vincej

CBD Column: Southern California Wk 7 Power Rankings

Zach Vincej takes a deep breath.Pepperdine’s recent struggles, losing seven of eight games has sent them free falling down the SoCal Power Rankings. Once the top team and the No. 2 team just two weeks ago, the Waves are now fighting just to stay in the first tier of teams.

UCLA remains the top team, but could the hottest team be the 12-12 Loyola Marymount Lions? See where LMU ranks and see just where Irvine is after a 3-0 week.

The rankings after the jump. Record, last week’s rankings and record since last week’s Power Rankings in parentheses:

1. UCLA (20-5, LW: 1, 3-0) – Tyler Heineman is batting .516 in Pac-12 conference play to raise his overall average to .400, giving UCLA two hitters in the top 60 in the nation. Both Heineman and Jeff Gelalich also have an on base percentage of .500 or better, ranking them in the top 40.

2. San Diego (23-7, LW: 2, 2-1- San Diego enters this week with the third best batting average in the country at .329 and the ninth-best slugging percentage (.474). All-American candidate Kris Bryant (.381/.493/.681) leads the way but Dillon Haupt (.351/.463/.619) is just behind him after a great March when he batted .353 with 10 extra-base hits and 23 RBI. Haupt topped the month off with a 3-for-5 performance in Friday’s opener against San Francisco, homering off top draft prospect Kyle Zimmer.

3. Cal State Fullerton (18-10, LW: 3, 3-1- Coach Rick Vanderhook may have found the missing piece to the offensive puzzle. Anthony Trajano is doing a little bit of everything in the two-hole behind Richy Pedroza and in front of Michael Lorenzen and Carlos Lopez. Vanderhook (at the 1:09 mark) talked about the job Trajano has done on Saturday after a win against Cal State Northridge:

4. UC Irvine (17-9, LW: 5, 3-0) – Philip Ferragamo was thrust into the starting rotation with the latest of UC Irvine’s injuries and responded with an outstanding performance on Sunday. He pitched seven scoreless innings and established himself as a suitable replacement in the weekend rotation with Kyle Hooper out with a stress fracture in his elbow. Even with injuries, including outfielder Jeff Stephens, who missed the final two games against Pacific after crashing into the outfield wall, Irvine has won recently because the ‘Eaters deep pitching staff hasn’t allowed more than five runs in the last nine games.

5. USC (17-9, LW: 4, 2-1- The Trojans have had their own troubles keeping players on the field. Senior outfielder Alex Sherrod has missed the last week and a half with a groin injury; senior Ben Mount could miss a start this weekend after taking a batted ball off the knee; and leading hitter Matt Foat missed Tuesday’s game due to illness. Garret Houts and Jake Hernandez have filled the offensive void. As noted Tuesday, Houts has done a little bit of everything while Hernandez is hitting well enough that the coach Frank Cruz is determined to get the backup catcher’s bat in the lineup regardless if he has to DH, play first (as he did Tuesday) or even make a move to the outfield (as was planned Tuesday before Foat couldn’t go).

6. Loyola Marymount (12-12, LW: 7, 4-0- The Lions are getting hot at the right time and they are doing it with small ball. Even up 5-0 early on Tuesday, head coach Jason Gill repeatedly called for his hitters to sacrifice runners into scoring position. It is a formula that seems to be working as the Lions are 7-3 in their last 10 games. LMU has also received consistent offensive production from Cullen Mahoney, Matt Lowenstein and Colton Plaia. Mahoney had a 15-game hitting streak until Tuesday while Lowenstein and Plaia are both working on double-digit hit streaks of their own.

7. Long Beach State (10-16, LW: 8, 2-1) – The Dirtbags may have righted the ship. They’ve won two weekend series in a row, taking down one of the conference favorites Cal Poly over the weekend. Brennan Metzger even hit the team’s first home run of the season in the series opener. Starters Shawn Stuart, Ryan Strufing and Matt Anderson each have an ERA under 2.75.

8. Pepperdine (17-12, LW: 6, 1-3) – Pepperdine is sliding in the rankings. After allowing more than four runs only twice in their first 22 games (16-6), the Waves have given up five or more runs in each of their last seven games (1-6). Pepperdine needs junior ace Jon Moscot to set the tone with a strong start Thursday at St. Mary’s.

9. San Diego State (14-16, LW: 10, 3-1) – The Aztecs swept Air Force over the weekend, but continued a worrisome trend, striking out 28 times in the series. San Diego State is averaging almost eight strikeouts per game, which is troublesome when the offense has to supply a lot of runs due to the pitching staff’s 5.51 team ERA.

10. UC Riverside (8-13, LW: 9, 1-2- The Highlanders have struggled at the plate after losing six of their top 10 hitters last season. Eddie Young (.356) is the only batter above .300. However, Riverside always has a great chance to win at least one game each weekend as Eddie Orozco has been one of the best pitchers in SoCal this season. Orozco is 4-2 with a 1.56 ERA, but he needs fellow weekend starters Dylan Stuart and Trevor Frank to step up.

11. Cal State Northridge (12-16, LW: 11, 1-3- If the Matadors are able to split the first two games of a weekend series, there’s a good chance they’ll win the series. That’s because freshman left-hander Jerry Keel has allowed more than one earned run only once. He was sparkling last Sunday in his first career complete game. Keel shut down No. 13 Cal State Fullerton, allowing only one run on nine hits.