By Caleb Nguyen, Mar. 15, 2022
The Broncos traveled to Seaside, California on March 11 to 13 to take on the California Collegiate Athletic Association division leading CSU Monterey Bay Otters in a four-game set.
It was an offensive struggle all weekend. With just seven runs across the first three games, frustration mounted for the visiting squad.
Head coach Randy Betten spoke on the lacking offensive output throughout the series.
“We get those chances; we’ve got to execute better,” said Betten. “We’ve got to get those swings, and we’re just not getting them. The right guys were coming to the plate at the right time. Those guys, they’re hitting in those spots in the order to drive in runs. Just not going our way right now.”
Game one saw a 3-2 pitchers’ duel between CPP’s Will Rudy and CSU Monterey Bay’s Ethan McRae ending in Bronco defeat. The scoring kicked off with a bang as the Otters hit a first inning two-run homer, exciting the Otter faithful.
Unfazed in the second inning, the Broncos loaded the bases and cashed in off a sacrifice fly from center fielder Luke Watson. A throwing error allowed a second runner, designated hitter Jacob Lopez, to score on the play, tying the game at two.
Rudy shook off the early homer and provided four subsequent shutout innings, highlighted by a dominant 1-2-3 fifth, striking out the side. However, another homer from the Otters in the sixth would give them a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Shortstop Nick Lugo led off the ninth with a single. But with two men on, the Broncos failed to extend the game. Lugo, who went 3-4 with three singles on Friday night, spoke about the importance of building good habits with his performance at the plate despite the loss.
“I’m always trying to find a way to get on, because I know my team,” said Lugo. “They really bank on the momentum. Even if it’s a single, even if we’re down, I know that the squad we have is ready to take advantage of every opportunity we get.”
Game two saw another low scoring affair ending in an identical 3-2 Bronco loss.
The Broncos would score a run in the first inning off an RBI groundout from left fielder Ricky Nuñez, but the Otters would capitalize on a walk and a wild pitch to single home their first run of the game in the fifth.
Similar to Friday night, the Otters would hit a bomb in the sixth inning to give them an unrelinquished margin.
Trailing 3-1, the Broncos would get two on with just one out in the eighth. After catcher Johnny Pappas notched in a run while knocking Otter starter Michael Potter out of the game, indications of a rally were arising.
But the momentum was short lived, and the Broncos struck out twice to end the eighth. After getting two men on with two out in the ninth, they struck out once more to end the game despite another strong pitching performance from the team.
Game three was a mirror image for the Broncos, dropping their third loss straight against their foe.
Right fielder Cesar Lopez crushed a first inning two-run jack to right, giving the Broncos the early edge. First baseman AJ Nimeh doubled in the second and later scored CPP’s third run of the ballgame.
Cesar Lopez talked about trusting the process that culminated in his big hit in game three.
“I got myself behind in the count with two strikes, and then I was able to battle back 3-2,” said Lopez. “When you just trust the process and believe in the game plan given to us by the coaches, good things eventually happen. I’m glad something came through.”
In the third, starter Edrian Rangel got into a bases loaded jam but recorded the final out of the inning surrendering just one run. Tagging the final out of the inning after a soft comebacker, Rangel had an animated reaction for his ability to pitch out of peril.
Rangel would again get into trouble in the fourth, eventually being chased after surrendering another run as three consecutive Otters reached base. Two more runs would be charged to Rangel as a two-run triple by the Otters made it a 4-3 game in the fourth.
More traction on the base paths scored Otter runs in the fifth and sixth, punctuated by a two-run shot that made the lead 8-3, which would end up being the final score as the Bronco’s offense once again could not find its rhythm.
Game four saw the Broncos bats awaken, avoiding brooms and salvaging the sweep in comeback fashion.
The Otters struck first in the third after a double and one-out single, but the Bronco offense finally converted with runners in scoring position.
Jacob Lopez would single home two in the fourth, and the Broncos tacked on another in the fifth, displaying astute baserunning after an Otter throwing error made it a 3-1 ball game in CPP’s favor.
Nuñez, who singled in the first and caused the run scoring play in the fifth off his batted ball, provided an impressive diving catch in the seventh inning.
Another dazzling defensive display on a double play ended the inning, aiding a monster performance from starter Noel Soto who threw seven plus innings of two-run ball with just one extra base hit against him all game.
Reliever Matt Orozco, after an impressive two inning, five strikeout performance in Friday night’s affair, came into the game in the eighth inning. After battling back from a bases loaded jam to get two men out, Orozco surrendered a two out single that tied the game, with another Otter single making it a three-run frame for the home team.
This handed CSU Monterey Bay a 4-3 advantage with one final chance for the Broncos in their half of the ninth. Contrary to games one and two, clutch Bronco hitting would emerge as Pappas would single, then score off a Cesar Lopez single.
Nuñez would come up huge again, as a two-bagger just fair down the left field line gave CPP the lead in the final inning. The visitors would extend the lead to 6-4 off another sac fly, executing their own three-run frame with some late game heroics.
The two-run cushion was enough for reliever Scott Armstrong to close the door on the Otters, earning the save and victory for the visiting Broncos. In a closely contested series, the Broncos were able to take one of four from the home team, ending their road trip on a high note.
The Broncos will look to win their next home series against Cal State East Bay starting March 18 at 6 p.m.
Featured image courtesy of CPP Athletics.
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