It was less than four years ago that the Big West delivered two teams, the Cal State Fullerton Titans and UC Irvine Anteaters, to do battle in Omaha.
UCI had to top national powerhouses Texas and Wichita State in the playoffs while the Titans beat Fresno State, a year away from their improbable National Championship run, and the Pac 10’s UCLA Bruins.
That same June the Big West was represented in the Regionals by UC Riverside and Long Beach State. Although both made quick exits, the Big West had matched its west coast counterpart, the Pac-10, with four conference representatives in postseason play. The storied Pac-10, however, would once again have the last laugh as the Oregon State Beavers went on to win the College World Series.
Only 18 months ago the Big West held two of the eight national seeds, again Fullerton and UCI. However, the conference was one team fewer in regional representation and although Fullerton returned to Omaha, they were ousted in just two games. Any faint hope of becoming the preeminent conference in the west was thoroughly crushed by the Pac 10’s whopping eight Regional bids in 2010.
The only two Big West reps, once again the Titans and Anteaters, where ultimately (and fittingly) both KO’d by UCLA.
The recent defeats likely say more about the status of the Pac-10—arguably the best conference in the nation going into 2011—than the Big West, but 2010 was still in many ways a rebuilding year for the league. The fruits of that rebuilding effort may come sooner rather than later as many programs have stepped up their recruiting efforts and appear to be on the rebound.
Cal State Northridge has brought in new Head Coach Matt Curtis, former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Fresno State, to lead a team in need of direction while Long Beach State boasts 17 freshman on its 2011 roster.
Cal Poly had a strong finish to a disappointing season and UC Davis doubled its win total to 26 last season. UC Riverside and Irvine appear poised to make another run at a Regional appearance and while Fullerton will always remain Titans on the baseball field the Big West looks to be much less top heavy in 2011 than in recent years.
Here’s a look at how the conference figures to shake out in first season of the new decade.