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Conference Play Heats Up As No. 9 UCSB Takes Over Top Spot

4/19/2016

Big West Baseball Release - Week 10

BIG WEST

• A sweep over CSUN bumped UC Santa Barbara to the top of the Big West Conference standings with a 5-1 mark.  The Titans of Cal State Fullerton are second with a 7-2 record after a dominating performance over UC Davis last week.  Hawai’i sits third at 6-3 and is followed by Cal Poly (4-2) and Long Beach State (5-4).  UC Riverside is sixth with an even 3-3 mark and is followed by UC Irvine at 4-5.  CSUN and UC Davis are knotted in eighth place with a 1-8 record.

• UC Irvine has maintained the top offensive team as it sports a .278 batting average, while Cal State Fullerton continues to dominate on the mound with a league-best 2.32 ERA, which ranks the Titans second in the nation.  The Titans have also been stellar on defense with the nation’s seventh-best mark of .981, a league-high.

• 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.

CAL POLY

Play Ball:
Cal Poly secured its second straight conference series victory, this time against Hawai’i (2-1), to improve to 4-2 in league play. This week the Mustangs host league-leading No. 9 UC Santa Barbara.  Cal Poly s 2-2 against the Top 25 this season.

Mustang Leaders:  Brett Barbier ranks third in the conference with a .380 batting average while owning the top spot in on-base percentage with a .510 clip.  Alex McKenna is tied for third with 29 runs scored and John Schuknecht is knotted in second in RBI with 28.


CAL STATE FULLERTON

Dominating Performance:
Cal State Fullerton is back to its winning ways after sweeping UC Davis in dominating fashion.  The Titans outscored the Aggies 26-5 to improve to 7-2 in league play.  CSF, who battles UNLV this weekend, has won nine of the last 11 contests.

Wanting To Be First:
Cal State Fullerton is 15-3 when scoring first this season.

Kings Of The Hill:
The Titans have four pitchers ranked in the Big West’s top 10 - Connor Seabold (3rd, 1.97), Colton Eastman  (5th, 2.41), John Gavin (6th, 2.45) and Blake Quinn (8th, 2.64).


CSUN

Big West Play:
CSUN, who has dropped its first three Big West series, hopes to turn things around this week when the Matadors entertain Hawai’i.  This week’s matchup also marks the first Matadors’ game against a non-ranked opponent after six consecutive outings against the top 25.

Leading The Charge:
Fred Smith currently paces the Matadors and ranks fifth in the Big West with a .346 batting average.  Teammate Branden Berry isn’t far behind in the eighth slot after hitting .331.  Smith also owns the top spot in hits with 54.


LONG BEACH STATE

Going, Going Gone:
A pair of home runs from Brock Lundquist and David Banuelo in game two of the LBSU-UCI series, bumped the Dirtbags’ home run total to eight at Blair Field after hitting just two at home during the 2015 season. Overall they’ve knocked 19 out of the park to tie for first in the league.

The Stopper:
  Freshman Chris Rivera has earned 11 saves this season to rank second in the country. 

Live Action Available:
This weekend’s series at UC Riverside marks the first appearance on ESPN3 for the Dirtbags as Friday and Saturday’s contest are slated to air live.


UC DAVIS

Aggie Struggles:
UC Davis has dropped its last six contests and currently owns a 1-8 Big West record.  The Aggies look to turn things around this week when they visit Saint Mary’s in a nonconference midweek showdown before hosting UC Irvine in a weekend conference series.

Aggies Leaders:
Mark Cardinalli continues to be the Aggies’ offensive catalyst, hitting .329 on the season to rank ninth in the Big West.  On the mound, Robert Garcia is sporting the league’s fourth-best ERA of 2.11.


UC IRVINE

Road Trippin’:
After dropping its series against nationally-ranked Long Beach State, UC Irvine wraps up an eight-game road trip with a visit to San Diego State (4/19) and UC Davis.

Explosion At The Plate:
Belting a .398 batting average, Keston Hiura paces the Big West, while also leading the way in RBI with 31 and home runs with 7.  He’s also number one on the team in hits (49) and runs scored (27).  Last week Hiura extended his on-base streak to 48 games.


UC RIVERSIDE

UCR Faces Toughest Challenge Yet:
After dropping the past two weekend series, life doesn’t get any easier for UC Riverside as it is slated to host No. 17 Long Beach State.  This marks the first nationally-ranked opponent for the Highlanders this season.

Plate Power:
Vince Fernandez paces the Highlanders and ranks fourth in the Big West Conference in batting average with a .348 mark. You can also find him ranked among the top in  hits (T4th, 46), RBI (T5th, 24) and runs scored (10th, 24).


UC SANTA BARBARA

On The Rise:
UCSB cracked the Top 10 this week as it received its highest ranking of ninth by Baseball America.  The Gauchos also hold an eighth ranking in the RPI.

Lights Out:
Against CSUN Shane Bieber tossed a four-hit shutout, the second of his career. Moving to 7-1 on the season, Bieber is tied for third in the country in wins and just one victory away from tying his career-high of eight, set last season.

Home Sweet Home:
The Gauchos have won 12 straight games at home, the longest streak for the program since 1986 (14 games).


HAWAI'I

'Bows Stumble:
After two consecutive Big West series wins, Hawai’i dropped a series against Cal Poly and now owns a 6-3 record.  It marked its first conference loss since falling to Michigan March 10-12. This week the Rainbow Warriors look to get back on track when they visit CSUN.

In The Ranks:
Jacob Sheldon-Collins holds the second spot in the league in batting average with a .394 mark.  In conference-only contest he has bettered his average to .410. He’s also second with 50 hits, 16 of which were in league play.
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