Cal State Fullerton Enters Top 10
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12 BB Release-Week 5
Cal State Fullerton, fresh off its second series victory over a ranked opponent, returns home this week to face Big West rival Long Beach State for three games that will count in the overall but not the conference standings. The Titans are ranked in the top 10 for the first time this season, checking in at No. 8 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.
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.
Titans Handle No. 5 Texas A&M
Cal State Fullerton highlighted last week’s success in the Big West by winning two out of three games at No. 5 Texas A&M, giving the Titans their second series victory over a ranked opponent. CSF took two out of three from then-No. 11 TCU at home two weeks ago. The Titans improved to 10-5 on the year after taking down the Aggies, who lost two of three games in a non-conference weekend home series for the first time since 1995 against Cal State Northridge.
Briner Grinds Up Seattle
UC Davis senior right-hander Tom Briner showed more than just a stiff upper lip against Seattle on Sunday. In the fifth inning against Creighton on Mar. 4, catcher Scott Kalush hit Briner in the jaw with an errant throw to second. Briner received 10 stitches for the injury, and could not eat solid foods for most of the week, but was cleared to play on Sunday morning against the Redhawks. Briner responded with his first career complete game and shutout, scattering five hits, walking none and striking out six in a 3-0 victory. He faced just two batters over the minimum and mowed down the final six batters of the game to finish off a brilliant 110-pitch outing. He now owns a team-best 2.05 ERA and has yielded just one walk in 26.1 innings pitched.
Cal Poly Keeps Rolling
Cal Poly won its third consecutive weekend series after taking two out of three against Washington. Senior southpaw Kyle Anderson clinched the series for the Mustangs on Saturday as he tossed a complete game six-hit shutout with a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory. It was the first complete game shutout in five years for the Mustangs. Anderson did not issue a walk during his 126-pitch effort and he improved to 3-0 on the year with a 0.70 ERA. The Mustangs are now 11-5 on the season and hope to continue their momentum this week with a three-game set at Minnesota.
Gauchos Lead In Offense
UC Santa Barbara leads the Big West in batting average at .303 through 15 games. That number is 20 points higher than the next team in the conference rankings. Junior outfielder Brett Vertigan leads the team and the Big West with a .443 average. The Gauchos are the only Big West school to boast four players in the top 10 in average – Greg Mahle (.386) is fourth, Lance Roenicke (.379) seventh and Brandon Trinkwon (.364) 10th.
Anteaters To Play at Chavez Ravine
UC Irvine plays in its second major league ballpark this season when it travels to Dodger Stadium for a game against Pepperdine on Tuesday. The game is part of the Dodgertown Classic, which also features USC and UCLA battling in the nightcap. UCI played its first three games of the season at Minute Maid Park in Houston. UCI came out of an offensive slumber in last Saturday’s 9-2 win against BYU. The outburst ended a streak of five straight games with four runs or less. Pitching has carried the Anteaters through the early stretch of 2012. The staff has combined for a Big West low 2.54 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 124.0 innings to offset a .251 team average – tied for seventh in the league.
Long Beach State Struggles Continue In Close Games
Don’t be fooled by the record. Long Beach State fell to 5-10 on the year as No. 10 Arizona State came into Blair Field and took two of three games last weekend. The 49ers now have lost seven of their last eight games. However, LBSU has played a brutal schedule with 10 of its first 15 contests against top 25 opponents. In five of those games against top 25 foes, the 49ers lost by one run. LBSU is 3-6 in one run games. The latest setback in a tight game occurred in Friday’s series opener against the Sun Devils, a 3-2 loss in 12 innings that dropped LBSU to 0-3 in extra inning games.
Rivalry Renewed In Non-Conference Showdown
The long-standing rivalry between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State gets a double dose of attention this season as the two teams meet in a three-game series this weekend that does not count in the Big West standings. At least one of the two programs have captured either a share of or the outright Big West championship in 20 out of the last 23 seasons. Cal State Fullerton has claimed most of that success over the last several years, winning championships in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011. The Titans and 49ers shared the title in 2008. Long Beach State won its last outright Big West title in 2003. The two foes suit up for game one of the series on Friday night at Goodwin Field.