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    Pacific Baseball's Home Opener Kicks Off This Friday

    Feb 16, 2010
    Coming off a season in which they finished 21-32 overall, 9-15 in the Big West Conference with several victories over top-ranked opponents, the Pacific baseball team's home opener is just days away as the Tigers look to build upon last year's success.

    This weekend, the Tigers will host San Francisco to open the season for the first time in program history. USF is coming off a season in which the Dons finished 28-28 overall and 12-9 in the West Coast Conference.

    All games during the 2010 season will be broadcast for free on www.pacifictigers.com. You can also follow every game in 2010 on Gametracker. Big West Conference games on the road can also be heard on KSTN 1420 AM.

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    Pacific Tiger Baseball This Week:
    Friday, Feb. 19 - vs. San Francisco, 6 p.m.
    Saturday, Feb. 20 - vs. San Francisco, 3 p.m.
    Sunday, Feb. 21 - at San Francisco, 1 p.m.

    RHP Marcus Pointer vs. RHP Doug Murray

    LHP David Rowse vs. LHP Matt Lujan

    RHP Casey Neimeyer vs. RHP Cameron Love

    Opening the year against San Francisco for the first time in program history, the Tigers hold the 82-36-1 advantage in the all-time series between the two teams. However the Dons swept Pacific last season and currently are riding a two-game winning streak into this weekend's series. At home, Pacific holds a 41-17-0 record and the story is no different on the road, claiming the series, 39-17-1. Pacific last defeated San Francisco when they won 10-6 on April 29, 2008.

    With the start of the first Sunday home game at Klein Family Field against Nevada on Sunday, Feb. 28, the Pacific baseball team is set to host eight Salute to the Troops promotional games. Admission to all Sunday home games is free for all military personnel.

    Not only will the Tigers continue to don their camouflage jerseys as they did in 2009, but every Sunday home game will offer a military theme in support of the troops such as Pacific Veteran Appreciation Day, Flag Day, Military Family Appreciation Day and the culmination with the Memorial Day observation on Sunday, May 30. All fans will have the opportunity to attend this unique event in collegiate baseball.

    Prior to the first pitch at each Sunday home game, on-field presentations will take place including the presentation of the colors, enlistment ceremonies and little league teams warming up with the Tigers.

    Pacific Baseball invites all local groups and organizations to participate in the events which include space for informational booths and tents throughout the concourse at Klein Family Field. Groups may provide information about opportunities available to veterans in the community. Pacific Athletic Marketing will team up with its partners for military-themed give-aways in between innings to all the fans and active/retired military in attendance.

    All of Pacific's 2010 contests will be broadcast online at the Pacific Athletics site: www.pacific tigers.com. Road Big West Conference series will also be broadcast on KSTN 1420 AM, locally in the Central Valley: at Long Beach State (April 1-3), at UC Irvine (April 16-18), at UC Davis (May 7-9) and at Cal Poly (May 21-23).

    The Big West Conference released its annual Preseason Coaches Poll on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Pacific was predicted to finish in seventh place this season, with 30 overall votes by its conference peers.

    The Tigers bring back 17 returning letterwinners and seven starters from the 2009 squad that finished 21-32 overall and 9-15 in the Big West Conference for a seventh-place finish.

    2009 all-conference selections senior Mike Walker (Marysville, Calif.) and juniors Nick Longmire (San Diego, Calif.) and J.B. Brown (Alvin, Texas) return to anchor the squad this season, along with returning redshirt senior Joe Oliveira (San Diego, Calif.). Oliveira will provide senior leadership defensively as the team's starting catcher, while Longmire, Brown and Walker bring a powerful offense to the table. Longmire and Brown led the team last season

    with a .385 and .378 batting average, respectively. Eight other seniors return to contribute a final year of Big West Conference experience to the roster, including redshirt senior Casey Neimeyer (Woodland, Calif.) who will focus solely on baseball after splitting previous seasons with Pacific's basketball team.

    Headlining the 2010 conference is post-season veteran Cal State Fullerton, who received 79 overall points and seven first-place votes from the nine Big West Conference schools. Second and third place were handed to UC Irvine and Cal Poly with 71 and 60 overall votes, respectively. The top three teams were the three Big West representatives in last season's post-season tournament.

    2010 Big West Coaches Poll Results:
    1. Cal State Fullerton (7) 79
    2. UC Irvine (2) 71
    3. Cal Poly 60
    4. Long Beach State 50
    5. UC Riverside 48
    6. UC Santa Barbara 36
    7. Pacific 30
    8. Cal State Northridge 19
    9. UC Davis 12

    ( ) First-place vote

    Pacific heads into the 2010 season on the heels of the program's best offensive season ever, hitting .322 as a team with seven players batting over .300. The Tigers bring back 17 returning letterwinners and seven starters from the 2009 squad that finished 21-32 overall and 9-15 in the Big West Conference for a seventh-place finish, only losing three hitters from last year's seven departed seniors. Of the 17 returners, head coach Ed Sprague welcomes back nine seniors, four juniors and four sophomores. New to the roster this year are four junior transfers, three sophomore transfers and nine freshmen.

    "We won some big games and I really think it gave some of our players quite a bit of confidence going into this year," Sprague said.  "We return seven starters on the offensive side.  We finished third in the league in hitting behind Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly, hitting .322 as a team, so having those seven guys back is a blessing."

    In this year's Big West Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, the Pacific baseball team was predicted to finish in seventh place this season, after claiming that very same position to close out 2009.

    In 2009 Pacific fared well against ranked opponents, finishing with a 4-9 record including claiming the series at No. 6 Cal State Fullerton from April 17-19 in Southern California. That marked the first time one of Sprague's squads had ever pulled off a series victory over the Titans.

    "In the history of the program we have never beaten Fullerton twice, and at Fullerton we beat them. Our guys are constantly trying to fight and we started to get over the hump," Sprague added. "We played a very competitive non-conference schedule over the past seven years.  So, our guys have gotten used to playing the Stanfords, the Cals, the Fullertons and the Baylors, those types of schools. It's not about the uniform anymore, it is about executing and playing your best game."

    Included in Pacific's upsets over ranked opponents were victories over No. 8 Baylor (9-8, Feb. 21), No. 11 San Diego (14-6, Feb. 27), No. 26 San Diego State (6-3, Feb. 28), No. 16 Cal Poly (5-4, April 10) and No. 6 Cal State Fullerton (5-4, April 17; 14-10, April 18). Pacific just missed out on claiming a game from the top-ranked team in the country, No. 1 UC Irvine, with rallies falling short in the bottom of the ninth, 4-5 and 5-6 from May 9-10. After claiming significant victories from the top teams in the country, the Tigers proved they could play ball with the best the nation had to offer.

    "We are excited, our confidence is very strong, [this] is probably our most veteran club we have had in a long time as far as playing time goes.  We have challenges set up for us.  We have to be well disciplined, work hard and we certainly have to play to our capabilities.  And, if we do that we will surprise some people in our conference and on the West Coast."

    Despite losing five pitchers to graduation and one of the team's most consistent pitchers in 2009, Pacific added a wealth of depth in the 2009-10 offseason. Pacific can call upon six possible different starting pitchers in seniors David Rowse, Jamie Niley, Hunter Carnevale as well as newcomers junior transfers Marcus Pointer, Jake Hummel and sophomore transfer John Prato Matthews. From the bullpen the Tigers have seniors Casey Neimeyer, Tye Davis and Niley, junior Thomas Berolzheimer, junior transfers Matthew Carvutto, Robbie Richardson and freshmen John Haberman, Andrew Wild and Jonas Noack.

    "One of our biggest concerns is obviously our pitching; it's been down for the last two or three years, but we brought in six junior college kids trying to get that back up," Sprague said. "We should improve our numbers from last year."

    Rowse closed out the year with finesse and led the team with a 3.99 ERA and a 3-2 record in 15 appearances. But, Rowse's most dominant outing as a starter came against Cal State Northridge, when he tossed a complete game shutout to help Pacific clinch an 11-0 victory over the Matadors. A 2009 graduate of Skyline Junior College, Pointer looks to be a strong addition to Pacific's starting line-up, as he closed out his final season tied for the sixth-best record in the California Community College Athletics Association, 10-4. In 2008, The Coast Conference named Pointer Pitcher of the Year, as he closed out his career at Skyline with a 20-8 record to place second on the all-time wins record list in school history. Additionally, Pointer was named to the JC All-America team. Redshirt senior Neimeyer will spend his first season solely focusing on baseball, after an injury ended his Pacific basketball career that was previously split with the baseball season.

    At the conclusion of the 2009 season, senior Joe Oliveira intended on graduating and closing out his career at Pacific; however an early-season injury derailed those plans and left Oliveira with a medical redshirt. This season, Pacific brings back a four-year seasoned vet behind the plate in Oliveira, as he will be tackling a master's degree this year. The two-time Big West All-Conference Team member was also recognized as the ninth best catcher in the nation by Rivals.com prior to the start of his junior season. In 2010, Oliveira returns back healthy and ready to lead the squad from behind the plate. When Oliveira is not donning his gear, sophomores Jake Sylvester, Aaron Hassel - who returns back to Pacific after redshirting in 2008 and then transfering in 2009 - and freshman Danny Sullivan will see time behind the plate.

    "We are fortunate to be getting our starting catcher back from two years ago, Joe Olivera, who is a two time all-conference player," Sprague said. "He will take charge behind the plate.  Joe is also a rare player for us; he stole 22 [of 26] bases two years ago, so he is a speed guy at the top of the order.  He will lead off for us most likely, and set the table."

    Pacific welcomes back its entire starting infield from last season, as the team fielded .966 - just one point shy of its best fielding percentage ever when Pacific recorded a .967 fielding percentage in 2005. Two seasons ago the infield lineup was a huge question mark for Coach Sprague, but in 2009 he nailed down his starting four. The squad is bolstered by two all-conference honorees in senior Mike Walker and junior J.B. Brown, who also bring powerful offense to Pacific's lineup.

    The first base position filled in nicely with a combination of junior Brian Martin and Niley when he was not pitching or serving as the designated hitter. Of all Pacific's fielders, Martin and Niley finished 2009 with the best fielding percentages of more than 10 putouts, with .991 and .989 marks, respectively. Martin finished the year as one of Pacific's seven hitters batting over .300, as he tallied a .333 average in 2009. Sprague also has an option in Noack to split time at first when he's not serving time on the mound for Pacific.

    "At first base Brian Martin returns as a starter from last year; a great left-handed hitter from Livermore High School," Sprague said. "He has solidified himself as one of those guys that just gets it done."

    In the middle of the infield, senior Ben Gorang and Brown secured the double-play duo in 2009 and come back to start another year for the Tigers. Second baseman Brown, who was named Second Team All-Big West last season, returns with the team's second-best batting average after recording a phenomenal .378 average at the plate. Gorang closed out the year just shy of the .300-mark, when he hit .285 and tallied 92 putouts and 25 double plays at shortstop, securing a starting role in a position that plagued Pacific one year prior. Additionally, the Tigers have the option of three freshmen to fill in either middle infield positions in the likes of Marshall Swift, Dustin Torchio and Richard Guerrero.

    "[Brown] had a great year last year ... so he will take over second base again," Sprague said. "He worked hard on [his defense] over the summer and fall and has really improved. Ben really solidified the shortstop position for us last year, which has been a problem in the past.  Much of Ben's skills  are definitely defensively-based."

    Closing out the infielders, Walker returns to the third base position, decorated with a 2009 Second Team All-Big West award after hitting .345 and starting 52 contests - all but one last year. When Walker is not on the job, Sprague can fill in the position with newcomers Guerrero and Sullivan, who also may see limited time behind the plate in 2010.

    "At third base we have senior Mike Walker, who had a really bust-out year last year," Sprague said.  "He has bounced around; he came to us as a catcher out of high school, played a little first and really settled into third base for us last year."

    The Tiger infielders were the building blocks to a team that hit .322 last season, closing out the year even stronger with a .332 average in conference play, and will look to improve upon that figure in the 2010 season.

    Headlining Pacific's offense in 2010 is the return of junior Nick Longmire, Pacific's sole All-Big West First Team recipient in 2009. Having spent time in left and center field last year, Longmire will shift over to right in 2010. Longmire will be the only constant returning from last year's outfield trio, after the departure of graduated seniors Joey Centanni and Mike McKeever, who manned right and center for the majority of the 2009 season. Longmire's veteran experience in the outfield will be key for Pacific this season, but so will his offensive presence as he led the team with a .385 batting average that was the third best among all players in the Big West Conference. In conference action, Longmire hit an astounding .423 one year after earning All-America recognition in 2008.

    "In the outfield right now we basically return one starter, Nick Longmire, who was an all-conference player," Sprague said. "[Longmire] is probably one of the best all-around players in our conference.  I think if he goes out and plays the way he is capable of he should be competing for conference player of the year, along with a few of the other select great players in the Big West."

    For the rest of the outfield positions, the starting roles remain up for grabs. Prior to the 2010 season, Sprague sees a race for the center field starting job between sophomore Brett Christopher, senior Matt Fuson and Carvutto when he's not pitching. Between those three, whoever doesn't land the center field position will fill in left and as the designated hitter. Christopher and Fuson saw limited action in right and center behind last year's veteran outfielders and look to bring that experience into 2010.

    Towards the end of 2009, sophomore Josh Simms made a name for himself in center field, when Centanni began to focus more on pitching, landing a starting role against Cal Poly on April 11. Simms started 22 games for Pacific in the outfield and could also be another key arm in the field if needed. Pacific also has redshirt freshmen Ronnie Burton Jr. and Kyle Dodge to plug in the outfield holes, as well as sophomore Allen Riley who primarily saw time as the designated hitter in 2009. Riley finished the year hitting .289, including driving in the winning run as a pinch hitter against Cal Poly on April 10.

    "We're excited about the offense returning and if we could hit anywhere near where we did last year, and maybe improve on that, then we like our chances for improving our record," Sprague said. "Our goal, like anybody else's, is to get to Regionals. Pacific has never been there so we got our sights set on that."

    This season the Tigers will host 29 contests at home and hit the road for 26. New to the 2010 schedule include match-ups against Seattle, Notre Dame, Bradley, USC and Santa Clara. During Spring Break, from Mar. 11-14, Pacific will head down to San Antonio, Texas, for Notre Dame's Irish Baseball Classic. In that tournament, Pacific sets out against Gonzaga (Mar. 11), host Notre Dame (Mar. 12) and Bradley (Mar. 13), with the championship and consolation contest to be held on Sunday, Mar. 14.

    Conference play begins on the road for the Tigers, when they take on Long Beach State from April 1-3. In competitive Big West Conference action, Pacific hosts series against UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara from Klein Family Field.

    For the second-straight season, the Tigers will don their camo jerseys in honor of Salute to the Troops at all Sunday home games. In 2010, Pacific will host eight Sunday contests beginning with Nevada on Sunday, Feb. 28, with a 1 p.m. scheduled first pitch. Admission to all Sunday home games is free for all military personnel.