WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - The UC San Diego baseball program has been picked to finish sixth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in 2014, as voted by the league’s 11 head coaches in its preseason poll released on Wednesday.
UCSD accumulated 65 points to place behind five squads, all of which received at least one first-place vote. For the third time in as many years, Chico State is the CCAA favorite, with 89 points and one first-place nod. Defending regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay, which earned its first-ever banner in 2013, is second on 84 points despite garnering five first-place votes. Sonoma State is third with 77 points and one first-place vote.
The remaining first-place votes went two apiece to reigning CCAA tournament champion Cal State L.A. (74 points) and Cal Poly Pomona (69). UCSD is followed by Cal State East Bay (49), Cal State Dominguez Hills (31), Cal State San Bernardino (30), Cal State Stanislaus (22) and San Francisco State (15).
The teams occupying the top four positions in the poll, Chico State, Cal State Monterey Bay, Sonoma State and Cal State L.A., are favored to qualify for the CCAA Championship, to be held for the second straight year at Stockton’s neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark, May 8-11. Chico State and Monterey Bay split eight votes evenly to wrestle Cal State L.A.’s tournament crown, with Sonoma State getting two votes and one coach projecting the Golden Eagles to repeat in Stockton.
Eric Newman, the 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year, enters his third season in charge of the Tritons when Opening Day comes around this Sunday, Feb. 2. UCSD returns 18 letterwinners to mesh with two returning redshirts and 17 newcomers. The Tritons bring back six of nine position starters, as well as three of four pitchers in their starting rotation from a year ago.
Newman welcomes back 2013 CCAA Freshman of the Year Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS), who was also an All-CCAA First Team honoree after a standout rookie campaign as a dual threat on the mound and in the field. The senior tandem of fifth-year catcher Nick La Face and fourth-year infielder Garrett Tuck were both All-West Region selections in 2012 and are each former All-CCAA First Team picks themselves, with Tuck in 2012 and La Face in 2011. Tuck earned that distinction at shortstop, and looks to be back at that position after spending 2013 at third base.
On the mound, senior Blake Fassler has the inside track to be the lead starter, and is joined by junior Dan Kolodin and a third right-hander in Cruz in reprising their roles in the rotation. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman should be the closer after notching a team-best four saves in 2013, with junior Chad Rieser a top left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
UCSD appeared at No. 39 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in its NCAA Division II preseason poll.
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) also made several preseason announcements on Wednesday. The Tritons are No. 10 in the West Region rankings, with Cruz chosen to the utility spot on the association's 15-player preseason All-West Region First Team.
Seven CCAA squads will be in action for the first time in 2014 this Saturday, Feb. 1. Opening Day for UCSD comes on Sunday, Feb. 2, with a doubleheader against Holy Names University. First pitch at Triton Ballpark is slated for 11 a.m., with both contests scheduled to go the regulation nine innings. CCAA play is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 14, with the Tritons welcoming rival Chico State into La Jolla for four.