CPP came out swinging in the series opener, notching 12 runs off 13 hits. | Photo courtesy of CPP Athletics

CPP baseball drops first away series of 2024 to Westmont

By Cesar Rivas and Nicholas Lira, Feb. 27, 2024

After beating Azusa Pacific University in its first series of the season, Cal Poly Pomona’s baseball team took on the Westmont Warriors in its first road trip of the 2024 campaign from Feb. 15 to Feb. 17.

After a dominant 12-2 victory in the first game, the Broncos ultimately lost the next three, giving the Warriors the 3-1 series win.

“It really came down to timely hitting, and executional hitting with runners in scoring position was pretty much our biggest flaw this series would I’d say cost us,” said shortstop Nick Lugo.

The Broncos dominated the first game of the series, outhitting Westmont by nine, leading to a 12-2 victory. Despite pitcher Caleb Reyes suffering an injury after the second inning, head coach Randy Betten praised the team for keeping their foot on the gas as they still had seven innings left to play.

“We had an injury on the mound and Rangel took over and pitched amazingly for us and put up five or six shutout innings,” said Betten. “The offense was really clicking, manufacturing runs and through situational hitting, it was overall an impressive outing.”

With multiple Broncos having a multi-hit game and an additional two-run home run from left fielder Jack Sanders in the fourth and a solo shot from Brent Cota in the seventh, the Broncos cruised throughout the rest of the game to win 12-2.

“Everyone was hitting in the lineup,” said first baseman Marco Malerba. “We were finding different ways to execute when we had runners in scoring position, we pitched well and played good defense, starting the series off well.”

The Broncos’ dominance halted during the second game. CPP was still able to add to the hits column, but couldn’t bring runners home, leaving a total of eight runners on base and coming up short losing the Feb. 16 contest 7-4.

Continuing their offensive performance in game one, the Broncos struck first after second baseman Darius Price hit a leadoff single, which was followed by a Cota two-run home run in the third inning.

The Warriors responded with home runs of their own from catcher Andrew Guidara and second baseman Micheal Soper, giving them a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning, during which Guidara would add a two-run shot to extend the lead to 6-2 in the sixth.

“We scored early which was nice,” Betten said. “But they hit a couple balls over the fence, and we had some chances to extend the lead, but didn’t get that big two-out hit to put it away.”

The Broncos fought back with some small ball and third baseman Jacob Lopez driving in Malerba with a single to center in the eighth and another ball from Cota leaving the yard, ultimately bringing the final score of game two to 7-4 in favor of the Warriors.

Rightfielder Anthony Gibbons rushes past third base in a match against Chico State Feb. 24. | Photo courtesy of CPP Athletics

Game three was the first of the doubleheader on Feb. 17, which saw the Warriors get on the box score first after capitalizing with runners on base, finding themselves up 2-0 after the second inning.

The Broncos responded in the third with singles from Lugo, Malerba and Lopez loading the bases with one out for Sanders, who drove in a run with a sac-fly to deep center field, bringing the score to 2-1 in the third.

Westmont found the gaps and extended its lead to 6-1 through the fourth and fifth innings. CPP didn’t go away just yet, however, as in the seventh, Cota was up with the bases juiced with one out. After an eight-pitch at-bat, he sac-flied to center, advancing the runners and adding to the score of 6-2. The Warriors walked in a run just two batters later bringing the score to 6-3.

However, Westmont added on two more in the eighth before closing out the ninth, bringing the final score to 8-3.

A bright spot for the game was Malerba as he went four for five with a run.

“I was just seeing the ball, not trying to do too much at the plate, and I was just taking what they were giving me,” said Malerba. “It was just one of those games where everything I hit was finding a gap.”

The Broncos ended the match with 14 runners left on base, with 11 of those runners being in scoring position.

“I think we played very well defensively, but the biggest issue was getting the runs across,” said Betten.

Looking to tie the series at two a piece, the final game of the series ended in a similar fashion as the previous games. CPP once again could not capitalize with runners in scoring position, leaving nine runners on base throughout the series closer.

Solid baserunning again saw Westmont on the box score first, with a couple of singles and a fielder’s choice giving them a quick 2-0 lead.

The Broncos responded quickly in the third inning with a run but left the tying run on third as the inning ended with a strikeout. CPP went scoreless for the next two innings, while the Warriors were able to add three additional runs to their lead in the fifth, setting the score at 5-1 heading into the next inning.

Price led CPP, going 3-3 when hitting. During the sixth inning, with a runner in scoring position, Price hit a single into left field, sending Cota home and advancing the runners.

The Broncos, needing another hit, failed to advance the runner home once again, having the hopes of a win slip through the team’s hands, dropping the series closer 5-2

“We all know as a team what we are capable of doing,” said Malerba. “We’re starting the conference at home where we play some of our best baseball and I feel like we’ll be just fine.”

After falling to Westmont, the Broncos welcomed the Chico State Wildcats to Scolinos Field for their conference opener from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25. The two CCAA sides split the series, bringing CPP’s record to 6-6 overall thus far. The team will next face the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters from Friday, March 1 to Sunday, March 3.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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