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FRESNO - There will be a lot of familiar faces roaming around John Euless Ballpark this weekend as four prominent baseball programs will be returning to Fresno City College to compete at the California Community College Athletic Association State Baseball Championship.
From Southern California, top-seeded Orange Coast College (35-8-1) and No. 2-seed El Camino (38-7) will be making the trek north while Northern California's top seed and defending state champion San Joaquin Delta (39-7) and second seed Sacramento City (34-13) join the three-day competition that kicks off on Saturday at noon.
All games will be broadcast by SoCal College Sports. Links to watch the games as well as links for stats, photos and more will be available with the Tournament Central.
Three of the four teams in this year's event (OCC, Delta, Sac City) were in the Final Four a year ago while El Camino returns to Fresno after taking part in the championship tournament just two years ago. All four teams bring experience a ton of talent and every possible matchup will be a dogfight.
Day 1 action on Saturday will have El Camino vs. Delta at noon followed by Sacramento City vs. Orange Coast at 6 p.m. The loser of each game will face off in an elimination game on Sunday at 10 a.m. with the Day 1 winners to match up at 2 p.m. The winner of Sunday's opener will take on the loser of the second game at approximately 6 p.m. with the winner of THAT matchup to take on the 2-0 team on Monday at 11 a.m.
Here is a season recap for each team as they head into this weekend's action.
NO. 1 Seed (South): ORANGE COAST COLLEGE (35-8-1, Orange Empire Conference champions)
John Euless Ballpark is becoming a home away from home for the OCC Pirates, who return to the Final Four for the second year in a row and the fifth time over the past 10 years. Coast has won six state titles in school history (1956, 1960, 1980, 2009, 2014, 2015) and the Pirates are looking to capture the school's 94th overall state championship.
After winning the OEC title for the third straight season, the Pirates swept through all three rounds of the playoffs, beating L.A. Mission (8-1, 10-3), Long Beach City (9-6, 2-0) and Mt. San Antonio (10-7, 15-1) to earn a spot at the Final Four.
Coast leads the Final Four with a .324 team average and its offense is highlighted by a sophomore quintet of Jacob Gentry (.392, 47 hits, 36 RBI), Murphy Stehly (.383, 51 hits, 39 RBI), Davis Delorefice (.370, 54 hits, 31 RBI), Tyler Lasch (.361, 53 hits, 35 RBI) and Tommy Williams (.358, 48 hits, 23 RBI). Freshman third baseman David Morgan brings a solid glove as well as a .314 average with 44 hits and 34 RBI to further deepen the Pirate lineup.
On the mound, sophomore Cole Van Den Helder is 11-1 with a 3.55 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 88 2/3 innings, with relievers Ben Davis (6-3, 1.81 ERA, 61 Ks in 64 2/3 IP), Vince Inman (4-0, one save, 1.29 ERA) and Delorefice (1-1, four saves, 3.86 ERA) all throwing well for the Pirates down the stretch.
EL CAMINO COLLEGE (38-7, South Coast Conference, South Division Co-Champions)
While all four teams are playing for it all this weekend, the Warriors will be playing for more than just a state championship following the tragic loss of starting catcher Sladen Mohl, who was killed in a traffic accident in Torrance on April 18.
An already talented team became even more focused and determined as the Warriors have gone 9-1 since then, including playoff series wins over Pasadena City (6-0, 5-1), Cypress (8-3, 1-2, 8-7) and Glendale (14-2, 7-3). It's ECC's third trip to the final four since 2010 and the Warriors' second trip to Fresno in three seasons.
Despite just a .269 team batting average, the Warriors find ways to score runs and win games and are led by sophomore Joseph Borges, who tops the ECC lineup with a .345 batting average, 59 hits and 43 RBIs this season. Close behind is sophomore first baseman Spencer Palmer (.331, 53 hits, 38 RBI) and Taishi Nakawake (.303, 46 hits, 32 runs, 20 RBI).
ECC's bread and butter resides on the mound where a trio of starters – Jimmy Galicia (12-2, 4 CGs, 1.74 ERA), Aaron Orozco (11-1, 3 CGs, 2.06 ERA 110 Ks in 104 2/3 IP) and Max Pappas (7-1, 2.43 ERA, 60 Ks in 81 1/3 IP) - have dominated the competition this year. Sophomore Spencer Long is 2-0 with nine saves and a 1.72 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 26 innings.
Over the past three seasons, the Warriors have gone 106-37 (.773) with three Southern California Sectional appearances and two trips to Fresno City College.
SAN JOAQUIN DELTA (39-7, Big 8 Conference Champions)
Apparently, the defending state champion Mustangs don't believe in "rebuilding" and just continue to produce dominant programs year after year. Fresh off of a 43-9 season that saw Delta win it all, the Mustangs enter this weekend 39-7 with wins in 17 of their last 18 games dating back to the beginning of April. Delta has breezed through three rounds of the postseason with series wins over Monterey Peninsula (12-2, 12-1), Cosumnes River (12-3, 11-7) and Los Medanos (10-4, 10-5), outscoring their postseason opposition, 67-22. Delta is in its seventh State final four since 2009 and is gunning for its fourth state baseball title (1959, 2011, 2018) in program history.
Delta's offensive and pitching stats are a bit "video game" sounding after leading the entire state in runs (475), stolen bases (143) and pitching strikeouts (481). Oh, the Mustangs are also in the top-five in the state in batting average (5th, .322), hits (3rd, 537), home runs (5th, 41) and extra-base hits (4th, 166).
The shiny hood ornament on SJD's sports car offense is sophomore Vinny Bologna, who is batting .413 and leads the STATE in runs scored (73), home runs (16), RBI (72) and slugging percentage (.855). Sophomore shortstop Zach Mathis leads the state with 24 doubles and is batting .352 with 63 hits, 57 runs and 66 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Jimmy McClenaghan is second on the team with 66 hits to go along with a .365 average, 48 runs and 39 RBI.
On the mound, the numbers are just as impressive, with sophomore Robert Gasser leading the way with a 14-0 record and a 2.18 ERA, with a state-best 130 strikeouts over 95 innings pitched. Second in the state with 119 strikeouts over 96 1/3 innings is Delta teammate Kevin Kyle, who is 11-2 with a 3.27 ERA. Delta's pitchers are averaging 10.45 strikeouts per nine innings.
SACRAMENTO CITY (34-13, third place in the Big 8 Conference)
Just how good was the Big 8 Conference this year? Well, the Sacramento City College Panthers finished third in the Big 8 and still earned a No. 4 seed in this year's Northern California Regional playoffs. Sac City showed everyone it earned that high seed with series wins over Taft (11-10, 6-3), the College of San Mateo (6-3, 2-3, 9-5) and Ohlone (7-6, 1-12, 6-2) to earn a return trip to Fresno.
Much like El Camino, the Panther lineup won't "wow" you with huge numbers, but it's a team that simply knows how to win big games at the right time. Sophomore Anthony Galati leads the way with a .347 batting average with 51 hits, five HR and 37 RBI, while freshman Dan Sayre is close behind with a .339 average, a team-best 58 hits and 27 RBI. Sophomore catcher Kevin Saenz anchors the heart of the Sac City lineup with a team-best eight home runs to go along with 39 RBI and a .294 average.
Six different pitchers have notched four-or-more wins for the Panthers, including starters Ryan Costieu (5-2, 4.46 ERA, 83 strikeouts, 70 2/3 IP) and Tanner Cunha (6-3, 5.04 ERA, 55 Ks in 69 2/3 IP), as well as relievers Colby Harrison (4-1, four saves, 1.57 ERA), Aaron Rund (4-1, 4.05 ERA), Ettman Noriega (4-1, 4.15 ERA) and T.J. Smith (6-3, 4.10 ERA, 46 Ks in 37 1/3 IP).
The Panthers have won five state titles in program history (1951, 1953, 1988, 1998, 1999) and Sac City's 18 state championship game appearances lead all California Community Colleges.
WIN-LOSS RECORDS SINCE 2017
San Joaquin Delta – 118-27 (.814)
Orange Coast – 105-35-1 (.748)
El Camino – 106-37 (.741)
Sacramento City – 103-43
(Tony Altobelli, CCCSIA)