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CBD Column: Southern California Wk 3 Power Rankings

Michael Wagner leads the nation in saves.A Tuesday midweek SoCal showdown had a major impact on the Power Rankings once again. USC ended Cal State Fullerton’s seven-game winning streak and sent the Titans into a Power Rankings tailspin. See how far Fullerton slips and see who takes over the No. 1 spot after Pepperdine lost two of three at Louisville over the weekend. Plus how far have the San Diego Toreros and the nation’s saves leader, Michael Wagner (pictured left), moved up in the last two weeks?

1. UCLA (9-3, LW: 2, 4-0) – The Bruins have risen each week. This time to the top spot after an unblemished 4-0 week. UCLA didn’t face stiff competition, but it did what it needed to do to take care of business and improve its win streak to seven games. The pitching staff dominated the lesser opponents not giving up more than two runs in any of the four contests and the offense averaged 6.5 runs. Jeff Gelalich continues to anchor the middle of the lineup with seven extra base hits on the season leading to his 1.266 OPS. Ryan Deeter has been great out of the bullpen, appearing in 10 of UCLA’s 12 games and allowing only one run.

2. San Diego (11-3, LW: 5, 4-0- After Week 1, San Diego was next to last. Now the Toreros are next to first. The turnaround has come thanks to the bullpen’s development. James Pazos and Michael Wagner have been one of the most dynamic end-of-game duo’s in the nation. Pazos is 3-1 and Wagner leads the nation in saves after recording a save in all seven of his appearances. The lefty/righty combination has a collective 1.38 ERA in 26 innings of work. The offense’s ability to pound the ball hasn’t hurt either. Part of the reason San Diego has won 10 of its last 11 is because the Toreros are batting .352 as a team.

Adam Landecker is one of four Trojans above .350.

3. USC (9-3, LW: 4, 2-2- When USC dropped its second game of the season and its second in a row last Friday in an 11-1 loss to No. 6 North Carolina, I wondered how the Trojans would respond. Was this team just a 7-0 wolf in the sheep’s clothing of a soft early schedule? They obviously weren’t as they bounced back with a 1-0 loss to UNC before taking this series finale. USC then moved up the Power Rankings by ending Fullerton’s seven-game winning streak when “SC showed them how to compete.” The Trojans are a tenacious team that is doing all the small things the right way, from battling with two strikes to limiting defensive mistakes — the Trojans were No. 13 in the nation in fielding percentage as of Monday.

4. Pepperdine (8-4, LW: 1, 1-2) - Besides Cal State Fullerton, no team has played as tough an early schedule as the Waves. Pepperdine dodged tornadoes in Kentucky to get in a three-game set with Louisville. The Waves took the opener, but lost the series in three tightly contested games. They are relying heavily on freshman with four in the starting lineup, but after a fast start, the frosh are struggling. Even with Aaron Brown’s .293 average, the four are batting a combined .219.

5. San Diego State (8-6, LW: 9, 4-0) - I’ll repeat what I said last week: “When it gets solid pitching, San Diego State is a tough team.” The Aztecs have won five straight thanks to getting some quality pitching. They have lost only once when allowing less than seven runs. However, the Aztecs have lost Friday night starter Cole Swanson for four to six weeks after he had to have an emergency appendectomy. Clutch hitting is another factor in their rise up the rankings. Tuesday’s 3-1 ninth inning win over Long Beach was San Diego State’s sixth final at bat win of the season.

6. Cal State Fullerton (9-4, LW: 3, 3-1- Coach Vanderhook said Tuesday after Fullerton’s seven-game win streak was snapped that without Michael Lorenzen, Carlos Lopez, Keegan Dale and Richy Pedroza the Titans might get no-hit every game. I’m apt to believe him. While the pitching staff has been solid, Fullerton has been skating by. If only the Titans played every game on Sunday when they are averaging 14 hits per game, rather than the 6.7 they average the rest of the week. Maybe it is due to day games vs night games? I don’t know, but the Titans better figure something out before this weekend’s trip to College Station.

7. UC Irvine (6-5, LW: 8, 2-2) - The Anteaters haven’t really shown much so far this season. They have beat opponents from smaller conferences, but have not been able to hang with teams from the power conferences. The pitching staff is holding opponents to barely over three runs per game, but the offense continues to struggle. Take away Connor Spencer and Jordan Fox and the offense is hitting .225. Four regulars are batting below .162. Hopefully, Kyle Hooper can continue to be unhittable (17 IP, 7 H, 0 R). He was named Big West Pitcher of the Week after his four-hit, complete game shutout of Lamar on Friday.

Alex Muren and the CSUN staff need to step up.

8. Cal State Northridge (6-6, LW: 6, 0-3- Northridge looked like they had regained the momentum heading into the weekend when they handed San Diego its only loss in the last two and a half weeks, but the Matadors dropped an extra inning game to San Francisco and then their pitching gave up 25 runs in two games. The Matadors have to get more pitching. They currently have a 7.20 ERA!

9. Long Beach State (4-8, LW: 7, 0-4) – I’ve never seen as heart wrenching a stretch as the Dirtbags are currently on. Long Beach has now lost six of its 12 games in the final at bat, including the last four games. Three of those came on walk-offs at then No.18 Oregon over the weekend. The Dirtbags hitting continues to struggle. They have only three batters hitting above .250. Coach Buckley has to find a way to get Matt Duffy going. The junior shortstop has regressed at the plate, much the way Kirk Singer did last year for Long Beach. Duffy led the team in RBI last year, but has only two while batting .163 this year.

10. Loyola Marymount (4-7, LW: 11, 2-1- LMU boosted its team batting average by 23 points this weekend. It will need to continue that trend and hope the ERA doesn’t also rise (as it did this weekend). The Lions are giving up over 6.6 runs per game. It’s imperative that some of their upperclassmen hitters make some adjustments and step up. Colton Plaia, Shon Roe, Matt Lowenstein and Nick Devian (all juniors and seniors) are each batting .184 or worse.

11. UC Riverside (4-8, LW: 10, 1-3) - The Highlanders have lost five of their last six since upsetting Arizona State. They just aren’t scoring enough runs. They average four runs per game and only four times have they scored five or more runs. Riverside dropped a series at Sam Houston State and then got shutout by UCLA.