By David Wilson
Baseball’s season came to a close in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II West Regional tournament in a 10-1 loss to hosts and second seeded Azusa Pacific University.
The Broncos finished the season with a record of 34-22.
“Unbelievable ride this year,” head coach Randy Betten said. “We looked definitely out of it and found a way to roll off 13 or 14 straight to get to where we are today.”
Junior starting pitcher Kyle Dohy got off to a rough start walking the first two batters and allowing three runs in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the second inning, after his fourth walk of the game, frustration from CPP fans in attendance and Betten, some of the calls early on boiled over when Dohy said something to home plate umpire Danny Speck.
When Speck responded by warning Dohy, Betten bolted from his seat in the dugout to get in the face of Speck to defend his pitcher.
Betten was promptly tossed from the game.
“Everybody has a defining point in the game why you got thrown out, but I really don’t want to comment on that,” Betten said.
Two batters later with the bases loaded, the Cougars hit a grand slam to give APU a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos managed just one run on five hits after scoring eight and six runs in the first two games of the tournament.
“Fastball had us a little beat and the changeup had us out in front,” Betten said. “We did a poor job of making adjustments” he did a great job of commanding both of them.”
Dohy was pulled after a rocky three and two third innings allowing eight runs on six hits while walking four batters and striking out four.
“We got some bad counts, a couple leadoff walks,” Betten said. “You can’t give bad counts against good hitters, they’re going to burn you.”
In game one, No. 6 CPP upset number No. 1 Chico State 8-7 in extra innings thanks to a base hit by senior shortstop Chris Stratton that scored freshman Matt Manskar.
After falling behind 1-0 in the third inning, the Broncos scored seven unanswered runs in a four-inning span.
Stratton got things started in the fifth inning with an RBI single that scored freshman left fielder Brennan McKenzie and loaded the bases.
CPP used the long ball to extend their lead with junior center fielder Jacob Bernardy hitting a solo home run in the seventh and senior designated hitter Frankie Nogales hitting a two-run home run in the eighth.
The Broncos needed all the runs they could muster as Chico scored five runs in the eighth inning to erase CPP’s comfortable lead.
CPP was unable to add to their 7-6 lead in the top of the ninth, and junior relief pitcher Wyatt Shackleford was called on to get the final three outs of the game.
The Wildcats singled to tie the game at seven with the bases loaded and one out.
Needing a double play to avoid to walk-off, Shackleford induced the ground ball that junior second baseman Bryce Graddy and Stratton were able to turn in to two outs to force extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, with two out and Manskar at third, Stratton replicated his first inning frame, singling to left field scoring the go-ahead run.
In the home half, Shackleford was able to overcome two walks to shut down the Wildcats and grab the victory.
Extra innings were needed to settle CPP’s next contest, but this time they fell short against third seeded Dixie State 6-5 after leading by two runs in the ninth inning.
Down 3-1 in the eighth, it took two pitches for the Broncos to tie the score.
Junior catcher Cody Martin hit a towering fly ball that seemed destined for the glove of the Dixie State left fielder but instead kept carrying over the fence to make it 3-2.
There was no doubt about the next pitch that Pitts crushed to right field.
It got even better for the Broncos when McKenzie hit a two-run homer on the first pitch of the at-bat.
Suddenly with a 5-3 lead the Broncos were three outs away from advancing to within one game of the regional championship.
Omana emerged from the dugout to try and secure a complete game.
After allowing a lead-off hit and striking out the next batter, Shackleford was called on once again to secure the final two outs.
“I didn’t expect to go into the ninth inning but I felt like I could have finished that inning,” Omana said.
The right-hander went eight and a third allowing three runs on 10 hits while striking out nine batters.
“I was going one pitch at a time and trying to get ground balls,” Omana said. “I wasn’t getting as many soft hit ground balls as I wanted to.”
With one out and one on, one of those ground balls was bobbled by Stratton allowing the runners to reach first and second safely.
“We try not to pin it on one or two plays but definitely that had a little bit of the outcome at that point because they were highly critical plays,” Betten said.
With two outs and one strike away from a win, Tyler Baker hit a fly ball to left center field that a sprawling Bernardy was unable to come up with. Both runners scored, forcing the game to extras.
The Trailblazers scored a run in the 10th and with the bases loaded and two outs, Bernardy was unable to cash in, popping up behind home plate for Dixie State’s catcher to glove for the final out.
“We saw our shortcomings and what we need to do to move forward and get there,” Betten said. “The next couple of months will be critical to solidify our roster, develop them through the fall and get right back here next year.”
Courtesy of Azusa Pacific Athletics
Senior shortstop Chris Stratton went 6-for-15 in the tournament, driving in three runs.
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