June 22, 2007
Fullerton, Calif. - The hard, cold numbers show that the 2007 Cal State Fullerton baseball season did not measure up to the lofty standards of the Titan program. The winning percentage of .603 (38-25) was the lowest since 1989, when the Titans were 30-27 (.526) and the 2007 Titans matched that team's conference record (10-11) and standing (fifth place). The Titans were out of the national rankings much of the season and the team staggered down the stretch, losing its last four conference series and 11 of the final 17 regular season games.
But given a new opportunity with an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament thanks to an impressive strength of schedule, the Titans displayed grit and heart equal to any of the numerous championship teams which previously wore the uniform. The 2007 Titans became the 15th squad to represent CSF at the College World Series in Omaha, an accomplishment missed by several more physically talented rosters.
The remarkable accomplishments of a storied past and a surprisingly strong start to the season combined to raise expectations in 2007 to unreasonable levels for a team that was hit hard by graduation, the professional draft and the injury bug.
A season-opening 3-game sweep of Stanford and series wins over nationally ranked Rice, Arizona, UCLA and Long Beach State (non-conference) masked some of the shortcomings. A rebuilt infield struggled for cohesion as first shortstop Joe Scott (knuckle), then third baseman Evan McArthur (hamate) followed by second baseman Joel Weeks (ankle) and finally first baseman Jake Vasquez (wrist) suffered fractures that sidelined them for varying periods. Considering that the Titans already had lost letterman Jared Clark (knee injury) and all-CWS selection David Cooper (transfer to Cal) in the Fall, a relatively inexperienced roster was further stretched. In the final innings of the season, the Titans had a catcher (Matt Wallach) at first base and reserve freshmen at second and third in Cory Jones and Billy Pinkerton to team with Scott at short.
Freshman Sean Urena provided an early spark as the No. 3 starter, beating Arizona and UCLA and throwing a one-hitter against Rice. But he slumped immediately and no one else stepped up with consistency. Returning All-American Wes Roemer couldn't match his phenomenal sophomore pitching numbers but the Titans got off to a good start in the Big West thanks to the schedule, which pitted them against the bottom two teams in the standings after a 1-2 effort against UC Irvine.
UC Riverside proved a stumbling block once again as the Titans were swept by the surprising Highlanders, who would do likewise to Long Beach State and win the conference championship. Rare series losses to UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly SLO dropped the Titans down in the standings and put them on the bubble to make the 64-team NCAA field.
Winning 2-of-3 games at nationally ranked Wichita State proved a godsend, particularly when the Titans won only the opening game of the final series with Long Beach State. They were seeded No. 2 at the San Diego Regional, where the host Toreros were No. 1 as well as the No. 8 national seed.
Good fortune and good baseball collided at Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State. Looking at the NCAA Tourney as a new season, the Titans took advantage of a neutral field, an 0-2 performance by the host school and a vocal fan following. They jumped out to 6-1 leads in each game and cruised to wins over Minnesota (7-1) and Fresno State twice (6-4 and 13-2) to win the Regional. And with No. 2-seed UCLA upsetting host and No. 1 seed Long Beach State at the Blair Field Regional, the Titans found themselves hosting a Super Regional. They made short work of the Bruins as Wes Roemer avenged an early season loss to Tyson Brummett for a 12-2 win and Jeff Kaplan, Adam Jorgenson and Bryan Harris further stifled UCLA in a 2-1 victory that sent the Titans to Omaha for the sixth time in the Super Regional Era, the most visits for any school in its 9 seasons.
The bats which cooled in the second game against UCLA never warmed in Omaha. The Titans wasted a strong effort by Roemer in a 3-2 loss to Oregon State and they got only two hits in the final seven innings of a memorable 13-inning, 5-4 loss to UC Irvine. At 5:40, it was the longest game in CWS history and created an emotional and controversial ending. Coach George Horton was ejected in the bottom of the 13th after arguing that UCI's leadoff hitter purposely got hit by a pitch. That runner was thrown out at home by left fielder Josh Fellhauer but the next UCI hitter delivered a game-winning single. UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano and Horton shared a long embrace after the game, which both had long envisioned but eventually lamented because the loser was going home.
Individual honors were few. Hardman was the only first-team All-Big West selection after a tremendous year that saw him collect 44 more hits than the runnerup. He earned second-team All-American honors from ABCA. Roemer broke Adam Johnson's career strikeout record by one and earned second-team All-Big West honors and third-team NCBWA All-American honors. He was the 50th player selected in the major league draft, going to Arizona in the supplemental round between the first and second rounds. Nine other Titans were selected. Pitcher Jeff Kaplan joined Roemer on the BWC second unit and catcher John Curtis was honorable mention. Hardman was the MVP of the Regional and was joined on the all-regional team by Roemer and Fellhauer. Harris was the team's top scholar and earned All-Big West academic honors.