Feb. 18, 2013

CBI Big West Preview


Lorenzen, Thurman Display Big Talent in the Big West

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


Michael Lorenzen (right) was an 8-year-old playing Little League baseball when he caught the eye of coaches for a travel ball team in Southern California. Soon after joining the Orange County Bandits, he befriended a pitcher named Andrew Thurman.


Thurman, remembers Lorenzen, would warm up by throwing with his dad, a pitching coach, from longer distances than the plate 46 feet away. When he took the mound, Thurman often would be up in the zone for a couple innings until he adjusted.


“He was one of my really good friends on that team,” Lorenzen said.


Lorenzen had a strong arm of his own. Very strong, recalls Thurman.   


“Growing up, he was always a great player,” Thurman (left) said. “He always stood out.”


These days, Lorenzen and Thurman not only are two of the best players in the Big West Conference, but also rank among the best in college baseball. Lorenzen, a junior center fielder and pitcher at Cal State Fullerton, and Thurman, a junior pitcher at UC Irvine, each are part of the CollegeBaseballInsider.com/Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American first team and expected to be highly sought after come Major League Draft time.   


“He’s the best centerfielder in the country in my opinion, the full package, there’s nobody better,” Titans coach Rick Vanderhook said about Lorenzen.


Anteaters coach Mike Gillespie believes Thurman already is good but can get even better if his command gets a little better: “If it is, he could be a special college pitcher.”




Thurman was nothing short of special last season, going 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA and four complete games, and nothing short of spectacular one week last season. In the span of six days, Thurman took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in a 4-1 win over Lorenzen and Cal State Fullerton then tossed a no-no against Long Beach State.


Gillespie, who has won 963 games in 25 years as a Division I coach, can’t recall seeing such a performance in his career.


“I don’t think so…I never really thought about that,” Gillespie said. “We had lots of headliners. [Mark] Prior was unbelievably consistent week after week after week. I don’t believe I’ve seen that before.”


Lorenzen’s not surprised by the success of his childhood buddy, calling him a workhorse. It took 24 outs before his Fullerton teammates could muster a single up the middle off Thurman.


“He’s just a good pitcher,” Lorenzen said. “He hits his spots consistently. He has a really good change – he knows how to throw it and when to throw it.”


Thurman remembers silencing the Titans and Dirtbags by locating his pitches well, mixing up and down. And using his defense.


That philosophy sums up his success.


“I focus on being a pitcher instead of a thrower and hitting my spots and working down,” Thurman said. “If they hit it, they hit it. If they don’t, they don’t.”


Thurman was just 2-2 when he faced Fullerton after getting roughed up by Cal Poly in early April. He went 6-1 the rest of the way, the loss coming in to UC Davis the last weekend of the year.


“It definitely gave me confidence that I can pitch with anybody out there,” he said of the Fullerton-Long Beach starts.


Thurman mixes his devastating change with a fastball, curve and a newly added cut fastball. Although his fastball, which he said has gained velocity since last year, runs into the low 90s, Thurman’s been known more as a pitch-to-contact pitcher than power pitcher. He emulates Nolan Ryan, not necessarily the power pitcher, but his mentality and attitude.


Vanderhook has known the right-hander since he was 15 years old. Thurman, he said, always has had the ability to throw strikes.


“His command is off the charts,” said Vanderhook, adding that if you put Thurman in the SEC, you’d see the same results.


That’s one of the many things Gillespie liked about Thurman when he was at Orange Lutheran High School. According to Gillespie, Thurman was consistently throwing strikes and wasn’t going to require a lot of changes once he stepped on campus.


“It was pretty clear he was ready to pitch as a freshman,” Gillespie said.


He went 4-3 with a 3.82 ERA with 23 appearances and eight starts as a freshman. His season culminated in the Super Regionals, when he came on after a rain delay and stymied Virginia long enough for the Anteaters to make a comeback to force what would be an epic Game 3.




When he was in high school, Lorenzen repeatedly was told center field might not be in the cards.


“A lot of guys said I wasn’t fast enough,” he said.


Lorenzen recalls being about 6-3, 175 and running a 6.8 or 6.9. A few short years later, he’s 6-3, 205 and running a 6.5. Couple that with a rocket for an arm – reaching the mid-90s when he comes on to close games as a pitcher – and tremendous power, and the two-time Team USA performer is expected to go early in this year’s draft.


“He’s a great two-way player,” Thurman said. “He’s definitely one of the best two-way players in the country.”


Added Vanderhook: “He’s got five tools out there. From foul pole to foul pole he can hit the ball out of the park – those are hard guys to find.”


Vanderhook compares him to former Titan, first-round pick and major leaguer Dante Powell in running the ball down. He likens him to former Titan Clark Hardman with his accuracy from center field. He later settles on former Texas star and current Cleveland Indians outfielder Drew Stubbs. 


Gillespie called Lorenzen a professional centerfielder who can “really, really, really throw.” He likens him to Los Angeles Dodgers star Matt Kemp on defense.


“It’s not a stretch to say these kinds of things,” Gillespie said.


And what about Lorenzen the pitcher?


“We’ve never had a guy like that on the mound,” Vanderhook said, adding that former UCLA pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer – former players of his – threw hard, but that he hasn’t had a lot of guys “who throw hard like he does.


“There’s only a handful of guys who do everything in center field,” Vanderhook said. “If all else fails, he can become Trevor Hoffman, which isn’t a bad career in itself.”


The scary part is that Lorenzen is about as carefree on the mound as can be. He said he simply gets up there and throws – fully understanding it’s easier to do that when you possess a fastball that can touch 96. He added that he doesn’t feel any pressure, and somehow he’s able to hit spots.


“The less they have to use me, the better,” said Lorenzen, believing that if he’s not on the mound to close, the Titans have a win in hand.


He also says that because he loves manning center field.


Lorenzen cherishes batting practice, not for hitting, but for chasing down fly balls. He said he works “to be on time” on his jumps and reads on every pitch he can during BP. He remembers being a freshman and almost getting too tired before games when he was chasing the shots hit by his teammates. He tells teammates that BP is one of the best times of his day.


“I feel like a little kid out there shagging flies,” Lorenzen said. “It’s kind of like surfing, just waiting for that perfect fly ball.”


Only Lorenzen doesn’t surf anymore. Sports have gotten a little more serious, he said.


Lorenzen, who hit .297 with two homers, 43 RBI and 14 stolen bases and was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 16 saves, was drafted out of Fullerton High School in the 7th round by Tampa Bay in 2010. He chose to become a Titan.


“My faith is the main reason,” he said, adding that his family had a signing bonus in mind but that it was God’s will for him to go to college to mature and grow spiritually. 


Faith has played a big role for Lorenzen. In high school, Lorenzen admits he was hanging with the wrong crowd and that he couldn’t wait to be a troublemaker.


He gave his life to Christ during his junior year in high school.  




On May 17, dozens of Major League scouts likely will be in Fullerton to see Andrew Thurman face off against Michael Lorenzen and the Titans in a game shown nationally on ESPNU.


Thurman, who’s studying political science and history and shoots in the upper 70s or low 80s on the golf course, will be the one pounding the zone, working efficiently and quietly piling up outs. Armed with confidence from last season as well as a successful summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League, he’s only getting better.


Lorenzen, a kinesiology major who’s as happy at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting as on the field, will be the one racing down an aspiring double to the gap, firing a laser to the plate and showcasing seemingly unlimited power. Believing he finally feels like he properly knows how to swing a bat, he’s only getting better.


A friendship and mutual admiration that started when they were eight playing on the Bandits will be put on hold, at least for a few at-bats that night.


When it’s over, maybe they’ll reminisce about that team.


“We didn’t win very many games,” Lorenzen said with a laugh. “We weren’t the best team, but we battled.”


Or maybe they’ll just talk about the future. And the possibility of playing together again someday.


(Lorenzen photos by Matt Brown/mattbrownphoto.com, Thurman photos courtesy of UC Irvine Athletics)