By Jonathan Santiago, May 16, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona, the two-time reigning champs, headed to the Otter Sports Complex from May 10 to 12 to defend the title in the 2023 CCAA Baseball Tournament.
After splitting an away series against San Francisco State to end the season, the Broncos landed themselves the fourth seed in the standings. This set them up to face off against San Francisco once again in a first-round elimination game to start their tournament.
Head Coach Randy Betten spoke on his team’s mindset heading into the tournament.
“You come up here and you want to perform well because it’s a tournament, and we have been successful in this tournament before,” said Betten. “The mindset is to come in and try to play your best baseball and your most competitive baseball at this time of year.”
The first inning against San Francisco State was crucial for the Bronco’s bats as they managed to score four runs. Junior catcher Johnny Pappas earned the first two RBIs after hitting a single through left infield. Senior infielder Tyler Chaffee subsequently earned the next two RBIs with a triple to right center.
Bronco ace Caleb Reyes was on the mound in this all-important game. Fresh off his CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher selection, Reyes once again rose to the occasion.
Reyes threw a total of 101 pitches, striking out six and allowing three runners to score. The defense played an important role in this performance, ending the third and fourth innings with double plays.
Reyes spoke about his defense’s impact on the game.
“We pride ourselves as a program on pitching defense first and foremost,” said Reyes. “I know that my infielders are going to body up and turn double plays when I need them.”
After allowing one run to score, Reyes would pitch himself out of a rut in the fifth inning. With only one out and runners on first and second, Reyes forced the next two batters to pop up and further established CPP’s control of the game.
The Broncos scored a few more runs in the sixth and seventh innings, ultimately earning an 8-5 victory over San Francisco State, eliminating them from the tournament. With this victory, CPP advanced to face Cal State San Bernardino in the four-team, double-elimination stage of the tournament.
Senior infielder Nick Lugo opened up the scoring, earning an RBI in the second inning with a single. Sophomore outfielder AJ Nimeh also added to the scoring with a sacrifice fly RBI. Junior outfielder Trent MacKinney brought home the third run of the inning with a ground out RBI.
With CPP securing a 4-0 lead in the third inning, the Yotes broke through with three runs throughout the fifth and sixth innings. The teams continued to trade runs until the scoreline leveled out at 6-6 heading into the ninth.
Although both teams managed to get runners on base, each failed to score, sending the game into extra innings. It was San Bernardino that ultimately prevailed in the 10th inning, hitting a walk off grand slam to defeat the Broncos 10-6.
After the loss, the Broncos knocked down to the loser’s bracket and faced a win-or-go-home situation against Stanislaus State just an hour later.
Coach Betten spoke of his team’s mentality heading into a knockout game after the defeat.
“This team is pretty resilient,” said Betten. “They don’t like to lose, and they’re pretty competitive guys, but Soto on the mound gave us all the energy.”
Senior pitcher Noel Soto succeeded in energizing the team, having a stellar outing on the mound. Soto pitched a complete nine innings against Stanislaus, throwing 100 pitches, striking out eight batters and only allowing one run to score.
The Broncos put up a great offensive display, scoring a total of 10 runs. Junior first baseman Marco Malerba hit a big homer for the Broncos in the third inning, scoring two runs.
The Broncos secured a decisive 10-1 victory behind Soto’s complete game. Soto spoke on his impressive pitching display.
“There was a lot riding on this game, knowing that it’s win or go home,” said Soto. “Having that win-or-go-home emotion gives me an extra boost knowing I have to give my best stuff and be focused mentally and physically.”
The Broncos advanced to once again face Cal State San Bernardino. The winner of this game would advance to play in the final of the tournament.
It was a rough start for CPP, going down 3-0 after just one inning. Chaffee was the first to score for the Broncos, reaching home on a wild pitch in the second inning.
Chaffee’s run, however, would be the only progress the Broncos could muster for most of the game.
Cal State San Bernardino Yotes continued their offensive efficiency, scoring another seven runs in the next two innings to secure a 10-1 scoreline by the top of the fifth. While CPP mustered four runs between the fifth and eighth innings, it proved to be too little too late. The Yotes tacked on two more insurance runs in the ninth, ultimately winning the game 12-5. With this loss, the Broncos were out of the tournament after a valiant season.
Coach Betten spoke on his and his team’s takeaways from the season.
“We have a lot of new players in the program, and they got some experience and learned how we do things, the development,” said Betten. “I take away more than just wins and losses. I thought that was a good season for us.”
Although the Broncos were not successful in defending their championship, their season still has a pulse. CPP’s performance earned the team the fifth seed in the 2023 NCAA Division II baseball championships. The Broncos will return to Seaside to face Point Loma Nazarene University in their first game of the tournament May 18.
Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics
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