Big West Baseball Release - Week 7
• CSUN is hitting .299 to pace the Big West Conference, while Cal State Fullerton continues to dominate on the mound with a league-best 2.21 ERA, which ranks the Titans sixth in the nation. The Titans have also been stellar on defense with the nation’s third-best mark of .984. Long Beach State isn’t far behind in seventh place with a fielding percentage of .982 and is closely followed by CSUN in ninth place with a .981 mark.
• Long Beach State leapfrogged UC Santa Barbara in the polls this week with the Dirtbags sporting a 17th ranking and the Gauchos one spot behind in 18th place. Cal Poly and CSUN are in the receiving votes category.
• Conference play kicks off this week in exciting fashion as the two ranked Big West teams square off at Blair Field. Last week, the Dirtbags battled Cal State Fullerton, 2-1, in a nonconference-scoring series and will now host No. 18 UC Santa Barbara.
• The Cal State Fullerton Titans have been tabbed the team to beat in 2016 as they begin their quest to defend the Big West Conference title, according to the nine conference coaches that voted on the 2016 Big West baseball preseason poll. The Titans earned four first-place votes en route to a total of 71 points while UC Irvine, who received one first-place vote, holds the second spot with 65 points. Long Beach State secured the third slot after earning three first-place votes for a total of 62 points and the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara picked up the final first-place vote and tallied 60 points to finish fourth.
With 44 total points, CSUN clinched the fifth spot and Cal Poly, who captured its first-ever title in 2014, landed sixth with 43 points. Hawai’i ranked seventh with 27 points and was followed by UC Riverside (17) and UC Davis (16).
• Last fall Collegiate Baseball announced its annual evaluation of the NCAA Division I recruiting classes and Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara landed on the elite list. The Titans secured the 24th spot while the Gauchos grabbed the 36th slot. Other Big West teams recognized as having notable recruiting classes were UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Cal Poly and Long Beach State. The CBN’s ranking uses only players who joined their respective programs for the 2015-16 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.
The Mustangs picked up their fourth weekend series of the year after downing Wichita State, 2-1. This week, while the rest of the Big West dips into conference play, Cal Poly battles San Jose State in its final nonconference series of 2016.
John Schuknecht, who’s notched a league-best nine doubles this season, has driven in 25 runs to pace the Big West Conference. He is also tied for seventh in runs scored with 19, while his teammate, Alex McKenna, is third after scoring 23 runs.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Titans On Skid:
Cal State Fullerton enters conference play having dropped five of the last six contests. They look to turn things around this week with a midweek contest against UCLA and a weekend series against CSUN, who currently leads the Big West in wins with 20.
Yin And Yang:
The Titans are up and down this season as they are one of the top teams in the nation in both ERA and fielding percentage, while also pacing the Big West in both categories. The struggles come on offense where CSF sits ninth in the league.
And You’re Out:
CSUN has struck out 243 batters this season to lead the Big West. Leading the charge is sophomore Kenny Rosenberg, who ranks second in the nation with 57 strikeouts.
Fred Smith has been impressive at the plate this season as he is currently ranked ninth in the country with a league-leading 41 hits. Overall, the Matadors have four players ranked in the league’s top 10 in hits. Teammate Yusuke Akitoshi sits second in the Big West with 24 runs scored and a trio of Matadors hold spots in RBI with Branden Berry leading the way with a second-best total of 22.
LONG BEACH STATE
Riding The Momentum:
No. 17 Long Beach State has won 11 of the last 14 contests, which includes a 2-1 series victory over Cal State Fullerton in a nonconference-scoring event. This week LBSU opens Big West play hosting No. 18 UC Santa Barbara.
Chris Rivera is already making a name for himself in his first season donning the black and gold as he is one of two players to earn 10 saves this season to lead the country. The next closest in the Big West is CSUN’s Connor O’Neil with five.
Changing The Tide:
UC Davis, owning a 6-12 record, has dropped five of its last six contests, but hopes to turn things around this week as the Aggies enter Big West play at UC Riverside.
On The Mound Domination:
Robert Garcia is currently sporting a 0.32 earned run average to rank third in the nation. The freshman has allowed just one earned run in 28.0 innings pitched, striking out 38. He is also limiting his opposition to a .124 batting average to lead the Big West Conference.
Aloha Big West:
Following a week of rest, UC Irvine jumps back in action with a four-game road trip that takes the Anteaters to San Diego (3/29) and Hawai’i for a conference-opening weekend series.
Explosion At The Plate:
Keston Hiura’s .468 batting average places him fifth in the country, while he’s slugging an 11th-best .797. An on-base percentage of .550 earns him the nation’s ninth spot.
The Anteaters have shut out their opponents four times this season, tying themselves for eighth in the nation.
Back In Action:
After a seven-day break, UC Riverside has a loaded docket with a two-day, mid-week road trip to Arizona before returning home to host UC Davis in its conference opener. The Highlanders enter the week in search of their first weekend series victory of the year.
Junior Vince Fernandez has knocked 32 hits to tie for fourth in the league, while also ranking sixth with a .372 batting average. On the mound, Sodders has struck out 34 to tie for 10th in the Big West Conference.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Riding The Wave:
The 18th-ranked Gauchos, owning an overall mark of 18-4, enter Big West play having won nine of the last 10 contests. This week they visit No. 17 Long Beach State. The Gauchos are 3-2 against the Top 25 this season.
Dempsey Grover is hitting .421 on the season to sit second in the Big West Conference, while ranking third in both slugging percentage (.579) and on-base percentage (.529). Teammate Andrew Calica has scored a league-best 25 runs.
UH Wraps Up Homestand:
Hawai’i wraps up a 19-game homestand this week with a three-game series versus UC Irvine to open Big West play for both teams. The Rainbow Warriors have won five of the last seven contests.
Leading The Way:
Jacob Sheldon-Collins paces Hawai’i, and ranks ninth in the conference, with a .356 batting average. His 31 hits ties him for fifth in the Big West. On the mound, Brendan Hornung is tied for second in the league with 40 strikeouts while owning the 10th-best ERA of 2.51.