• It looks as if the Cal State Fullerton Titans are primed to reclaim the Big West Conference title in 2015 after losing the crown to Cal Poly last year, according to the nine conference coaches that voted on the 2015 Big West baseball preseason poll. The Titans earned five first-place votes en route to a total of 74 points with defending champion Cal Poly one point back in second place after securing three first-place votes and a 73 point-total. Picking up the final first-place vote and grabbing the third spot in the poll were the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara with a total of 62 points, while UC Irvine secured 56 points for fourth place.
Receiving 48 points, Long Beach State clinched the fifth spot and CSUN secured a 25 point-total to place sixth. UC Riverside and Hawai’i found themselves knotted in the seventh slot with 24 points while UC Davis rounded out the nine-team field with a total of 19 points.
• A trio of Big West schools open the new year ranked in various preseason Top 25 polls. Cal Poly earned its highest ranking of 13th by Collegiate Baseball, which also awarded UC Santa Barbara the 16th slot. Cal State Fullerton, which is the only Big West school ranked in every poll, claimed the 17th spot by Collegiate Baseball for its highest mark.
• USA Baseball released its 50-players preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list this week and Cal State Fullerton’s pitching duo of Thomas Eshelman and Justin Garza represented the Big West Conference. Eshelman was a semifinalist for this honor in 2013. The award is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country in a trophy presentation on Tuesday, June 23.
• Last fall Collegiate Baseball announced its annual evaluation of the NCAA Division I recruiting classes and Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State landed on the elite list. The Titans secured the 10th spot while the Dirtbags grabbed the 18th slot. Other Big West teams recognized as having notable recruiting classes were Cal Poly, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara. The CBN’s ranking uses only players who joined their respective programs for the 2014-15 school year and excludes all signees who decided to sign a professional contract.
• A selection of Big West baseball games will be carried on ESPN3 this season with all games originating from Southern California member institutions Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Riverside. Every Big West team will make an appearance on the televised baseball schedule.
Through the Big West’s new mobile production facility, each game will be produced by the Conference utilizing full ESPN production standards, including graphics, replay and on-air crew. It is the first fully operational mobile production unit of its kind that expands upon what ESPN Emerging Technology has already done at the institutional level.
Every game on ESPN’s platforms is available through WatchESPN, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members, on Apple TV and Roku to fans who receive their video subscription from an affiliated provider.
A First For The Mustangs:
Cal Poly enters the 2015 season in a position they have never been in before...defending champions. Last season the Mustangs captured their first Big West Conference baseball championship with a 19-5 mark. Along the way, they recorded a school-best 47 overall wins. This year, Cal Poly, who was picked second in the Big West preseason poll, enters the year with 19 returning letter winners, including six position starters, three starting pitchers and two of last year’s three All-Americans.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Titans Open Season In Florida Tournament:
The Big West preseason favorite, Cal State Fullerton, opens the 2015 season competing in the Clearwater Tournament in Tampa, Fla., where it faces host South Florida, Alabama State and Louisville.
Top 10 Recruiting Class:
On their quest to reclaim the conference title, the returning players are set to join forces with the 10th-best recruiting class, according to Collegiate Baseball.
CSUN Opens 2015 At Home:
Under the helm of second-year coach Greg Moore, the CSUN Matadors kick off the new year hosting Utah Valley and Gonzaga. The Matadors play each opponent twice over a three-day span.
Top Talent Returns:
CSUN, who was picked sixth in the preseason poll, returns a wealth of experience and talent from last season which includes hitter Nick Blaser (.302 BA, 23 R) and outfielder Chester Pak (.292 BA, 61 H, 28 RBI).
LONG BEACH STATE
A Busy Offseason:
Last fall, Collegiate Baseball tabbed Long Beach State with the 18th-best recruiting class. The Dirtbags’ full incoming class consists of 19 new players – 13 freshmen and six junior college transfers.
Live At Blair Field:
The Dirtbags look for a strong start to the new year as they open the 2015 season playing 11 of their first 12 games in front of their hometown fans. Last season Long Beach State tallied a 19-11 mark at home.
UC Davis is jet-setting right from the start as it visits the Lone Star State opening weekend to battle Texas State, marking the first time UCD has opened the season on the road since 2009. The Aggies may be homesick this year with 32 of their 57 games (56%) scheduled away from Dobbins Field.
UC Davis returns 19 letterwinners, including Tanner Bily (.372), Kevin Barker (.335) and Nick Lynch (.308), from last season’s team that finished 23-31 overall -- a four-game improvement in the win column from 2013.
Road Trippin’ Anteaters:
UC Irvine opens the 2015 season with a seven-game, road trip, the longest of all nine Big West schools. The ‘Eaters kick things off with a three-game series at Fresno State this weekend.
The pitching duo of Elliot Surrey (2.32 ERA, 76K, 112.2 IP) and Evan Manarino (2.66 ERA, 4-4) are expected to lead the team in 2015. Manarino shined in the postseason last year, where he held the opposition to a .182 batting average in nine games while boasting a 1.46 ERA.
New Face On Campus:
Over the summer, 14-year major leaguer Troy Percival returned to UC Riverside as the fifth head baseball coach in UC Riverside’s six decades of NCAA competition. Percival played at UCR for three years and was drafted after his junior year by the California Angels in the sixth round of the 1990 Amateur Draft.
Highlanders Hope To Carry Over Momentum:
The Highlanders look to build upon the success they created last year where they posted a 12-12 Big West mark to tie for fifth place, their best finish since 2011 where it also ranked fifth.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Home Is Where The Win Is:
The Gauchos open the new year with a stretch of 12 out of the first 13 games being played at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. This is great news for the Gauchos seeing how they went 19-6-1 at home a year ago, the highest home winning percentage in the league.
Gauchos Earning Preseason Love:
UCSB, who recorded the highest nonconference winning percentage in school history last year at .851 (22-5-1), enters 2015 ranked 15th in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll.
UH Opens Season With A Bang:
Hawai’i hosts nationally-ranked Oregon in a four-game series to kick off the 2015 season. Last year the Rainbow Warriors were 3-11 against ranked opponents.
Head Coach Honored:
University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warrior baseball head coach Mike Trapasso was inducted into the Greater St. Louis Baseball Hall of Fame (ABHOF) last month. Coach Trapasso is the only inductee this year as both a player and a coach.