FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
Irvine, Calif. — Cal State Fullerton is the predominate favorite in the 2011 Big West Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll, receiving all nine first-place votes. The Titans have claimed at least a share of eight of the last 12 titles and a conference-best 15 overall. UC Irvine and UC Riverside found themselves knotted in second place with 65 votes apiece. Receiving 50 points to grab the fourth slot is Cal Poly while Long Beach State rounds out the top five with 47 points.
Last season, Cal State Fullerton regained the top spot in the league with an impressive 21-3 record, made its 32nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the 2010 Super Regionals. In 2011, the Titans return 17 letterwinners (4 starting position players and 3 starting pitchers), two of which have already received preseason accolades. Junior pitcher Noe Ramirez is tabbed First Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and junior pitcher/first baseman Nick Ramirez earned both second and third team All-America selections. Providing depth to the talented Titan squad, fourth-year head coach Dave Serrano and his staff welcome eight freshman and seven junior college transfers to the program, a recruiting class good enough to be ranked 8th by Collegiate Baseball and 10th by Baseball America.
In a quest to capture its second straight Big West championship in 2010, UC Irvine fell just short, finishing second with a 17-7 conference mark. For their second place finish, the Anteaters were awarded an at-large berth into their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. This year the Anteaters were picked to mirror last season’s campaign, earning 65 points to tie UC Riverside for second place. In order to make a valiant run towards the league title, the Anteaters will rely on their 17 returning letterwinners, including five starting position players and seven pitchers. Also added to the mix in 2011 is a recruiting class including eight high school players and one from the junior college ranks.
UC Riverside is primed to continue its success from last season and the coaches seems to agree, tying them for second in the Big West Preseason Coaches Poll. The Highlanders return a majority of their pitching staff, including Dustin Emmons, Matt Larkin, Matt Andriese and freshman All-America Mitch Patito. Emmons concluded the 2010 season with nine wins, tying him for third in the conference, and Andriese led the Highlanders and finished fifth in the conference in innings pitched (103.2).Headlining the team offensively is All-Big West First Team selection Tony Nix. The senior outfielder ended last season pacing the league with a .699 slugging percentage and ranking ninth in the Big West with a .361 batting average.
Cal Poly’s hopes to improve on last year depends on the dreaded injury bug that has plagued the team the past few years. The pitching staff has been hit hardest with the Mustangs losing Steven Fischback for both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Frankie Reed for the 2008 and 2009 campaigns, Matt Leonard in 2009, DJ Mauldin (injured in 2007 season opener) and Mason Radeke (started first four weeks of 2010 season before elbow injury). If the pitching staff can remain healthy, you may find the Mustangs in the mix at the top of the Big West standings. In all, Cal Poly returns 20 letterwinners, including five position starters and nine pitchers, from a squad which fell 17 games below the .500 mark at 10-27 in the first 10 weeks of the 2010 season, but finished 23-32, posting a 13-5 mark in May and climbing from last place to fifth in the Big West Conference.
Long Beach State begins its first year in the Troy Buckley era. Buckley, who became head coach of the 49ers after Mike Weathers resigned as skipper towards the end of the 2010 season, finds himself in a rebuilding situation with only 12 letterwinners returning. Of the 12 letterwinners, the 49ers bring back four starters, which includes 2010 second-team All-Big West starting pitcher Andrew Gagnon. Gagnon is slated to reprise his role as the team’s ace, after posting a 3.28 ERA and 65 strikeouts.
UC Santa Barbara secured the sixth spot with 36 total points and Pacific locked down seventh with 26 points. Garnering 22 points was UC Davis, who ranked eighth and was followed by Cal State Northridge (13 points).
2011 Preseason Big West Coaches Poll – Tuesday, January 25, 2011
2011 Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (9) 81
T2. UC Irvine 65
T2. UC Riverside 65
4. Cal Poly 50
5. Long Beach State 47
6. UC Santa Barbara 36
7. Pacific 26
8. UC Davis 22
9. Cal State Northridge 13
( ) First-place vote