SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly's baseball team, which finished third in the Big West Conference with a 15-9 record a year ago, will finish one spot lower this spring, according to a preseason poll of the conference's nine head coaches.
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs garnered 54 points. Cal Poly has finished in the upper half of the Big West standings seven times in Lee's nine previous seasons at the helm, including a second-place finish in 2005.
Lee, the longest-tenured baseball head coach in the conference, begins his 10th season with five returning starting position players and four pitchers off last year's 27-26 squad, Cal Poly's ninth winning season since 2000.
Topping the list of returnees are 2010 Big West Freshman Player of the Year Mitch Haniger, shortstop Mike Miller, second baseman Denver Chavez and pitchers Joey Wagman and Kyle Anderson. Wagman is expected to be the Friday night starter while Anderson has been tabbed as the midweek starter.
Cal State Fullerton was selected as the favorite to capture the 2012 Big West title. The Titans, who claimed their 25th Big West title and ninth in the last 13 years in 2011, picked up six of the nine first-place votes and 76 total points.
UC Irvine is expected to repeat its runner-up finish of a year ago, according to the poll. The Anteaters, who posted their fourth 40-win season in the last five years and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, earned the other three first-place votes and 70 points.
Long Beach State garnered 58 points for the third spot in the preseason poll. The 49ers return 24 lettermen, including seven starting position players and two starting pitchers from last year's 29-27 squad which finished fourth in the Big West.
UC Riverside secured the fifth spot with 44 points, followed by UC Santa Barbara (37), Pacific (25), UC Davis (23) and Cal State Northridge (18).
Cal Poly opens its 2012 season at home with a three-game non-conference series Feb. 17-19 against Oklahoma State in Baggett Stadium.
2012 Big West Conference
Preseason Baseball Poll
|1.||Cal State Fullerton (6)||76|
|2.||UC Irvine (3)||70|
|3.||Long Beach State||58|
|6.||UC Santa Barbara||37|
|9.||Cal State Northridge||18|
( ) First-place votes