I have covered a top-flight baseball program for the past 20 years. The Chico State Wildcats have won two D-II national titles and 9 regional championships. The axiom which is instilled when you don the Cardinal and White is…..
“IF YOU AREN’T APPLYING PRESSURE THAN YOU ARE FEELING PRESSURE.”
Right now the Los Angeles Dodgers are applying all kinds of pressure to the heavily favored Chicago Cubs. Pressure in execution. Pressure in style of play and pressure in aggressiveness.
The Dodgers are playing free and easy. They are playing the game the way child plays baseball. Playing a game, having fun and enjoying this whole October experience. As a fan who follows this team much closer than I actually should, I can see it. This is not the same group that participated in the playoffs in 2013-2015. Watching those teams in October was a chore. We constantly waited for the other shoe to drop. The Dodgers were favored, but I never felt they were playing a game. The game looked forced to those teams.
This group is different. They are playing as if they know they aren’t better than the Cubs. They are just coming after the 103-win Cubbies as if to say, “you may beat us, but you are going to have to fight us for it.” It’s a joy watching this team grind it out. I have spent so many October’s watching the San Francisco Giants play this way. Free and easy, no pressure, just play.
After the Dodgers tossed their second straight shut-out against the Cubs it’s as if Chicago is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I really thought that they had gotten past their tortured past. The Cubs look tight. This game is hard enough to play when your mind is clear. To play it and succeed when your mind is racing and you are hauling around the hopes of a city…..it’s almost impossible. The Dodgers are applying pressure, the Cubs are certainly feeling it.
If anyone can turn this thing around for Chicago it’s Joe Maddon. I also think the Cubs will be well served in not facing Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill or Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers will now send their young 20 year-old phenom Julio Urias to the hill to try and grab the series by the throat. Tomorrow’s result could determine whether the Dodgers go with Kershaw on three days rest or save him for regular rest and pitch him in Game 6 in Chicago. With a win tomorrow, I think the Dodgers save Kershaw. A loss and my gut tells me Dave Roberts brings him back on three days to pitch Game 5.
I have too much respect for the Cubs to start searching StubHub for World Series tickets. The Cubs won 103 games for a reason. They are good. They are tested and they are hungry. The Dodgers just have keep doing what they are doing. But, look out if the Cubs can get out of their own way. Game 4 could very well determine who wins the National League pennant……enjoy Dodger Fam
The Chico State baseball family buried a young man this week way too soon.
Aaron Demuth was 31 years old. He was laid to rest on Monday in his hometown of Vacaville. Those of us that knew him were not surprised to see a standing room only crowd where the church services were held.
To know Aaron was to like him. What was there not to like ? The gregarious towering man was jovial and fun-loving. Those that knew him best always said he had so much zest for life and attacked life with passion.
Aaron was a devoted family man who loved his family and friends. He had a special affinity for hunting and baseball. Depending on how the Giants were doing depended on what he loved more. Aaron passed away after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. It was a courageous fight that saw Aaron live by the moniker that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program……GRIND. Aaron and his equally as devoted and courageous wife, Lindsey fought, scratched, clawed and “grinded” their way through the fight.
As I recalled memories of Aaron, one singular moment comes to mind and tells you a lot about the Demuth family. It was a Chico State game in 2006 and the Wildcats were playing the San Francisco State Gators. The day before the game I had gone to the Bay Meadows race track and here I sat 24 hours later after that visit to watch the ponies and I wasn’t feeling too well. I had obviously eaten something that didn’t agree with me and within minutes my play-by-play calls had turned into a desperate attempt and hope that the inning would end so I could go get sick somewhere. When I finally was able to leave my broadcast set, I saw Aaron’s father, Glenn approach me.
“Mike, are you Ok?” He asked. “Not so much I am gonna get sick.” Having never met Glenn, but knowing who he was, I was appreciative he checked on me. As I stayed near the bushes and got sick, Glenn proceeded to leave a game that his son was playing in and went to get me some water. By the time he got back, which was a few innings later since there was no snack bar in San Francisco, I was feeling a little better. Mr. Demuth didn’t have to do that, but he did. It has always stuck with me as a sign of genuine kindness when you really don’t have to be.
It was a simple gesture. In the grand scheme of life, it was a small thing. But, the compassion and caring that Glenn Demuth showed me that day a great example of why Aaron turned out the way he did. It was selfless and kind. The apple certainly didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Many of his former Chico State teammates will have their memories of Aaron. Aaron’s baseball exploits are legendary and some of his home runs are still sailing through the stratosphere somewhere. Whether Aaron swung as hard as you could and connected for a colossal blast, or whether he swung and missed. He did it with aplomb and passion.
My memories will be a of a guy who played on two of the most memorable teams in Chico State history (2006-2007) He hit some big home runs and had some big hits for this program. But, I will remember him as a guy who didn’t just give lip service to the “GRINDER” moniker. Aaron is the ultimate grinder in the game of life, and in that we can all celebrate and take great pride.
You will be missed Aaron. Let your Chico State baseball family grind for you now
LISTEN TO SOME OF AARON DEMUTH’S BIGGEST HITS IN HIS CHICO STATE CAREER, INCLUDING A WALK-OFF TWO RUN HOME RUN IN THE 1ST ROUND OF THE 2006 NCAA WEST REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS…..
Be honest, you didn’t think they could do this. Be honest, No fibs here people. After a tumultuous and sometimes rocky ride the 2016 Chico State Wildcats baseball team silenced the doubters and in turn wrote their own glorious chapter in Chico State baseball lore.
With four wins in four days, squeezed around a gut-wrenching loss the Cats summoned the guts and guile of some of Chico State’s greatest teams. The Wildcats have punched their ticket to the NCAA West Regional.
Chico State not only limped into the conference tournament, they needed a walker. Chico had dropped 5 of 8 against two sub .500 teams and had lost 13 of 22 over a five-week stretch. Even the greatest of optimists would have been pushing the envelope in thinking the Wildcats could turn the table.
In the end, this is a story about a team that refused to be deterred, refused to let recent poor performance dictate their current circumstance and a team that showed a toughness and resiliency that has been a hallmark of the Chico State program.
In winning the school’s fourth CCAA Conference Tournament title the Wildcats exorcised numerous demons from the previous three months. Their win over Pomona avenged a 9-2 shellacking where CCAA Pitcher of the Year Michael Koval threw a three-hitter over 8 innings out-pitching Clayton Gelfand. This time Gelfand twirled 7 gutty innings, not giving up an earned run and holding Pomona to 1-for-16 hitting with runners on base and 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Their win over Monterey Bay signaled the signature moment for sophomore starter Hunter Haworth. He not only won two must-win contests against Sonoma and Stanislaus over the last couple of weeks, but he shoved against the power hitting Otters. Haworth scattered five hits over 8 innings and carved up a potent Monterey line-up.
The win over East Bay on Friday night was a performance for the ages by Steven Baker. The right-hander had lost six straight decisions, primarily out of the bullpen. His gem came just a day after surrendering a game tying double to UC San Diego with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning. But Baker shoved all of that aside and shut-down the conference’s best-hitting team, limiting East Bay to 7 hits and 2 runs over seven and a third innings as Chico played themselves into the title game with a 4-2 win.
There are not enough superlatives we can shower on Wildcat reliever Grant Wright. The submarining right-hander took the ball in the fourth inning of the title game on Saturday, pitching in his fifth straight game and for the fourth straight day. Wright pitched 5 innings of one run ball before tiring in the 9th. But, his tenacity and bulldog demeanor signified a sea-change for this 2016 team.
Historically this is a program that doesn’t get “excited” by CCAA Tournament championships. There hasn’t always been an emphasis put on this tournament, but this year was different. Chico State played so poorly down the stretch that their regional lives were hanging in the balance. There were scenarios that if Chico went 0-2 or even 1-2 in this tournament that they would not be going to the regional. Faced with the prospect of folding and completing an epic collapse, the Wildcats instead chose to fight, to dig deep, to grind, to “figure it out” as a club. No one could do it for them. This was all about those guys in that uniform. So, while we all celebrate them and what our favorite baseball team accomplished. I think this group should take great pride in the fact that they rescued a season that was sinking fast. They went on a run against some very good teams and played at a championship level. I for one see no reason why they can’t continue this amazing run.
A week ago Wildcat faithful were lamenting a series loss to Stanislaus State. But now, here we sit, with a banner that will hang from the rafters of Acker. I put nothing past this group. They remind me of another group of ne’er do wells, the 2006 Wildcats. Supremely talented, frustrating at times, but gutty and hard-nosed. Each and every time that team was counted out, they responded, they refused to give in. This group has had a ton of chances to do the same thing, they haven’t quit.
There has been nothing easy about this season. The players will tell you that, the coaches will tell you that, the fans, heck even the broadcaster, but I would rather go to battle with a group that has been tested, then a team that has faced no adversity all season long. No one can ever take away the last four days from this group. This feat belongs to them. And now they have a chance to add a chapter or two to this amazing story.
*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM
The road trip from hell is over and now the Chico State Wildcat baseball team can circle the wagons and get ready for the stretch run.
Going 3-3 on their most recent 96 hour two-city road trip was wicked difficult. The ramifications of rain-outs are usually taxing, more so when you are team that doesn’t live in an urban center. Chico State’s weekend travel included a flight to San Diego, a three game set against Cal State San Marcos on Saturday and Sunday. A delayed flight late Sunday night back to Sacramento which meant they didn’t get back into Chico until 3am.
Twelve hours later the Cats had to hop back on a bus and head to East Bay where they would finish a suspended game from March 4th (a loss) and then play the rescheduled double-header from a March 5th rain out (15-13 win; 10-9 extra inning loss).
Before you shed a tear for these Cats I do recognize these young men are playing baseball. I do get that. As head coach Dave Taylor told me during Tuesday’s pre-game from Cal State East Bay, “it’s not like we are digging ditches for a living, we’re playing baseball.” All true, but to perform at your highest level I am firm believer in physical rest and mental clarity. I believe the body’s biorhythms must be in sync. Young or not, the body and mind needs rest and these Wildcats didn’t get any last weekend and into Monday and Tuesday.
Chico State now sits at 23-9 overall and 13-7 in the CCAA. This year is far cry from the angst of the 2015 campaign. We are certainly thankful for the resurgence of this proud program. These 2016 Wildcats are one of the best hitting teams we have seen in Chico State history. They simply rake. One-through-nine in the order this group seeks out their pitch and when they get it, they haven’t been missing it. I rarely see hitters on this squad put themselves at a disadvantage by swinging at bad pitches early in the count. This team’s plate discipline is stellar. They seek out the mistake and then pounce. Amazing collective approach by these hitters. A week ago they surpassed the 2015 team’s runs total for the year. They did it in about roughly 25 fewer games.
As a team Chico State is hitting .335 on the year with an on-base percentage of .416. They are second in the conference in extra base hits (Monterey Bay is 1st) although the Otters batting average is nearly 40 points lower than the Cats. The offensive prowess of this team ranks with some of the great offensive teams we have seen here at Chico State, especially clubs we saw during the “live ball” era 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006. Offensively this team is good enough to win a West Region title.
To be the team they want to be, and to reach the goals they want to reach the Wildcat pitching staff needs to ratchet it up a notch. While the Chico State arms rank second in team ERA for the season (3.64), their production during conference play has taken a huge dip (4.72)
Despite being away from the team for much of March, one problem that has persisted with this group is not throwing strike one. By not getting ahead in the count the Wildcat pitchers are putting themselves at a tremendous disadvantage. Both San Marcos and East Bay were two of the top three hitting teams in the CCAA. The Cats spent the entire four-day stretch falling behind these quality hitters. This is no way to live. And, it wasn’t just one or two guys, other than AJ Epstein’s five inning relief stint on Tuesday, not one Chico State hurler could consistently get ahead in the count.
Also, not one Wildcat starter went more than five innings. In the three game San Marcos series Wildcat starters went 14.2 innings and walked 11 hitters. For the entire 27 inning series Wildcat pitchers walked 19 Cougars. Not good.
While many may point to the struggles of Chico State’s bullpen, the starters need to shoulder a ton of the blame. Eventually a team and a pitching staff will have to pay the price for starters who constantly have deep counts, walk hitters and don’t go deep in contests. In this competitive conference a team can survive maybe one sub-par start a weekend. When they get three less than average starts, good luck. By the time Tuesday came around the Wildcat bullpen was spent. The Wildcat starters need to pitch deeper, when they don’t, it stretches the bullpen thin.
Was last weekend a blip on the screen, an aberration ? I do believe last weekend and into Tuesday were your atypical grouping of games. We all knew it would be tough against two of the better hitting teams in the conference and it was. The Wildcats are capable on the mound, but the time for talking about it is over. It’s time for the entire staff to take ownership of their performances. Five innings from the starters is not good enough. Average teams have starters that go five innings. Great teams have pitchers who get through seven. Throw strike one, get ahead in the count. quit nibbling. Attack the hitters, believe in your stuff.
It sounds simple, we know it’s not. This team can hit. They rank right up there with some of the more complete offensive teams to wear the Cardinal and White. Even with some pitching slippage at San Marcos and East Bay blowing 7-2 and 8-2 leads, this group of arms is certainly talented enough to get the Cats where they want to go. But, the time for toughness is now. No excuse making, no lamenting ones’ role. Every great Chico State team has faced that put up or shut up moment and that time is fast approaching. It’s time for this group to dig deep and show the toughness we believe they have.
The sample size is small but the early returns point to an exciting and fruitful 2016 Chico State Wildcat baseball season. Behind two walk-off wins and improbable comeback from six runs down the Wildcats served notice that the 2015 season appears to be an aberration, a mere blip on the screen in their storied and historic run.
After Friday’s 1-0 walk-off win over a very good Menlo College squad the Wildcats were pushed to the limit on Saturday in the first game of a double-header. Menlo jumped on the Cats early and often in the first game scoring two runs in the first and 5 more in the second. Chico found themselves down 7-1 in the 2nd. By the fifth it was 9-3, and the deficit seemed insurmountable in the 7th after Cal Berkeley transfer Lucas Erceg slugged a home run to right giving Menlo a 10-4 lead in the 7th.
With hope waning Chico State summed up some old Nettleton Stadium magic. The Cats would score two in the 7th and then four runs with two outs in the 8th highlighted by a Josh Falco bases clearing double to tie the game at 10. The game almost slipped away in the top of the 9th after a one out error allowed the Oaks to grab an 11-10 lead. Chico had the tying run on third with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th, only to have Erceg air-mail a 1-2 pitch to the back-stop allowing the tying run to score.
In the bottom of the 10th, after a single and two walks, the Wildcats Dillon Kelley would hit a ground ball in the hole, Menlo got the force at second but the return throw to first was late setting off a wild celebration and improbable 12-11 win.
The Chico State Wildcats would win the night-cap 8-1 finishing off a fantastic weekend for the Wildcats.
In 2015 the Wildcats finished under .500 for the first time in 21 years. The autopsy from the disappointing season revealed that the Wildcats were lacking some key components that leads to success between the lines.
First, the Cats had virtually an entire roster that under-achieved from their 2014 West Region Championship. Second, the club lacked the necessary depth to withstand pro-longed slumps from key players. And lastly, the Wildcats needed to canvass their squad with players that mimicked the teams of Wildcats’ past. Chico State baseball isn’t about playing perfect baseball. Wildcat baseball is about playing the game with a laser like focus and belief that you will somehow find a way if you “GRIND” it out. Grinders……..Chico State had lost that identifier in the 2015 season. On the recruiting trail, the Cats needed to find a bunch of players that would throw caution to the wind and play the game with a joy, fervor, passion and belief that made us all believers again.
As I said, it’s the smallest of sample sizes. It’s a long season, there will be highs and invariably there will be lows, but when a group of players are all pulling in the same direction and play with passion and selflessness good things happen. This weekend showed the Wildcat faithful that is all is well in Wildcat Land. They showed us……
it’s OK to believe again.
*PHOTO AND VIDEO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM
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
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
As we prepare for the CCAA Baseball Championship Tournament at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, all four teams have some questions they must answer. First and foremost, how hard to go after this conference tournament title.
Hear me out. I am not suggesting teams tank, but in the grand scheme of things this conference tourney title is nowhere near as important as next week’s NCAA West Regional. And, with all four teams (Sonoma, Chico, San Diego and Pomona) ranked in the top six in the region, they are all, aside from Sonoma, a virtual certainty to get into that regional.
What if a team needs to rest a star player, or certain pitchers need time off ? Should a head coach push his players, extend them to try to win THIS tournament, when next week’s is the one that really matters ? It’s a question that each individual team must address. Some coaches want to grind it out and lay it out on the line regardless of what’s at stake. But, should these four programs maybe show some caution when it comes to their ball clubs if, indeed, their players may need rest or could really use down time ?
It’s a dilemma that only the four teams and their coaches can answer, but, unlike past year’s where regional berths were at stake, this season the four clubs seem to be pretty safe bets to be playing for the regional next week. Which begs the question, to rest or not to rest before the tournament that REALLY matters.
The quest for the BLUE BANNER begins Thursday for the Chico State Baseball team as the Wildcats open up CCAA Tournament play against the UC San Diego Tritons. The Wildcats had a splendid 37-11 season, finishing the regular season with a 29-10 conference record, just mere percentage points behind conference champion Sonoma State.
The Wildcats head into the post-season with the top pitching staff in the CCAA with a team ERA of 2.44 and second best batting average at .291 for the season. Chico also boasts one of the top defensive teams in the country and the best fielding percentage in the CCAA.
THE SECOND SEASON IS HERE
The Wildcats see this conference tourney as the precursor to bigger and better things next week as they prepare for the NCAA West Regional. The Cats are virtual shoe-in for the regional, but are looking to get back on track after losing the final two games of their series against Sonoma this past weekend. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back and play well as the west regional approaches.
While Chico wants to play well and win the conference tourney, they surely will not fire all their bullets at this tournament, knowing the what lies ahead.
Chico opens against UC San Diego at 7pm on Thursday from Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. Pre-game on Newstalk 1290 KPAY will come your way at 6:45pm
PHOTO courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com
It was unexpected, it was shocking, and now a bit of reality. The Chico State baseball team should not forget their 10-7 loss to their bitter rivals, Sonoma State, on the final day of the season costing them a CCAA Championship. That’s right, I said they should NOT FORGET IT.
In the grand scheme of things today’s meltdown at Raley Field only means Chico will not be the top seed in next week’s CCAA Conference Tournament. It means nothing more, nothing less. While the regular season title would have been nice, it has never been what has motivated the Chico State program. The only thing that matters is West Region titles….PERIOD. The regular season is a three-month grind that is designed to prepare you to win a West Region Championship. You don’t believe me ? Lets look at the evidence.
The Chico State Wildcats have won 5 CCAA regular season baseball titles. When did they win those titles ? Hell if I know. I don’t remember them. Why ? Because they don’t matter. They are nice. They signify a nice three-month stretch of baseball. But CCAA regular season titles don’t guarantee anything. The conference hierarchy would probably hate hearing their members say this publicly but it’s true.
The CCAA Baseball Tournament, which guarantees an automatic qualifier to the West Regional, is important only because of that guarantee. The regional is what matters. It’s the standard by which you are measured on a national level. If someone were to ask me how many West Region titles the Chico State Wildcats have won, I can rattle them off without hesitation.
1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2012
That is EIGHT West Region Championships. Those matter. Those are what great nationally recognized programs play for. The purpose of the three-to-four month grind is to prepare your team for the 4 day gauntlet in the regional. And the best way to prepare is to play, to strive, to experience the joys and yes, even the heart-break of near misses. In the end, your journey, your season, should prepare you for every imaginable scenario as you try to win a West Regional.
In 1999 the Chico State baseball team was nearly flawless in disposing of CCAA competition. They easily won the regular season title and they prepared for the CCAA Baseball Tournament. Former head coach Lindsay Meggs despised the tournament. He felt, why play a three-day tournament when a champion had been determined over a three-month period. In 99′ the Wildcats would lose the tourney title on their home field to their rivals, Sonoma State. As Sonoma ran around the Nettleton Stadium outfield with banner in hand, Wildcat second baseman George Pena uttered words to the media that would light the fire for the following weekend. As he watched Sonoma celebrate on the Cats’ home field he said, “I can’t wait until they come back here next week so we can kick their ass and end their season.” While it may not have been the most politically correct statement, it was a true demonstration of how good Chico State believed themselves to be, even in the wake of a bitter pill in watching Sonoma celebrate on their field.
The following week Chico would blow-out Sonoma twice winning the West Region title and sweeping through the competition and winning the National Championship.
It’s not the loss that buries you, it’s how you respond to the loss that defines you. Champions makes losses work for them, the final chapter of the 2014 Chico State Wildcats story has yet to be written. The second season begins Thursday.