Cal State Fullerton hopes to celebrate like this in 2009.
Fred and I decided it would be neat to have a College Baseball thread, what with former local players making such a big impact on some of the teams throughout the country.
I will concentrate mostly on the Division I teams in Southern California, but it will not be limited to this region. It will include a little information, some opinion and perhaps some post-season predictions at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy it.
I will start with our top five rankings for the SoCal teams, so here goes:
1. Cal State Fullerton – The Titans, who open up the season at home against TCU, beginning Friday, have been arguably one of the top sports programs in Southern California over the past 30 years, winning four national titles and making 15 trips to the College World Series. Fullerton is a favorite for a 16th appearance, returning 7 of nine starters from a team that advanced to the Super Regionals last season. The Titans’ impact players include lead-off hitter Gary Brown of Diamond Bar High School, and Covina’s Tyler Pill, who is slated to make his first collegiate start on Sunday. Fullerton begins the season ranked No. 5 by Baseball America.
2. UCLA - The Bruins, led by former UC Irvine coach John Savage, have been one of the up-and-coming programs in recent years, advancing to the Super Regionals two years ago, and the Regionals last year, losing to Fullerton on both occasions. UCLA begins the season ranked No. 12 by Baseball America. Among its returning players are former Pasadena Poly pitching star Rob Rasmussen, who gets the call when the Bruins open the season Friday at home against UC Davis.
3. UC Irvine – The Anteaters, who open up the season at Hawaii on Friday, have also been on the rise recently, advancing to the CWS two years ago and the regionals the past two seasons. They are expected to battle Fullerton for supremacy in the Big West Conference, and it would not surprise most if both took the Road to Omaha and the CWS. Irvine’s impact players include former St. Francis star Christian Bergman, who is expected to be one of the top pitchers on the West Coast after going 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA last season; relief pitcher Kyle Necke of Walnut and former Bishop Amat star Maverick Olivares, who is expected to see time in the outfield. The Anteaters’ roster also includes Amat’s Jordan Fox and San Dimas’ Jordan Leyland. Irvine begins the season ranked No. 9 by Baseball America.
4. San Diego – The Toreros, who begin the season Friday in a tournament in Compton against Southern University, have been one of the top teams in Southern California the past few years, winning 40 games each of the past two seasons. San Diego, which is ranked No. 11 by Baseball America, is led by preseason All-Americans pitcher AJ Griffin and infielder Victor Sanchez. The roster also includes former Bishop Amat standout Michael Lugo, who played a limited role last season.
5. Pepperdine – The Waves, who open the season Friday with a home encounter against Cal State Northridge, are again the team to beat in the West Coast Conference. They are led by infielder Bryce Mendonca and relief pitcher Nick Gaudi, who are preseason All-Americans. Pepperdine’s roster also includes former Glendora star David Harris, who hit .284 with 29 RBIs last season. The Waves begin the season ranked No. 17 by Baseball America.