Bronco baseball shoots for national success in 2024

By Christian Malone, Feb. 6, 2024

A new chapter in the history of Cal Poly Pomona’s storied baseball program will begin this Thursday, Feb. 8 when the Broncos kick off the 2024 season at home against Azusa Pacific University.

Last season, the Broncos’ 18-17 regular season record bought them their eighth-straight ticket to the CCAA tournament where they ultimately fell to the Cal State San Bernardino Yotes in the losers’ bracket final.

Despite coming up short in the conference tournament, the team still earned an at-large berth to the NCAA DII West Regional No.1, where its run would again end to a CCAA rival, the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters.

This year, the Broncos look not only to improve their postseason runs from 2023 but shoot beyond as they hope to notch their first NCAA DII World Series title in over 40 years.

“It was nice for us to make it to the post season and make a little run and going to the regionals was great,” said second baseman Darius Price. “But this year, we’re really trying to capitalize and seal the deal. We got bigger aspirations and that’s to be national champions.”

CPP has won the NCAA DII National Championships a total of three times all under head coach and CPP Athletics 2003 Hall of Fame inductee John Scolinos, with the last win coming back in 1983. Since then, the Broncos have made three World Series appearances, with the most recent being under current head coach Randy Betten in 2016.

With such lofty goals, pitcher Caleb Reyes recognizes the road to glory will truly test the team’s skills and resolve.

“There’s no sugar coating it; it’s going to be a long, tough battle,” Reyes said. “We have some good teams in our conference and we have some very good teams in our region that we need to outperform, so our goals are nothing short of getting to the conference tournament, getting to the regionals, super regionals and then to the championship series.”

To prepare for the road ahead, the team has not only stepped up its practice regimen but also brought in new talent to fill out its roster.

“We had some big shoes to fill in the bullpen and we feel like with the recruiting class that we brought in, we filled those with some really talented good arms that can handle stressful situations,” Betten said.

CPP’s pitching game also boasts multiple high-caliber starting pitchers. Noel Soto, who has pitched the only nine-inning shutout of the past four years for CPP, joins Reyes and Rhys Stevens, both of whom received All-CCAA First Team honors last year. Reyes also won CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher in 2023 and recently received NCBWA All-America preseason honors.

On top of strengthening their already prolific pitching staff, many players mentioned hitting as the area they focused on most in the offseason.

“As a program, we’ve made a huge emphasis this year on offense,” catcher Johnny Pappas said. “And I’ve taken that to heart. Not that defense is not important, but now I’ve been putting all my extra hours into hitting, getting my swing as best as I can and working on vision and approach. Everything you can name about offense we have covered, so I’m really excited to see as a program how this shift in philosophy is really going to affect us.”

First baseman Marco Malerba, who finished as one of the team’s best hitters last year with an impressive on-base plus slugging of .878, mentioned the team also focused on improving their mentality over the offseason.

Betten mentioned Malerba as one player who has stepped up into a leadership role over the past year, as he helps keep the team on track and focused on success. On top of keeping the team’s energy up from the dugout, he also hopes to serve as a role model for his teammates.

“I lead by example by going about my business day in day out, never taking a practice off and not taking a rep off,” Malerba said. “Our coaches really get on us about not taking any moment in practice for granted no matter what we’re doing. So, I lead through my actions, especially being a guy that my coaches and my teammates are counting on to come up in big moments and have a big role in the team.”

On top of thorough practicing in the offseason, the team recently played multiple intersquad scrimmages as well as preseason scrimmages against Mt. SAC and Riverside City College. But after all the preparations, the team is raring to finally begin their 2024 campaign.

“We’re ready to get going,” Betten said. “I think we’re all tired of intersquad games at this point in the year, and I think they’re biting at the bit to get out and go play somebody else and enjoy the journey as we go. Cause that’s what this is, it’s a 50-game journey of some ups and downs. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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