There are only two weeks left in the regular season and the scenarios are pretty clear. If Long Beach and Fullerton both sweep their series or both go 2-1 this weekend, the Dirtbags will clinch a tie for the conference title going into the final series at Fullerton. If Long Beach sweeps their series and Fullerton loses a game at Northridge, the Dirtbags will clinch the conference title outright. Cal Poly is looking to continue winning series to have an opportunity to finish in second in the Big West standings.
Hawaii (26-19, 8-10) at Long Beach (32-16-1, 15-3). Hawaii had an opportunity to move into the top half of the conference standings with two straight series at home but after dropping the series to Fullerton, the Rainbows won the first game against Irvine before losing the final two games and the series. Hawaii imploded in the final game with Irvine when they made several errors to put them in a hole early, their 3B got ejected in an altercation in the 2nd inning and won't play tomorrow and their 1B got ejected for throwing balls towards the ump and is suspended for the rest of the season. Long Beach has gone 22-4 over the last nine weekends on the strength of a pitching staff that has a 2.46 ERA in Big West games and allowed only three runs in their two wins at Minnesota last weekend. The Dirtbags offense has also gotten going and they are hitting over .300 and scoring over six runs a game in conference games and they scored eighteen runs at Minnesota. Hawaii is only 15-18 against teams in the top 200 in the RPI while Long Beach is 22-4 against teams with RPI's over 100 and 16-4 at home. Long Beach has won three of the four series these teams have played since Hawaii entered the Big West, although the Rainbows did sweep the series two years ago at Blair Field. The hunch is Hawaii will find a way to win a game. LONG BEACH 2-1.
Fullerton (31-18, 12-6) at Northridge (25-27, 11-10). Fullerton has won three straight series against Irvine, at Hawaii and at home last weekend against UCSB but because they dropped a game in each series, that allowed Long Beach to increase their lead to three games with six games left. The Titans did get a boost on Sunday with the return of SP Eastman to help increase their pitching depth, which has been an issue with their team ERA going up by over 1 1/2 runs over the last eight weeks. Northridge has been inconsistent all season and that was the case again over the last three weekends when they lost a series at home to Hawaii, won their first conference road series since 2013 at Irvine and lost the first two games at Cal Poly last weekend before winning the final game. The Matadors are two different teams depending on where they are playing with 33 HR's at home and only 10 HR's on the road. Fullerton is only 11-12 on the road and has won three series, lost two and split one. Northridge is only 5-9 against teams with RPI's in the top 100. Northridge will be motivated because their season finishes up this weekend and they are looking to win a series against Fullerton for the first time since 2002 but the Titans should win this series. FULLERTON 2-1.
Cal Poly (23-27, 11-7) at UCSB (22-27, 7-11). Cal Poly has played well since the calendar turned to the conference portion of the schedule and they have won five of their six Big West series with the only one that they didn't win coming at Long Beach. After being held down at Blair Field two weeks ago the Mustangs offense got going again with eleven runs in winning the first two games of their series at home last weekend against Northridge to keep Cal Poly in the race to finish second in the conference. UCSB got their offense going in splitting the first two games at Fullerton last weekend with five HR's to move into a share of the Big West lead in HR's but Fullerton cranked out five HR's in the final game to win the series, which was sixth series loss in the last seven weeks for the Gauchos. Another trend that continued for UCSB in that series was falling to 1-22 when they score less than six runs due to their pitching issues. The X factor in this series is the home team has won the last seven series these teams have played but I'm going to go with the team that has been winning series almost every week to break that streak against the team that has been finding ways to lose series. CAL POLY 2-1.
Irvine (19-30, 6-12) at Riverside (19-28, 5-13). Things didn't look good Irvine when they lost their first game at Hawaii and were trailing late before rallying to win the second game and taking advantage of a meltdown by Hawaii to win the final game and the series for their first series win in eight weeks. Riverside was playing better in winning back to back series against UCSB and at Utah before going up to UC Davis and losing the first two games and the series before winning the final game. Irvine's pitching has been much better recently with a 4.09 ERA in conference games and they should be able to score some runs at Riverside in what figures to be a hot weekend. Irvine has won seven of the last eight series these teams have played and the hunch is they will find a way to win the series in what figures to be a close one between two teams trying to get out of the cellar of the conference standings. IRVINE 2-1.
Grand Canyon (27-24, 20-4) at UC Davis (18-26, 9-12). Grand Canyon played a challenging non-conference schedule and only went 7-20, winning a series vs. Ok State, losing series to USF and St. Mary's, losing all three at Wichita and at P'dine (one of those to Long Beach) and going 1-7 in midweek games with New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona and Kansas. The Antelopes have run roughshod through the WAC to win the regular season title, although they are not eligible for a regional in the last season of their transition from D2 to D1. They are 11-18 against top 200 RPI teams and 16-6 vs. teams with RPI's over 200 with a 15-8 home record but they are only 12-16 on the road. UC Davis continued their trend of beating the lower division teams in the Big West with a series win at home against Riverside, the fourth conference series win for the Aggies and their third series win in four weeks. UC Davis is only 2-15 against teams in the top 100 in the RPI but 16-11 against teams with RPI's over 100. This is a tough call with Grand Canyon wrapping up their season this weekend and looking to end the season on a high note but UC Davis has generally played well against teams that are at their level. The pick is UC Davis because they are at home and have been winning series against teams that are better than the teams in the WAC that Grand Canyon has been beating lately. UC DAVIS 2-1.