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Highlander Baseball Quality Shines

Highlander Baseball Now Second in the Big West

Victories Raise Team Profile in National Rankings

(May 5, 2003)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The UC Riverside baseball team swept a three game series over the weekend against the Cal State Fullerton, the top-ranked team in the nation, raising UCR’s profile in national baseball rankings released Monday.

The recent wins, combined with the fact that Long Beach State swept a series against the University of the Pacific, move the Highlanders into a tie for second place in the Big West.

Senior pitcher Julio Fernandez pitched effectively and shortstop Randy Blood was consistently excellent, with a dramatic two-run homer that hit off the scoreboard screen in right center field. When the final game of the series was over, the crowd stood and cheered for a full 10 minutes.

The rewards rolled in Monday, when Blood was named Big West Player of the Week and Fernandez was named Big West Pitcher of the Week. The Highlander team as a whole was ranked 18th nationally in the weekly Baseball America poll, 21st by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and 23rd by USA Today. The rankings are the first time any UCR team has been ranked in the top 25 since the move to NCAA Division I.

Ben Harrer, a reporter at the Press-Enterprise, wrote after Saturday’s game that the victory “ must be considered the highlight of UC Riverside's time at the Division I level.” A headline in the Los Angeles Times declared “Riverside Makes Its Case Known.”

“You’ve got to take your hats off to our guys,” said head baseball coach Jack Smitheran. “They go out there and work hard. They played exceptionally well over the weekend. I’m looking for more of that this week.”

The Highlanders take to the road tomorrow to play San Diego State in their final non-conference game of the season. First pitch is at 6 p.m. So far, their record is 11 wins and four losses in conference, and 36 wins and 12 losses overall.

The weekend wins increase the possibility that the Highlanders will be selected to participate in the NCAA Championships. The Highlanders wrap up the regular season at home against UC Irvine on May 16, 17 and 18.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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