Big West Hands Out 2013 Baseball Awards
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2013 Big West All-Conference Teams
The 2013 Big West Conference awards are flooded with orange and blue as Cal State Fullerton nabbed five of the six annual awards. The Titans swept the pitching category with Justin Garza grabbing Big West Pitcher of the Year accolades and Thomas Eshleman collecting Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors, while Rick Vanderhook collected his second consecutive Big West Coach of the Year award. Richy Pedroza nabbed the Big West Defensive Player of the Year selection while teammate Carlos Lopez earned Big West Co-Field Player of the Year honors with UC Irvine’s Taylor Sparks. The final award was handed to UC Santa Barbara’s Robby Nesovic, who received Big West Freshman Player of the Year recognition.
Garza, the Saturday starter for the third-ranked Titans, becomes the second straight Cal State Fullerton hurler to garner Big West Pitcher of the Year after Dylan Floro collected the honor in 2012. Hailing from Ontario, Calif., Garza owns an 11-0 record and the Titans are a perfect 15-0 when he starts on the mound. He is currently tied for fourth in the country with his impressive win total. In 99.2 innings pitched, Garza has tallied a 2.08 ERA to rank fourth in the league, while striking out 80 batters. Garza earned Big West Pitcher of the Week honors on March 11 following an impressive outing versus NCAA participant Texas A&M. He handcuffed the Aggies to the tune of seven scoreless inning, scattered just five hits and walked one while striking out five during the 109-pitch effort that racked up his second combined shutout. Garza is one of 22 players recognized on the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year midseason watch list.
Lopez is the third Titan in four years to nab Big West Field Player of the Year following an outstanding senior campaign. Hailing from Northridge, Calif., Lopez is hitting .344 on the season to rank seventh in the league, while driving in 34 RBI. He currently ranks second in the Big West in runs scored with 50 and is tied for fifth with 75 hits. He earned Big West Player of the Week accolades on May 20 after blasting a game-winning RBI single, followed by back-to-back walk-off home runs against rival UC Irvine. Lopez is one of 10 finalist for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate baseball.
Igniting the UC Irvine offense this season and ranking among the top of the Big West in multiple statistical categories earned Sparks Big West Co-Field Player of the Year recognition. The Long Beach, Calif., native hit a .360 clip to sit third in the Big West, while holding the second spot in hits with 80. He also found himself knotted atop the statistical categories in both RBI (50) and home runs (10 and sole possession of first place in slugging percentage (.581). Hitting .538 and posting a 1.077 slugging percentage led UC Irvine to a 2-1 series win over Cal Poly and earned himself Big West Player of the Week honors on May 13.
Pedroza is the first Titan to notch the newly-added Big West Defensive Player of the Year award. The senior shortstop from Covina, Calif., finished third in the conference in assists with 163. As a member of the Big West’s third-best defense, he fielded 25 double plays, tallied 61 putouts and recorded a .957 fielding percentage. Pedroza also ranks third in runs scored (44).
Eshelman, the other half of the unstoppable freshman duo that lifted Cal State Fullerton to its 27th Big West title, paces the league with an impressive 1.63 earned run average on 99.2 innings pitched, good enough for 18th in the country. He also owns an 11-2 mark in 14 starts with 71 strike outs. His 11 victories tie him for second in the Big West with Garza and fourth in the country. The Friday starter only walked two batters all season to lead the nation in walks allowed per nine innings (0.18). The righty from Carlsbad, Calif., also sits atop the nation’s leaderboard in strikeout-to-walk ratio (35.50) and WHIP (0.76). On March 4, Eshelman nabbed Big West Pitcher of the Week honors after throwing a complete game four-hitter against then-ranked No. 14 Oregon in the Titans’ 8-2 victory. Eshleman, who has been selected by USA Baseball as a semifinalist for the 2013 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, became the first freshman to start a season opener for the Titans since Feb. 5, 1987 when Mark Beck took the mound vs. Saint Mary’s.
As a freshman, Nesovic registered a .343 batting average to rank eighth in the conference, while notching the league’s ninth-best on-base percentage at .414. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the La, Mesa, Calif., native, ranked fourth on the Gaucho squad with 61 hits and tied for third with 33 RBI. The diaper dandy also contributed on the mound for the Gauchos, tossing 51.0 innings with a 4-3 record and 4.76 ERA.
Vanderhook captured his second straight coach of the year award after guiding the Titans (48-8) to their 27th Big West Conference championship and 11th in the last 15 years with a 23-4 mark. This is the fourth consecutive year a Titan skipper has collected the aforementioned honor, with Dave Serrano claiming it in 2010 and 2011. Along with the conference title came an automatic bid into the 2013 NCAA Tournament, giving the Titans their 22nd consecutive appearance in the postseason, the third-longest active consecutive streak in the nation behind Miami (41 years) and Florida State (36 years). The Titans claimed the No. 5 national seed in the 2013 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship and are hosting the regionals for the 11th time.
Big West Champion Cal State Fullerton dominated the All-Big West First Team with seven selections. Cal Poly and UC Irvine picked up four nods apiece and Long Beach State landed one first team member. Representing the Titans are Carlos Lopez (1B), Richy Pedroza (SS),J.D. Davis (OF), Justin Garza (SP), Thomas Eshelman (SP) and Michael Lorenzen (OF/CP), who collected first-team nods in two positions for the second year in-a-row. Denver Chavez (2B), Nick Torres (OF), Joey Wagman (SP) and Reed Reilly (CP) were highlighted from Cal Poly and Ronnie Shaeffer (C), Taylor Sparks (3B), Dominique Taylor (OF) and Andrew Morales (SP) were showcased from UC Irvine. Jeff McNeil grabbed first-team accolades for Long Beach State.