By Sierra Trujillo
For the first time since 1985, the Cal Poly Pomona baseball team is headed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II College World Series in Cary, North Carolina. The Broncos won the NCAA Division II West Region tournament, putting them in a bracket of the top eight teams in the nation.
“That’s exciting for Cal Poly Pomona baseball,” said head coach Randy Betten. “I’m really proud of [the team’s] effort all weekend. We accomplished three of our goals which were obviously just outright win [the California Collegiate Athletic Association], win the conference tournament, and then get out of the regional to get to Cary. So we achieved those three and there’s still one left, so we’ll be prepared and ready to go.”
Junior infielder Ryan Webberley was named MVP of the tournament, as he went 8-19 in five games with six RBI and three runs scored.
“I was pretty surprised,” said Webberley. “All our guys had a great weekend. We had a bunch of guys that could have been MVP. I was just trying to hit the ball hard and just help my team out the best that I could.”
The Broncos also had six players named to the NCAA Division II All-Tournament team: Webberley, senior infielder Mike Philp, junior pitcher Max Bethell, sophomore catcher Christian Kelley, senior outfielder Kyle Garlick and senior pitcher Austin Boyle.
In the championship game on Monday, CPP faced UC San Diego, a fellow CCAA team. After beating the Tritons three times in the regular season, the Broncos earned the most important win yet, defeating the Tritons 7-4.
UCSD jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but CPP quickly evened the score with a lead-off home run by Garlick. The Broncos added two more runs in the second inning on an RBI sacrifice bunt by freshman outfielder Jacob Bernardy and an RBI single by Kelley.
The Tritons took a 4-3 lead in the top of the third, but not before their head coach Eric Newman was thrown out. The home plate umpire called a UCSD runner out at home on a tag play, but Newman disagreed with the call. After a heated dispute, he was thrown out of the game.
The Broncos took the lead back on a two-RBI single by senior infielder Nick Cooksey. CPP added another run in the seventh on an RBI single by Webberley, and Garlick added another solo home run in the eighth for good measure, bringing the score to a final 7-4.
“I’ve teased him about giving him a drag [bunt] every at bat,” said Betten on what he tells Garlick to do at the plate. “Kyle’s done that all year and he’s a quality hitter, and why would I do anything different when a guy’s that quality of a hitter and competes up there? There would be no need to do anything else other than let him go.”
A combined pitching effort led to Bethell receiving the win after coming in to pitch 1.2 innings in the third and fourth. Sophomore Ryan Olson, senior Chris Powell, Bethell, junior Zach Williams and Boyle all pitched in the game before junior pitcher Cody Ponce entered to pitch the final inning of the game and earn his first save of the year.
“Those guys kept pounding it in there,” said Betten. “It was not really ‘Hey, we mapped it out this way.’ We knew Olson was going to go on a pitch count, and then after that it was going to be strictly match-ups we felt gave us a chance.”
CPP was scheduled to begin its games on Thursday night, but with a rare rain delay, the game was pushed to Friday morning. This did not seem to hinder the Broncos, as they routed Point Loma 12-0. Webberley with a solo home run and a 3-5 with three RBI highlighted the win. Junior outfielder Michael Zidek also went 3-5 with four RBI.
Olson had a dominant outing for the Broncos to start the tournament, throwing 8.0 shutout innings and only allowing one hit with four strikeouts. He earned his 11th win of the season, and still has not suffered a loss.
“I felt good,” said Olson. “Just [did] what I’ve been doing all year, just pound the zone, try to limit my walks, let the defense work like they’ve been doing all year.”
The Broncos lost their momentum on Friday night, as they fell to the Dixie State Red Storm 2-1. The Red Storm scored their two runs in the sixth inning. While the Broncos were able to get one of those runs back in the seventh, they could not overcome to deficit. CPP was held to only two hits in the game.
With their backs against the wall with one loss in the double-elimination tournament, the Broncos had to win the rest of their games in order to be champions of the West. CPP faced another tough doubleheader on Saturday but proved to be the better team in both outings, defeating Cal Baptist and Azusa Pacific.
“They’ve always played great when their backs are against the wall,” said Betten. “Our back was against the wall to start the day, and we came out on top for both games, so I’m really proud of what the effort was and the competitiveness out there.”
After falling behind 3-1 after three innings against the Cal Baptist Lancers, the Broncos were able to get ahead with three runs in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth. The scoring began on a wild pitch by the Lancers’ pitcher and continued with a two-RBI double by Webberley, an RBI single by Garlick and an RBI double by Kelley.
“I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to throw me a lot more change-ups, so I kind of was just looking for that,” said Webberley. Webberley had hit the two-RBI double with bases loaded, after striking out in the same situation in his previous at-bat.
“I think it’s huge. It gets our momentum going and everyone else started hitting after that so we started playing together,” said Webberley.
While the Lancers were able to score one run in the sixth inning, the Broncos held on for a 6-4 win.
Another stellar performance from the CPP pitching rotation helped the Broncos hold onto their lead and claim the win. Powell started the game and went 3.1 innings, allowing three runs on six hits. Bethell came in in-relief ” an uncommon occurrence, as he is usually a starter. Bethell threw 3.2 innings, only allowing one run to cross the plate. Boyle earned the save, pitching the final two innings of the game.
“I was actually just itching to get out there,” said Bethell. “I was just glad I had a couple great plays behind me to keep the defense going.”
The Broncos faced the Azusa Pacific Cougars, the number two seed in the tournament, but won 6-2 to send themselves to the championship game. APU scored a run in the top of the second, but CPP quickly answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning, including a solo home run by senior designated hitter Matt Munoz and a two-RBI single by Garlick.
“He was kind of messing with the mound a little bit, so I knew he wasn’t going to try to mess around, and he came after me,” said Munoz. “Luckily I got a pitch to hit, and I did it.”
The Cougars added a second run in the fourth inning, but the Broncos were able to maintain their lead with a run in both the fifth and sixth innings. Philp collected his first hit of the weekend in the fifth inning, an RBI-double, and Munoz collected another RBI on a single.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Koval earned the win for the Broncos, throwing 7.2 innings. allowing only two runs and striking out four. Bethell earned the save ” his first of the season ” after coming in in-relief for the second time.
“I got a lot of help from my [defense] guys behind me,” said Koval. “My offense picked me up real good. I felt like everyone was on my back, they had me going, they wanted me to succeed, they want to succeed and just happy we came out with the W.”
CPP’s first game in the Division II World Series will be on Sunday at 2 p.m. PST against the University of Tampa, the South Regional Champions.
Tom Zasadzinski / Cal Poly Pomona
Broncos win NCAA Division II West Region
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