• The Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine baseball rivalry highlights this week’s docket as postseason potential hangs in the balance. The league-leading (15-3) Anteaters host Cal State Fullerton (8-10), who is coming off back-to-back series losses to Long Beach State and UC Riverside. UC Irvine suffered its first Big West series loss last week at No. 5 Cal Poly.
The first game of the Titan-’Eater showdown will broadcast live on ESPN3 at 6:30 p.m. The final two games of the Big West baseball series from Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark will be featured on Prime Ticket with game times listed at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 17 and 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 18.
Also getting some television coverage this week is the matchup at the Riverside Sports Complex where the Highlanders entertain Long Beach State, who has gotten hot down the final stretch of the season. The Dirtbags enter the week having won four straight conference series against No. 17 UCSB, No. 1 CP, CSF and Hawai’i, launching them to third place in the Big West with a 12-6 mark. The Highlanders are coming off a 2-1 series victory over Cal State Fullerton. The Saturday and Sunday contests will be aired live on ESPN3 with game times scheduled for 6:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
No. 5 Cal Poly, who sits second in the league with a 16-5 mark, plays its final conference series of the year at Cal State Northridge (6-12). Hawai’i visits UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara faces San Francisco in a nonconference weekend showdown.
• UC Irvine’s Sam Moore collected two saves last week to bump his season total to a nation-best 23, which is also a Big West record. The Rancho Palo Verdes, Calif., native surpassed Long Beach State’s Gabe Gonzalez, who recorded 20 saves during the 1995 season. Moore needs just one more save to tie UCLA’s David Berg for the nation’s top spot, which was set last year. With seven games remaining in the regular season for UC Irvine, and the potential for postseason play, the national mark is well within reach for the Anteater closer.
• The Big West Conference continues to dominate the other west coast conferences (Mountain West, Pac 12, WAC and West Coast), posting an overall record of 98-76-1 (.563) among its western opponents. The league owns a .500-or-better winning percentage against each individual conference as well.
• The Big West Conference led all conferences on the USA Baseball 30-man midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list last week with four student-athletes earning recognition. The quartet includes UC Santa Barbara’s Joey Epperson, Cal State Fullerton’s Thomas Eshelman, Cal Poly’s Matt Imhof and UC Irvine’s Andrew Morales. The Golden Spikes Award is presented to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
• UC Irvine pitcher Andrew Morales is one of 10 finalist for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate baseball, it was announced last week. To be eligible for this award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through June 9. Fan votes will be combined with media and Division I head coaches’ votes to determine the winner. The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2014 College World Series® in June.
Success At Baggett:
Cal Poly continued its home field dominance last week, going 3-1 at Baggett Stadium. The Mustangs downed No. 22 Pepperdine in a midweek contest before going 2-1 against league-leading No. 16 UC Irvine. Cal Poly is now 27-3 at home this year.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet?:
Cal Poly’s 1-0 Saturday victory over UC Irvine took just one hour and 48 minutes, the quickest game in Cal Poly’s 20-year DI history.
40 And Counting:
Cal Poly (41-10) eclipsed the 40-win threshold for the second consecutive season. The Mustang’s 41 wins ties a school record set in 1977 and 1992.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Power On The Mound:
Despite struggles in the win column, Cal State Fullerton continues to showcase one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the country as it sports a Big West-low 2.12 earned run average to place third in the nation. The Titans are led by Grahamm Wiest’s 1.49 ERA, which places him 25th in the nation.
Need More Time:
The Titans played a school-record 10th extra-inning contest last week, second most in the country this year. They also played two one-run decision contests to bump their total to 23, tying for the most in the nation.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
CSUN Hopes Home Field Advantage Proves Victorious:
The Matadors (18-32/6-12), who suffered their third consecutive series loss last week, play their final series at Matador Field this weekend when they host second place No. 5 Cal Poly. Cal State Northridge is 12-13 this season when playing in front of its hometown fans.
Leading The Way:
Junior Nick Blaser paces the Matador offense with the conference’s seventh-best batting average of .327 and 53 hits. On the mound, starting pitcher Brycen Rutherford sports a team-low 3.04 earned run average.
LONG BEACH STATE
Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot:
Long Beach State (12-6) is getting hot at the right time, winning eight of the last 10 games and launching itself to third place in the Big West. The Dirtbags, who now find themselves in playoff talks after series wins over No. 17 UCLA, No. 17 UCSB and No. 1 CP, still have UC Riverside, who just downed Cal State Fullerton, 2-1, and league-leading No. 21 UC Irvine on their schedule.
Long Beach State currently has two pitchers ranked in the Big West’s top 10 with Josh Frye sitting fourth (1.61 ERA) and Andrew Rohrbach tied for ninth (1.92 ERA).
Aggies Suffer Series Loss:
UC Davis suffered its third series loss in four weeks, falling to West Coast Conference member Gonazaga, 2-1. The Aggies, who dropped to 20-27 overall, return to Big West play this week when they entertain Hawai’i at Dobbins Stadium.
Barker’s Power At The Plate:
Junior outfielder Kevin Barker continues to pace the Aggies while ranking fourth in the Big West with a .345 batting average. He also leads the squad with 57 hits.
Andrew Morales currently ranks third in the nation with a conference-best 1.02 earned run average. Tossing 96.2 innings, he is just one of two pitchers to notch over 100 strikeouts with 103. Morales is also 9-0 on the season to extend his UCI career record to 19-0, which currently paces the Big West annals.
‘Eaters Hit Skid:
League-leading UC Irvine (15-3) suffered a 2-1 series loss at second place Cal Poly (16-5) which snapped a nine-game win streak for the ‘Eaters. Up next is a final home series against Cal State Fullerton.
Big Win For UCR:
UC Riverside secured its first Big West series in three weeks, going 2-1 at Cal State Fullerton, to maintain fourth place with a 10-8 record.
Zarate Tallies Memorable Home Run:
Drake Zarate recorded his first home run of his career in memorable fashion on Sunday, blasting a grand slam in the first inning. The junior designated hitter is hitting .306 on the season with 34 hits and 15 RBI.
Dylan Stuart owns UCR’s lowest ERA at 1.70 in 58.1 innings of work, while also recording four saves.
UC SANTA BARBARA
The Big 3-0:
UCSB, currently owning a 29-15-1 record, is just one win away from reaching the 30-win milestone. If the Gauchos capture one more victory over the final seven contests, they will have posted back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time since the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Last year UCSB tallied a 35-25 mark.
The Gauchos, led by Joey Epperson, rank second in the league with a .285 batting average. Epperson continues to be explosive at the plate, posting league-leading .485 on-base percentage while ranking second in batting average (.379) and runs scored (37).
Rainbow Warriors Play Final Road Contests:
Hawai’i, riding a three-game skid, plays its final weekend series on the mainland this week when it visits UC Davis.
Senior Adam Hurley’s .323 batting average paces the Rainbow Warriors, while senior Marc Flores leads the pack with 39 RBI and five home runs. On the mound, senior Matt Cooper continues to dominate with a 1.68 ERA, good enough for seventh in the Big West Conference. He also ranks third in strikeouts with 88.