SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal State Fullerton has long ruled the roost in the Big West Conference. As the three-time defending conference champion, it has also garnered 10 championships in the past 15 years. The Titans not only ripped through the Big West Conference over the past two and half decades, but have dominated the national playoff landscape as well.
Cal State Fullerton has reached the postseason for the past 22 seasons and has made the trip to Omaha nine times in the past 20 years. The Titans have won a national championship at least once in the past four decades and are tied for fourth place overall with Arizona and Miami (Fla.) with four titles.
The 2014 team entered the preseason at No. 1 in several polls and in the top three across the board. A pair of losses in the first week to two Pac-12 teams in Washington State and USC shook the foundation a little, but nothing really changed. Following the loss to USC, the Titans dropped a marathon 19-inning game to San Francisco and people shrugged it off.
The first true challenge of the 2014 season came when Cal State Fullerton traveled to Eugene to take on undefeated, No. 6 Oregon. The Titans blew the doors of the Ducks, earning the sweep and rebuilding confidence in a shaky program. The next trip was to Baylor and it easily won the opener 11-0. Fullerton would then go on to lose four of its five games.
This rollercoaster ride would be the story of the 2014 season. Four-game win streaks followed by three-game losing streaks followed by…you get the idea.
Thursday night’s 8-0 loss at Cal Poly marked the Titans’ third consecutive loss and it wasn’t even close.
California Polytechnic State University or Cal Poly, for short, is a solid No. 3 team across myriad polls and it even received a first-place vote in the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll. The Mustangs joined Division I in 1995, seeing the postseason only twice in 19 years and have yet to make it out of the regional round.
Is this year’s Cal Poly team really as good as it looks on paper, or is it just due to scheduling?
The latest RPI poll released on April 15 has Cal Poly ranked at No. 12, so that answers at least part of the question. The Mustangs played against three Pac-12 Conference teams in 2014, including the defending national champion UCLA Buins, and finished the nine-game set at 6-3.
The Mustangs are currently on top of the Big West Conference and are poised to win their first-ever conference championship, but a sweep this weekend over Cal State Fullerton would only be the first hill on the mountain that is college baseball.
For all the history that comprises college baseball, the Big West Conference and the Cal State Fullerton program in general, Thursday night’s win registers as merely a blip on the radar. It will take several blips hitting at the same level for many years before the Titans relinquish their strangle hold on the conference.