2012 Big West Conference Preview

See also: Preseason Top 25 Capsules for a full report on Cal State Fullerton

*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)

Conf. Overall
*Cal State Fullerton (25) 19 5 41 17
UC Irvine 16 8 43 18
Long Beach State 12 12 29 27
UC Riverside 11 13 29 23
Cal Poly 15 9 27 26
UC Davis 10 14 18 36
UC Santa Barbara 10 14 26 26
Cal State Northridge 6 18 23 33
Pacific 9 15 17 37
Projected NCAA Teams (2): Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine.
Conference Schedule: 24 games; begins March 30.
Conference Tournament: None.
Player of the Year: Michael Lorenzen, of, Cal State Fullerton.
Pitcher of the Year: Dylan Floro, rhp, Cal State Fullerton.
1. Michael Lorenzen, of, Cal State Fullerton (2013)
2. Mitch Haniger, of, Cal Poly
3. Dylan Floro, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
4. Matt Duffy, ss, Long Beach State
5. Nick Grim, rhp, Cal Poly
6. Kyle Hooper, rhp, UC Irvine
7. Kevin Gelinas, lhp, UC Santa Barbara
8. Ivory Thomas, of, Cal State Fullerton
9. Alex Muren, rhp, Cal State Northridge
10. Matt Anderson, rhp, Long Beach State
11. D.J. Crumlich, ss, UC Irvine
12. Andrew Thurman, rhp, UC Irvine (2013)
13. Shawn Stuart, rhp, Long Beach State
14. Mitch Patito, rhp, UC Riverside
15. Tyler Kuresa, 1b, UC Santa Barbara (2013)
1. Richard Prigatano, of/1b, Long Beach State (HS—Mountain View, Calif.)
2. Taylor Sparks, 3b, UC Irvine (HS—Bellflower, Calif.)
3. J.D. Davis, 3b/rhp, Cal State Fullerton (HS—Elk Grove, Calif.)
4. Nick Grim, rhp, Cal Poly (Tr.—Monterey Peninsula, Calif., JC)
5. Matt Imhof, lhp, Cal Poly (HS—Fremont, Calif.)
6. Kenny Matthews, lhp, Cal State Fullerton (HS—Diamond Bar, Calif.)
7. Matt Anderson, rhp, Long Beach State (Tr.—Chaffey, Calif., JC)
8. Jordan Johnson, rhp, Cal State Northridge (HS—Elk Grove, Calif.)
9. Jose Cardona, rhp, Cal State Fullerton (HS—Woodland Hills, Calif.)
10. Cody Dill, rhp, UC Riverside (HS—Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)
• UC Irvine absorbed its second crushing super regional defeat in three years last June, getting within an out of Omaha with the bases empty and a one-run lead in Charlottesville before Virginia rallied for the victory. The Anteaters lost four regulars (three of them seniors) plus ace Matt Summers from that team, but they will be led by another strong core of seniors this spring: SS D.J. Crumlich (.300/.401/.395), 2B Tommy Reyes (.289/.402/.353), 1B Jordan Fox (.323/.402/.371), C Ronnie Shaeffer (.264/.317/.308) and OF Christian Ramirez (.282/.344/.405). Those are winning ballplayers who execute on offense and defense, and coach Mike Gillespie has a long history of instilling strong fundamentals in his teams. The pitching staff is filled with competitors with solid, though not overpowering, stuff. Six-foot-5 Jr. RHP Kyle Hooper (3-0, 4.06) is the best prospect of the bunch, working downhill with a fastball that reaches the low 90s and showing solid command of his secondary stuff. The staff has quality depth and experience.

• Long Beach State climbed from the Big West basement (7-17) to fourth place (12-12) in Troy Buckley’s first season as head coach. Though the Dirtbags will miss the departed one-two pitching punch of Andrew Gagnon and Branden Pinder, they return a solid veteran core in the lineup, and a solid recruiting class should make an immediate impact. Long Beach’s best returnee is Jr. SS Matt Duffy, who made a name for himself in the Cape League last summer, hitting .346 and making the all-star game. The coaches describe Fr. OF Richard Prigatano as a “game changer” who will hit for both average and power, giving LBSU a lineup centerpiece for the next three years. Competitive Sr. RHP Shawn Stuart (4-4, 3.16), a polished sinker-slider pitcher, anchors the rotation, and juco transfer RHP Matt Anderson could be a standout Saturday starter thanks to the best fastball and slider on the team.

• The Big West looks pretty wide open after Fullerton and Irvine, though the Dirtbags look like the No. 3 team. UC Riverside’s veteran pitching should make it a factor in the conference. Fifth-year Sr. RHP Eddie Orozco (5-2, 2.29, 71 IP/60 SO) gives the Highlanders one of the most reliable Friday starters in the league, with good command of a solid three-pitch repertoire. Jr. RHPs Trevor Frank (2-3, 3.35) and Mitch Patito (1-3, 5.75) also have good feel for pitching and competitiveness, and all three could be drafted inside the top 15 rounds. The offense is inexperienced but talented; keep an eye on Fr. SS Nick Vilter, a physical offensive player with surprising range at short.

• UC Davis could sneak up the standings in Matt Vaughn’s first season (he was elevated from an assistant role when Rex Peters left for a job on the UCLA staff). The Aggies will go as far as their all-senior weekend rotation carries them: strike-throwing RHP Tommy Briner (3-1, 2.57, 6 SV) moves from the closer role to the Friday starter job, while LHPs Anthony Kupbens (5-8, 2.36) and Dayne Quist (2-7, 5.14) keep hitters off balance with solid fastball-changeup changeups. UCD’s most valuable player is Sr. DH/RHP David Popkins (.321/.391/.459; 1.37 ERA in 20 IP), the team’s best run producer and a key arm in the bullpen.

• UC Santa Barbara also has a new coach, as former UCR pitching coach Andrew Checketts left his job as an Oregon assistant to replace the reassigned Bob Brontsema at UCSB. Checketts has a reputation as a masterful pitching coach, and he’ll try to work his magic with fifth-year Sr. LHP Kevin Gelinas, who flashes mid-90s fastball velocity and a hard, sharp-breaking slider but has managed to log just 112/3 innings over the past four years at Pepperdine and Santa Barbara. The Gauchos’ offensive catalyst is undersized Jr. CF Brett Vertigan, who redshirted a year ago but showed plus speed, good basestealing ability and excellent outfield range in the fall.