5. David Andriese will receive First Team All-Conference honors. It’s not that impossible to imagine. Last year, Andriese received an honorable mention from the Big West after he averaged .307 and tied the team for most homers with four. He also had the best slugging percentage and the most triples in the team. Keep in mind that he accomplished all that in his first full season. Look for him to lead the Highlanders to another great year in baseball.
4. Coach Doug Smith will win his second Big West Coach of the Year award. He is one of the best coaches any UC Riverside sport has ever had. In his five years, not once did a UCR team finish with a losing record. In fact, he did the opposite for the Highlanders. He led UCR to a record of 149-126 and an outstanding conference record of 62-49. He took his team to the NCAA Regionals in 2007 and won his first Coach of the Year award that same season. This team has been in a bit of a dry-spell as of late. I’m willing to bet Coach Smith will be the one who leads them to the promise land again.
3. Eddie Orozco will throw a no-hitter this season. Why not? Last year, Matt Andriese threw a one-hitter and his ERA was higher than Orozco’s. Eddie Orozco also led the team in wins and was second in strikeouts. This guy is the real deal. If anyone on the team has an opportunity to finally give UCR its first no-no, it’s Orozco.
2. UCR will have a winning record against Top 25 teams this year. You doubt it? It’s possible. Last year, the Highlanders came close as they shocked two of the Top 25 teams in the nation. They’ve got the potential, the schedule and the experience to do it. They’ll play Fullerton thrice this year and UCLA once. I look for them to beat the Bruins in their only game and to take two of three from the Titans.
1. UCR will win the conference championship. The Big West conference recently insulted the Highlanders as the coaches picked UCR to finish fifth in the standings. That’s not going to happen. True, they lost a lot of great players last spring, but this is a veteran team that’s led by a great coach. Fullerton and Irvine will be the top contenders once again and they’ll be hard to knock off, but the Highlanders have all the potential and star power to do it. This team is hungry. They haven’t been to the postseason since 2007. From what the players tell me, the postseason is the team’s first priority this year. No one in this conference wants it more than UCR.