This is one of the big weeks of the season for Cal State Fullerton's baseball team, and Coach George Horton hopes it finally will bring out the best in the Titans.
Fullerton, 22-16-1 after losing, 8-5, to USC (30-13) Tuesday night at Titan Field, opens a three-game Big West Conference series against Long Beach State (23-13) at home Friday. If anything is going to shake the Titans out of their inconsistency, Horton hopes this will be it.
The Titans won only two of four games last week. They had to settle for a 4-4 tie with San Diego last Tuesday in a game stopped after 10 innings because of darkness, then missed a sweep of Sacramento State when they lost the finale, 10-9, in 12 innings Sunday.
"This team reminds me a lot of our team in 1992," Horton said. "It couldn't sweep anybody."
That's the reason Fullerton has fallen four games behind Long Beach in the regular-season divisional race and lost some prestige nationally.
Fullerton won two of three games against UC Santa Barbara, Pacific and Sacramento State; Long Beach swept each of its series.
"I haven't seen Long Beach State play since we played them earlier, but they've obviously put themselves in a class by themselves with what they've done since then," Horton said. "They've done a tremendous job of turning their season around."
Long Beach is 14-1 in the conference and has won 13 consecutive Big West games since losing one of three games against Fullerton at Blair Field.
Fullerton probably will need to sweep the 49ers this weekend to get back into the regular season title race, but there's more involved than that. The Titans need to show that they're still competitive with Long Beach before the postseason tournament that decides the conference's automatic NCAA bid.
"We also need to do some things in our remaining games to get into a regional if we don't win the tournament," Horton said. "It's not that I think we're undeserving at this point, but I do think we're one of the teams on the bubble right now."
There are only 19 at-large berths available to teams that don't win conference championships, and although the NCAA took four teams from the Big West last season, there is no assurance it will again.
Horton thinks it might be more difficult this season because there is more strength in the West in general. In addition to Stanford, USC and UCLA having good years, Arizona (28-16) and Arizona State (24-16) are having better seasons than a year ago, as is Fresno State (26-14).
The Titans also figure to be challenged by Nevada (26-11), which has an 11-4 Big West record and a big lead in the Northern Division.
The women's gymnastics team finished seventh among 11 teams in the NCAA West Regional meet Saturday at Boise State, but Coach Lynn Rogers was pleased with his team's performance. Big West all-around champion Katy Maty was sidelined because of an injury.
"We didn't have to count one fall, and we probably had one of the cleanest performances in the meet," Rogers said. Christy Lutz, who also was injured in the conference meet, was limited to one event; she was 37th in the uneven bars. Gracie Millard was 14th in the all-around competition and Michelle Lotta 18th. Courtney Bogart was 18th on the balance beam and 23rd on uneven bars.
Alexis Lott, who was limited almost all season coming back from off-season knee surgery, finished in a tie for 29th in beam with teammates Millard and Lotta, and in a tie for 33rd on uneven bars with Millard. Heather Fritzsche and Lotta tied for 30th on the vault.
Coach John Elders had mixed feelings about the performance of his men's and women's track teams Saturday in the Big West Challenge Cup.
Both were fourth among the four competing teams, but Elders saw some promise among individual performances.
Among the men, Obi Obadike won the 100 meters in 10.79 seconds and Quincy Sims won the triple jump at 46 feet 3/4 inches. "I was pleased with the way Obi ran in the 100, but he's been bothered by a hamstring problem all season, and had to pull up in the 200 and didn't finish," Elders said.
Elders also was pleased with Omar Anderson's effort in the 1,600 relay. "He's been having knee problems, but he ran our fastest leg," Elders said.
Elders' big disappointment was with the distance runners. "They had an awesome weekend at Stanford recently, but they were all really flat this week," he said.
The Titans' Deanna Mendibles cleared 5-2 in the high jump to win.
First baseman C.J. Ankrum has a 16-game hitting streak. During that span, he's 28 for 62 (.452) with 18 runs batted in. Ankrum has 18 hits in 36 at-bats (.500) over his last nine games. . . . The softball team lost four games last week and fell to 15-17 for the season, 3-10 in conference.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Here's a look at key games this week for Cal State Fullerton:
* Baseball against Long Beach State 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, all at Titan Field.
* Men's and women's track and field at Azusa Pacific Meet of Champions, Saturday, all day.
* Softball against Utah State 5 tonight at Titan Softball Complex.