With baseball season set to begin at the end of the month, the Big West coaches have tabbed Cal State Fullerton to win its third consecutive conference title. Returning 20 letterwinners and coming off of an appearance in the NCAA Super Regional last year, the Titans received seven first-place votes. … UC Irvine junior pitcher Blair Erickson received preseason All-America honors from three different sources. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), Louisville Slugger and Rosenblattreport.com all named the 6’1″ reliever to their preseason All-America teams after he posted 10 saves and a 1.80 ERA in 28 appearances for the Anteaters in 2005. … #16 Long Beach State was picked to finish second in the Coaches’ Poll and had two players named to the Baseball America preseason All-America team. Juniors infielder Evan Longoria and righthander Jared Hughes earned the honors and were also named to Baseball America’s Top Draft Prospects list. … Despite being picked to finish sixth in the Big West, Pacific sophomore catcher Justin Baum was named to both the Louisville Slugger and NCBWA All-America teams. … The Big West coaches picked UC Irvine to finish third, Cal Poly to finish fourth, UC Riverside to finish fifth, UCSB to finish seventh and Cal State Northridge to finish last in the conference.
Northridge Head Coach Staci Schulz announced Tuesday that senior guard/forward Ofa Tulikihihifo will redshirt this season after being sidelined by a stress fracture in her tibia. Tulikihihifo – a three-time All-Big West First Team selection – led the Matadors in scoring each of her three years, averaging 19.3 points per game last season.
Big West champion and NCAA Sweet 16 participant Northridge added more accolades to its list in December. Four players earned NSCAA/adidas All-Far West Region honors while junior forward Willie Sims earned a spot on the NSCAA/adidas All-America First Team. Sims and freshman keeper Kevin Guppy were also named to the College Soccer News All-America Third Team and All-Freshman Third Team, respectively. Meanwhile, senior midfielder Daniel Paladini was invited to participate in this year’s Major League Soccer (MLS) Player Combine this weekend at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Paladini and the rest of the 54 standout college players will be evaluated by the staffs of all 12 MLS teams. … Fullerton named 11-year Assistant Coach Bob Ammann as its new head coach Dec. 5 after the retirement of longtime Head Coach Al Mistri at the end of the season. … UCSB sophomore defender Andy Iro picked up an NSCAA/adidas Third-Team All-America selection to go along with last year’s selection to the All-Freshman team. Iro and senior midfielder Bryan Byrne were also named to the NSCAA/adidas All-Far West Region team.
With the departure of Head Coach Marine Cano in October, Irvine announced the hiring of April Heinrichs as its new head coach. Heinrichs was the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team for five years before resigning in Feb. 2005 to become a consultant for U.S. Soccer. Along with her 2004 Olympic gold medal and 87-17-20 record with the National Team, Heinrichs boasts collegiate coaching experience with Virginia, Maryland and Princeton, where she compiled a 116-73-15 career record and five NCAA Tournament appearances. … The Big West finished the 2005 season with the fourth highest conference RPI in the nation. Teams in the conference completed the year with the second highest non-conference winning percentage in the country.
The Big West softball coaches completed their preseason poll this week, picking Fullerton to take the conference title. The Titans returned to the postseason in 2005 with four all-conference players. … Long Beach was picked to finish second after winning two straight Big West championships. The 49ers lost six players to graduation after posting a 39-16 overall record last year. …UCSB named Jessica Mendoza – a former Stanford All-American and current member of Team USA – as its second assistant coach Dec. 8. Mendoza helped the USA to win gold in Athens, Greece, in 2004. The Gauchos finished the poll tied for fourth with Pacific. … Cal Poly, who led the conference in batting last season, was predicted to take third place. … Rounding out the poll were Northridge in sixth and Riverside in seventh.