Cal State Fullerton, the defending national champion, can take a big step toward returning to the College World Series next month by winning this weekend's three-game Big West Conference series against Long Beach State at Goodwin Field.
The top-ranked Titans (38-12, 13-2) have a 1 1/2 -game lead over the No. 10 49ers and can clinch their second consecutive league title with two victories and one Cal Poly San Luis Obispo loss to UC Riverside.
"If you look at it from Long Beach's perspective, they need to sweep and in their mind, that's their mission to be successful," Fullerton Coach George Horton said. "It doesn't matter who's ranked higher or who's favored. When it comes down to it, the team that needs it the worst usually ends up playing the best because they have that mentality.
"Are we as focused as they are? I hope so."
Two possible first-round selections in next month's Major League Baseball draft oppose each other in tonight's opener, Fullerton junior Ricky Romero dueling another left-hander, Long Beach ace Cesar Ramos.
Ramos, 10-5 with a 2.02 earned-run average, got the best of Romero in April when he beat the Titans, 3-2, as Long Beach (35-17, 13-5) took two of three games. Romero is 10-4 with a 2.60 ERA and 116 strikeouts.
The two division titles in the West Coast Conference will be decided soon. Pepperdine starts a three-game series against San Francisco today at home and Loyola Marymount plays host to Gonzaga in a four-game series.
Pepperdine (34-19, 19-8) and San Francisco (37-16, 19-8) are tied and the series winner will also win the West Division title and move on to the WCC best-of-three championship series next weekend. Gonzaga (28-22, 15-11) has a one-game lead over the Lions (26-25, 14-12) in the Coast Division.