Cal State Fullerton Widens Lead To Two Games With Six To Play
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12 BB Release-Week 14
Cal State Fullerton owns a two-game lead on Long Beach State with six remaining as the Big West baseball race winds down. Both teams need to guard against looking ahead to the regular season finale May 25-27 at Blair Field where the regular season title could be determined.
AROUND THE BIG WEST
Titans Extend Lead To Two Games
Cal State Fullerton owns a two-game lead on second place Long Beach State with six games remaining on the Big West baseball schedule.
The Titans won their sixth straight conference series and 11th in a row overall last week as they took two out of three games from UC Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, Long Beach State failed to keep pace with the Titans when UC Davis handed the Dirtbags their first series loss in six tries.
The Big West regular season title looks to be a two-team race between the Titans and Dirtbags. The final weekend of conference play could determine the outcome when Cal State Fullerton visits Long Beach State’s Blair Field May 25-27 for a rivalry showdown.
But first things first. The next-to-last week of regular season play has both contenders on their home turf, taking on the bottom two teams in the standings. CSF is hosting eighth place UC Riverside while LBSU welcomes last place Pacific.
The Titans, ranked No. 8 in the nation by Baseball America for the fourth straight week, won five of six on their recent six-game roadtrip. They have won 11 of their last 14 games and are a season-high 17 games above .500 at 32-15 overall. CSF is closing in on its 18th regular season title as a member of the Big West (12 outright, 4 co, 1 tri) and seventh in the last nine years.
Outside of the setback to UC Davis, Long Beach State had been playing outstanding baseball. The Dirtbags had won seven consecutive series overall dating back to March 23-25 when they took two of three against Wichita State. They have still won 15 of their last 21 contests and get the added advantage of playing their final seven regular season games at home. LBSU is 12-9 at Blair Field as opposed to a 13-14 mark on the road.
In Other Big West Action
The Central Coast rivalry between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara is on display this weekend in San Luis Obispo. Both clubs are vying to finish in the upper echelon of the Big West standings.
Cal Poly (29-20, 10-8) sits in fourth place in the Big West. Winners of seven of their last 10 games, the Mustangs need one victory to secure their fifth 30-win season under Larry Lee. Lee, Cal Poly’s all-time winningest head coach with 302 victories, ranks No. 10 in Big West history.
UC Santa Barbara (24-24, 10-11), under the guidance of first-year mentor Andrew Checketts, is in sixth place in the conference and finishes out Big West play this week. The Gauchos are aiming to finish above .500 in the conference for the first time since 2008. The Gauchos have been up and down all season. After winning six of eight during one stretch, UCSB proceeded to lose five of its next six. The last two weekends have produced a series sweep at the hands of UC Irvine followed by defeats in two of three games to Cal State Fullerton.
Rounding out the action this week is UC Davis traveling to Cal State Northridge in a battle of two much improved clubs. Both the Aggies and Matadors have each won two consecutive Big West series. UC Irvine hosts Cal State Northridge in a non-conference series.
Matadors Overcome UC Irvine
Cal State Northridge continues to play an improved brand of baseball, having won 10 of its last 16 games. The success involved overcoming a couple of long-term nemesis in UC Riverside and UC Irvine. Two weeks ago, the Matadors won their first Big West road series since 2004, and managed to do so against the Highlanders, a team they last beat in a series in 2002. The scene shifted to Matador Field last week and a equally formidable obstacle confronted CSUN. The Matadors had not won a game against UC Irvine since 2008 and had dropped the last nine meetings overall. Moreover, they had not won a series against the Anteaters since 2004. That all changed last week as CSUN rebounded from a game one loss to take the next two and improve to 22-24 overall and 9-9 in the Big West.
The Matadors need two more wins to surpass last year’s victory total of 23 and seven games are left on the schedule. CSUN, which also won nine conference games in 2010, needs just one more for its largest total since the 2002 squad went 19-5.
Lorenzen Climbs Saves List
Cal State Fullerton sophomore Michael Lorenzen made his candidacy for a number of national awards even brighter after last weekend’s performance against UC Santa Barbara. Lorenzen, who excels both as an outfielder and a closer for the Titans, is up for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and NCBWA Stopper of the Year awards.
Lorenzen logged his 14th and 15th saves of the season in the series against the Gauchos to pile onto his Big West leading total. The 15 saves, in addition to tying him for fifth in the nation, puts Lorenzen in elite company in both Cal State Fullerton and Big West annals. He is now third all-time in the Titan single-season record book and is tied for sixth in conference history. Lorenzen is two saves away from tying for second in the Big West record book.
Thurman Deals Like An Ace
UC Irvine sophomore pitcher Andrew Thurman won his fifth consecutive start in Friday’s 5-3 triumph at Cal State Northridge. The right-hander, who has compiled three Big West Pitcher of the Week awards this season, improved to 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA after allowing three runs and nine hits in seven innings of work. The three runs represented the most he had allowed since an April 5 start at Cal Poly. In his last five starts, Thurman is 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA. He has allowed just five earned runs over his 42 innings pitched.
Gonzalez Seeking Longest Streak
UC Riverside senior outfielder Vince Gonzalez carries a 17-game hitting streak into this weekend’s series against Cal State Fullerton. He is chasing UC Santa Barbara’s Brett Vertigan for the Big West’s longest hitting streak this season. Vertigan began the season hitting safely in 23 straight games before having his run ended against – coincidentally – UC Riverside. During Gonzalez’s streak, he is hitting .413 (31-for-75) with nine runs scored and 12 RBI.
Vasquez Among Top Freshmen
UC Santa Barbara freshman left-hander Andrew Vasquez leads the Big West with a 1.73 ERA. That currently ranks as the second-lowest ERA of all-time for a Big West freshman who has thrown between 50-99 innings. He has struck out 90 batters in 78.0 innings this season.