The No. 4-ranked Cal State Fullerton baseball team is set to square off against a conference opponent this weekend that also ranks among the top 25, the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs.
The three-game road series will kick off on Friday at 6 p.m., continues Saturday at 6 p.m. and concludes on Sunday at 1 p.m.
After UC Santa Barbara ended the Titans’ 10-game winning streak on Sunday, CSUF got right back to their winning ways with a 8-4 win against Pepperdine in a midweek clash on Tuesday.
The Titans come into the series with an 8-1 record against Big West opponents, good for tops in the conference. Their 32-5 overall record is the best start for CSUF since the 1996 season where they started 31-2.
The Mustangs are No. 23 on the Baseball America rankings list with their 23-7 record. Cal Poly comes into the series winners of five of their last six matches including a series victory against Hawaii last weekend.
Cal Poly also holds a 6-3 conference record and are solid at home with a 15-4 record at Baggett Stadium, but the Titans have been road warriors all season going 17-1 away from Goodwin Field.
The Titans will look to their young rotation of starting pitchers to create some separation in the conference standings this weekend.
Freshman phenom Thomas Eshelman tossed eight innings last weekend against UC Santa Barbara and only gave up one run while striking out seven. Eshelman gave up his first walk of the season in that game after pitching 63.1 innings without issuing a walk. Eshelman owns a 7-1 record and a 1.09 ERA and has 46 strikeouts in 66 innings of work, which includes a complete game. Eshelman’s 1.09 ERA is second in the nation among freshmen. Opponents are batting a lowly .161 against the Titans ace. His stats earned him a spot on the Pitcher of the Year watch list along with teammate Michael Lorenzen.
Lorenzen is a talented two way player who plays center field until being called to the mound to close out games. Lorenzen’s 12 saves is tied for tops in the nation while managing a 2.84 ERA and striking out 11 in his 12.2 innings of work. Lorenzen is also batting .343 and leads the team with seven home runs and 36 RBIs.
The other young gun in the Titans rotation, Justin Garza, also has seven wins and has yet to record a loss. The freshman has a 2.36 ERA in 61 innings and has struck out 53 batters, tied for the team lead.
The Mustangs will counter with their ace Matt Imhof who has a 4-1 record and has recorded a 1.51 ERA and 57 strikeouts. The Mustangs will also use strikeout artist Joey Wagman. Wagman has 72 strikeouts on the season to go along with his 7-2 record and 2.95 ERA. If the Mustangs take a lead into the final inning they will most likely call upon Reed Reilly who has recorded nine saves on the season while managing a 1.83 ERA.
Cal Poly will hope that their second baseman Denver Chavez will get on base to create problems for Eshelman, Garza and the rest of the staff. Chavez has a .409 batting average with 14 RBIs and 11 stolen bases on the season. The Mustangs also have Nick Torres, a hard-slugging right fielder with a .328 batting average, six homers, and 30 RBIs.
The Titans will look for strong performances from their starters to keep their road record strong and increase their conference lead.