Catcher Johnny Pappas stretches to try to make the out against Chico State Feb. 24. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

CPP baseball suffers 3-1 loss in action-packed series against CSUMB

By Ryan Ramirez and Emily Perez, March 12, 2024

Cal Poly Pomona’s baseball team traveled to Seaside for a series against the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters March 1-3.

The series was filled with action as the two teams combined for 83 runs throughout the four games. Although CPP escaped game one with a victory, narrowly overcoming CSUMB 14-13, they were defeated in another close battle in game two. The Otters then showed their dominance, outscoring the Broncos 33-6 across the final two games.

Game one got off to a hot start as catcher Johnny Pappas crushed a home run to left center field on CPP’s first at-bat to give them an early 1-0 lead.

However, the lead did not last long as CSUMB bounced back the next half inning, drawing two consecutive walks and center fielder KW Quilici hitting a home run to take the lead 3-1.

CPP attempted to get back into the game with designated hitter AJ Nimeh scoring off a single from shortstop Nick Lugo in the top of the second, but the Otters drew a walk and hit two singles to grab the run right back in the bottom of the third, making the game 4-2.

The Otters and Broncos traded runs throughout the next few innings highlighted by a home run from Otter right fielder JJ Engman and another home run by Pappas to left field where he collected another two RBIs.

Pappas commented on his performance in the series where he had a batting average of .385 and had four RBIs.

“I think I played well, but I need to be better in bigger spots when I have runners on base,” said Pappas. “I believe I handled their pitching staff well, but there are things I need to get better at.”

CPP had a monster top half of the seventh, scoring nine runs, with center fielder Brent Cota blasting a home run to center and the Bronco offense taking advantage of multiple errors by the Otters, finding themselves up 13-7 at the end of the half inning.

After a few more innings of trading runs, the Broncos had the lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning 14-10. However, CSUMB did not make it easy for them as the team batted in three runs to make it a one-run game. The Broncos narrowly escaped with a win as pitcher Chris Fields fired two strikes for an 0-2 count and forced a pop-up to right field to end the game 14-13.

Game two was another grueling battle for both of the teams as they exchanged the lead four times. The Otters collected two runs in the first inning and one in the second to quickly make the game 3-0.

The Broncos answered back with right fielder Anthony Gibbons scoring off a single to right field by Nimeh and second baseman Darius Price scoring after first baseman Marco Malerba drew a walk with the bases loaded.

CPP drew a total of four walks in the top of the sixth inning. When combined with a single to center field by third baseman Jacob Lopez, the team took the lead 5-3.

The Otters scored those runs back in the bottom of the seventh as the Broncos gave up four hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. By the end of the inning, the lead shifted back to CSUMB 6-5.

The top of the eighth inning proved to be the deciding factor of the game as CPP collected three more runs as Malerba launched a two-run home run and Price singled to the left side, allowing designated hitter Jack Sanders to score after he hit a single himself.

The bottom of the eighth was just as eventful as the Otters hit a double and a single and drew three walks, shifting the lead again to 9-8 in Monterey Bay’s favor.

The Otters closed the door on the Broncos in the top of the ninth and the teams split the first two games of the series.

Pappas gave his thoughts on the state of the team and the areas they need to re-evaluate.

“Our pitching wasn’t good enough,” said Pappas. “When you play a team like CSUMB, you’re going to need to be better than that. We as a team need to pick up our pitchers. We needed to hit, play defense, pitch better, two sides of a ball.”

In game three, CPP got off to a slow start as the second inning ended with the team down 3-0. Despite this, they got back into the game quickly as in the third inning, CPP loaded the bases, then Price and Nimeh drew back-to-back walks to score two runs, making the game 3-2.

CSUMB drastically pulled away from the Broncos in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with 11 runs off 10 hits, all while CPP was unable to get anything going offensively.

The damage did not stop there. In the bottom of the eighth, the Otters accumulated four more hits, including two solo home runs, putting them up 17-2.

CPP went down in order in the top of the ninth to hand Monterey Bay the dominating win and a 2-1 lead in the series.

Head coach Randy Betten reflected on the difficulties of practicing such situations similar to the ones that they faced versus the Otters.

“Having guys in stressful situations dealing with the pressure in situations, as much as we practice and emulate them it’s hard to really get those in practice as they are not as meaningful and aren’t in the records,” said Betten. “We try to make it as competitive as we can but can’t emulate those situations, not only individually, but collectively as a team.”

Game four was much of the same for both teams as the Otters got off to a quick start with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning.

The offense did not stop there, as Monterey Bay racked up two more two-run home runs in the bottom of the third to establish their lead 6-0.

CPP got on the board in the fourth with a solo home run crushed to left field from Sanders. However, any momentum that may have been acquired was quickly shut down in the next half inning as Monterey Bay scored seven more runs off seven hits to go up by 12 runs.

CPP scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings with a single to left field by Gibbons to score Cota and a sacrifice fly by Lugo to score Price to cut into the Monterey Bay lead.

However, Monterey Bay reasserted its dominance in the bottom of the sixth after four hits and an error by the Bronco defense allowed for three more runs to go up by 13.

CPP was down to its last chance in the top of the seventh. They loaded the bases after two walks drawn and Sanders was hit by a pitch. Third baseman Tyler Chaffee singled to third base and scored first baseman Julian Angulo, although that was all the Broncos would score as the Otters closed out the game 16-4 and took the series 3-1.

Nimeh reflected on the series loss to Monterey Bay and how it impacts the team going forward.

“It wasn’t the result we wanted, but at the end of the day all failure will lead to success,” said Nimeh. “It was a good learning moment for the pitching, catching and defending side. This is something that can help us move toward the right direction.”

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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