Does Cal Poly’s Victory over Cal State Fullerton Signal Changing of Guard?

Cal State Fullerton

Photo Cal State Fullerton Sports Info

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.

Cal Poly Baseball 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.

About the Author

David A. Bowers
David is a featured columnist for Arizona State athletics as well as PAC-12. He is an accomplished writer with numerous articles published by local and national publications and websites. He has worked in college athletics for many years from Arizona to Delaware. He is a founding member of the Arizona State Young Alumni – Tucson Chapter and a lifetime member of ASU Alumni Association. He resides in Tucson with his beautiful wife who shares his love of beer and their two gorgeous golden retrievers.
  • steve kotsay

    cal fullerton board of directors-during this time of conflict you must bring in an individual that is highly respected in baseball and leadership—-mark kotsay

    • David A. Bowers

      Kotsay is a brilliant baseball mind and would be able to offer many teams great leadership and tutelage. Thank you for comment, sir.

  • Michael V. Madigan

    Conspicuous by it’s absence in your discussion of Cal State SLO and Fullerton was UC Irvine. This is ONE half of ONE year so far. UCI had finished in or very near the Top 25 in every year through the 2011 season from 2007. From 2007 to 2011 UCI won more College World Series Games, and more College post-season tournament games than Cal State Fullerton, and no one (including me) would start to talk about a “changing of the guard” and UCI made their impressive national run for FIVE years. This is SLO’s first peek in the top ten.

    While it is clear Larry Lee has something very special up in SLO brewing, let’s not get ahead of ourselves with “changing of the guard” talk just yet.

    • David A. Bowers

      Well said, and wholeheartedly agree. The ‘Eaters won the Big West Crown back in ’09 and had a strong six year run from ’06-’11. They need to come alive against the Aztecs this weekend if they want to receive national recognition. I’d say Cal Poly has done quite a bit this year to earn it.
      As far as Fullerton’s baseball prowess, it is true that UC Irvine has more CWS victories than CSUF. I remember the ’07 CWS quite well when my Sun Devils beat and then lost to UC Irvine.
      Two years later, Fullerton and Arizona State were back in Omaha while Irvine’s best team in program history (No. 6 National seed) never got out of its own regional. The kicker- the team that eliminated UC Irvine (Virginia) also eliminated Fullerton.
      I love west coast baseball and believe that the Pac-12 and Big West Conference are two of the best conferences in all of Division I, hence my desire to cover them.

    • Robert

      It is a bit early to ask if this is a changing of the guard but there’s no question a trend is developing as Cal Poly is on the doorstep of making its third post-season in the last four years and the Stangs have been unfairly denied the post-season two other times in the past decade. That said Michael Madigan’s reference to Cal Poly as Cal State SLO ( a not so subtle insult) validates just how concerned the old guard is about losing a position they think is a birthright.

      Bottom line, Cal Poly will always struggle against schools like Cal State Fullerton because the university’s academic standards are so much higher and demand on its athletes so much greater. For example, this past week, Cal Poly reported to the state office of higher Ed that average incoming GPAs and SATs for 2014 had reached 3.97 and SAT 1310 (out of 1600) respectively. Lower academic schools like Fullerton can only dream of such quality.

      Bottom line, Cal Poly has to recruit true student athletes. Fullerton never faces this challenge and now with baseball, the Mustangs are taking away from them their only point of pride, It has to be terribly frustrating.

      • CP Davis

        Agreed. “Cal State SLO”, indeed. Forget Fullerton; UC Irvine can’t hold a candle to
        Cal Poly in academics or any other endeavor.