TUCSON, Ariz. -- With possibly the top pitching staff in the nation, Cal State Fullerton is ranked No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball’s Fabulous 40 NCAA Division I preseason poll.
The Titans fell to UCLA in the Fullerton Super Regional a year ago, but will be gunning for their fifth national title.
The preseason poll factors in voting by NCAA Division I coaches across the nation, how a team finished last season nationally, returning position player starters and pitchers, potential draft picks along with the quality of its recruiting class last fall.One year ago, Cal State Fullerton’s pitching staff ranked No. 1 nationally in walks allowed per nine innings (1.41), No. 1 in strikeout to walk ratio (4.94) and No. 1 in WHIP (1.0). Fullerton also ranked No. 4 with a 2.47 ERA.
The Titans return Louisville Slugger preseason first team All-American pitchers in RHP Thomas Eshelman (12-3, 1.48 ERA, 83 K) and RHP Justin Garza (12-0, 2.03 ERA, 95 K, 17 BB in 115 IP).
It is extremely rare to have two first team All-American starting pitchers from the same team. Both were only freshmen last year and gained valuable experience.
Eshelman led the nation in walks allowed per nine innings (0.23) as he only surrendered three in 115.2 innings. That staggering number is the lowest in the history of NCAA Division I baseball, according to the NCAA Baseball Record Book. He also ranked first nationally in strikeout to walk ratio (27.67) and ranked No. 1 in WHIP (0.77). The Titans also return another quality starter in RHP Grahamm Wiest (9-3, 3.27 ERA, 76 K, 13 BB).
The Titans have at least four other pitchers who looked superb last fall, including RHP Phil Bickford, a first round pick of Toronto who was the 10th player picked overall in the 2013 June draft. He hit 96 mph with his fastball last spring.
One vitally important area for all teams is the catcher position. And the Titans have two superb ones in senior Jared Deacon and sophomore A.J. Kennedy.
Last year, opponents only stole 19 bases in 34 attempts over 61 games, and it will be extremely difficult to swipe bases off the Titans once again with great receivers and pitchers who do a superb job of holding runners on.
Offensively, Fullerton returns four position player starters.