but the Fullerton coaching staff loves his athleticism and believes his speed mimics Brown. Still, his offensive production must improve. Colon will be equally tough to replace. Colon was a big-time leader for the Titans, a great fielder and certainly a great hitter. Now, the Titans look to second-year player Richie Pedroza to provide a lift. Pedroza batted .331 with 22 RBIs last season and is a very slick fielder. He may not be Colon, but he's an adequate replacement.
Get immediate contributions from Terry, Lorenzen
The Titans have some holes to fill at the plate between now and February. That means some newcomers must rise to the occasion beginning this fall. Joe Terry and Michael Lorezen are two of those guys. Terry was an eighth rounder in the draft this past summer and chose to go to college. Though team workouts haven't started at Fullerton, the Titans coaching staff already are ecstatic with what he brings to the table. Terry is an explosive hitter that could leadoff the lineup or sit in the middle of the order. The big question with Terry is where does he fit position wise? Some believe he'll play second, but there's a good chance he'll make third his home this fall. As for Lorenzen, the talented outfielder is better known for his defense than offensive attributes, but will have a chance to show off his skills this fall. The Titans have a pair of talented newcomers with these two, but finding comfortable roles is the goal.
Answer obvious questions at the plate
We know the Titans will have an excellent pitching staff in the spring, but what about the offense? It's an area that has plenty question marks entering fall workouts with the departures of Colon, Brown, Corey Jones and Billy Marcoe. The Titans finished last season with a .337 batting average and could have a tough time emulating those numbers. Much of the offense's success hinges on the bats of Carlos Lopez, Tyler Pill, Nick Ramirez and Richie Pedroza. Lopez batted .354 with seven homers and 51 RBIs last season, Pill batted .354 with seven homers and 42 RBIs, Ramirez batted .346 with 16 homers and 75 RBIs and Pedroza hit .331. With the pitching staff they'll possess, the Titans are in business if the offense gets close to meeting expectations.
Figure out the catcher position
The Titans had a solid backstop last season in senior Billy Marcoe. Now they will rely on newcomers to adequately replace him. The Titans have their sights set on junior college transfers Dimitri DeLaFuente and Nick O'Loughlin. DeLaFuente has solid arm strength and brings a good bat to the plate. O'Loughlin, meanwhile, is a solid catch and throw guy that could earn the starting role by proving himself at the plate. Fullerton certainly has talent at the catcher position, but the newcomers must make quick transitions to big-time college baseball.
Meet expectations on the mound
The Titans lost veteran starting pitcher Daniel Renken to the MLB draft, but you likely won't notice when spring arrives. Fullerton is loaded on the mound with the return of several arms. The Titans have quite a fight on their hands for weekend starting spots with Noe Ramirez leading the way. Dylan Floro likely will earn another spot this fall, while there's a chance Pill could move to face a tough midweek schedule if he doesn't win the Friday role, leaving an open spot for someone else such as Colin O'Connell or Jake Floethe. Other solid arms to watch this fall and in the spring include Nick Ramirez, David Hurlbut, Ray Hernandez, Ryan Ackland and newcomers Christian Coronado, Chris Devenski and Graham Wiest. This will be a fun unit to watch come together as 2011 approaches.