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Baseball

Longtime Rivals Share First Place Midway Through League Play

4/23/2012

Anticipation for the May 25-27 Big West baseball series between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State at Blair Field is growing.  The two clubs are tied for first place at 9-3 at the halfway mark of the conference schedule and the immiment showdown may determine who captures the regular season crown.

AROUND THE BIG WEST

Titans, Dirtbags Still Tied
A close race between two longstanding rivals is shaping up at the midpoint of Big West play.  Cal State Fullerton (26-13, 9-3) and Long Beach State (18-19, 9-3) do not meet until the final weekend of conference action from May 25-27, but at this rate the regular season championship may hinge on the outcome of that series.

Long Beach State continues to send its fans to the cardiologist.  The Dirtbags played three more one-run games last week and came out with a 2-1 record.  They lost their sixth game of the season via walkoff in a 5-4 non-conference loss to Loyola Marymount on Tuesday.  Then UC Irvine’s Andrew Thurman tossed a no-hitter in the series opener on Friday.  But the resilient Dirtbags followed suit by winning the final two games of the series, 4-3 and 5-4, improving their record in one-run games to 9-11 this season.  That’s more than half of LBSU’s total number of games.

Cal State Fullerton continues to play consistently well on its home turf.  The Titans improved to 19-6 at home after going 3-1 at Goodwin Field last weekend, winning a non-conference game against Pepperdine and taking a hard fought two of three games from Big West foe Cal Poly.  The Titans came back to win 5-4 in 10 innings on Sunday to better their record in one-run games to 8-3 on the season.  CSF has won five of its last six and 12 of its last 16 games with series victories against all four Big West opponents – Cal State Northridge (2-1), UC Davis (3-0), UC Irvine (2-1) and Cal Poly (2-1).  The Titans also swept a designated non-conference series from Long Beach State earlier in March.

The 49ers visit Cal State Northridge while the Titans take a break from Big West action and play only a single non-conference game against Loyola Marymount on Tuesday.

In Other Big West Action
Two clubs are still in contention in the Big West race for the regular season title – Central Coast rivals Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.

The Gauchos (21-17, 7-5), under the tutelage of first year head coach Andrew Checketts, trail first place co-leaders Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State by two games.  UCSB has won four straight games and is a season-high four games above .500.  The Gauchos rebounded from getting swept by Long Beach State and pinned a sweep on Pacific last weekend.

The Mustangs (22-16, 6-6) sit in fourth place with a three-game deficit and have been in a tailspin lately.  They have lost six of their last eight contests and have dropped three of their first four Big West series.  Cal Poly looks to recover with a three-game home series against last place Pacific this weekend.

Titans Surge Into Top 10
For the first time since the week of March 12, Cal State Fullerton has reentered the top 10 in one of the national polls.  The Titans moved up to No. 8 in the Baseball America rankings, their highest spot since holding the same position in the Collegiate Baseball poll on March 12.  CSF is No. 12 in Collegiate Baseball this week, while USA Today/ESPN and the NCBWA have the Titans at No. 15 and No. 16, respectively.  The Titans finish up the regular season with 10 of their last 15 games on the road, including three of four Big West series away from Goodwin Field.

Ballpark Frank
UC Riverside junior right-handed pitcher Trevor Frank had an exceptional week on the mound in two appearances.  He tossed three innings of five-hit ball on a midweek staff day on Tuesday, helping the Highlanders defeat UNLV 3-1.  Frank really excelled though on Sunday in a start against UC Davis.  He allowed just three hits in an 8-0 shutout of the Aggies.  Frank threw just 95 pitches, walking none and striking out four to give him his first win in more than a year.  He last picked up a victory on April 17, 2011 in a 14-2 triumph at Long Beach State.  Over his next 13 starts, Frank posted an 0-7 record with an ERA of 4.23.  Frank faced just four Aggies over the minimum and allowed only one baserunner into scoring position the entire game.  His performances lowered his ERA from 4.91 to 3.78 on the season.

Haniger Goes Yard Again
Cal Poly junior Mitch Haniger hit his Big West leading eighth home run of the season in Saturday’s 8-6 win against Cal State Fullerton.  It was the 21st career home run for the outfielder, who moved into a tie for sixth all-time in Cal Poly annals with Boyd Dodder (1994-97) and Marty Camacho (1996-97).  Haniger now stands just two homers shy of fourth place.  Haniger has been streaking of late.  In the last eight games, he is hitting .487 (18-for-37) with eight runs scored, eight RBI, three doubles and a pair of home runs.

Quist Continues To Impress
UC Davis senior southpaw Dayne Quist had another quality start.  He struck out 11 hitters in a 7-2 win over UC Riverside Friday to amass his second double-digit strikeout performance of 2012.  He also improved to 6-0, accounting for nearly half of the Aggies’ 14 victories on the year.  Quist has not allowed more than four runs in any of his nine outings, and has yielded two or less runs six times.  Quist ranks second in the Big West in ERA (1.94), and first in opponent batting average (.172) and strikeouts (75).

Slaught Captures Career Win No. 20
UC Irvine senior pitcher Crosby Slaught moved to 4-4 on the year after earning the win in a 10-5 decision over San Diego State.  It was the 20th career win for Slaught, who needs only two more victories to move onto the Anteater career top 10 list and join Eric Pettis (2007-10) at No. 10.  Slaught, who sat out the 2010 season due to injury, amassed an impressive combined 15-2 record between the 2009 and 2011 seasons.  The right-hander owns a 20-7 (.741) career mark in the blue and gold.

Plunked
Senior center fielder Brennan Metzger has accumulated a lot of bruises for the Long Beach State baseball program during his career.  Forty-nine of them to be exact.  Metzger, who is tied for fourth in the Big West in hit by pitches (10), now has 49 for his career and ranks second for Long Beach State all-time.  He is now seven away from tying the Dirtbag career record of 56 held by Bryan Kennedy (1998-01).

The “V” Tandem
UC Santa Barbara pitchers Andrew Vasquez and Matthew Vedo are the top one-two punch in the Big West in terms of accumulating strikeouts.  The two have combined for 144 whiffs this season.  Vasquez and Vedo rank second and third in the conference with 73 and 71 strikeouts, respectively.