Dodgers better be careful

 

The Dodgers are playing poorly and it’s not just one thing. Their offense is stagnant, their defense is pathetic and their bullpen has not met expectations. With down years from virtually every high paid star in their line-up it’s no surprise that the Dodgers are floundering and in danger of losing sight of the soaring Giants.

Last June the Don Mattingly-watch hit full speed. It was believed the Dodgers were weeks away from relieving Mattingly of his duties. But  then a Cuban phenom burst upon the scene and the rest is history.  The Dodgers would crawl out from a 9.5 game hole, surging through the months of July and August and winning the west going away. While it’s possible for this team to get that hot, it’s not likely.

Yasiel Puig took all the pressure of the Dodgers when he was called up from the minors. Sure, he wasn’t ready in terms of his knowledge of the game and fundamentals, but his talents were electrifying. He mesmerized baseball and the Dodgers took off when he arrived. Puig got hot, the Dodgers got hot, everyone started to hit, the bullpen ironed out their issues and the Dodgers were rolling. But, I am not encouraged that will happen again. Here is why….

First, while the Dodgers have some big time talent in their minor league system, it’s not believed they are ready to rescue this club just yet. As much as we clamor for Joc Pedersen, reports indicate he isn’t ready to be the Dodgers everyday center-fielder.

Happy scenes like this from Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have been few  and far-between
Happy scenes like this from Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have been few and far-between

The composition of the Dodgers doesn’t work. This is not a Mattingly failing but a Coletti/Kasten mis-cue. To think it was a good idea to have four outfielders who are used to playing everyday, vying for starts and at-bats is no solution at all. I am aware of the injury history and the issues we had last year, but it creates turmoil when you have four guys, who are used to playing on a daily basis, sharing starts. It doesn’t work. It has shown as much this year, with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford all having terrible seasons.

This team defensively is grotesque. They are just awful. Hanley Ramirez is just not a good short-stop and his lack of range, bad angles and inconsistent throws to first hurt this team all the time. Dee Gordon has been a pleasant surprise at second, but it’s clearly a position he is still learning. Other than Puig, the Dodgers outfield defense is slow with bad arms, not a good combination. Before Crawford’s injury a case could be made that his arm was the worst in the big leagues, so everyone runs on him and takes extra bases. Don’t under-value what this does. It takes double-plays out of the equation, and allows teams to put extra runners in scoring position when they don’t fear a fielder’s arm. Kemp is much slower with his leg issues, no longer the dynamic outfielder from 2011. it’s really sad to see his regression and what the injuries have done. Ethier is solid, but not spectacular with arm and speed. And, while we “oooh” and “ahhhh” with the plays that Puig makes, he still misses way too many cut-off men allowing runners to take extra bases.

The Dodgers have four months to figure this out. I have no doubts that they will play better. But, the issue for the Dodgers is the San Francisco Giants. Not only are the Boys in Blue only 3-7 against the Hated Ones, but the Giants are 25-9 over their last 34 games. They have extended to a 7-game lead and don’t look like the brittle bunch that occupied first place in early June last year. The Dodgers may get hot, but will they be able to reach a level of consistency that turns them from pretenders to contenders in the NL West ? As constituted now, I just don’t see it.

Integrity and Courage Criminalized in the case of Edward Snowden

As the interview ended you could almost see the pundits running for their nearest sniveling reporter. “He’s a traitor,” they claim. “He has done irrevocable damage to our security,” rolls off their tongues like it’s pre-programmed.

NBC’s interview with Edward Snowden elicited emotions and brought out the surveillance apologists who claim the former NSA employees’ leaks have done grave damage to the country’s security. They say he has endangered the lives of spies and soldiers world-wide. These “apologists” make these claims, but can not site one specific Snowden document released by journalists that specifically endangers troops or spies. Not one.

These “apologists” will claim it doesn’t matter. They say he has the documents,  and he could give the green light for The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald to release them at any time.

We all knew that the US Government was in the spy business, but Snowden’s revelations struck those that cherish liberty to their core. The blatant disregard for the Constitution and civil liberties by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations was staggering. Bush with the incessant prodding from his Vice President Dick Cheney implemented a system of domestic surveillance that was unprecedented in American history. Obama, promising to bring in air of transparency to the White House, has not only embraced these unlawful measures, but he has expanded their use.

Obama entered White House promising a new day of “Hope and Change.” Instead it has meant the expansion of the surveillance state. It has also meant the prosecution of those inside the government who dare speak against their superiors. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers and leakers under the Espionage Act than any other administration in the history of the United States. 11 total people prosecuted under the Act, with 7 under Obama. Free and open ? I think not.

So, as televisions clicked off en masse after Snowden’s interview last night I could mentally see the power brokers, the true elites scrambling to get their specific talking head on the airwaves to try to re-but Snowden’s assertions.

He was called “naive and gravely mistaken” by the former Director of Counter-Terrorism, Michael Leiter. Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul says that the Snowden revelations had “damaged American diplomatic relationships with friendly countries.” Why is that Mr. McFaul ? Could it be that those relationships were damaged because we were lying to their faces and then spying on them through their cell phones through our sophisticated surveillance systems ?

Secretary of State John Kerry has called Snowden a “coward and traitor.” He also called him “pretty dumb” on Thursday afternoon.

Snowden’s revelations highlighted 13 years of domestic spying and surveillance on American citizens. They did this using a wide net to capture internet, telephone and text messages. Not only compiling this information and storing it for long-term use, supposedly for when they might need it. Snowden released the treasure-trove of documents to Greenwald, with the caveat that Greenwald only release documents that wouldn’t do harm to soldiers, security officials or spies. Intelligence officials claim the documents being released show the methods by which the United States gathers intelligence, and that significantly hampers the country’s security efforts.

Greenwald has said he works in concert with Snowden when documents are going to be released. Greenwald says he tries to get US officials to discuss some of the classified information which is slated for release, much of the time to no avail.

American officials have called on Snowden to come home and “face the music” for what he has done. But, as Snowden said last night. If one is accused under the Espionage Act they are not allowed to defend themselves utilizing the protections of the Constitution. He says because of the nature of the charges, the government will be able to prosecute, but a defense is nearly impossible because the documents that would be used for a defense are classified. And, in the past, the government has not allowed classified documents to be used by a defendant in an espionage case.

To these surveillance “apologists” Snowden is the worst of the worst. “A turn-coat,” they say. A man who sold his country out. And, they say regardless of whether the US government is breaking the law or not, surveillance is needed to protect the country.

Those of us that see Snowden as a hero, see a man who gave up his own personal freedom to try and make a difference in a country that is slowly sliding into an abyss of wide-spread surveillance. Surveillance in a digital age that makes it nearly impossible to have any sort of digital freedom. We see a man who verified our suspicions about a government that purports to defend freedom and liberty and then tries to strip those liberties in the name of security.

In closing Snowden added, “sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break the law.”

 

Notes from Cary: Great season comes to unceremonious end

 

All seasons come to an end, it’s inescapable. But you don’t want them ending like this.

The Chico State Wildcat baseball  team’s momentous 2014 campaign came to a screeching halt on Monday as they were the first team eliminated from the Division II College World Series.

This was not how it was supposed to end. The Cats had entered the World Series playing some great baseball. Their four-game sojourn in La Jolla showed Chico State at their best. Great pitching, spectacular defense, timely hits, well-executed bunts, and the grinding mentality that has become a hallmark of this program. But, Chico looked nothing like THAT team in Cary and head coach Dave Taylor addressed that fact after the game.

“At the end of the day our goal is to get here,” said Taylor. “We need to get better as a coaching staff to be make sure we play better when when we do get here.”

Great coaches take the bullets for their teams. Taylor did that on Monday. The Chico State Wildcat program at one point was 13-3 at the NCAA Championships, but since their 2002 title game appearance the Wildcats are 3-8, including four appearances where Chico State has been ousted after only two games.

What has changed ?

To be blunt, teams are better. From 1997-2002 Chico State went to the tournament and only had to worry about four or five of the regions competing for a National Title. That has completely changed. All eight regions are competitive now, and they play a brand of baseball that is similar to the Wildcats small-ball philosophy. Teams from the North and Northeast used to be push-overs, but now they are fundamentally sound, more crisp in their games, and are not easy to play anymore.

The bigger question for Coach T and his staff is why the Wildcats are able to perform at highest of levels in regionals as they did in 2012-2014, only to get to the World Series and flame out. I have no explanation for it. Common sense tells you that the regionals are more pressure-packed than the World Series. Maybe it’s that proverbial foot-off-the-pedal mentality, that deep breath after the regional that takes away Chico’s mental edge. I haven’t spoken with Taylor yet, but he would probably be hard-pressed to have an answer.

In Chico’s last four games, all losses at the College World Series the Wildcats have been nearly no-hit by West Chester, committed four errors in an elimination loss to Minnesota State 6-5. Walked five, hit five, committed two errors and two bad base-running mistakes in a 6-4 loss to Lander and yesterday were completely over-whelmed by Tampa 14-6. While Tampa banged out 19 hits, Chico State gave away 6 runs with mis-plays that we just don’t see during the regular season. Over Chico’s last three World Series games they have committed 10 errors. They committed 45 errors in 56 games this entire season coming into the tournament. Is this just a two-year anamoly ? Chico hopes so.

The Cats now have a five game losing streak at Division II College World Series. The streak started with that gut-wrenching Championship Game loss to Tampa in 2006.

In closing if the Chico State baseball program wasn’t so great we wouldn’t be lamenting their struggles at the Division II College World Series. Think about that for a moment. We are asking this question with a straight face. Why are the Wildcats struggling at the College World Series ? It’s almost comical to think about it. There is not another school in West Region baseball that wouldn’t want the Chico State Wildcat pedigree. 9 West Region titles in 18 years. Nearly two decades of greatness. But, with that greatness comes the expectation of winning and having that transcendent performance translate to the baseball’s biggest stage.

That’s what needs to be figured out, and honestly, I don’t know if there is an answer.

 

 

In Tampa; Chico visits a haunting past

The 2006 Wildcats came within one strike of winning their third National Title in ten years. Tampa denied Chico State that title. The Cats can exact a measure of revenge on Monday morning Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com
The 2006 Wildcats came within one strike of winning their third National Title in ten years. Tampa denied Chico State that title. The Cats can exact a measure of revenge on Monday morning
Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com

They had come such a long way, and here it was, Chico State was going to win their third National Championship in ten years.

At one point during the regular season their head coach had told the local media that he couldn’t wait until he could bring in new players because this group was so disappointing. After playing .500 baseball for the first two months of the season, Chico State needed to be flawless just to get into the post-season.

They nearly were.

Chico State would go on the maddest of dashes over the final four weeks of the season playing themselves not only into CCAA contention but regional consideration as well. The Cats would win the CCAA Tournament and the West Regional to punch their ticket to the Division II College World Series.

Chico would survive game one against Emporia State, winning by a score of 2-1. In game two the Cats would need 13 innings to dispose of Ashland University 8-4. They would beat Ashland again setting up their title tilt against the pre-tournament favorite Tampa University. Tampa had been pushed to the limit as well, but had emerged unscathed. The last time the two teams had met at the D-II College World Series Chico had eliminated Tampa in 1997 4-2 behind the gutsy pitching of John-Eric Hernandez who had shut down the vaunted Spartans over seven innings on three days rest.

Now, the Wildcats and Tampa were meeting again for the National Championship. Early on Chico dodged numerous bullets as Tampa squandered opportunities. Chico would get an early run, only to see Tampa tie it up. In the bottom of the 8th inning Chico State’s Daniel Code would ground a single into right field bringing home the lead run and giving Chico State a 2-1 lead. All of a sudden the Wildcats were three outs away from ecstasy.

After the first two hitter made outs, Chico could feel the most improbable of championships at their door-step. A team that had been buried in late May by their head coach Lindsay Meggs was now one strike away from a National Title.

It’s a strike that would never come.

After consecutive hits by Tampa with two strikes, the Spartans would get a tying single through the six-hole.

Excruciating.

Tampa would eventually score the winning run in the top of the 10th. Chico would get a two-out double from Chad Williams in the bottom of the 10th, when Jerin Harper bounced a chopper to short, the game would be over and the dream had died. Tampa had won the National Championship.

Years later former head coach and current University of Washington head coach Meggs would tell the Seattle Times that he told his wife, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” It would be the last game Meggs would coach at Chico State.

So, as Chico State gets ready to suit up against Tampa in Monday morning’s elimination game, the goings-on of eight years ago may seem like a distant memory, if even a memory at all. But, for those of us that witnessed that night, it will never be forgotten. It is a game one never gets completely over……EVER.

It has taken 8 years, but finally Chico State gets to try and exact a measure of revenge on a team, on a program that dealt them the bitterest of pills eight years ago this week.

Notes from Cary: No time for dread

 

As poorly as the Chico State Wildcats played in their Division II College World Series opener against Lander University on Saturday night, they have no time to linger on their performance. They just don’t.

To stay alive at the National Championship Tournament in Cary the Wildcats must ready themselves for the biggest game of the year as they take on the Tampa Spartans on Monday in what should be a highly entertaining elimination game (10am PST.)

The Wildcats picked an awful time for their worst game of the year. A pitching staff that was stingy in giving up walks and hit bats-men gave up five walks and hit five batters. A defense that was the best in the country chucked the ball over Coleman Field in the 6th inning. And, the smarts the Wildcats have shown on the base-paths this year went out the window with two egregious base-running blunders while standing in scoring position. When you throw in a 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, it’s a wonder Chico made it close.

So, as we wipe away the ugly memories from game one, the Wildcats need to focus on the here and now. Standing in their way is the defending National Champion Tampa Spartans who had been christened by many as the team to beat this year in Cary. Tampa was stunned by Southern Indiana on Saturday 4-3. Tampa head coach Joe Urso lamented after the game, “our team just didn’t make the adjustments we have made all year.” He seemed as shocked by his team’s performance as Chico head man Dave Taylor was about his club’s showing.

If your season comes down to one game the Wildcats are handing the ball to one of the greatest pitchers in the history of Chico State baseball and I believe this is the great sub-plot for Wildcats. By starting Marcos Lara in game one, the Wildcats have Nick Baker in their holster. Baker has risen to the occasion numerous times for the Cats’ and they turn to him now as their season hangs in the balance.

Chico fans should expect Baker to give the Cats a great effort, the question is whether the Wildcats can bounce back from Saturday’s meltdown. I have no doubts about the mental toughness of this ball-club. If they weren’t going to fold in La Jolla last weekend, I don’t expect them to falter again now. I see them bouncing back in grand fashion and play a great game. It’s in their DNA, it’s in their make-up.

The task to win this whole thing should not even be on the radar right now. Like the Chico State Wildcats, the 2004 Boston Red Sox were embarrassed by their performance in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees to fall behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. No team in baseball had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in major league baseball history.  if you are Chico State ball-player you take the same philosophy as Kevin Millar and the 2004 Boston Red Sox took against the Yankees in the ALCS.

I believe it’s true. It’s been a refrain I have repeated here and on twitter (mbaca24) to highlight this team’s approach all season long.

WIN EVERY PITCH

WIN EVERY AT-BAT

WIN EVERY INNING

WIN THIS GAME

Win the next pitch….PERIOD. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

To paraphrase the Kevin Millar from those band of idiots in 2004. “Don’t let Chico State win on Monday. If you do, then you get Lohse on Wednesday, Misty or Lara on Thursday, Baker again on Friday and then in the Championship game, anything can happen.”

Photo at top courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com

Notes from Cary: Keep over-looking him at your own peril

 

I am a fan of post-season awards for college athletes just as much as the next guy. But, sometimes the awards can leave me flummoxed . In the case of Chico State Wildcat pitcher Marcos Lara, I am completely perplexed.

The senior right-hander has been a main-stay for the Wildcats during this tremendous 2014 season. With his 9-3 record, 2.35 ERA and four complete games, the Cats’ wouldn’t be in Cary without his tremendous season. Yet, there was another release of awards yesterday and Lara’s name was missing.

The American Baseball Coaches Association released their 1st and 2nd team All-Region selections. While Chico State was well represented (list at bottom), Lara was AGAIN a notable omission. To be fair to the region’s coaches, in many cases it is a numbers game that sometimes can dilute the selection’s from one particular team. You just can’t choose everyone from the same team, I do understand that. But, Lara’s exclusion continues to be a head-scratcher.

Lara hasn’t missed a start and only really scuffled in a couple of his 15 appearances this year. In the post-season Lara has been nails throwing 10.2 innings of shut-out baseball. Lara was at his best in the West Region Tournament last week in La Jolla as he he blanked the potent California Baptist for 7 innings on 6 hits, inducing three double-plays.

I mentioned to Lara last week that I thought he was getting robbed on the post-season awards and he took the tact the great teammates take, “thanks, but its alright. I don’t really think about that. I just care about giving my team 100 percent every time I pitch.”

He may not have gotten All-CCAA, Daktronics All-West Region or the ABCA All-Region, but those of us that love this team and have watched them play for the last four months know they wouldn’t be here if not for the greatness of Marcos Lara.

Lara and Cats open play at the Division II College World Series in Cary against Lander University on Saturday at 2pm PST. Our pre-game will come your way at 1:45pm on Newstalk 1290-KPAY in the greater Chico area. You can find the games online at KPAY.com, ChicoWildcats.com or the TuneIn radio app.

American Baseball Coaches Association Chico State All-West Region Selections. HEAD COACH-Dave Taylor. 1st Team Selections Nick Baker, Cody Slader, Luke Barker. 2nd Team Selections Ruben Padilla and Peter Miller.

An Ode to the 2014 Chico State Wildcats

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They were four of the most thrilling days of baseball in the history of the Chico State program. The Wildcats are advancing to the Division II College World Series for the 9th time in school history and for the second time in three years.

The Wildcats stellar pitching and defense led the way, but it doesn’t happen without some timely hits as well. We look back at some of the heart-stopping moments from regional championship that will live in Wildcat lore….with help from Frank Sinatra, The Game of Thrones theme and Luciano Pavarotti

Live long and CARY on.

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Chico State gets prize they sought

 

They didn’t win the regular season conference championship (Sonoma.) They didn’t win the post-season conference tournament (UCSD,) yet, they still found what they were looking for.

The Chico State baseball captured the program’s 9th West Region Championship by beating a tough UC San Diego squad 3-1 on Sunday afternoon in La Jolla. Don’t let Chico’s 4-0 record at the regional fool you, this was an absolute dog-fight, and will prepare the Cats for the D-II World Series in Cary, North Carolina this coming weekend.

Chico needed a bolt of lightning from Danny Miller in the regional opener to beat Dixie State 5-4. They needed a mistake-proof performance from Marcos Lara in their 2-0 win over Cal Baptist and they had to employ every ounce of guts and guile to beat the top-seeded Tritons on Saturday in the winner’s bracket game 6-5.

 

Chico State Head Coach Dave Taylor exults with Wildcat short-stop Cody Slader Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com
Chico State Head Coach Dave Taylor exults with Wildcat short-stop Cody Slader
Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com


Sunday’s championship was an exercise in tension and nerves. Both Chico and UCSD wasted great chances to score early. Chico grabbed an early 1-0 lead, only to have the home-standing Tritons tie in the 6th at 1-1. Then in the 7th inning UCSD buckled, and Chico State took advantage.

Early in the game Chico’s best two defensive players made errors, but the Tritons could not take advantage of the extra outs and stranded runners. But, in the 7th with the game hanging in the balance a ground ball found it’s way between the legs of normally sure-handed Erik Lewis and Chico took a 2-1 lead. Then, Dave Taylor pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. With a two-strike count on his 3-hole hitter Ruben Padilla he called for the first-and-third run down play.

He had baserunner Eric Angerer  get just far enough off of first base to draw a throw. Normally catchers hold the ball, OR may realize the play is a deke. Chico wanted a throw to first base, and they got it. As soon as San Diego catcher Brett Levy released the ball, Wildcat base-runner Ryne Clark came tearing down from third sliding home giving Chico a 3-1 lead.

Chico’s shut-down bullpen with Robert Hook and West Regional MVP Luke Barker would shut the door on San Diego and send Chico State to Cary.

The goal this year, and every year is to win the West Region championship. As you read here a few weeks back, these lofty goals are what drives this program. So, while Chico didn’t attain a regular season, or conference tourney title. They achieved what they set out to do. The Chico State program has now won 5 regular season CCAA titles. They have won 3 CCAA Tournament crowns and now have won 9 West Region titles since 1997.

The Wildcats now head to Cary and the Division II College World Series. It’s the pinnacle of the baseball season. The Mecca if you will. The National Baseball Headquarters is a wonderful place to play and enjoy this game that we all love. It’s a just reward for a team that bought into team. Embraced their roles. Relished being teammates, and will now shift their focus toward a National Championship on one of baseball’s biggest stages.

The ride continues. Can’t wait for my first sip of Carolina sweet tea !!

Game on gentlemen. Game on

 

WEST REGION TITLE ON THE LINE TODAY

For the second time in as many years the Chico State Wildcats have put themselves in position to win a West Region Championship, this time they are determined not to let it slip away.

By winning the first three games of this regional the Wildcats have one simple task remaining here in La Jolla. Win one game today. That’s it, win one game and this greatest of Division II programs on the west coast will be making their 9th trip to the Division II College World Series in 18 years.

Even with the advantage of having two games to win one today, the Wildcats should not want to use that extra game. Finish this thing, be done with it. As they learned last year against eventual region champ Grand Canyon, anything can happen in one game.

Chico will be taking on a team in UC San Diego  today that started out trying to emulate them in 2004 under former head coach Dan O’Brien. They built their program in those early days  as a club that at times seemed to be a carbon copy of the Wildcats. Fundamentally sound, solid defense, good pitching, great at-bats and grinders. For a time they emerged as the team to beat in the CCAA. And now, for the first time in this glorious rivalry, these two great schools, UC San Diego and Chico State play for a west region title.

UC San Diego disposed of Cal Baptist last night 14-5 and eliminated the Lancers. The Tritons scored 20 runs against Pomona on Friday and 14 last night against Cal Baptist. But, in their loss against Chico State the Wildcats were able to hold them to five runs, all while gutting out a three run 7th inning rally to win a thriller 6-5 in the all important winner’s bracket game.

Chico State will have two chances to win one game against the Tritons. Coming into this title tilt the pitching depth of both of these squads will be tested. Right now the Chico State Wildcats are in better shape in that department. San Diego’s Dan Kolodin was able to eat up innings in last night’s blowout against the Lancers. It could have been much worse for head coach Erik Newman’s team if it was a close game and he had to use some of his prime time arms in an elimination game. Let’s look at who he has left….

First, Blake Fassler was a starter all year, but it appears has been shut down with arm issues. If he pitches it will be a major surprise considering his two inning outing in Stockton last week. Trevor Scott pitched on Thursday and threw 7.1 innings of shut-out baseball. He threw 112 pitches. I fully expect to see him appear today if the Tritons need him. For how long ? Only Newman knows that. Troy Cruz is another arm we should probably see today, especially if there is a second game. Cruz pitched in UCSD’s blowout on Friday against Pomona and only had to throw 67 pitches. He has been effective against the Wildcats, although Chico did rough him up in the CCAA Conference Tourney in Stockton last weekend, banging out five straight hits against him and scoring five runs in the 6th inning.

Out of the Triton bullpen we should see a steady diet of David Hart, left-hander Chad Rieser and closer Scott Zeman. Zeman has been used sparingly and I fully expect the Tritons to have him shoulder a load today.

For Chico State they are set up about as well as one could hope for Title Sunday. They have a few options heading into this one. Most likely they go with Alex Mistuloff in-game one. Mistuloff was great against Pomona at the CCAA Tourney going 5.2 innings and giving up only 2 runs. He is a power pitcher with movement and when he is on, has nasty stuff.  The Wildcat pen had to extend a bit yesterday in the win over San Diego, but it was worth since they brought home the win. Robert Hook and Luke Barker both worked two-plus innings but should be available to throw multiple innings out of the pen today if needed. The Wildcats also have Drew Freeman back, after a bout with mono. But, with Freeman being on the shelf for a month, they may not try to push him too hard, unless his services are desperately needed.

This is the biggest baseball day of the year for Chico State, so if the situation warrants we will see Chico ace Nick Baker and possibly senior Marcos Lara on one day’s rest. You save your guys to  get to this point. If there is a day to call on every ounce of reserve energy, today is that day.

Offensively the Tritons have been in one word: ridiculous. 34 runs in two wins over Pomona and Cal Baptist. But, Sonoma held them scoreless for six innings on Thursday and Chico State was able to hold them to five runs yesterday. The Tritons terrorize the fastball. If you rely on the straight stuff they will pound you into submission. You NEED to mix it up against their stacked order. Keys to victory, you must keep Brandon Shirley and Erik Lewis off base. Chico did not do a good job of that yesterday and it almost cost them. These two table-setters make it happen for UCSD giving Nick LaFace, Justin Rahn, Troy Cruz and company opportunities with runners on base. Like the 85 Cardinals, keep Coleman and McGee off base, and your chances to beat them rise exponentially.

For Chico State they are swinging the bats as well as they have all season. It took awhile for them to come up with the big hits with runners on base yesterday, but when they did, they came in bunches. Chico will need to score runs today and they will need to put some crooked numbers on the board. They have gotten a huge boost from the power surges of Tyler Madrid and Danny Miller and they will lean on those two guys again today to rise to the occasion. Senior leader Eric Angerer leads the team with 10 hits in the post-season. And, when lead-off hitter Ryne Clark reaches base it gives Chico a ton of options offensively with his speed and athleticism.

The great intangible in this match-up is Chico’s defense. They have shown throughout this tournament why they are the top ranked defense in the country. Connor Huesers pegging UCSD’s Garrett Tuck at the plate yesterday was a game-saving and game-defining play. The Wildcats defense has been able to minimize the damage all season long, it will need to be as good today.

The Chico State Wildcats have won 42 games because they can pitch, play spectacular defense, bunt and be clutch when they need to be clutch.

Today the Chico State Wildcats look to finish a journey that began with the final heart-wrenching out of the 2013 campaign in St. George, Utah. There is a group of upper-classmen for Chico State that have made it their one solitary goal to get back to this very point and complete the task.

Game on gentleman. Game on

NCAA DIVISION II BASEBALL WEST REGIONAL: Cary or Bust

 

For more than three months Division II baseball teams in the West Region have been scratching and clawing to get to this point. Now, we are here. We know the six-team tournament field, as the best teams in the west converge on La Jolla to try to punch their tickets to Cary, North Carolina.

The field consists of four teams from the California Collegiate Athletic Association (UC San Diego, Chico State, Cal Poly Pomona and Sonoma State.) And, two teams from the Pacific West Conference (Cal Baptist University and Dixie State.) Let’s look at the six teams that will battle it out on Thursday for the West Region Championship.

#1  SEED UC SAN DIEGO TRITONS 

The top seed in the West Region and the tournament hosts are the UC San Diego Tritons from the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA.) The Tritons enter the regional on a roll having just won the CCAA post-season conference tournament in Stockton sweeping through the competition.

UCSD celebrates their CCAA Tournament Championship in Stockton on Saturday night.  PHOTO: Courtesy of UCSD Athletics
UCSD celebrates their CCAA Tournament Championship in Stockton on Saturday night.
PHOTO: Courtesy of UCSD Athletics

The Tritons won two games from Chico State and also knocked off Cal Poly Pomona to capture their sixth post-season tournament title, and fifth in the last six seasons.

The Tritons enter the regional with a 35-14 overall record and have won 9-of-10 and 14 out of their last 17 games. UC San Diego has a team batting average of .292 and has great balance throughout their line-up. Offensively they are led by senior catcher Nick La Face who hit .357 on the season with 2 HR’s and 47 RBI’s. La Face is one of the more feared hitters in the CCAA with an incredible .498 OBP. 27 of his 61 hits have been for extra bases. Teams might want to avoid him with runners on base.  Justin Rahn provides great protection for La Face in the line-up. The left-handed hitter drove in 41 runs while hitting .348 with on OBP of .466. Second baseman Erik Lewis is a  solid two-hole hitter with a .345 batting average and a .481 OBP.

(This base hit by Lewis broke a 7-all tie versus Chico State in the 7th inning of their CCAA Championship match-up last Saturday)

These three hitters for the Tritons are really the key to their offense. La Face has drawn 43 walks. Rahn has walked 32 times and Lewis has received 40 free passes. These three straight hitters for the Tritons are the toughest back-to-back-to-back hitters in the region. They make pitcher’s work, constantly fouling off tough two strike pitches and driving up pitch count. San Diego feeds off of their tough at-bats.

Troy Cruz hit .331 and drove in 38 runs. Lead-off hitter Brandon Shirley (.311)  has done a great job setting the table for heavy hitters in the middle of the order. Brett Levy is sizzling hot at the plate and had a strong CCAA Tourney going 6-for-12 in the tourney and driving 3 runs the final game against Chico State.

On the mound UC San Diego is no slouch. They have some power arms that keep them in games. The health of a few of their starters came into question during the CCAA Tournament. We don’t know whether these pitchers were being held back for rest, or whether they had some injuries. It will be interesting to see…..

At the top of their rotation is Justin Donatella. He did not start a game in the CCAA Tourney, but he did come out of the bullpen in the title game and displayed that velocity that made him an 8 game-winner this year. At 8-2 with an ERA of 2.35 the tall right-hander headlined a group that compiled a team ERA of 3.21. Donatella held hitters to a .219 batting average against. Blake Fassler was 4-3 with a 2.41 ERA, but had to leave his start in the CCAA Tournament after two innings, so there are questions marks surrounding Fassler.

Cruz not only is one of the Tritons best hitters but he also has been great for them on the mound this year. Cruz was 7-3 with a 2.85 ERA. He has pitched a team high 82 innings with opponents only hitting .256 against him. Left-hander Trevor Scott is 6-2 with an ERA of 4.00. Scott’s 74.1 innings this season is the second most on the staff. The Tritons are deep in their starting rotation. They will bring in some good arms out of the pen including their closer Scott Zeman (8 saves.) David Hart is a solid set-up man (2.17 ERA) and the Tritons can bring in Chad Rieser to match-up against lefties.

The UC San Diego Tritons are a deserving top seed. They are playing great baseball and are hot right now. They were good at home, but not dominant (15-7.) They are not a team that runs wild on the bases with only 23 swipes on the year. The Tritons get on base, work counts and hit well with runners in scoring position. They have a veteran team that has been through the tough battles in the always tough CCAA. To beat this top seed, teams will have to “out-tough” the Tritons on their home field. Not an easy task. Head Coach Erik Newman is a good coach and has to feel good about his squad entering the regional.

#2 SEED CHICO STATE WILDCATS

The walk-off win has been a specialty of the Chico State Wildcats during their 2014 campaign PHOTO courtesy of Chico State athletics
The walk-off win has been a specialty of the Chico State Wildcats during their 2014 campaign
PHOTO courtesy of Chico State athletics

(The Chico State Wildcats walk-off hits in 2014)

For the 15th time in the last 19 years the Chico State Wildcats will be in the Division II West Regional. While many may say this is old hat for the Wildcats, think again. This group  is really excited to have a shot at winning the school’s ninth West Region title.

Chico State garnered the number two seed by having a very good regular season going 39-13. They are the best defensive team in Division II baseball with a fielding percentage of .980 and are led defensively by Cody Slader. The Wildcats short-stop committed only six errors in 264 chances on the year. He dazzled Wildcat fans with sparkling defensive plays and was a big reason why the Wildcats earned run average hovered in the low 2’s all season long. Ask Chico State pitchers who the team’s most valuable player is, and Cody Slader is very high on all lists.

Pitching and defense were the prime ingredients for the Wildcats’ success. With a team ERA of 2.57 and the top-ranked fielding percentage, the Wildcats played well in close games. Nick Baker led the Wildcats on the mound. The senior is 9-1 with a 1.56 ERA. He was named the CCAA Pitcher of the Year. He is 31-8 all time in his four-year career. He would love to cap off his amazing career with a trip to Cary. Baker threw 98 innings with opponents only hitting .218 against him. Sophomore Brad Lohse is carrying on the family name. During one stretch of the regular season Lohse threw three straight complete game shut-outs. He finished the year with a record of 8-0 with a 1.46 ERA. Lohse walked only 9 hitters in 74 innings of work.

Marcos Lara has won 8 games for Chico State this year and is a critical piece as they head to the West Regional in La Jolla Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics
Marcos Lara has won 8 games for Chico State this year and is a critical piece as they head to the West Regional in La Jolla
Photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics

 Marcos Lara has been a gem for Chico on the mound all year. The D-I transfer is 8-3 with a 2.56 ERA. This trio; Baker, Lohse, Lara have been the back-bone of the Cats staff all year.

Luke Barker anchors the bullpen. Barker saved 14 games on the year and is a gritty hard-nosed competitor on the mound. Barker will take the ball for one inning or five. His toughness will never be questioned by his mates as he took a line drive off the head against UC San Diego in the CCAA Tourney title game. Barker would stay in the game and pitch two more innings.

 Robert Hook received all-conference recognition for his great work out of the Chico State bullpen. Hook is 6-2 with a 2.77 ERA and can pitch multiple innings for Chico, He held leads and got the ball to Barker all season long. Chico will need Alex Mistuloff, Derek Sesma and Jesse Silva to perform at a high level to navigate through this regional. Mistuloff could serve as a starter, while Silva can eat innings.

The Chico State Wildcats offense has been a constant for CCAA Coach of the Year Dave Taylor. Despite losing twice to UC San Diego in the CCAA Tournament, the Wildcats are swinging the bats about as well as they have all season long. Lead-off hitter Ryne Clark is the table-setter. Clark leads the Cats in hits (69) and runs scored (34.) This converted San Diego State quarterback patrols center-field and has great speed, running balls down in the gaps with ease. Third baseman Ruben Padilla has started every game this year and has hit .330 while driving in 24 runs. Eric Angerer struggled for much of the year and has suddenly caught fire in the last month. Angerer was hitting .163 in late March but has gone 26-of-59 since. He is not only getting a lot of hits, he is getting big hits.

(This base hit broke a 6-all tie as Chico came back from six runs down to take a 7-6 lead on UCSD on Saturday night.)

(Dylan Garcia with a two-run double against UCSD as the Wildcats climb out of a 6-0 hole.)

Peter Miller was slated to be the back-up catcher to start the year, but when starter Jake Bailey went down, Miller stepped in and was voted an All-Conference selection. His bat was good (.326 BA 2 HR’s 28 RBI’s) but his defense was even better as he handled the Wildcat pitching staff and threw out nearly 50 percent of would-be base stealers. First baseman and DH Tyler Madrid is a power threat and leads the team with 3 home runs. Ryan McClellan has had a great year for Cats. The transfer from Valdosta State hit .306 and drove in 29 runs. He hit this big home run on April 13th in the bottom of the 9th against Dominguez Hills.

The Chico State program has always liked playing small ball, but this team loves it. Chico will bunt on any count, at any time, in any scenario. Head coach Dave Taylor loves to utilize the stolen base and the hit and run. Chico has stolen 66  bases on the year. They also are adept and taking extra bases on balls in the dirt.

Chico is swinging the bats well, but they will need to pitch and play defense to win this regional. They will need their front line starters to pitch deep into games, The Wildcat bullpen and middle relief has the opportunity to be difference makers. If Chico can get the ball to Barker in the 9th with a lead, they will be happy.

#3 SEED CAL BAPTIST LANCERS

It sure didn’t take long for the Cal Baptist Lancers to make some noise in the West Region. In their first year of eligibility the Lancers made the 6-team  field. Cal Baptist had a strong 2014 campaign going 37-13 in the Pacific West Conference.

During the year the Lancers had several good wins including an 8-1 record against teams from the CCAA. The Lancers enter the tournament as the best hitting team in the field. Cal Baptist hit .313 on the season and hit  20 home runs. The Lancers aren’t only boppers, though. Cal Baptist stole 66 bases and averaged more than 6 runs a game.

They are led offensively by Andy Crowley who hit .406 on the year while starting every game this season. Crowley scored a team high 47 runs and also had 35 RBI’s.  Andrew Montoya hit .350  while leading the team with 10 stolen bases. Nathan Antoun and Blair Moore provided pop for the Lancers. Antoun hit .317 with 6 HR’s and drove in a team high 39 runs, while Moore hit 3 HR’s and drove in 38. Antonio Chavarria (.285 BA 4 HR’s 28 RBI’s) Stephen Lohr (.299 BA 3 HR’s 31 RBI’s) and Mark Sanchez (.297 1 HR 29 RBI’s) give the Lancers offense great balance.

Trevor Oaks is 10-0 with 102 strikeouts for the Lancers.  PHOTO courtesy of Cal Baptist Athletics
Trevor Oaks is 10-0 with 102 strikeouts for the Lancers.
PHOTO courtesy of Cal Baptist Athletics

The Lancers also have the arms to compete for a West Region title. Cal Baptist’s undeniable ace is Trevor Oaks. He has been downright nasty all season long. Oaks is 10-0 with a 1.56 ERA. Oaks has struck out 102 hitters on the season and has thrown two complete game shut-outs. Opponents are only hitting .203 against Oaks and he has given up only 12 extra base hits all year, all doubles.

Adam Hofacket has started 12 games on the year and is 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA. Hofacket has thrown 74.2 innings and opponents are hitting .245 against him. Tyson Miller is 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA.

Out of the bullpen the Lancers will lean on closer Caleb Dirks. Dirks is 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA. Dirks has 7 saves and has struck out 45 hitters in 37 innings. David Herd  (5-5 4.45 ERA)has started eight games. Ethan Mack (1-0 4.20)  Josh Ferrell (2-2 4.34 ERA and Jonathan Davis (2-2 5.06 ERA)  are some important arms that the Lancers will bring out of their pen in the tournament.

The Lancers have proven all year they are one of the best teams in the west. Even though this is their first sojourn into this highly competitive Division II West Regional, they have to feel confident, especially in having success against CCAA teams. Their first round match-up pits them against the best hitting team in the CCAA and should be fun to watch.

#4 SEED CAL POLY POMONA

The Cal Poly Pomona Broncos were the top hitting team in the CCAA  and they did it with a line-up that is about as complete as any line-up in the field 1-thru-9. The Broncos went 32-15 on the year and finished fourth in the CCAA. The Broncos played well against fellow west region foes and swept regional participant, Dixie State, early in the season.

They are led by CCAA Player of the Year David Armendariz. The hard-hitting left-fielder hit 9 home runs and drove in 53. His bat speed is impressive and the ball jumps off his bat.

He runs well and is a fantastic all-around player. Joseph Eusebio hits behind Armendariz and hit .377 on the year driving in 28 runs. Eusebio was sizzling in the conference tournament banging out eight hits in three games. Clean-up hitter Bo Walter (.296 1 HR 26 RBI) Chris Carlson (.318 5 HR 33 RBI) and Nick Cooksey (.310 with 16 RBI’s) give the Broncos a formidable middle of the order. Steven Andrade was named the CCAA Freshman of the Year. Andrade had a solid rookie season driving in 22 runs.

Matt Munoz is the lead-off hitter and gets on base at a .396 clip.

Steven Farnworth is a workhorse for the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Farnworth is 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA PHOTO courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Athletics
Steven Farnworth is a workhorse for the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos. Farnworth is 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA
PHOTO courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Athletics

The Broncos have some power arms at the top of their rotation. Steven Farnworth is the headliner. Farnworth was 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA on the year. At one point in April he hadn’t allowed a run in 23 consecutive innings spanning three starts. Opponents are only hitting .241 against Farnworth. Cody Ponce is another top performer in the Broncos rotation. Ponce is 4-4 with a 2.48 ERA. Ponce has given up only 8 extra base hits in 72 innings of work. Max Bethell (7-4 3.58 ERA) is a lefty who can be a tough match-up.

The Broncos bullpen is solid with closer J.J. Franklin headlining some right-handed power arms. Franklin is 2-2 with a 1.75 ERA and 8 saves. Austin Boyle (4-0 1.84 ERA and 3 saves) complement’s Franklin. Andy Amaro (3-1 2.34 ERA)  has had a good year and along with Chris Powell (1-0 2.03 ERA and RJ Shanks (3-0 2.45 ERA) give the Broncos options out of their pen.

Pomona is a scary team because of their offensive prowess. If all those bats  get hot they can do some damage. They also have the arms that can carry them deep into this regional with a chance to win it. They open against Cal Baptist at 11am on Thursday morning from Triton Ballpark in La Jolla.

#5 SEED DIXIE STATE RED STORM

The Red Storm are back in the regional after hosting the tournament last season. When you consider the Red Storm started the season 0-7, it’s pretty amazing they find themselves in this spot. Dixie State finished the season 35-15 and turned it on after their rough start. Head coach Chris Pfatenhauer’s team would win 8-of-10, and at one point rattled off 13 straight wins. Dixie State won the Pac-West regular season title by going 26-6 against Pac-West teams.

The Dixie State Red Storm went 35-8 over the final 10 weeks of the season. PHOTO courtesy Dixie State Athletics
The Dixie State Red Storm went 35-8 over the final 10 weeks of the season.
PHOTO courtesy Dixie State Athletics

Dixie hit .308 as a team this year with a tournament high 37 home runs. Dixie has four starters that are hitting over .350 and will bring a high-powered offense into this regional. Tyler Blair hit .351 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 45 RBIs. Austin Bartleson leads the Red Storm with a .380 batting average, with an incredible .504 OBP. Returner Kevin Kline hit .325 with 20 doubles, 7 home runs and 54 RBI’s. Trey Kamachi is hitting .354 with 1 HR and 32 RBI’s. Dixie State scores over 6 runs a game and has one of the more potent offenses in this regional.

John Conquy led Dixie on the mound this year with an 8-1 record and a 2.04 ERA. Opponents only hit .245 against Conquy. Chance Abrath has a 7-1 record and made 12 starts for Dixie. While both Kort and Kody Christoffersen have seen significant time on the mound this year. Kort Christoffersen (3-2)  has made 10 starts on the year. Kody Christoffersen is 6-3 with a 4.20 ERA and has made 11 starts.

When the Red Storm go to their bullpen they look to their lights-out closer Evan Parker. Parker is 1-0 with a 1.25 ERA. Parker has 12 saves in 20 appearances and has given up only 3 earned runs all year. Matt Hill is a real good arm out of their pen. Hill is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA. Hill has given up only five earned runs in 28.1 innings of work. Bronson Anderson (2-2 3.63 ERA), Kevin Dorantes (4-1 4.32 ERA) and Bubba Blau (1-1 2.92 ERA) provide more relief out of the Red Storm bullpen.

Dixie State lost a lot of key players from last year’s team that got to host the regional, but they are primed and ready for this return trip and have played great baseball since late February. They dug themselves a hole, but went an amazing 35-8 over the final 10 weeks of the season. The Red Storm open regional play against fifth seeded Chico State on Thursday at 3pm pacific time. Last year Dixie was eliminated from the regional by Chico State in a 1-0 nail-biter on the second day of the tournament.

#6 SEED SONOMA STATE

The Sonoma State Seawolves had to have some frayed nerves as they waited to hear their name called on Sunday night. On one hand you would figure the Seawolves were shoe-in for the tournament, they were the regular season champions of the tough CCAA and won 27 games. But, when digging deep into their resume it was tough to find a great number of quality wins as they had series against Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego rained out earlier this year. The Seawolves helped their cause by splitting a four game series with Chico State to wrap up the regular season and that probably got them in the regional.

The Seawolves are in the regional for the sixth time in the last eight years and for the 13th time since 1990.

Sonoma State was near the top of the CCAA in pitching all season long and have a true bona-fide ace in George Asmus. Asmus was 6-1 with a 1.06 ERA. Asmus gave up only 8 earned runs in 68 innings of work. He also held opponents to a .208 batting average. Asmus was slated to start the Seawolves CCAA Tournament opener against Pomona last weekend but walked off the mound after throwing only a few warm-up pitches. Word was it was only soreness. Sonoma needs Asmus, he is a legitimate front line starter and a healthy Asmus is a big factor for the Seawolves.

Hayden Turpin and Jon Richards have been good pitchers for Sonoma all season long. Turpin is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA while the left-hander Richards is 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA.

Sonoma brings a full dose of arms out of their pen. They have some quality arms that can put zeroes on the board. Jayson Richards pitched 6.1 innings of shut-out baseball against Pomona at the CCAA Tournament last week. He is 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA and can come in for long relief or to shut down a rally. Left-handers Devin Alexander and Aaron Gillis have been solid out of the pen as well. Alexander is 1-3 with a 2.86 ERA while Gillis is 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA. Right hander Cody Lane has been good out of the pen with a 2-1 record and a 3.24 ERA.

Offensively the Seawolves have a solid line-up that relies on the table-setters to get on base and have the big boys in the middle of the order bring them in.

Eric Ehlow is the home run and RBI leader for the Sonoma State Seawolves. PHOTO courtesy of Sonoma State Athletics
Eric Ehlow is the home run and RBI leader for the Sonoma State Seawolves.
PHOTO courtesy of Sonoma State Athletics

Eric Ehlow is the home run and RBI leader for Sonoma (4 HR’s 29 RBI’s.)  First baseman Alex Crosby is a run producer hitting in the five hole and has driven in 23 runs.

(Alex Crosby hit this three run home run against Chico State two weeks ago give Sonoma the regular season CCAA title.)

Lead-off hitter Jourdan Weiks is critical to Sonoma’s success. He hit .328 with a .411 OBP and is a tough out at the top of the order. If he gets on base, he can create chaos with 13 stolen bases.  Weiks scored a team high 34 runs. Jackson Stogner is a key returner and hits in the three-hole. Stogner hit .280 with 1 home run and 28 ribbies. Stogner seems to always be right in the middle of Sonoma rallies. Justin Serrao hits near the bottom of the order, but is a clutch performer. He has a penchant for getting the big hit when the game is hanging in the balance.

(This Justin Serrao hit broke a 2-all tie against Chico State and give Sonoma a 4-2 win)

The Sonoma offensive numbers are not imposing but they feel they can win any game that they can keep close. They are deep in their bullpen, have a true ace at the top of their rotation and have some key players with experience. They may be also playing with a chip on their shoulder after feeling they had to scramble just to get in the regional despite their regular season CCAA title.

Sonoma opens regional play against the host school UC San Diego on Thursday at 7pm.