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A Look Back At The 2016 Baseball Season



Big West Baseball Release - Final


• It came down to the final game of the regular to determine the Big West champion and the conference’s automatic qualifier into the postseason.  Long Beach State hosted Cal State Fullerton for the final regular season series with the league-leading Titans holding a one-game lead over the Dirtbags.  Fullerton won game one to guarantee at least a share of its 21st Big West title.  Long Beach State came back in game two, but the Titans secured sole possession of the title and the AQ after winning game three.  The Titans posted a league-best mark of 17-7 while Long Beach State finished second with a 15-9 record.  UC Santa Barbara finished third at 13-11 and fourth place resulted in a three-way tie between Cal Poly, UC Riverside and Hawai’i at 12-12.  UC Irvine and CSUN were log-jammed in seventh after tallying an 11-13 mark.  Rounding out the nine-team field was UC Davis with a 5-19 record.

• The 2016 Big West Conference Champion, Cal State Fullerton, walked away with three Big West Conference top honors, while Long Beach State nabbed two and Cal Poly grabbed the final accolade.  Dalton Blaser was named Big West Field Player of the Year, while his teammate Colton Eastman earned Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors.  Rick Vanderhook was the final Titan to be selected as he picked up yet another Big West Coach of the Year award.  Long Beach State’s Darren McCaughan received the distinction of Big West Pitcher of the Year, while the Dirtbags’ Garrett Hampson was recognized as the Big West Defensive Player of the Year.  The final honor, Big West Freshman Player of the Year, was handed out to Cal Poly’s Nick Meyer.

• UC Irvine produced the top offense in the Big West, sporting a .282 batting average. Cal State Fullerton dominated on the mound with a nation-best 2.22 ERA. CSUN owned the top spot on defense with a .978 mark.

• Head Coach Troy Percival turned around the UC Riverside Highlanders in just two seasons. In his first year at the helm of the Highlanders baseball program, UCR finished 15-40 overall and 4-20 in Big West play.  A year later, the Highlanders just missed a .500 overall record with a 26-29 mark, while finishing in a three-way tie for fourth in the league with a 12-12 record. It marks the highest conference finish for the Highlanders since they landed the third spot back in 2010 with a 13-11 mark.

• Sixteen Big West Conference athletes were selected on the final day of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Draft, bumping the league’s draftee total to 27.  The 2016 Big West Conference Champions, Cal State Fullerton, led the field with seven selections, which included five pitchers from the No. 1 pitching staff in the country. The Gauchos finished second in the league with five players draft. Long Beach State, who witnessed Dirtbag Garrett Hampson become the first Big West student-athlete selected on day two, concluded the draft with four total draftees.  Cal Poly, CSUN and UC Riverside each had three players drafted while UC Irvine earned two selections.

• The Big West sent three teams to the 64-team NCAA Baseball Championship for the 14th time in conference history.  Big West Champion Cal State Fullerton and at-large selections Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara.  All three teams competed in their respective regionals on the road, marking the first time since 2012 that the Big West did not have at least one team host a regional.

• The Big West posted a 159-113-1 (.584) record versus nonconference opponents during the regular season.  The Big West held an edge over the other west coast conferences (Mountain West, Pac 12, WAC and West Coast), posting an overall record of 102-89 (.534)  among its western opponents. 

• The Big West has sent at least one team to the Super Regionals 13 out of the last 14 years with UC Santa Barbara visiting Louisville for a Super Regional showdown this season.  The 2012 was the lone year where the Big West was not represented at the Super Regionals.

• Since 2000 the Big West Conference has posted a 132-94 (.584) record in the NCAA Tournament, which includes 18 Super Regional appearances, nine College World Series participants and one national champion (Cal State Fullerton, 2004). 

• The Big West has had two baseball National Championships, with both of them claimed by the Cal State Fullerton Titans (1995, 2004).  The other two titles the Titans earned in 1979 and 1984 were when they were competing in the Southern California Baseball Association (SCBA).  In all, the conference has sent five different teams to the College World Series - Cal State Fullerton, former member Fresno State (1988, 1991), Long Beach State, UC Irvine and newcomer UC Santa Barbara this year.

• With UC Santa Barbara advancing to the College World Series this year, the Big West Conference has now sent three different teams to Omaha over the past three seasons.  UC Irvine advanced in 2014, Cal State Fullerton returned to Omaha in 2015 and now UC Santa Barbara is making its debut.

• The Big West has enjoyed a tradition of representation at the College World Series.  In fact, at least one Big West school has reached Omaha 20 times. Fullerton  brought home the Big West’s first national title in 1995 and then brought home a second in 2004.

1975 - Cal State Fullerton
1988 - Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State
1989 - Long Beach State
1990 - Cal State Fullerton
1991 - Long Beach State, Fresno State
1992 - Cal State Fullerton
1993 - Long Beach State
1994 - Cal State Fullerton
1995 - Cal State Fullerton (NCAA champ)
1998 - Long Beach State
1999 - Cal State Fullerton
2001 - Cal State Fullerton
2003 - Cal State Fullerton
2004 - Cal State Fullerton (NCAA champ)
2006 - Cal State Fullerton
2007 - Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine
2009 - Cal State Fullerton
2014 - UC Irvine
2015 - Cal State Fullerton
2016 - UC Santa Barbara

Out With A Bang: Sophomore Kyle Smith closed out the 2016 season with a career-high 10 strikeout performance in Cal Poly’s 2-1 win over UC Davis.

It’s A Wrap: Cal Poly finished in the upper half of the Big West standings (finished fourth this year) for the 16th time in the last 17 seasons, posted a winning mark for the 11th time since 2000 and has won 30 or more games 11 times over the last 17 campaigns.


We Are The Champions: Cal State Fullerton won its final series of the season against LBSU to capture its 21st Big West Conference title with a 17-7 mark, a two-game lead over the second place Dirtbags.  The Titans have won back-to-back conference titles and six of the last seven.

We’re Number One: 
The Titans’ pitching staff showcased the nation’s best ERA with a 2.22 mark.  They are led by John Gavin, who finished second in the Big West with a 2.09 ERA and closely followed by Blake Quinn in third at 2.16.

Keeping The Streak Alive:
The 2016 season marked the 38th year the Titans have competed in the NCAA Regionals - 30th as a Big West member.  It is also the 25th consecutive year Cal State Fullerton has received a postseason berth, marking the third-longest active consecutive streak in the nation behind Miami (44 years) and Florida State (39 years).

Matadors Stumble:
For the second straight year, CSUN tallied 33 overall wins to tie for the most victories since the 2002 season.  The 11 Big West victories is also the second best total for the Matadors since the 2002 season, with 2013 being the highest with 15 wins.

Error Free: The Matadors concluded the 2016 season with a .978 fielding percentage, tying them  for 11th in the country.  Outfielder Justin Toerner is one of six players in the league sporting a perfect 1.000 defensive mark.


King Of The Hill:
  Sophomore Darren McCaughan, who leads the conference and ranks 24th in the nation with a 2.03 ERA, captured his 10th victory of the season in his final regular season outing.  He becomes the first 10-game winner for Long Beach State since Cesar Ramos won 10 games back in 2005.

Against The Best:
Long Beach State finished the 2016 season posting an 8-7 mark against the Top 25, which includes a 2-2 mark in the postseason.

LBSU In The Postseason:
This year marked the 21st postseason trip for Long Beach State and the second in three years after the Dirtbags went to the Gainesville Regional back in 2014. This was the third time LBSU has been sent to a regional in the state of Florida, including a trip to East Tallahassee back in 1993.


Aggie Leaders: 
Senior Tanner Bily sports a team-best 64 hits while sitting second on the squad with 27 RBI.  He also hit .318 on the season.  On the mound, freshman Robert Garcia ends the year with a 2.73 ERA to rank eighth in the league.  In 85.2 innings of work, Garcia struck out a team-high 78 batters, good enough for 10th in the Big West.

End Of Season Slump: 
UC Davis ended the season dropping nine of its final 10 contests for a 17-36 overall record.

‘Eaters Dominate On Offense:
UC Irvine ends the regular season sitting atop the Big West in multiple offensive statistical categories, including batting average (.282), slugging percentage (.376),  and doubles (103).  Individually, sophomore Keston Hiura paces the ‘Eaters and ranks among the top in the Big West - batting average (2nd, .358), slugging percentage (1st, .539), hits (5th, 73) and runs scored (T4th, 41).

Finish On A High Note: 
UCI ended the season claiming its first series win since April.


UC Riverside Finds Win Column:
Winning five of its final seven games, the Highlanders collected their second straight series win to finish the year in fourth place in the Big West with a 12-12 record, marking their best finish since the 2010 season when they ended the year in third place with a 13-11 record.

Leading The Charge: Vince Fernandez concludes the season atop the Big West with 77 hits.  His name is peppered throughout the various statistical categories, including batting average (4th-.350), runs scored (T7th-40) and RBI (5th-41).


Free Base:
UCSB finished 2016 eighth (91 HBP) in the country in hit by pitch and leading the charge was Andrew Calica, who has been plunked 24, second highest in the nation.

On the Mound: 
Shane Bieber paced the Big West and tied for fifth in the nation with 12 victories, a first for a Gaucho since 1983.  He is the third-winningest pitcher in UCSB history. In 134.2 innings pitched, he struck out 109 batters to rank second in the conference.  He concluded the year sporting a 2.74 ERA, ninth in the league.

Postseason Bound: UC Santa Barbara played in a regional for the third time in the last four years.  This marked the first time in program history that UCSB has earned a postseason berth three times in four years.

Record-Setting Season: The Gauchos 6-2 record in the postseason bumped their win total to 43, setting a new school record for wins against Division-I opponents.

Against The Best: 
The Gauchos were 10-7-1 against the Top 25 this season.


Pitching Milestones:
Three ‘Bows relievers hit milestones in their final appearances. Lawrence Chew made his 72nd career appearance and 68th relief outing, tying for most appearances in both categories. Cody Culp made his 31st outing of 2016, making the most appearances since 1987 and tying for third in single-season appearances. Matt Valencia wraps the season with a 1.03 ERA, surpassing Gene Smith (1.05, 1978) for the lowest single-season ERA at UH.

Deja Vu:
Hawai’i posted its second straight 12-12 conference mark to tie for fourth place.