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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.