There were some major moves since the last power rankings, but not necessarily at the top. Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine both lost back-to-back games for the first time, but did they slide? And with four teams apparently fighting it out to show who can be worse in the recent week or so, who ultimately slides all the way to the bottom?
1. UCLA (12-3, LW: 3) – The Bruins sit atop the power rankings after getting their fifth one-run win, against Cal State Northridge earlier this week. UCLA had to come back from a 4-2 deficit and then put the ball in the hands of David Berg, who took care of the Matadors. Berg already has 11 appearances in 15 games. It took him 19 games before his 11th appearance last season, so look out appearance records.
Upcoming: UCLA opens Pac-12 play with an underperforming Washington squad. It’s also the start to a 17-game stretch where the Bruins play all but three games at home.
2. Cal State Fullerton (13-3, LW: 1) – After the death of teammate Nick Hurtado, the Titans lost three of four games, including the series opener to Texas A&M, but they bounced back to win the series. Starter Thomas Eshelman has yet to issue a collegiate walk and Fullerton leads the nation in walks per nine innings (1.51).
Upcoming: The Titans are on the road in Oklahoma at Southland traditional power Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles are only 5-10 this year and entered this week with only two hitters batting above .300.
3. UC Irvine (13-4, LW: 2) – The ‘Eaters dropped a series with BYU, losing back-to-back games for the first time this year. They got back on track with a 4-2 win over visiting San Diego State thanks to four hitless innings of relief from Kyle Hooper.
Upcoming: Nebraska returns to Southern California for a three-game weekend set with Irvine. The Huskers are 5-2 since starting the season 0-7., led by Chad Chistensen, who is batting .400 this season.
4. San Diego (11-6, LW: 9) – Kris Bryant is playing like a legit Golden Spikes candidate, entering the week leading the country in home runs, walks and runs. The Toreros were on a strong run having won nine of ten prior to last weekend’s USD Tournament, but went 2-2 against three unranked teams. San Diego’s pitching depth was really tested with the Toreros playing 10 games in 11 days.
Upcoming: San Diego opens West Coast Conference play with BYU starting tonight at 6 p.m. The Cougars are coming off a series win at Irvine.
5. UC Riverside (9-7, LW: 10) – The Highlanders are just on the outside looking in on the top four squads. They have been one of the hottest SoCal teams taking six of their last eight after splitting a high-octane four-game set with the D.J. Peterson-led New Mexico Lobos. During that span, UC Riverside has averaged more than 10 runs per game. But it needs to find some more pitching depth.
Upcoming: Staying on the road, the Highlanders travel to Portland for a final non-conference schedule.
6. Loyola Marymount (7-10, LW: 11) – Colin Welmon has an impressive 24-inning streak of not allowing an earned run, but the Lions haven’t had a winning week since the beginning of the season. They have to do the small things to win games. Currently, they are 1-5 in games decided by two runs or less.
Upcoming: West Coast Conference play opens up with a big showdown between Pepperdine and LMU — two teams that expect to compete with San Diego and Gonzaga atop the league.
7. Pepperdine (8-8, LW: 4) – The Waves snapped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 9-4 win at USC. Unlike last season, when Jon Moscot, Scott Frazier, Corey Miller and Matt Maurer gave the Waves a chance to win every time out, the starting rotation has struggled. Frazier has been up in the zone and has been hit hard. Maurer had to skip a start on Tuesday due to a arm discomfort. Aaron Brown, who took the Sunday job after the departure of Moscot, returned from injury on Sunday, but struggled.
Upcoming: All will be forgotten about the struggles the last two weeks if Pepperdine can get a big series win to open conference play against LMU. The Waves will have home field advantage.
8. USC (7-9, LW: 5) – USC is only ranked in the single digits because of how bad the three teams below them have been. After winning six of seven early in the season, the Trojans have lost six of their last seven. The trouble has been the young arms in the bullpen/mid-week. Bob Wheatley and Wyatt Strahan have exceeded my expectations early in the season. Kyle Twomey has been hit or miss based on his command, but outside of those three and Nigel Nootbaar, coach Dan Hubbs feels like he’s flipping a coin on whether he’s going to get a strong outing.
Upcoming: The Trojans continue their murderer’s row schedule — starting with the beginning of last week, 17 of 24 opponents were ranked in Baseball America’s top 25 — opening Pac-12 conference play with No. 16 Oregon, who have lost its last two weekend series.
9. San Diego State (7-10, LW: 8) – The Aztecs have to be the streakiest team in the nation. Start out 3-0, drop five straight. Win four in a row, drop five straight. Of course, eight of their ten losses have been to the current No. 3 team in the country and the preseason No. 2 team. San Diego State is close — it has lost five games by three runs or fewer — but they have to get some clutch hitting to get over the hump.
Upcoming: A conference opener at Fresno State looms for SDSU. Both teams have struggled in the last week and a half. One team will snap a five-game losing streak on Friday.
10. Cal State Northridge (6-11, LW: 7) – The saying goes that ‘close doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.’ It’s true for Northridge, who have lost nine games by three runs or fewer, including four one-run losses. Over the weekend, the Matadors lost on a walk-off to Sacramento State Friday and then dropped the series with a 9-6 loss on Sunday, but more devastating was a 5-4 mid-week loss to No. 11 UCLA after leading 4-2.
Upcoming: Weekend off. Since it’s Spring Break for some schools, go have some fun at the beach boys!
11. Long Beach State (6-11, LW: 6) – The 49ers — I can’t call them the Dirtbags when they’ve lost six straight and eight of their last nine — have gone 11 games without scoring more than four runs. Even worse, they are barely averaging more than four HITS per game in the last five games. It’s no wonder Long Beach has only scored five runs in the span.
Upcoming: LBSU continues its strong schedule hosting former powerhouse program Wichita State this weekend. The Shockers are off to an 11-5 record this season, but haven’t played much tough competition. We’ll see whose scheduling philosophy prepared the teams better this weekend.