Big West Preseason Poll

Cal State Fullerton was tabbed to win back-to-back conference titles by the Big West head coaches. (photo by Matt Brown)

Cal State Fullerton was tabbed to win back-to-back conference titles by the Big West head coaches. (photo by Matt Brown)

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

Receiving 78 points and seven first-place votes, Cal State Fullerton was tabbed as the favorite to win the 2009 Big West Conference crown, according to the Big West Conference preseason poll conducted by the league’s nine head coaches. The Titans have claimed at least a share of seven of the last 10 league titles and a conference-best 14 overall. UC Irvine was selected to finish second with 67 points and UC Santa Barbara was picked third after receiving 65 points and one first-place nod.

The Titans, under new head coach Dave Serrano, finished the 2008 campaign with a 41-22 overall record and a 16-8 conference mark. Cal State Fullerton was crowned co-Big West Conference champions last season and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals. Now in his second season, Serrano will have a solid core of returning players including Team USA gold medalists Josh Fellhauer (.335, 62 R, 40 RBI), Christian Colon (.329, 59R 39 RBI) and Jared Clark (.294, 39 R 53 RBI) and 2008 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American Daniel Renken (5-5, 4.11 ERA) and Gary Brown (.292 46 R 27 RBI). The cast of returners will be backed by a recruiting class that ranked 14th in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.

UC Irvine picked up its highest preseason selection since the program was reinstated in 2002 after tallying 67 points to secure the second slot. The Anteaters, who concluded last season with a 42-18 mark and its second consecutive trip to the Super Regionals, are a veteran-filled team with 17 upperclassmen returning for the 2009 season. Leading the team are senior Ben Orloff (.344, 50 R 16 SH) and a trio of preseason All-America pitchers, Eric Pettis (2.62, 17 saves), Daniel Bibona (9-3, 3.08 ERA, 97 SO) and Christian Bergman (5-2, 1.94 ERA). Under the helm of second-year coach Mike Gillespie, UC Irvine also returns juniors Sean Madigan, Jeff Cusick, Dillon Bell and Francis Larson.

Coming off a season where they posted a 35-21 overall record and tied for third in the conference with a 14-10 mark, the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara nabbed one first-place vote en route to a 65 point total to secure third place in the league’s preseason poll. The Gauchos, who return 18 letterwinners from a season ago, are led by Brian Gump (.318, 51 R 36 RBI), Shane Carlson (.349, 39 R, 53 RBI) and Matt Valaika (.333, 39 RBI) and pitchers Mario Hollands (7-3, 4.03 ERA) and Mike Ford (6-4, 2.96 ERA).

Co-defending Big West champion Long Beach State snagged the fourth spot with 55 points, which included one first-place vote. After seeing a record 11draft picks last season, along with the graduation of its senior leadership, Long Beach State returns just two position players to its lineup. Along with the two position players, Steve Tinoco (.291, 24 RBI) and Jonathan Jones (.343, 38 R), the 49ers welcome back eight players to a pitching staff led by senior Manny McElroy.

Cal Poly claimed the fifth spot in the preseason poll after receiving 45 points. The Mustangs return 18 lettermen, including five position starters and seven pitchers. UC Riverside, returning two position players and two starting pitchers, finished sixth with 41 points, followed by UC Davis with 26. Cal State Northridge was tabbed eighth and the Pacific Tigers rounded out the nine-team field with nine points.

2009 Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (7) – 78
2. UC Irvine – 67
3. UC Santa Barbara (1) – 65
4. Long Beach State (1) – 55
5. Cal Poly – 45
6. UC Riverside – 41
7. UC Davis – 26
8. Cal State Northridge – 19
9. Pacific – 9