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Author: Erik Wagle

The Answer Is Toughness

As we have endured our toughest stretch of the season the past couple of weeks, we have searched for answers on why we have struggled.  We have juggled the lineup, changed up the pitching, and tried other conventional methods to get our team going.  We have come to realize that it doesn’t matter what buttons we are trying to push, we just have to play better.  Then the question becomes, how do we play better?  The answer is toughness, it always has been and it always will be.

Toughness can signify so many different things in every person.  In the team setting, it portrays a mindset… a belief in oneself and the team.  An inner feeling that no matter what happens, I will get it done.  A deep belief in the team concept… having the confidence that an individual can never fail on a true team because there will always be someone there to pick him up.  This allows loose, free, relaxed play.  The type of play that leads to better results.

The difference between baseball and the other team sports is the extreme pressure that the game fosters.  Each individual has a spotlight on him at various times throughout the game… there is no handing the ball off or taking a play off.  Baseball is a spotlight sport.  There are times the spotlight is on, and there are times that spotlight  can burn pretty bright.  That’s where toughness comes in.  This game is one of failure.  One that will bury someone that is not tough.  Talent is great in this game, but if it were that easy, we would not need scouts or recruiting coordinators, everyone would just go after the players that had the best tools.  But that’s not how this game works.  For every 1st rounder or high scholarship guy that fizzles out, there is a 17th rounder making the All-Star team or a walk-on starting at shortstop and batting third.  The reason the 1st rounder/high scholarship guy don’t make it and the 17th rounder/walk-on do make it is the same, toughness.  One has it, one lacks it.

We believe our players have the toughness, they just need to continue to mature and find it.  We showed it on Monday in our series finale at Cal State East Bay.  We overcame some errors, bad pitches, and a good opposing pitcher to notch up one of our more complete games of the year.  This showed a lot of toughness after a very tough day on Saturday, maybe the toughest day this program has endured.  Instead of folding it up for the year, our guys found the will to fight back.  They displayed great team toughness.  The trick is, how do we keep doing it.  Hopefully the answer is simple… our guys just need to do it.

We have a big weekend versus a very offensive Cal State LA team.  LA provides us a great challenge at this point in the season, and we have to play well to keep our playoff hopes alive.  There is no secret formula for success, we just have to play tough.

This Game is Hard

I first want to apologize for the lack of postings the past couple of weeks… the grind of the season sometimes saps my energy, as well as a hectic travel schedule. Our season has been a bit of a roller coaster and right now we are on a down swing. The way the game humbles you is what makes baseball so unique and different than the other major sports. The game has a way of breaking you down before it lets you build back up.

Before we started the UC San Diego and Chico State back to back road trips, we were nationally ranked for this first time and excited to hit the road and prove our worth against the traditional powers in our conference. By all accounts, we held our own. We lost a very tough series against UCSD but believed a couple of the games were there for the taking. The Chico State series got pushed back into early last week because of the rain. We jumped out 2 games to 0 and was up 3-0 in the 3rd inning of Game 3. We were thinking in our minds that we might have a chance to sweep the road series, then 1 bad inning happened and we dropped the next two games. Splitting on the road with Chico is still a desirable result, so we felt good about our position in the standings and our upcoming schedule.

With only two days before our series with CSU Stanislaus, the short week proved to be an issue for our tired team. We played the worst baseball of the past two years and was swept by a red-hot Stanislaus squad that thoroughly outplayed us. On Monday of last week we were in the middle of Game 3 against Chico thinking about a sweep and how we were going to take control of our standings in conference, and then on Sunday we are licking our wounds and wondering what happened to that team. The past 6 days have proven the fragility of life in our rugged conference and you have to prepare and play your best baseball everyday to have a chance.

We still believe in our players and we are in this for the long haul. We need to refocus, reenergize, prepare better, and become a tougher group. We will do those things. The game of baseball has given us a punch to the gut, but we are confident our guys are ready to get back up and fight back. We play an upstart Cal State East Bay squad that will prove to be a challenge. If we take care of business and play the baseball we are capable of, we hope to find ourselves right back in the mix at this time next week.

Otters Roll Into Bye Week, Garner First Ever National Ranking

With a hard fought series win over a tough Cal State San Bernardino, we gained quite a bit of momentum heading into our bye this week.  The bye comes at a good time, as our team was tired and hobbling a bit after the 16-inning Game 4 against CSUSB.  We have given the boys 3 days off to rest and to address all their upcoming midterms.  We take academics very seriously here, as evidenced by our 3.06 Team GPA in the Fall semester, the highest GPA of all the male sports at CSUMB.  We are very sensitive not to “grind” our players out over the course of the season.  We want our players fresh and with a positive outlook every time they step on the field.

The beginning of the week saw this program reach another milestone.  Collegiate Baseball and the NCAA ranked MB Baseball as the 27th best Division II team in the country, the first time the Otters have ever been in a national ranking.  While we no doubt believe we are better than the 27th team in the country, we understand that climbing the rankings is a process and we are honored those two publications have recognized our efforts to quickly make this into one of the elite programs in the country.  Our goal this year, and every year, is to finish the season at the top of all polls.  Everyone involved in our program is committed to making that happen.

CSU San Bernardino proved to be a very tough opponent and the series was a grueling, hard fought affair.  Game 1 started with a solid pitching performance by Friday starter Don Medlinger.  Medlinger chucked 7 innings of 3 run ball, while Harold Zosel pitched the ninth to secure the 5-3 victory.  Jason Merjano and Brian Haggett each had 2 hits, with Merjano notching an RBI and Haggett scoring a run.

Saturday’s doubleheader proved to be the tale of two games, with Game 1 being a 2-0 victory and Game 2 being a disappointing 11-4 defeat.  Aaron Appino was again the pitching star of Game 1 of the doubleheader (Game 2 of series), pitching 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball before giving way to the left/right sidewinding duo of Chris Neifert and Harold Zosel.  The lefty Neifert got the Otters out of the 8th inning jam, while Zosel picked up his conference leading 4th save of the year by pitching a perfect 9th inning.  Two hits were all we needed to score our two runs, with Danny Nelson and Chris Lopiccolo both picking up key RBI’s.  The second game of the doubleheader started off poorly and ended in a 11-4 defeat.

Sunday’s game turned out to be the longest game in CSUMB history by going 16 innings and lasting over 4 hours 30 minutes.  Starting pitcher Jeff Owen put up his strongest outing of the young season, but the heroes pitched at the end of the game for the Otters.  Submariner Jake Paolinetti threw the longest outing of his career, pitching 6 innings and holding the Coyotes down from the 10th – 15th innings.  Steven Farnworth, the starter of Saturday’s second game, bounced back after a rough outing to pitch a scoreless 16th and pick up his 2nd win of the season.  Jason Merjano, Chris Lopiccolo, and Tommy George all had multiple hit games in the winning effort, with Merjano and Lopiccolo both racking up 2 key RBI’s to pace the Otter offense.

We enter the most difficult part of our schedule after we finish up our relaxing bye week, heading on two straight road trips.  Next week we will travel to a very tough UC San Diego team to take on the Tritons, and we follow that up with a trip to another nationally ranked CCAA foe, Chico State.  This stretch will no doubt be a huge challenge for our squad, but the young season is proving that we are up for whatever comes our way.

 

Week 3 Success, Tough Series Ahead

The third week of the season saw us head down to Cal Poly Pomona, nationally ranked in every collegiate poll and the #1 team in the West Region. It was a hard fought series that saw us splitting with the broncos. In this grueling conference schedule a road split is usually considered a success, but going through the series we feel like we should have came home with 3 wins. We also reached another milestone during the week, being ranked 5th in the West Region by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association for the first time in school history. We also received several votes for the top 25 in the nation, so we are slowly creeping into the national spotlight. We know we belong there, but we are committed to the grind of proving it.

Game 1 of the CPP series was a hard fought and extremely even contest that was not decided until the bottom of the ninth. Don Medlinger put up another strong start, going 6 innings and only surrendering 1 run. He was relieved by Chris Neifert, who again looked great on the hill. The story of the game was not being able to get the big 2 out hit, which CPP did in the bottom of the ninth to take the game 3-2.

Saturday saw a turn of fortune, as we swept the doubleheader. The story of the first game was the pitching performance of senior Aaron Appino. Battling shoulder soreness earlier in the week, Aaron was not even on our original travel roster. He pleaded his case and went out and backed it up, pitching 8 innings and only surrendering 2 hits. For his efforts, Appino was named CCAA Pitcher of the Week and West Region Pitcher of the Week. Jason Merjano, Chris Lopiccolo, and Jesse White all had multiple hit games in the win. The second game of the doubleheader was more of the same, as another dominant performance led to another 5-1 win. Jordan Helmkamp got the win in relief, tossing 3 2/3  perfect innings in relief of starter Steven Farnworth. Danny Nelson, Brian Haggett, and Jeff Phillips paced the efficient offensive attack.

Sunday didn’t give us the same fortune as we went for the road series win. CPP jumped out to an early lead and we weren’t able to make up the difference. The road trip was still considered a success, as it is extremely difficult to win on the road in this conference. The road will no doubt be the key to our success this year, as we still have road trips to powers UC San Diego, Chico State, and Sonoma State. We are embracing the challenge of the road and we know it will be the reason we thrive this season.

We wrapped up out of conference play with a Tuesday home game versus Fresno Pacific. Jonas Noack took the hill for his first collegiate start, and he was dominant in picking up the win. Noack threw 4 innings, allowing only 1 run while striking out 6 and recording 0 walks. He was relieved with perfect work by Jake Crose and Dylan Auker, with Auker picking up his first save of the year. Freshman catcher Garrett Gemgnani made his first start behind the plate, and proved to be the hitting star of the game, coming up with a clutch bases loaded double to give us all the support we needed.

The dynamics of the CCAA schedule never let up, as we host Cal State San Bernardino at the Otter Baseball Complex. The Coyotes split with Sonoma State to open up CCAA play, so the series provides us with a great early season test. We value the way we play on our home field, so we aim for a big series win going into our bye week next week. Come out and support our boys, with Friday’s game starting at 2:00pm, Saturday’s doubleheader beginning at 11am, and Sunday’s finale kicking off at 11am. Go Otters!

Series Win vs. Central Washington, CP Pomona Looms on Horizon

Last week was a busy week for the Otters, playing 6 games in 6 days for our last week of preseason. The week started on Tuesday with a doubleheader at a very tough Fresno Pacific. Fresno Pacific is a nationally ranked NAIA school that will be entering Division II next season. Traveling to FPU was important for us to do in the preseason for a couple of reasons; to get off of our turf and on some grass and to also play under the lights because we will have some night games this season and in the playoffs. It turned out being a very long day for our squad, but the boys responded to their first big road test.

We dropped the first game of the doubleheader despite a strong pitching performance from starter Jordan Helmkamp. We made some timely errors and did not get the two-out hit that has been alluding us in this young season. The nightcap of the doubleheader was a different story. Steven Farnworth made his first collegiate start on the mound a memorable one, striking out 8 hitters in 4 innings without surrendering a hit. Farnworth was followed by strong relief performances by Zac Grotz and Harold Zosel. Chris Lopiccolo and Tommy George were the hitting stars of the game, notching two hits a piece to pace the Otter offensive attack.

We hosted Central Washington for a four game set for our final preseason tuneup. The series started with a sloppy performance, but another victory in the 14 inning affair. Just before darkness was to end the game, freshman Chris Blanton hit a walk-off single to score Tommy George to end the game 7-6. Both George and CCAA Player of the Week Jason Merjano registered 4 hit games. Jake Paolinetti picked up his first win of the season by pitching 4 innings of 1-run ball in relief. He continued his extra innings heroics he became known for last season.

Saturday’s doubleheader was a tale of two games. In the first, some sloppy pitching and defense led to a 8-7 defeat. The offense also could not break the game open, despite putting up 14 hits. In the second game of the doubleheader, Don Medlinger improved his record to 2-0, pitching 5 innings and only surrendering 1 run. He was relieved with scoreless appearances by Jonas Noack and Austin Thiel. Jason Merjano continued his torrid hitting with a 2-hit, 2-RBI performance to pace the offense.

Sunday’s game saw us put on our cleanest and most complete performance of the year with a 9-3 victory. Ronnie Fhurong, Jason Merjano, David Garcia, and Jared DeCastro all registered multi-hit games to pace the 9-run attack. Chris Neifert, Jordan Helmkamp, Steven Farnworth, and Harold Zosel all put in solid pitching performances to score the victory for the Otters. Neifert gave up 0 runs and grabbed his first victory in his first collegiate start.

Now that preseason is over, we turn our focus to the grueling CCAA schedule that awaits us. We start on the road against a very good Cal Poly Pomona team this weekend. CPP is 7-0 and our coming off a Regional appearance last season. The road series will provide us with a test of our preparation up to this point. 3 out of our first 4 weekends in the CCAA are on the road against tournament teams last season. We will be tested early and often, and we embrace the challenge and can’t wait to show off our squad.

Otters Notch Win in First Series, Look Forward to Busy Week

It wasn’t the smoothest of opening series, but we accomplished our goal and scored a series victory over visiting Westmont College. The Monterey Bay displayed some absolutely amazing weather for the 3 game series and the attendance for the games were some of the highest in school history. After scoring a narrow 4-3 victory on Friday, we opened up Saturday morning with a disappointing loss 6-4, before blowing out the Warriors 16-4 in the afternoon cap of the doubleheader. The series win marks the first time that CSUMB has ever won an opening series, the first of many records to fall this season.

The first game was a tightly played contest that saw both teams unable to push across big innings with clutch 2-out hits. We were able to stay tough and rely on our defense and timely pitching to hold on to the win. Aaron Appino pitched 5 innings without giving up an earned run to earn his first victory of the season. The submarine duo of Jake Paolinetti and Harold Zosel followed with near perfect relief, with Zosel notching the save in the 9th. Matt Urakami was the hitting star of the day, scoring two runs and blasting his first ever collegiate home run in his fourth at bat to score the Otters winning run.

On Saturday we came out flat and played sloppy in the first game to let a great opportunity slip through our hands. Jeff Owen pitched great in his first start after a 1 1/2 year rehab from Tommy John surgery. The offense, defense, and pitching could not get on the same page to score the victory, despite a furious rally in the ninth inning.

The third game of the series, and second of the Saturday doubleheader, featured the team we envisioned we would be. A balanced offensive attack was paced by a 3 hit game by Ronnie Fhurong and a 2-hit effort by Tommy George. The Otter offense put up 16 runs in the 7-inning contest. Don Medlinger pitched four innings to notch his first win of the season.

We were able to use our entire roster during the series, with the exception of our two starting pitchers on this upcoming Tuesday. We learned more about our depth and balance on the roster, and all the areas we need to continue to improve upon.

This week will prove to be an extremely busy one, featuring 6 games in 6 days. Tuesday we will travel to Fresno to play a very talented Fresno Pacific squad for a night doubleheader. The week will end with a four game home series against Central Washington. The long week will allow us to again explore the depth of our roster and allow us to make final evaluations before beginning conference play against Cal Poly Pomona next weekend. Come out and support our squad during the weekend as we go through our final tuneup before CCAA play begins.

Countdown to Game 1 begins….

Things have been quite busy in MB Baseball land with 2 weeks of double days and the semester beginning this week. We have been preparing at a feverish pace and the first game is just over 1 week away. There are not words to describe the excitement that our boys, the coaches, and the university feel for this historic season to finally begin. We have had a long journey, and we have a long way to go, but we know the best days of the year are still ahead of us.

Double days went extremely well. We started off the first week by having a team meeting, taking our “mugshots,” and also participating in a photo shoot for our great sponsor, Russell Athletic. We quickly jumped into practice and were pleased to see the vast majority of our guys took the winter break seriously and kept themselves in shape and were ready to get after it. Practices and intrasquads went great, and we got through it with no major injuries or issues. During the first week we did our 2nd Annual MB Baseball Bowling Challenge, where the vertically challenged duo of Jason Merjano and Matt Urakami took home the title. We also joined forces with the MB Softball team to watch the 49ers/Saints playoff game at our local Round Table Pizza on Saturday after our intrasquads.

The second week of double days brought much of the same effort and focus that made us pleased with the first week. We went on the grind the first 3 days of the week and knocked out some more double days. To beat the weekend rain, we played 14 innings on Thursday and were very pleased with the progression of our pitchers and position players. On Thursday night we participated in our 2nd MB Baseball Otter Night. We took over the CSUMB Student Center for the night where the boys enjoyed the pool tables, ping pong tables, Wii, foosball, pool, and video games. Each player spoke in front of the team and confessed their commitment to the team and what we are trying to accomplish this season. It is an emotional night for our players and coaches, and signals are commitment to each other and serves as a sign we are ready to take on the challenges and lofty goals we have for this group of young men.

School started this week and we settled into our normal schedule. Practices have been crisp as usual and the coaching staff feels very confident that this team is ready to take on all comers. We still have a lot of work to do, but the boys are looking sharp and ready to start playing some outside competition. We will have two extended intrasquads this weekend as a final tuneup and then we will be ready to take on Westmont College on February 3rd and 4th. It seems like it has been a long road, but everyone knows we still have so far to go. This team wants to be playing well into late May and we have our game faces on and are ready for everything that comes our way.

Stay tuned for an update on MB Baseball and a preview of the 3 game series with Westmont.

And So It Begins….

After what seemed an endless winter break, we are finally ready to take the field to begin a historic season for MB Baseball. The boys are back in town and we start in the weight room tomorrow at 8:45am. The next two weeks of double days will be a test of our conditioning and focus, but we welcome those daily challenges here at MB Baseball. We are excited about the tasks before us and trust me when I say, this team is ready to show the country exactly how we prepare to compete.

From all indications, our team has reported in phenomenal shape. They used the winter break to not only relax and spend some time with their family, but to prepare their bodies for the next five months. It will be a grind to get to the finish line, but it’s those that prepare and embrace the grind that will be the victor at the end.

Along with the two practices a day, we also have a lot of team building activities planned. This Wednesday will be the second annual MB Baseball bowling challenge. We will take the Monterey Bowling Lanes by storm and the boys will pair up to see which team is the best bowlers. On Saturday after our intrasquad, we will join the MB Softball team at Round Table Pizza to watch the 49ers playoff game. Next week we may possibly have a beach bonfire early in the week, but we will definitely have our 2nd annual Otter Night on Thursday in our Student Center. This is a very special night for our team, where each player will confess their commitment for the team and we will map out of road to a championship.

This blog will get updated much more frequently now that we are back in full swing, and our first game on February 3rd is right around the corner. We look forward to everyone joining our journey.

MB Baseball heads into the Calm before the Storm

We wrapped up a highly successful Fall on Saturday, November 12th with the final game of our Fall World Series. The World Series was won by the Poundtown Carvers, led by coaches Dennis Peters and Anthony Espitia. On November 5th, the 2nd and 3rd games of the World Series served as the platform for the MB Baseball Fall Scout Day. 14 MLB Scouts were in attendance and confirmed the buzz going around college baseball right now… MB Baseball is for real and has some highly talented players.

On Monday, November 14th, our players competed in the first ever Cary Challenge, an event that pits the pitchers vs. position players in a grueling test of strength, endurance, and agility. In an extremely close result, the position players edged the pitchers 5-4. The Division II College World Series is held in Cary, North Carolina and MB Baseball knows that being the most physical team we can be will be a key to our goal of going to Cary this year to win the World Series.

We also ended our Fall by signing a highly talented outfielder from Colorado, Payton Soicher. Please see the press release about Payton below…

http://www.otterathletics.com/news/2011/11/18/BB_1118115045.aspx

Our players are now pretty much off for the Fall. Their focus right now is on finishing the semester strong academically and getting in their work on their own. They will continue to work on their individual skills and their strength development over the break. Official practice begins on Tuesday, January 10th, and we cannot wait to get started.

Fall coming to an end, World Series begins Friday

It has been an exciting Fall for the MB Baseball squad. There is a different feeling in the air now, our second leading this program. Last year we were really trying to learn our roster and figure out the direction we needed to go with that squad. We were recruiting at a feverish pace and working tirelessly to put a system in place that could bring long term stability and success to the program, and also provide us with some more short term gratification by increasing our win totals. We were definitely able to achieve those goals, and it has culminated with the roster we now have. It is a talented, deep, dynamic, and exciting roster. We have all those physical attributes, but the mark of this team is its chemistry and it’s devotion to our program and each other. On the practice field, in the classroom, and in the weight room, this group is showing it is committed to being great. Things are starting to “click,” and this group is showing on a daily basis that we have good reason to be excited about them. We aren’t there yet, but if we continue at this pace, great things will be happening shortly.

Our Fall World Series begins Friday. The teams are split and it is exciting for the coaching staff to see the boys compete. Parents are also excited to see some games, and it looks like we will have big crowds the next couple of weekends to watch the games. On Saturday we will host our Scout Day, where we expect representatives from most Major League Baseball teams. We have some intriguing pro prospects, and the baseball community in Northern California is really excited about our prospects so they came make some visits to come see us in beautiful Monterey Bay.

Our Fall practices will end on Saturday, November 12th with the 7th game of the Fall World Series. That night we will host “A Night with Otter Baseball.” The fundraiser dinner will feature a full course buffet dinner, a silent auction, and a raffle. The night will also serve as a spring board and social event to get the parents involved in everything we are doing with this program. We are excited about the potential this night represents and we look forward to seeing everyone next weekend.

These are exciting times at CSUMB. Our program has come so far, so fast, and it is taking a tremendous group effort to continue the push that this program is feeling. We can’t wait to take the field on February 3rd so we can display everyone’s hard work.

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