FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
Cal State Fullerton was selected to successfully defend its Big West Conference title this season, according to the ten conference coaches that voted on the 2013 Big West Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll. The Titans earned nine first-place votes en route to a total of 99 points and was followed by UC Irvine, who collected the remaining first place vote and posted an overall 82 point total. Rounding out the top three after securing 75 points was Long Beach State.
In 2012, Cal State Fullerton captured its 26th Big West Conference championship and 10th in the last 14 years after tallying a 17-7 league mark which sent the Titans to their 34th postseason appearance. The Titans return a very experienced squad from the 2012 season, including All-American Michael Lorenzen and Big West Freshman of the Year, Matt Chapman. In addition, all-conference first team 2012 selections Richy Pedroza and Carlos Lopez are expected to return to the Titan lineup along with second-team pick Anthony Hutting.
On the mound, right-hander Grahamm Wiest (5-5, 3.12) returns as well as Big West second team pick Willie Kuhl. The right-hander made 18 relief appearances in 2012, striking out 36 in 26 and 2/3 innings. In addition, Titan fans will get the opportunity to watch Cal State Fullerton’s freshman class, which was ranked the No. 23 recruiting class in the nation, according to Baseball America’s annual evaluation.
Second-place pick UC Irvine welcomes back an impressive pitching staff that is led by Big West All-Conference First Team honoree, Andrew Thurman, who was 8-3 last season with a 2.66 ERA. The right-hander also became the fifth player in Anteater history to fire a no-hitter and went on to hold opposing teams to a .195 batting average. Also returning is closer Race Parmenter, who garnered All-Big West honors last year after posting eight saves in 22 appearances.
Experience is also showcased behind the plate with the return of catcher Ronnie Shaeffer, 2011 American Baseball Coaches Association Gold Glove winner. Shaeffer, who utilized a redshirt year last season, caught every game in 2011 for UCI and added 55 hits with 31 RBI en route to earning All-Big West Conference First-Team honors.
The 49ers of Long Beach State, who finished third last season with a 15-9 Big West mark, return 19 letterwinners which includes seven starting position players and two 2012 All-Big West members – pitcher Jon Maciel (second team) and third basemen Juan Avila (honorable mention). Last year Long Beach State sported the league’s lowest ERA with a 3.08 mark, which also ranked 17th nationally, and hopes to emulate that performance this season as the 49ers welcome back eight pitchers to go along with four newcomers, including right-handers David Hill and Shane Carle.
Grabbing the fourth spot on the preseason poll is Cal Poly, who looks to continue where it left off last season. The Mustangs closed out of the 2012 season winning the last seven games and 14 of 17. Leading the Big West Conference in almost all important offensive categories, including batting average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, lifted Cal Poly to a second place finish in the conference last year with a 16-8 record.
This year seven of the 10 position players who started return, along with 11 of last year’s 13 pitchers, including four of the five who were starters. Cal Poly received nine wins from Friday night starter Joey Wagman, who returns this spring. The bullpen will be led by junior Chase Johnson (eight saves in 2012), sophomore Reed Reilly, junior Michael Holback and sophomore Danny Zandona.
UC Santa Barbara, led by one of Baseball America’s “Top 10 College Head Coaches Under 40” Andrew Checketts, who is in his second season with the Gauchos, finished fifth in the poll with 58 points and was closely followed by newcomer Hawai’i with 57 points. UC Riverside collected 38 points to nab the seventh slot, Cal State Northridge picked up 34 points to slide into eighth and UC Davis (25) and Pacific (14) closed out the 10-team field.
2013 Coaches Poll Results
1. Cal State Fullerton (9) – 99
2. UC Irvine (1) – 82
3. Long Beach State – 75
4. Cal Poly – 68
5. UC Santa Barbara – 58
6. Hawai’i – 57
7. UC Riverside – 38
8. Cal State Northridge – 34
9. UC Davis – 25
10. Pacific – 14
( ) First-place vote