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Race For Title Heats Up In Final Month

5/3/2016

Big West Baseball Release - Week 12

BIG WEST

• Cal State Fullerton swept OC-rival UC Irvine, the Gauchos rebounded this week and took care of business against Hawai’i and Long Beach State downed Cal Poly to sit 1-2-3 in the Big West standings.  Cal Poly and UC Riverside are knotted in fourth with a 7-5 while the Anteaters and ‘Bows are log-jammed in sixth at 7-8.  CSUN (4-11) is eighth with UC Davis (2-10) rounding out the nine-team field.

• UC Irvine has maintained the top offense in the Big West for another week as it sports a .283 batting average. Cal State Fullerton continues to dominate on the mound with a league-best 2.26 ERA, which places the Titans first in the nation.  The Titans are joined by the CSUN Matadors for the top spot on defense with the nation’s 11th-best mark of .979.

• The national baseball publications have started releasing their midseason watch lists and so far five Big West student-athletes have earned various distinctions.

The watch list for the 2016 National Pitcher of the Year Award, presented by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame, includes Long Beach State’s Darren McCaughan and UC Santa Barbara’s Kyle Nelson.  McCaughan can also be found on the USA Baseball Golden Spikes midseason watch list along with UC Irvine’s Keston Hiura.  Sponsored by Major League Baseball and presented in partnership with the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, the 39th Golden Spikes Award is given to the top amateur baseball player.

Nelson, along with CSUN’s Conner O’Neil and Long Beach State’s Chris Rivera, earned spots on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Midseason watch list.

• Cal State Fullerton has been tabbed the team to beat in 2016, according to the nine conference coaches that voted on the Big West baseball preseason poll.   The Titans earned four first-place votes en route to a total of 71 points while UC Irvine, who received one first-place vote, holds the second spot with 65 points. LBSU secured the third slot after earning three first-place votes for a total of 62 points and UCSB picked up the final first-place vote and tallied 60 points to finish fourth.

With 44 total points, CSUN clinched the fifth spot and Cal Poly, who captured its first-ever title in 2014, landed sixth with 43 points.  Hawai’i ranked seventh with 27 points and was followed by UC Riverside (17) and UC Davis (16).

• Last fall Collegiate Baseball announced its annual evaluation of the NCAA Division I recruiting classes and Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara landed on the elite list.  The Titans secured the 24th spot while the Gauchos grabbed the 36th slot. 

• A selection of Big West baseball games will be carried on ESPN3 this season with all games originating from Southern California member institutions Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Riverside.

Through the Big West’s new mobile production facility, each game will be produced by the Conference utilizing full ESPN production standards, including graphics, replay and on-air crew. It is the first fully operational mobile production unit of its kind that expands upon what ESPN Emerging Technology has already done at the institutional level.

Every game on ESPN’s platforms is available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, on Apple TV and Roku to fans who receive video subscription from an affiliated provider.


CAL POLY
Road Woes: After winning six-in-a-row, including a sweep of No. 9 UCSB, Cal Poly struggled last week, dropping four straight road contests.  The Mustangs are now 7-11 away from Baggett Stadium.  This week CP returns home for a midweek contest against Santa Clara before visiting CSUN.

Mustang  Offense: 
John Schuknecht owns 35 RBI to pace the Big West Conference while his teammate, Brett Barbier, is averaging a conference-best .495 on-base percentage while ranking third in batting average at .369.


CAL STATE FULLERTON

Titans Continue Success:
CSF has never lost a road series to the Anteaters dating back to 1976, the first time the teams met in NCAA DI play. Fullerton now holds a 83-27 overall record over UC Irvine.

Up Next: Winners of nine of the last 11 contests, CSF visits San Diego State (5/3) before hosting UC Riverside in a weekend showdown.

Successful Quartet:
The Titans have four pitchers listed in the Big West’s Top 10 in ERA - 2nd Colton Eastman (2.00), 5th Connor Seabold (2.33), 6th John Gavin (2.54), 7th Blake Quinn (2.61).


CSUN

Home Sweet Home:
CSUN kicks off a seven-game homestand this week with a series versus Cal Poly.  Saturday’s contest is slated to air on ESPN3 at 1 pm.  The Matadors are 15-6 when playing in front of their hometown fans.

Going, Going Gone:
Branden Berry paces the Big West Conference with eight home runs.  His .536 slugging percentage places him second in the league.

You’re Out:
Kenny Rosenberg has struck out a league-best 90 batters to rank 10th nationally.


LONG BEACH STATE

Back On Track:
After struggling against UC Riverside, Long Beach State was back to its winning ways last week, sweeping Cal Poly, who had just knocked off No. 9 UCSB the week before.  The Dirtbags look to continue their success this week when they host UCLA  (5/3) and visit Hawai’i.

The Stopper:
Freshman Chris Rivera has earned 13 saves this season to rank third in the country. 

Power At The Plate:
Garrett Hampson has scored 39 runs to tie for first in the Big West. He’s also knotted in fifth with 54 hits.


UC DAVIS

Davis Captures Series Win:
The Aggies earned their first series win of the 2016 season last week with a sweep of NorCal foe Pacific.  UC Davis looks to carry that momentum into this week’s action that features a midweek contest against Sacramento State and then a weekend series versus No.13 UC  Santa Barbara.

On The Mound:
Robert Garcia continues to pace the Aggies’ pitching staff with a 2.28 ERA, good enough for third in the Big West Conference.  He is also limiting his opposition to a  .193 batting average.


UC IRVINE

The Big Goose Egg:
Senior Elliot Surrey hurled his second career complete game shutout to give UC Irvine a 2-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton.  It was the fifth shutout for the ‘Eaters this season, second involving Surrey.

Double Dose:
The ‘Eaters power at the plate continues to shine as two players rank in the league’s top 10.  Keston Hiura sits second with a .375 batting average, while Grant Palmer owns the fourth spot with a .356 clip.


UC RIVERSIDE

Highlanders  Eye Third Consecutive Series Win:
UC Riverside continues to find success as it won its second straight weekend series, downing CSUN 2-to-1.  The Highlanders, who enter the week having won eight of the last 10 games, battle their second ranked opponent in three weeks in No. 17 Cal State Fullerton.  UC Riverside claimed the series against then-ranked No. 17 Long Beach State.

Plate Power:
Vince Fernandez is hitting .344 on the season to rank sixth in the conference, while also owning the same spot in RBI with 31.


UC SANTA BARBARA

Home Sweet Home:
The Gauchos won their 16th straight game at home last week while moving to 20-1 on the year at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, both program all-time bests.  This week they play a midweek home contest before hitting the road for a weekend series against UC Davis.

Back In The ‘W’ Column:
After suffering its first series loss of the season, UCSB rebounded and swept Hawai’i to sit second in the league with an 8-4 mark. 


HAWAI'I

Tough Road Ahead:
This week Hawai’i, 7-8 in Big West play,  is scheduled to battle its second straight ranked opponent in No. 17 Long Beach State.  The Rainbow Warriors, losing eight of the last nine contests, are coming off a sweep by No. 16 UC Santa Barbara.

Sheldon-Collins Leads UH:
Jacob Sheldon-Collins moved to the top spot in the Big West with a .411 batting average. He is currently the only player hitting over .400.  He also owns the top spot in hits with 62.