Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine Rivalry To Be Showcased On ESPNU
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12 BB Release-Week 9
The two preseason favorites to win the 2012 Big West baseball title – Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine – are on display in front of a national audience when ESPNU airs Sunday's game at 2:00 p.m. (PDT) from Anteater Ballpark.
AROUND THE BIG WEST
Cal State Fullerton Takes Lead In Big West Race
The Big West standings shifted upon completion of the second week of conference play. UC Irvine fell from its first place perch after getting swept on the road by Cal Poly, opening the door for Cal State Fullerton. The Titans swept UC Davis to improve to 5-1 in Big West play and replace the Anteaters as the kingpin in the standings.
Fullerton has won seven of its last eight games, including a 4-0 showing last week. The Titans clawed for two of those victories, rebounding twice from late game deficits to take 5-4 victories against UC Davis. CSF is 7-3 in one-run games this season. In addition to some clutch hitting, the Titan arms have been exemplary on the mound. In the last 15 games, the Titans have allowed four or less runs 11 times. Not surprisingly, CSF has gone 11-4 during that stretch.
The recent success has the Titans lurking just outside the top 10 in the polls. They are ranked as high as No. 12 in Baseball America. Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA have CSF pegged at No. 14, while the USA Today/ESPN poll lists the Titans No. 16.
Titans and Anteaters To Battle On Nationally Televised ESPNU
The top two teams in the Big West preseason coaches poll duke it out on national television this week as ESPNU broadcasts Sunday’s tilt from Anteater Ballpark at 2:00 p.m. (PDT).
Cal State Fullerton (21-10, 5-1) was tabbed the preseason favorite to win the Big West and so far has not disappointed. The Titans won five of their first six games to begin conference play, but venture out on the road for the first time. Orange County rival UC Irvine had won eight of nine games before getting chopped down by Cal Poly last week. The Mustangs dominated the No. 29 Anteaters in every phase of the game and outscored them 17-3 for the series.
The Titans and Anteaters are regulars atop the Big West standings. UC Irvine captured its first league title in 2009. CSF won back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011. The last time one of these teams swept the other in a series was in 2004 when Fullerton did the deed. Since then, the teams have battled on more even terms, but the Titans have won the series 2-1 in five of the last seven years.
In Other Big West Action
The Cal State Fullerton-UC Irvine series is a sample of this week’s action in the Big West. The race looks like it is going to be a tight one as three clubs – Cal Poly, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara – sport 4-2 league records and trail the league-leading Titans by just one game. Two of those teams prepare to tangle this week as UC Santa Barbara travels to Long Beach State. The 49ers won their first two series against Cal Poly and UC Riverside, while the Gauchos went 2-1 against the Highlanders and Cal State Northridge, respectively. The Mustangs, who reentered the national rankings at No. 27 in the Collegiate Baseball poll this week, battle a Cal State Northridge squad which has salvaged the final game of its first two Big West series. Northern California rivals UC Davis and Pacific take 0-3 Big West records into their series looking to break into the conference win column.
Stuart’s Streak Fourth-Longest In Long Beach State History
Long Beach State senior pitcher Shawn Stuart finally gave up a run. The right-hander had a scoreless innings streak of 27.2 innings snapped when he allowed a pair of runs in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 8-2 victory at UC Riverside. It tied Steve Whitaker for the fourth-longest consecutive scoreless innings streak in Long Beach State history. Stuart, who is tied for fifth in the Big West with a 2.18 earned run average, won his second straight start against a conference opponent with his performance versus the Highlanders. In his last four starts – Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly and UC Riverside – he has allowed just three earned runs over 30.2 innings for a microscopic 0.88 ERA.
Lorenzen In Titan Top 10 For Saves
Cal State Fullerton sophomore Michael Lorenzen has become one of the nation’s top closers in his first season of collegiate mound duty. After showcasing his abilities as a freshman All-American and Big West Freshman of the Year as a .343 hitting outfielder in 2011, Lorenzen has paired those talents with a powerful arm from the rubber. The result is that he has converted all 11 of his save opportunities, the most recent in Friday’s 5-4 victory against UC Davis. Lorenzen is tied for third nationally with the 11 saves. With nearly half the season left to play, Lorenzen already has entered the Titan single-season top 10 list for saves at No. 10 with Nick Ramirez (2010), Adam Jorgenson (2008) and Mark Kotsay (1995). Lorenzen is just one save shy of moving into a tie for seventh and two away from a tie for fourth.
Cal Poly Back In Rankings
Cal Poly engineered its third series sweep of 2012 last week after outscoring UC Irvine 17-3 and closing out an 11-game homestand with an 8-3 record. Oklahoma State (3-0) and Loyola Marymount (4-0) were the other victims. The Mustangs handed the Anteaters their first conference series sweep since 2006 – a stretch of 48 consecutive series – and by beating them in game one Thursday, their first setback in a conference series opener since 2008. That halted a string of 25 straight conference series-opening wins. The Mustangs have won seven of their last nine contests and rejoined the national rankings this week at No. 27 in Collegiate Baseball. The pitching has been outstanding through their first two Big West series against Long Beach State and UCI. Through six games, Cal Poly’s staff has allowed just 11 earned runs in 54.0 innings pitched, equating to a 1.83 ERA.
Home Runs Still A Delicacy
The home run isn’t quite on the brink of extinction, but is on the endangered species list at least according to the recent conference statistics. The home run numbers have actually continued to dwindle from last season when the NCAA’s new bat policy was mandated. In 2010, prior to the change in policy, the nine Big West members combined for 390 home runs in 508 games, an average of 0.77 home runs per game. The numbers declined drastically in 2011 when the conference amassed 161 home runs in 496 total games, for an average of 0.32 home runs. The 2012 season has yielded 60 long bombs through 262 games – an average of 0.23 homers per game. Cal Poly leads all Big West teams with 12 home runs. In contrast, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside have just three home runs apiece. Long Beach State tallied the only home run of its entire season in the 24th game.