The college baseball season is officially under way in Southern California and that means it’s time for the SoCal Power Rankings. A pair of relative surprises sit atop the first SoCal Power Rankings as USC and Pepperdine both are off to stellar starts while Fullerton and UCLA dropped opening weekend series.
1. USC (4-0) – The Trojans are off to their best start since 2005, which was the last time the storied program made the NCAA Tournament. USC has had strong starting pitching and capitalized on mistakes. Junior designated hitter/pitcher Brandon Garcia has hit a pair of home runs and picked up the win in Tuesday’s game at Long Beach State.
2. Pepperdine (4-1) – Coach Steve Rodriguez didn’t hype his team much before the season, but the Waves are definitely getting some attention now. After losing 4-3 in their season opener to then No. 19 Oklahoma, they took the final two games of the series and then dominated VCU in a two-game midweek sweep. Scott Frazier was dominant in his start against Oklahoma and the bats have been alive (.323 team batting average) led by Matt Forgatch (.538) and Zach Vincej (.500).
3. UC Irvine (3-1) – The Anteaters swept through the MLB Urban Invitational in Houston taking games against Alabama State, Southern and Texas Southern. Tommy Reyes led the way knocking in six runs on his way to being named the Big West Player of the Week. The Irvine pitching staff has yet to allow more than three runs in a game, but that wasn’t enough Monday when the Anteaters fell 3-2 to UNLV.
4. Cal State Fullerton (1-2) - Traveling across the country to take on Florida, the preseason favorite to win the College World Series, Fullerton dropped its first two games, but bounced back to take the series finale. The Titans are a young team that should get better as the season progresses. Michael Lorenzen batted .462 for the weekend and got the save on Sunday, throwing up to a reported 98 mph.
5. UCLA (2-2) - The Bruins were one of the biggest disappointments of the opening weekend. Expected to be at or near the top of the Pac-12 this season, UCLA dropped two of three to perennial ACC doormat Maryland. Scott Griggs blew a save Friday night, ruining a great performance from Adam Plutko (7 IP, 0 R, 10 K). Griggs bounced back with a save on Saturday, but the Bruins defense let them down Sunday. The offense, which was held quiet throughout the weekend, erupted Tuesday at Northridge for 19 runs.
6. Loyola Marymount (2-1) - LMU took two of three in a low-scoring series with UNLV over the weekend. Joey Boney batted .500, but starting pitching was the story. The trio of Colin Welmon, Trevor Megill and John Lally combined to allow only five earned runs.
7. UC Riverside (2-2) - Outside of Devyn Bolasky’s .667 batting average, the Highlanders have struggled at the plate, batting only .250 as a team. Their pitching has been stellar, though, led by Dylan Stuart’s seven-hit complete game shutout in the opener. The Highlanders could be higher if they had pulled out Sunday’s extra inning affair with BYU.
8. Long Beach State (2-2) – The Dirtbags are struggling to string together hits. The top four batters combined for an 0-for-15 performance Tuesday against USC and No. 3 hitter Matt Duffy has struggled throughout the first week going 2-for-14.
9. Cal State Northridge (2-2) - The Matadors took two of three from Sacramento State, but blew an opportunity against UCLA. Northridge battled back from an 8-2 deficit to pull within two runs at 9-7, but the Matadors were blasted with a nine-run eighth inning. Both Miles Williams and Todd Eskelin are batting above .450 and hit a home run this week.
10. San Diego (1-2) - After winning their opener, the Toreros dropped the final two games to Sam Houston State. Their starting pitching was phenomenal, allowing only two earned runs, but the bullpen was atrocious, allowing 12 runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. They could quickly shoot up the power rankings if they can shore up the relief because the offense batted .336 led by third baseman Kris Bryant, who reached base 10 of his 14 plate appearances.
11. San Diego State (1-3) – The season couldn’t have started much rougher for the Aztecs. The Tuesday leading up to Opening Day head coach Tony Gwynn had to undergo surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his right cheek and won’t be back with the team for at least a few weeks. Then SDSU dropped two of three to Washington, who was picked to finish next to last in the Pac-12 preseason poll. UC Riverside then dominated the Aztecs 7-1 on Tuesday. The pitching staff has been knocked around to the tune of a 6.43 ERA.