Brandon Duckworth, expected to be back as one of Cal State Fullerton's top starting pitchers next season, has decided to pass up his senior year and has informed Titan Coach George Horton that he will sign a pro contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He put up some good numbers as a relief pitcher this summer in the Cape Cod League, and the Phils went after him," Titan pitching coach Dave Serrano said.
Duckworth was one of three weekend starters last season for the Titans, who finished 39-24-1. Fullerton won the Big West Conference tournament but was eliminated after three games in the NCAA West Regional at Stanford. Duckworth had an 8-1 record with a 4.93 earned-run average but was not chosen in the June draft.
The Titans will rebuild their pitching staff around Benny Flores and Erasmo Ramirez, who transferred from Cal State Northridge after posting a combined 43 victories over the past two seasons. They decided to transfer when Northridge was passed over for an NCAA tournament bid last season as an independent and budget problems put the program in jeopardy. Since then, the Matador program was restored for at least one more season.
Flores was 11-3 with a 3.09 ERA, and Ramirez was 11-5 with a 4.98 ERA last season.
"Brandon's decision certainly puts even more value on those two senior transfers," Horton said. "But it also will provide a greater opportunity for some of our younger pitchers too."
Scott Hild, a starter as a sophomore in 1996 and early last season before running into problems, is expected to be a top contender for the No. 3 starting spot, along with sophomore Michael Garner.
The Titans have signed two community college pitchers, Marco Hanlon of Cuesta College and Greg Jacobs of Cypress College. Jacobs also plays the outfield.
"We also feel we have some quality freshmen coming in," Serrano said. That group includes George Carralejo of Kennedy High, Jon Smith of Perris and Jason Westemeir of Mission Hills.
The Titans lost two of their top high school recruits earlier to the pros. Outfielder Brett Caradonna of San Diego El Capitan, chosen 34th in the supplemental round, signed with the Chicago White Sox, and third baseman Ryan Lehr of San Diego Grossmont signed with the Atlanta Braves.
The Titans recently added two catchers, Chad Baum and David Trentine, to their roster. Baum played at Rancho Santiago and Canyon High, and Trentine played two seasons at Cypress College and a year at San Diego State.