Cal State Fullerton Picked To Claim Fourth Consecutive Conference Title
Cal State Fullerton is primed to claim its fourth consecutive conference title, according to the 2007 Big West Preseason Poll conducted by the league's eight head coaches. The Titans, who have won 13 Big West titles in program history, collected seven first-place votes and tallied 63 points. UC Riverside received the second place nod, while UC Irvine was picked third.
The Titans, returning 13 letterwinners from last year's squad which advanced to the College World Series, enter the 2007 season ranked No. 12 (Collegiate Baseball) and No. 15 (Baseball America) in the national preseason polls. The Titans return 2006 Collegiate Baseball Co-National Player of the Year, Wes Roemer, who finished the 2006 season 13-2 with a 2.38 earned run average as the Friday-night starter. He registered 145 strikeouts in 155 innings pitched, while giving up just seven walks. While Wes Roemer is set to headline the pitching staff, senior Evan McArthur will be the front-runner at the plate this season. He enters the year as the Titans' top returning hitter from last season with a .303 batting average.
UC Riverside, earning the second spot in the coaches poll for its highest pick in program history, also received preseason accolades with Baseball America ranking the Highlanders 26th. For the 2007 season, UC Riverside welcomes back 16 letterwinners, which includes six position players and three pitchers. The pitching squad will be led by preseason All-America James Simmons, who returns to the mound after posting a 9-5 record with a 2.96 earned run average in 2006. UC Riverside will also look to Jamie Pedroza and Jeff Dunbar to provide power at the plate. Pedroza, the top returner, batted .352 last season and scored 29 runs, while driving in 31. As the starting catcher, Dunbar tallied a .996 fielding percentage and fired .293 from the plate.
UC Irvine received one first-place vote and 48 points for third place in the poll. With a 36-24 record last season, the Anteaters posted the second-highest number of victories in UC Irvine's Division I history and concluded the season in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Returning six position players and starting pitcher Scott Gorgen, along with one of the nation's top relief pitchers in Blair Erickson, UC Irvine is sure to be in contention for its first conference title and second consecutive NCAA berth in 2007.
Entering the season ranked No. 30 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, Long Beach State picked up 43 points to slide into the fourth-place slot. Big West Freshman Player of the Year and Freshman All-American Danny Espinosa returns for his sophomore campaign after playing in the Cape Cod League this past summer. Playing in all 56 games last year, he batted .281 and ranked in the Big West top 10 in doubles with 16. Along with Espinosa, LBSU returns two All-Big West Second Team members - Robert Perry and Shane Peterson. Perry carries a .300 career average over three Division I seasons and was named to the 2007 Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year watch list. Last season Peterson split time between first base and pitching duties, posting a .328 batting average and tallying a 6.23 ERA in relief.
Cal Poly snagged the fifth spot in the preseason poll with 31 points. The 2007 season looks promising for the Mustangs as they return a league-high 21 letterwinners from last season, including All-Big West Honorable Mention selection Grant Desme. Desme finished last season ranked second on the team in runs scored with 35, while batting .287.
UC Santa Barbara received the sixth-place nod, while Pacific and Cal State Northridge were selected seventh and eighth, respectively.
2007 Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (7) - 63
2. UC Riverside - 50
3. UC Irvine (1) - 48
4. Long Beach State - 43
5. Cal Poly - 31
6. UC Santa Barbara - 23
7. Pacific - 22
8. Cal State Northridge - 8
( ) First-place vote