Fullerton, Long Beach to meet to decide Big West baseball title

Seems like old times.

For years, season-ending series between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State almost annually determined the Big West Conference baseball title, including three times when the rivals met as the top teams.

UC Irvine’s emergence as a power and a lull at Long Beach State put that tradition on hold, but it will be renewed for the first time since 2008 when Long Beach plays host to Fullerton in a three-game series that starts Friday at Blair Field.

“The energy and the atmosphere should really be something,” said Troy Buckley, a former Long Beach assistant who is in his second season as the 49ers head coach.

The Pac-12 and West Coast Conference titles also will be determined this weekend, setting the stage for Monday’s announcement of the 64-team NCAA tournament field. Regional sites will be announced Sunday.

Fullerton, 33-18 overall and 15-6 in the Big West, will try to hold off a Long Beach team that is 27-25 and 14-7 in conference play. Although Fullerton is assured of a playoff berth, and might get a national seeding, Long Beach must win the Big West title to avoid becoming a bubble team.

“You don’t want to be left with people deliberating about you,” Buckley said.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (33-20, 13-8) would emerge as Big West co-champion if the Mustangs swept UC Riverside and Long Beach won two of three against Fullerton.

In the Pac-12, Oregon (42-14, 19-8) is in first place, Arizona (36-16, 18-9) in second. UCLA (39-14, 17-10), Stanford (37-14, 17-10) and Arizona State (35-18, 17-10) are tied for third. Arizona State is ineligible for the playoffs because of NCAA penalties.

UCLA, assured of a playoff bid, plays host to USC (23-29, 8-19), which will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.

Oregon is at Oregon State, Arizona State is at Arizona and California is at Stanford.

“Winning the conference will get you a national seed,” UCLA Coach John Savage said.

If the Bruins win their series against the Trojans, they would have more than 40 victories and could earn a national seeding without winning the conference title.

In the WCC, Pepperdine (32-20, 14-7) and San Diego (39-13, 14-7) are tied for first place heading into their three-game series in Malibu. Pepperdine is seeking its first regular-season title since 2006.