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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / LON EUBANKS

Garrido Is Keeping His Eye on the Calendar, Not the Rankings

March 22, 1995|LON EUBANKS

The Cal State Fullerton baseball team is approaching the season's midpoint ranked No. 1 in the nation and off to its best start with a 24-3 record.

But Coach Augie Garrido is trying to keep it all in perspective.

"I'd rather be No. 1 in June," he said. And that could happen if the Titans continue playing the way they have been.

There are 28 games to go in the regular season, and then the first Big West postseason tournament. That's still a long way to go before the NCAA playoffs begin. But all the pieces appear to be falling into place.

The hitting has jarred opponents all season. The Titans are batting .342, and have averaged eight runs a game to only three for the opposition. All but two of the regulars or platoon players are hitting over .300, with sophomore center fielder Mark Kotsay at .463. Kotsay also leads in home runs with eight on a team that already has hit 30.

"The offense has continued to improve," Garrido said. "Each hitter in the lineup is getting better . . . but we still feel we have room for some more consistency."

Kotsay started the season in the leadoff spot, but went on such a hitting tear that Garrido shifted him to the No. 3 position. "He was hitting too often with not enough people on base at leadoff," Garrido said. "Since we moved him, he's tripled his RBI production."

Two other Titan outfielders are hitting well. Freshman C.J. Ankrum is at .390 and senior Tony Miranda is at .379. Two other outfielders, Robert Matos and Jeremy Giambi, are both over .300, which provides considerable depth and flexibility.

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Garrido also is pleased with their defense.

"As a group, I think they've given us the best outfield play I've been involved with in my entire coaching career," Garrido said. "They play together well. They hit the relay man well, and they're disciplined and have really good concentration."

The Titans also have gotten a big lift from sophomore catcher Brian Loyd, who is hitting .369 and has been strong defensively.

"We had no way of predicting that Brian would emerge this year as one of the most consistent defensive catchers in the country," Garrido said. "We had a fine catcher last year in Bret Hemphill, but Brian has really kept us strong there."

The pitching, where the Titans figured to be most uncertain, has turned out to be solid.

Junior Ted Silva (8-0) has made an easy adjustment from reliever to starter. "He's been our most consistent pitcher and done what we thought he could do," said George Horton, associate head coach who handles the pitching. "He's not going to make any mistakes, and he keeps the ball low, and that makes him tough to beat."

Senior transfer Tim Dixon (6-0) and junior Jon Ward (4-2) have become the Nos. 2 and 3 starters.

"Both of them have been outstanding at times this season, but they've both been bothered by some occasional lapses," Horton said.

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One of Ward's problems has been an inability to bounce back from those lapses. "But this year he's been doing that in the same inning, and in some instances against the same batter," Horton said. "A couple of times on Monday, he got behind 3-0 on batters and came back to get two strikes and then a ground ball for the out. That's a good sign."

Ward has been helped by adding a slider, Horton said. "He threw it about 15 times Monday and it worked well," Horton said. "He has a good fastball, and it makes it that much more effective."

Horton also is pleased by Dixon's development. "He has three quality pitches and if he can get his slider going, he's really going to be tough in the second half of the season," he said.

Dixon leads the team with a 2.36 earned-run average.

Horton likes how the pitching staff reacted to speculation that the team wouldn't be as strong there as a year ago.

"I liked the fact that they took it personally," Horton said. "It shows you a lot about where they were mentally. And outside of the first series against Stanford, when they pitched too carefully, they've done well."

Titan Notes

The Titan softball team is ranked fifth in the nation going into the PONY-Louisville Slugger tournament, which runs tonight through Sunday at the Titan Softball Complex. Fullerton opens against Georgia State at 7 p.m. tonight. . . . The Fullerton women's gymnastics team will go for its third consecutive Big West championship in the conference meet Saturday at UC Santa Barbara. The Titans had a school record 192.675 performance in their victories over Missouri and New Hampshire last weekend. Alexis Lott had her career best effort in winning the all-around with a 38.65 score. . . . The women's tennis team won two of three matches in the Titan Invitational last weekend to boost its season record to 6-6. Jennifer Canfield and Christa Hanson have the team's best individual records in singles at 8-4. The team's No. 1 singles player Kara Kolb is 4-7 for the year.

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