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.