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January 17, 2008

Top 25 Countdown: No. 16 CS Fullerton

Head coach: Dave Serrano
Last season: 38-25, 10-11 in Big West
Postseason: After putting together a less than stellar regular season campaign (by Titan standards), Fullerton earned a bid to the San Diego Regional. They won the Regional and defeated UCLA in Super Regional action to advance to the College World Series.
2008 breakdown: Probable starters | Overview | Offense | Starting pitching | Bullpen | Outlook

Overview

Cal State Fullerton didn't have to look far for its new coach.

After George Horton left for Oregon, the Titans looked to former assistant Dave Serrano to fill the void. Serrano accepted and the Titans are once again in great shape.

The Titans have some questions to answer at the plate, but are hoping newcomers Gary Brown and Christian Colon rise to the occasion. They're also looking forward to having veteran first baseman Jared Clark back in the lineup.

CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS
Senior right-hander Jeff Kaplan headlines the Fullerton pitching staff this spring.

Probable Starting Lineup
C Dustin Garneau
1B Jared Clark
2B Joe Scott
SS Christian Colon
3B Joel Weeks
OF Josh Fellhauer
OF Gary Brown
OF Khris Davis/Chris Jones
DH Erik Komatsu
SP Jeff Kaplan
SP Adam Jorgenson
SP Cory Arbiso/Michael Morrison

With Fullerton looking for more offensive production, the pitching staff must also take care of business.

The Titans welcome back veterans Jeff Kaplan and Adam Jorgenson, among others. They also have high hopes for Cory Arbiso, Michael Morrison and Brad Barragar.

Barring a huge surprise, the Titans should have another opportunity to return to the College World Series.

Offense

After hitting .277 as a team last season, Fullerton enters the spring with something to prove.

The Titans are led at the plate by outfielder Josh Fellhauer. The sophomore finished last season with a .304 batting average, three homers and 28 RBIs.

Fullerton is also counting on increased production from Joel Weeks and Joe Scott. Weeks batted .297 last season, while Scott hit .246 with 24 RBIs.

With Scott possibly missing the first 4-6 weeks of the season with an injury, the Titans might also look to sophomore Corey Jones for offensive assistance.

Jones batted .238 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 2007.

Newcomers Christian Colon, Gary Brown and Erik Komatsu are also expected to be consistent contributors.

The silver lining could be the return of first baseman Jared Clark. The junior missed last season with an injury, but batted .277 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 2006.

Starting pitching

Experience is one of the most important qualities a weekend rotation can possess. Fortunately for coach Dave Serrano, Fullerton has plenty of it.

Though replacing tough right-hander Wes Roemer could be hard, the Titans welcome back a pair of veteran pitchers seniors Jeff Kaplan and Adam Jorgenson.

Kaplan went 11-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 122 2/3 innings of work last season. He also struck out 83 and walked 43, while opponents hit him at a .253 clip.

Jorgenson started just three games last season, but made 23 total appearances. He ended the year with a 4.29 ERA in 63 innings of work. Teams hit him at a .263 clip.

The Sunday starter will likely be sophomore Michael Morrison or junior Cory Arbiso. Morrison had a tough freshman campaign, while Arbiso hopes to stay healthy this spring.

The Titans might also look to senior right-hander Brad Barragar as a potential weekend starter. Barragar has battled injuries, but should be healthy by March.

According to Serrano, Barragar throws 92-94 and has a sharp breaking ball. He also believes the veteran has a chance to be a special player and a weekend starter.

Bullpen

With the Fullerton pitching staff looking for more stability, it's good they have a plethora of talented arms.

Like most teams, the Titans enter the spring hoping to have a dominant closer. They might have their guy in Loyola Marymount transfer Brian Wilson.

Wilson finished last season with a 4-7 record and a 5.71 ERA in 82 innings of work. He also struck out 45 batters.

Though Wilson leads the charge, Serrano said the Titans might approach the closer's role by committee.

Fullerton is also excited about Travis Kelly, Daniel Renken, Jason Dovel, Paul Canedo.

Kelly had just 7 1/3 innings of work last season, but the coaching staff believes he could be an efficient middle reliever. Canedo, a senior, is hoping to assume a more important role.

Renken and Dovel are two talented freshmen to watch.

After coming on strong during fall workouts, the talented duo have put pressure on the returnees. Renken had a 1.95 ERA in 61 innings of work as a high school senior. Meanwhile, Dovel was named his high school league's Most Valuable Pitcher.

Jared Clark is another potential reliever. The position starter displayed interest to pitch to the coaches. Though he hasn't pitched in a few years, Serrano said he had a tremendous arm.

Outlook with postseason forecast
The Titans always have a gritty and contagious attitude, and that won't change with new coach Dave Serrano now in charge. Though some were disappointed with George Horton's departure to Oregon, Serrano is anything but a downgrade. Perhaps the hottest coach at the end of last season, Serrano inherits a talented Titan team. Veteran pitcher Jeff Kaplan spearheads a talented, though inexperienced, pitching staff. Meanwhile, the offense is in good shape with Josh Fellhauer, Jared Clark and others leading the way. The Fullerton weekend rotation needs more clarity, but will improve with time. The offense will also increase production with the returnees a year older and wiser. Even in the tough Big West, the Titans are the favorite to win the league title. Of course, that also means they're expected to get to Omaha.

Shoes to Fill

The Titans don't have many holes to fill, but their losses are significant.

Fullerton enters 2008 without ace pitcher Wes Roemer, catcher John Curtis and outfielders Nick Mahin and Clark Hardman.

Roemer spent three seasons in a Titan uniform and was one of the nation's best pitchers. As a junior last season, he went 11-7 with a 3.19 ERA in 144 innings of work. He also struck out 150 and walked 22, while opponents hit him at a .261 clip.

Curtis and Hardman were key leaders and contributors throughout their careers, while Mahin finished last season with a .294 batting average, 10 homers and 48 RBIs.

Curtis batted .286 with six homers and 45 RBIs in his final season, while Hardman led the team with a .380 batting average.

Replacing Roemer, Curtis, Mahin and Hardman will be tough, but the Titans have the talent to prevail.

Must Step Up

With the Titans aiming for Omaha, several players must rise to the occasion on the mound and at the plate.

The list includes pitchers Cory Arbiso and Michael Morrison, and position players Joe Scott and Khris Davis.

Arbiso battled some arm discomfort last season and allowed four runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work. Morrison had a less than stellar freshman campaign with a 6.08 ERA in 37 innings of work.

In the field, Scott must continue where he left off at the end of last season while Davis simply needs to increase his production.

Scott finished last season with a .246 batting average, but hit .322 over the final 30 games. Davis batted .256 with 15 RBIs. He also had a .288 slugging percentage and a .376 on-base percentage.

Impact Newcomer

The Titans are expected to rely heavily on several newcomers, but outfielder Gary Brown and shortstop Christian Colon highlight the talented list of additions.

Brown, a freshman, was one of the top players in California as a high school senior. He batted .612 with four homers in his final season at Diamond Bar HS.

The Fullerton coaching staff is excited about Brown. Serrano strongly believes he will be one of the more exciting players to watch the next three seasons. Additionally, Serrano described Brown as lightning quick, fast and incredibly special.

Colon is another decorated newcomer.

The talented freshman hit .435 in his senior season at Canyon HS in Corona, Calif. Though his bat is fine, the Titans are most excited about Colon's glove.

According to Serrano, Colon is very flashy with his glove and has great instincts. Additionally, the Titans believe the infielder is beyond his years. He reminds the Fullerton coaching staff of Chicago White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.

Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 25. Coming tomorrow: No. 15.