College Preview

Big West Conference Preview




BIG WEST CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH


ConferenceOverall


WLWL
1.+Cal State Fullerton (14)1835014
2.UC Riverside9122925
3.UC Irvine11103624
4.Long Beach State1292927
5.Cal Poly10112927
6.Pacific9123025
7.UC Santa Barbara9122628
8.Cal State Northridge6152630

Projected NCAA Teams (3): Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside, UC Irvine.
Conference Schedule: 21 games; begins March 30.
Conference Tournament: None.

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
C--Jeff Dunbar, Jr., UC Riverside (.293-1-27). 1B--Justin Baum, Jr., Pacific (.214-12-46). 2B--Cody Cipriano, Sr., UC Irvine (.354-4-36). 3B--Evan McArthur, Sr., Cal State Fullerton (.303-7-36). SS--Danny Espinosa, So., Long Beach State (.281-0-23). OF--Grant Desme, Jr., Cal Poly (.287-8-33); Bryan Peterson, Jr., UC Irvine (.226-0-7); Clark Hardman, Jr., Cal State Fullerton (.224-0-12, 8 SB). DH--Shane Peterson, So., Long Beach State (.328-2-19).
P--Scott Gorgen, So., UC Irvine (7-5, 2.54); Wes Roemer, Jr., Cal State Fullerton (13-2, 2.38, 155 IP/145 SO); James Simmons, Jr., UC Riverside (9-5, 2.95). RP--Blair Erickson, Sr., UC Irvine (5-0, 2.06, 13 SV).

Player of the Year: Clark Hardman, of, Cal State Fullerton.
Pitcher of the Year: Wes Roemer, rhp, Cal State Fullerton.

Top Newcomers: 1. Khris Davis, of, Cal State Fullerton (HS--Glendale, Ariz.). 2. Nate Bridges, ss, Cal State Fullerton (HS--Yorba Linda, Calif.). 3. Luis Tovar, ss, UC Irvine (HS--Yuma, Ariz.). 4. Daniel Bibona, lhp, UC Irvine (HS--Lake Forest, Calif.). 5. Kyle Morgan, of, Long Beach State (Tr.--Bakersfield, Calif., CC).

TOP PROSPECTS, 2007-08 DRAFT
1. Wes Roemer, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
2. James Simmons, rhp, UC Riverside
3. Blair Erickson, rhp, UC Irvine
4. Clark Hardman, of, Cal State Fullerton
5. Evan McArthur, 3b, Cal State Fullerton
6. Vance Worley, rhp, Long Beach State
7. #Danny Espinosa, ss, Long Beach State
8. Jeff Dunbar, c, UC Riverside
9. Bryan Peterson, of, UC Irvine
10. Adam Jorgensen, rhp, Cal State Fullerton

SHORT HOPS

• Cal State Fullerton has seen 21 players sign professional contracts over the last two years, yet the Titans still look like an easy choice to repeat as Big West Conference champions after again making it to Omaha last season. The biggest reason is righthander Wes Roemer, an All-American last season who went 13-2, 2.38 with 145 strikeouts and just seven walks in 155 innings. He was the Friday starter on the nation's best pitching staff last year, so there's no reason to expect anything other than a dominant junior season. The best returning offensive player is third baseman Evan McArthur, who hit .303 with seven home runs last year, and Fullerton has enough depth of talent to plug in upperclassmen at most positions. But after losing four all-Big West hitters, coach George Horton is trying to manage expectations: "We have many question marks on the field and probably the biggest void to fill will be our defense. After our fall workouts, we have a long way to go to maintain the tradition of winning championships here."

• UC Riverside has been playing Division I baseball for just six years, and the Highlanders already have a surprise regional berth in their history (2003). But this is the first time the team will enter the season with such high expectations. Righthander James Simmons was one of the top prospects in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he'll be the team's ace after going 9-5, 2.95 last season. The team had two sophomore-eligible players who were drafted last year--catcher Jeff Dunbar (White Sox, 19th round) and lefthander Dan Runzler (Mariners, 17th)--but both decided to return to school. The pitching staff is so deep that senior Taylor Bills, who pitched 81 innings as a weekend starter last year, will work out of the bullpen this year. The lineup will be dominated by juniors and seniors, including juco transfer Mike Vass, who hit 15 home runs last year at Cypress (Calif.) JC.

• Cal Poly has hopes of building on last season's 29-27 record with a young, talented pitching staff, but those efforts took a hit when pitching coach Jerry Weinstein quit in January to become manager of high Class A Modesto in the Rockies organization. Weinstein was entering his sixth season at Cal Poly, after he spent two years as Dodgers farm director. Before that, he was the coach at Sacramento City College for 23 seasons. The Mustangs lost their entire weekend rotation and closer from last year's team but actually think they could be better on the mound with the emergence of sophomore righthander D.J. Mauldin.

• Long Beach State missed regionals last year and will be hard-pressed to get back this year with what coach Mike Weathers is calling the youngest team in his six years at the helm. Three-quarters of the infield is back, including Big West freshman of the year Danny Espinosa, who continues the school's tradition of strong shortstops. But the pitching staff will be almost completely rebuilt, with sophomore righthander Vance Worley the only experienced arm returning. Worley had a 3.82 ERA last season, but it was 1.65 over the last two months of the season. With 21 underclassmen, the Dirtbags should look much more formidable in 2008.

• The reconstruction of the UC Irvine program is nearly complete, with the Anteaters earning their second regional bid since the 2001 revival of the baseball team last year. They'll try to make it two in a row with two seniors and a talented recruiting class. Second baseman Cody Cipriano batted .354 last season to earn all-conference honors, and righthander Blair Erickson is the school's all-time leader with 40 saves. The most talented of the newcomers might be lefthander Daniel Bibona, who compiled a 1.81 ERA at Santa Margarita Catholic High in Lake Forest, Calif., last year.

• The Big West becomes a nine-team conference in 2008, when UC Davis joins the league. Davis is playing as an independent during its transitional Division I season but will face many Big West opponents as part of its schedule.

+ 2006 conference tournament champion; 2006 NCAA regional participants in bold; 2006 records listed; 2007 national rankings in parentheses