SAN RAMON, Calif. - The seventh-ranked University of California San Diego baseball program is favored by league head coaches to place second in the 2018 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) race, as the preseason poll was released late Monday afternoon.
The poll conducted by the 12 head coaches revealed UC San Diego to have accumulated 113 points and five first-place votes, just behind ninth-ranked 2017 CCAA regular-season and tournament champion Chico State at 116 points and six first-place votes. Cal Poly Pomona, ranked No. 14 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, is third with 104 points and the remaining first-place nod.
UC San Diego was runner-up behind CPP in the CCAA South table a year ago, and lost out to Chico State in the winner-take-all final of the CCAA Championship in Stockton, but swept through the NCAA Division II West Regional for its first region title since 2010, en route to being one of the final two teams left standing at the NCAA Championship in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Tritons finished 44-19 overall, achieving the second-most wins in a single season in program history.
Cal State Monterey Bay (84 points), Cal State LA (71) and Sonoma State (70) took up the fourth through sixth spots in the poll to round out the predicted CCAA Championship positions. Stanislaus State (69), Cal State East Bay (55), Cal State Dominguez Hills (38), San Francisco State (27), Cal State San Marcos (27) and Cal State San Bernardino (18) made up the second half of the listing.
Chico State is the CCAA preseason favorite for the sixth time in the last seven years.
The CCAA baseball landscape has changed again, and after having two six-team divisions, North and South, the past two seasons, there are no divisions in 2018. The top six teams, by straight winning percentage, in the final standings, will qualify for the 2018 CCAA Championship. Third-year member and city rival Cal State San Marcos is eligible for the postseason for the first time.
The CCAA has also gone away from a 38-game league slate, with four-game sets within the division and three-gamers against the opposite division. Each team will now play a four-game series with the other 11 squads, for a 44-game slate. UC San Diego will be either entirely at home or away against the six northern teams, and face split-venue sets with the southern ones.
The automatic qualifier into the NCAA West Regional is still the winner of the CCAA tournament, which remains a double-elimination event.
Entering his seventh season in charge, Eric Newman, the 2017 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond Division II West Region Coach of the Year, has infielders Tyler Durna and Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) back, as well as pitchers Preston Mott and Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS).
Just some of the newcomers generating high hopes for a return to the NCAA Championship are transfers Zander Clarke (UCLA) and Mitch Hickey (Oregon State), and freshmen Noah Conlon, Cameron Leonard and Shay Whitcomb.
The Tritons begin the campaign on the road at Concordia Irvine on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. They then host Concordia Irvine and No. 4 Colorado Mesa all weekend. UC San Diego's marquee home opener with reigning South Central Region champion and fellow 2017 national semifinalist Colorado Mesa is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Friday, Feb. 9, at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla.
The Tritons will head right into CCAA play the following Friday, Feb. 16, hosting San Francisco State in the primetime opener (6 p.m.) of a four-game series. The CCAA Championship will be held in the neutral-site city of Stockton for the sixth year in a row, heading back to Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports, May 9-12. UCSD has earned four consecutive trips.
2018 CCAA Baseball Preseason Coaches' Poll
Institution, Points (First-Place Votes)
1. #9 Chico State, 116 (6)
2. #7 UC San Diego, 113 (5)
3. #14 Cal Poly Pomona, 104 (1)
4. RV Cal State Monterey Bay, 84
5. Cal State LA, 71
6. Sonoma State, 70
7. Stanislaus State, 69
8. Cal State East Bay, 55
9. Cal State Dominguez Hills, 38
T-10. San Francisco State, 27
T-10. Cal State San Marcos, 27
12. Cal State San Bernardino, 18