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!