CSF reliever Koby Gauna, Credit: Jeff Poirier
With the Super Regional between UCLA and Cal State Fullerton set to get underway in less than three hours, it’s as good a time as any to take a long look at the competition.
The Bruins will be going up against a Titans team that simply demolished the opposition all season en route to an impeccable 51-8 record. If you know anything about baseball, you know that a squad’s success all starts with solid pitching—something that CSF has in excess.
By now, everyone has heard about freshman phenom Justin Garza, but he’s only one piece of an absolutely stacked pitching staff. The rest of the weekend starters and the bullpen have had just as big a hand in the Titans’ resurgence as Garza, yet they all seem to slip the national eye.
In order to get you fully informed of who UCLA will battle this weekend, here’s a complete preview of the Fullerton pitching staff. If the Bruins are going to break through and get back to the College World Series, they’ll have to find a way to connect versus this talented cast of hurlers.
RHP Grahamm Wiest (9-3)—A sophomore from Orange, Wiest has locked down the Friday night duties for Cal State Fullerton all season. In 16 appearances, he has a 9-3 record that includes a complete game three-hitter over Columbia in the Fullerton Regional. Wiest has recorded 76 strikeouts in 104.2 innings pitched, which has opponents batting just .236 against him. His ERA of 3.27 is a little higher than his starting counterparts, but it was still good enough to earn him an honorable mention from the Big West in 2013. UCLA will need to get to Wiest early if the Bruins have any chance of taking this series. He is the “weakest” of the weekend starters, though weak is not an accurate description of Wiest’s game.
RHP Justin Garza (12-0)—The aforementioned freshman phenom is undefeated through 16 starts, posting an ERA of 1.92 and averaging 7.42 strikeouts per game. Garza has only allowed 16 extra base hits all season, as well as 16 walks, and that’s with 108 innings of work under his belt. It’s no wonder that he was named the Big West Pitcher of the Year, a Freshman All-American and a semifinalist for the College Baseball Hall of Fame POY. There’s no indication that Garza will regress in the Super Regional, so the Bruins will be hard-pressed to muster a win on Saturday.
RHP Thomas Eshelman (12-2)—If Garza wasn’t enough, another freshman sensation has been sealing the deal on Sundays for the Titans this year. Eshelman is 12-2 in 15 starts with an ERA of 1.59, and his one no decision ended up as a win for CSF anyway. The 6’3″ righty has given up just two walks in 107.2 innings pitched, and has thrown only three wild pitches all year. That kind of control is unheard of in a first-year starter, which makes Eshelman such a valuable asset. He also earned Freshman All-American honors, and was named Collegiate Baseball Freshman Pitcher of the Year over Garza. Factor in his 78 strikeouts and .205 opponent batting average, and clearly getting to Eshelman will be no easy task for UCLA.
LHP Tyler Peitzmeier—If the Bruins can get to the CSF bullpen, one of the first faces they will probably see is Tyler Peitzmeier. UCLA saw Peitzmeier and the rest of the relievers listed in two losses earlier this season, so this weekend could have a little revenge factor too. In 27 relief appearances, the sophomore southpaw has a record of 3-0 and an ERA of 0.59. Peitzmeier has tossed a total of 30.2 innings, in which he has allowed only two earned runs. He earned Big West honorable mention for his performance, and will look to build on it this weekend in the Supers.
RHP Koby Gauna—Gauna has made 22 appearances, six of which were starts for the Titans. He has an overall record of 4-1 with an ERA of 2.60. Gauna also recorded two saves this year, while averaging 5.37 strikeouts per game. He did give up 49 hits in 55.1 innings of work, so there is room for improvement there, but he was still named a Big West honorable mention. If UCLA can get Gauna on the mound, the Bruins will have to take advantage and tack a few runs on the board.
INF/RHP J.D. Davis—Usually when a fielder has to take the mound, it means trouble for his team. But in the case of the next two CSF relievers, it’s quite the opposite. Davis is an infielder batting .327 with 49 RBIs on the year, but he is also a key set-up man for the Titans. In 15 pitching appearances, Davis has an ERA of 2.14 with 16 strikeouts in 21 innings of work. He was named Big West Conference First Team, mostly for his success in the field and at the plate, but his contributions from the bump can’t be overlooked.
OF/RHP Michael Lorenzen—Rounding out the notable staff members is CSF closer Michael Lorenzen. The junior outfielder is the Titans’ go-to guy in the ninth inning, as he has 19 saves and three wins in 22 appearances. For those of you who don’t like math, that means that Lorenzen never blew a save or suffered a loss all season. His ERA of 1.99 through 22.2 innings pitched is impressive, but the fact that he has only given up two extra base hits is just mind boggling. In addition to First Team All-American and Big West First Team honors, Lorenzen was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and a finalist for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year award. Much like UCLA’s own David Berg, once Lorenzen takes the rubber it’s essentially game over for the opposition.