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It’s time for college baseball; openers are this week

Colton Eastman
Cal State Fullerton pitcher Colton Eastman delivers against Mississippi State during their NCAA Regional Baseball Tournament game on June 4, 2016.
(Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

College baseball season opens this week, with Long Beach State expected to battle Cal State Fullerton for supremacy in the Big West Conference, Pepperdine forecast as a West Coast Conference title contender and UCLA and USC hoping for bounce-back seasons in the always-competitive Pac-12 Conference.

Here’s a look at the Los Angeles-area teams:

UCLA

2016: 25-31, 12-18 in Pac-12 (10th)

Top returners: Griffin Canning, RHP, 5-8, 4 saves, 3.70 earned-run average, 2017 preseason Baseball America third-team All-American; Sean Bouchard, 1B, .295, 23 runs, 36 runs batted in. 

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Top newcomers: Nick Valaika, SS, redshirted last season after appearing in 11 games as a freshman in 2015; Chase Strumpf, SS, JSerra HS.

Opener: Friday, San Jose State at Jackie Robinson Stadium, 6 p.m.

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USC

2016: 28-28, 15-15 in Pac-12 (7th)

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Top returners: Mitch Hart, RHP, former freshman All-America made only 10 starts last season because of an injury; Corey Dempster, OF, .290, 6 HR, 35 runs, 10 SB; Frankie Rios, Inf., .323, 32 runs.

Top newcomers: Christian Moya, OF, South Hills HS; Chris Clarke, RHP, Newbury Park HS; Brady Shockey, OF, JSerra.

Opener: Friday, Coppin State at Dedeaux Field, 6 p.m.

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CSUN

2016: 33-22, 11-13 in Big West (7th, tie)

Top returners: Fred Smith, Inf., .314, 34 runs, 21-game hitting streak; Dylan Alexander, C, threw out 18 of 32 base-stealers; Conner O’Neil, RHP, 5-5, 3.07 ERA, 10 saves, 70 K in 58 2/3 IP.

Top newcomers: Riley Conlan, OF, Moorpark College; Kevin Riley, Inf., Chaffey College; Nick Sablock, LHP/OF, El Camino College.

Opener: Friday, Portland at Matador Field, 2 p.m.

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CAL STATE FULLERTON

2016: 36-23, 17-7 in Big West (1st)

Top returners: Colton Eastman, RHP, 8-3, 2.24 ERA, 100 K in 100 2/3 IP, 2017 preseason Baseball America third-team All-America; Timmy Richards, Inf., .280, 12 doubles, 9 HR, 38 runs, 31 RBI, 10 SB; Connor Seabold, RHP, 7-6, 2.48 ERA, 10.67 K-to-BB ratio; John Gavin, LHP, 6-3, 2.09 ERA.

Top newcomers: Dillon Persinger, Inf., state JC player of the year from Golden West College; Chris Prescott, LF, Orange Coast College.

Opener: Thursday, Stanford at Goodwin Field, 7 p.m.

LONG BEACH STATE

2016: 38-22, 15-9 in Big West (2nd)

Top returners: Darren McCaughan, 10-1, 2.03 ERA, Big West Conference pitcher of the year; Luke Rasmussen, DH, .305, 5 HR, 46 RBI; Daniel Jackson, 1B/C, .321, 6 HR; Brock Lundquist, OF, .315, 36 RBI; David Banuelos, C, .299, 26 RBI.

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Top newcomers: AJ Jones, RHP, College of Southern Nevada; Markus Montelongo, Inf., South Mountain (Ariz.) CC.

Opener: Friday, at Oklahoma, 2 p.m. PT

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UC IRVINE

2016: 31-25, 11-13 in Big West (7th, tie)

Top returners: Keston Hiura, OF, .358, 41 runs, 7 HR, 41 RBI; Mikey Duarte, SS, redshirted last season, .345 and All-Big West in 2015; Cameron Bishop, LHP, 5-5, 4.61 ERA; Calvin Faucher, RHP, 3-1, 8 saves, 0.71 ERA.

Top newcomers: Christian Koss, Inf., Riverside JW North HS; Andre Pallante, RHP, San Clemente HS.

Opener: Friday, Minnesota at Anteater Ballpark, 6:30 p.m.

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UC RIVERSIDE

2016: 26-29, 12-12 in Big West (4th, tie)

Top returners: Mark Contreras, Util., .333, 14 doubles, 32 runs; Angel Landazuri, RHP, 5-5, 4.73 ERA; Colby Schultz, Inf., 4 HR, 27 runs; Ryan Lillie, RHP, 4-3, 7 saves, 4.15 ERA.

Top newcomers: Daniel Martinez, SS/RHP, Ramona HS; Connor Cannon, RHP/1B, Temecula Valley HS.

Opener: Friday, vs. Nebraska at Tempe (Ariz.) Diablo Stadium, noon.

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UC SANTA BARBARA

2016: 43-20, 13-11 in Big West (3rd)

Top returners: Kyle Nelson, LHP, 7-2, 2.18 ERA, 10 saves; Austin Bush, 1B, 11 HR, 49 RBI; JJ Muno, .294, 18 HBP, 17 SB; Clay Fisher, SS, .285; Noah Davis, RHP, 7-4, 4.46 ERA.

Top newcomers: Colton Burns, 2B, College of the Canyons; Landon Silver, OF, Huntington Beach HS; Armani Smith, Util., Concord De La Salle HS.

Opener: Thursday, at Loyola Marymount, 2 p.m.

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LOYOLA MARYMOUNT

2016: 26-27, 13-14 in West Coast (6th, tie)

Top returners: Phil Caulfield, OF, .309, 27 runs; Niko Decolati, OF/RHP, .306, 4 HR, 33 RBI; Blake Redman, RHP, 6-5, 4.50 ERA.

Top newcomers: Cooper Uhl, C, Trabuco Hills HS; Trevin Esquerra, Inf., San Diego Patrick Henry HS.

Opener: Thursday, UC Santa Barbara at Page Stadium, 2 p.m.

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PEPPERDINE

2016: 29-24, 16-11 in West Coast (4th)

Top returners: Ryan Wilson, LHP, 2-0, 6 saves, 0.63 ERA; Aaron Barnett, C, .292, 15 doubles; Ben Rodriguez, 1B, .289, 9 HR; Matt Gelalich, OF, .275.

Top newcomers: Will Jensen, RHP, Cottonwood (Utah) HS; Brandt Belk, Inf., Houston Westside HS; Quincy McAfee, Inf., Houston Westside HS.

Opener: Friday, St. Joseph’s at Eddy D. Field Stadium, 2 p.m.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeHiserman


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