Three Big West Teams Ranked In Baseball Polls
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12 BB Release-Week 3
Three Big West baseball programs – Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine – are ranked among the national top 25 this week as the trio sports a combined record of 14-7.
AROUND THE BIG WEST
Titans Preseason Favorite
Cal State Fullerton was selected as the favorite to capture the 2012 Big West Conference title according to the 2012 Big West Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll after receiving six of the nine first-place votes and totaling 76 points. Picking up three first-place votes was UC Irvine, who was selected second with 70 points. Rounding out the top three after collecting 58 points were the 49ers of Long Beach State.
Last season CSF claimed its 25th Big West Conference championship after posting a 19-5 mark. Entering his first season as head coach of the Titans, Rick Vanderhook guides a team that welcomes back 16 letterwinners, six of which are starting position players. Unfortunately the Titans lost all their starting pitchers in the offseason so they will rely on a young and inexperienced pitching squad.
UC Irvine is coming off a season where it posted a fourth 40-plus win season (43-18) in five years, finished second in the Big West with a 16-8 mark and advanced to the Super Regionals after earning an at-large berth into its sixth-straight NCAA Tournament. Head coach Mike Gillespie returns three All-Big West honorees, including American Baseball Coaches Association Gold Glove catcher, Ronnie Shaeffer.
Third-place pick Long Beach State might be showcasing the most veteran Big West team this season as the 49ers welcome back 24 letterwinners, which includes seven starting position players and two starting pitchers from last year’s team. Long Beach State boasted a 29-27 overall mark after playing one of the strongest schedules in the country.
Earning the fourth spot is Cal Poly, who finished last season in third place with a 15-9 record. This year head coach Larry Lee leads a team that is highlighted by five starting position players and four starting pitchers.
UC Riverside secured the fifth spot with 44 total points, followed by UC Santa Barbara in the sixth slot with 37 points. Pacific garnered 37 points to lock down the seventh spot, while UC Davis and Cal State Northridge were picked eighth and ninth, earning 23 and 18 points, respectively.
Cal Poly Off To Great Start
Cal Poly swept Loyola Marymount in a four-game series last week to improve to 7-1, marking the program’s best start in three years. The Mustangs have caught the attention of the pollsters as they entered the Collegiate Baseball rankings at No. 22 this week. It is the first time in three years that Cal Poly has been in the national polls. Cal Poly is excelling in all aspects of the game with No. 1 Big West rankings in team average (.304) and earned run average (2.38) while placing second in fielding percentage (.976). Cal Poly has held five of its first eight opponents to three runs or less. The team continues a nine-game roadtrip this week at the Aztec Invitational. Cal Poly faces host San Diego State, San Diego, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and San Francisco during the four-day event.
Pitching Making Presence Felt
It may only be two weeks into the baseball season, but pitching staffs around the Big West are putting up solid numbers. Four teams boast team ERA’s below 3.00. Cal Poly leads all conference staffs at 2.38 with Long Beach State right behind at 2.53. UC Irvine ranks third with a 2.57 ERA while UC Santa Barbara, under new head coach Andrew Checketts, sports a 2.77 ERA through seven games.
Long Beach State Battles More Ranked Foes
Long Beach State is known for playing one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country, and this year has proven to be no different. The 49ers took two out of three games from No. 20 Cal last week to improve to close out their season-opening homestand 4-3. LBSU is set to play four more games against top 25 competition this week. On Tuesday, the team travels to No. 17 UCLA before embarking for a three-game set at No. 12 Oregon. Five of LBSU’s seven games have been decided by one run.
Three Big West programs are nationally ranked this week in one poll or another. Cal State Fullerton is unanimously ranked in all four major polls after notching a combined 3-3 record against No. 1 Florida and No. 11 TCU through the first two weeks of play. The Titans are ranked as high as No. 15 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and USA Today/ESPN polls. They also have residence in the Collegiate Baseball (No. 17) and Baseball America (No. 20) polls, respectively. Cal Poly broke into the national rankings at No. 22 in Collegiate Baseball and is receiving votes in the USA Today/ESPN rankings. Despite a struggling offense and 4-3 record, UC Irvine is clinging to a spot in the polls, sitting at No. 30 in the NCBWA. Notwithstanding an eight-run outburst in an 8-7 win over Washington on Saturday, the Anteaters have combined to score just 20 runs in their other six contests for an average of 3.3 per game.
Aggies Impressive Early On
UC Davis won its second consecutive series to open the 2012 season, nabbing two of three games on the road against Cal State Bakersfield last weekend. The Aggies took three out of four against Utah the opening week of the season. At 5-2, UCD is off to its best start since the 2008 team began 6-3. A big test awaits on Tuesday in No. 1 Stanford before Creighton visits Dobbins Stadium for a three-game set over the weekend. The Aggies outlasted Cal State Bakersfield in Friday’s series opener, winning in 16 innings by a score of 10-6. It was the second extra inning victory for the team under the watch of first year head coach Matt Vaughn.
Tournaments On Tap
The Big West is involved in a pair of tournaments this week as both Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge are participating in the Aztec Invitational. UC Irvine makes the furthest trip of any conference school with frequent flier miles to Waco, Tex. and the Baylor Invitational. The Anteaters suit up for two games apiece against Lamar and the host No. 21-ranked Bears. For UCI, it is the second time that the team has traveled to the state of Texas for a tournament. The ‘Eaters opened the season with three games in the MLB Urban Invitational at Minute Maid Park in Houston. They went 3-0 in that tournament.
The Boob Tube
Two Big West contests have been selected by ESPNU as part of its 2012 college baseball coverage. The showdown between defending championship Cal State Fullerton and 2009 Big West Champion UC Irvine is slated to air on Sunday, April 15 at 2:00 p.m. at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark. The Anteaters make their second appearance on ESPNU the following month when they host UC Santa Barbara on May 6 at 2:00 p.m.