There is no race in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.; only a seven-team mess that Cal State Fullerton seems more than happy to sweep up each weekend.
This cleanup job has left the Titans nestled neatly in first place in the conference standings, and the prospect of that changing is growing bleaker with each passing game.
UC Irvine is the latest casualty. The Anteaters entered their three-game home series with Fullerton with a 6-3 PCAA record and designs on contending for the conference title. But by late Saturday afternoon, they had been knocked rather rudely back into the middle of the pack, wondering what hit them.
Fullerton completed its first sweep of UCI since 1983 with a 14-2 victory at Irvine, giving the Titans three straight sweeps of conference series. Fullerton has won 10 straight, and 13 of its last 14, and hasn't lost in conference play since its first PCAA game on March 27.
Fullerton (11-1, 32-12) battered four Irvine pitchers for 16 hits, and pitcher Larry Casian threw the Titans' ninth complete game in 12 PCAA outings.
Irvine starter Dean Douty struggled through 4 innings, walking five, hitting two and allowing five runs before Anteater Coach Mike Gerakos decided he had seen enough. But there was no relief in sight for Irvine.
"If you don't get good pitching, it makes for a long day," Gerakos said. "If you don't get good pitching against Cal State Fullerton when they're swinging the bats well, it makes for an ugly day. That's what we had today."
Leadoff hitter Mark Baca went 4 for 5 to finish the series 8 for 13 with two home runs and four runs batted in. Mike Ross was 3 for 6 with three runs and two RBIs. Paul Cameron and Mike Ham drove in three runs each.
All this from a team that conference coaches picked to finish third, one that was supposed to have to scratch and claw its way to every run , not just every victory.
"It's not a star-studded team," Fullerton Coach Augie Garrido said. "There's no one guy to focus on. We're very dependent on everyone fulfilling their role 100%."
Case in point: Cameron's performance as an understudy. Cameron was in the lineup only because Keith Kaub suffered a strained Achilles' tendon in the eighth inning of Fullerton's 6-4 victory Thursday night and spent the rest of the series on the bench. Cameron filled in at first base Saturday by going 3 for 5 with three RBIs.
"They lose Kaub and bring in Cameron, and he does the job for them," Gerakos said with a touch of envy. "That's why they're in the position they are."