Pitching, poise and defense key to Cal State Fullerton

Cal State Fullerton Titans
Record: 48-13
How They Got Here: Won Fullerton Super Regional in two games; won Fullerton Regional in three games
CWS History: 14 trips to Omaha, last in 2004; four championships, last in 2004
Coach: George Horton (450-185-1, 10th season)

Scouting the Titans: "Fullerton is really good.

"When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, you're talking about the best college middle infield in the country with Davis and Turner; they're like coaches on the field. The outfield will lead the galaxy in diving catches; they'll make more diving catches than the rest of the teams playing in the CWS.

"Their pitching surprised some people; they pitched beyond expectations. Roemer is real special. He's your typical low three-quarters pitcher. If he gets in a jam and tries to pitch around a guy, he takes the bury-it-in-his-ribs-and-get-the-next-guy approach.

"Roemer uses both sides of the plate. Gagnier has grown by leaps and bounds. He's turned into a real good player. Closer Vinnie Pestano being out can hurt them because the bullpen is very vulnerable; you're not sure if you can depend on Ryan Paul. They will ride their starters. You want to get the starters out and get into the secondary pitching, but the fact is that nobody's done that, and nobody will do that.

"Of all the teams we saw, they are the most advanced at all things. They sacrifice, slash, late-show drag, and if you're not used to that, you're dead. Fullerton makes you make errors. They fake bunt and steal. You play them and they beat you, you think you're the worst coach in America. They make you feel that way.

"It's the typical Fullerton offense. They don't have the power -- not even really doubles power -- most of their doubles come from hustle doubles, not boom into the gap.

"They hit .300 as a team, but if there's a runner on second with less than two outs, they get him over. Good left-handed pitching can give them trouble. You have to get the first guy of each inning out, pitch ahead, get count leverage. If you can beat them 2-1, 4-3, that's what you do. You want them to try to bang. If they have a plan and bunt and get locked in, it's over. It's a well-oiled team. They touch the ball and create offensive opportunities. They're clutch; they cash in and don't get tight with second and third and one out."

Omaha Outlook: Pitching, defense and poise often are the difference, and no team outflanks Fullerton in those categories. Its 2.57 ERA leads the nation, its .977 fielding percentage ranks among the national top 10, and Turner, Danny Dorn and Brett Pill each played key roles in winning the 2004 CWS. The Titans join three ACC teams in this bracket, and their West Coast approach could catch the trio off guard. Ryan Paul has filled in admirably for injured closer Vinnie Pestano, but he's yet to be tested in a high-pressure situation. That question, and the lack of a solid fourth starter are the only questions following this team to Omaha. Then again, the '04 team won by milking complete games out of its starters and barely using its bullpen.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.