The 3-1 series victory over East Bay brings CPP’s overall record to 12-12 thus far this season. | Courtesy of CPP Athletics

CPP baseball break losing streak by splitting series against Cal State East Bay

By Cesar Rivas, March 19, 2024

After a disappointing series against Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal Poly Pomona’s baseball team looked to regain its focus while taking on the Cal State East Bay Pioneers.

The back-and-forth, four-game home series took place from Friday, March 8 to Sunday, March 10, ultimately resulting in both teams splitting the series at two apiece.

Game one kicked off with a quick start from East Bay featuring a leadoff single to start the game from left fielder Luke Brown followed by a triple from center fielder Danelle Daniels scoring the game’s first run. With some additional small ball, the Pioneers found themselves ahead 4-0 within three innings.

The Broncos looked to answer back with a rally of hits in the fourth inning, starting with a one-out base hit to right field by first baseman Marco Malerba and an additional single back up the middle from designated hitter Jack Sanders. Second baseman Darius Price’s groundout back to the mound gave the runners an opportunity to advance, allowing left fielder AJ Nimeh to nail a single into left field, driving in the runs and bringing the score to 4-2.

Small ball from East Bay in the seventh, a solo home run by first baseman Matthew O’Mahony in the eighth and strategic baserunning in the ninth brought the final score of game one to 7-2.

“We came out on the short end, but you know, we’re not competing very well,” said head coach Randy Betten after game one.  “I think they’re waiting for something good to happen instead of trying to make something happen.”

Game two was a high-scoring affair, seeing Broncos starting pitcher Rhys Stevens throw for only one hit in the first inning and five scoreless innings.

The Broncos were the first in the box score, with shortstop Nick Lugo drawing a one-out four-pitch walk and center fielder Brent Cota getting hit by the pitch. Returning to the top of the batting order, catcher Johnny Pappas smashed a ball to left-center field, giving the Broncos a 2-0 lead.

“I was looking for a fastball over the plate,” said Pappas. “Saw some good pitches, saw some good fastballs and was able to lay off the breaking ball a bit better.”

The Broncos kept up the early pressure in the third with a leadoff single by right fielder Anthony Gibbons and a double down the left field line by Price added another run on the board. Lugo advanced the runner to third with a groundout to second base, followed by a base hit up the middle by Cota to bring the score to 4-0 through three innings.

A combination of hits and walks for the Broncos added another run in the fifth inning, giving CPP a 5-0 lead.

The Pioneers didn’t concede yet, scoring four runs in Steven’s last inning of work to close the lead to only one run. East Bay then took the lead in the seventh with a two-run shot to left field by Daniels putting the Pioneers in the lead 6-5.

“Even when we went behind, I felt like they still stayed with the game and found a way to overcome that adversity,” said Betten.

The Broncos responded quickly in the bottom of the seventh, with Price drawing a leadoff walk followed by a Julian Angulo single, putting runners on first and third. Lugo would reach on a fielder’s choice single. However, the Pioneers would get the runner out at home, before consecutive walks to Cota and Pappas brought the score all level at 6-6.

A base hit to right field by Nimeh scored two runs, putting the Broncos back on top 8-6.

“I’m just trying to be productive for my team,” said Nimeh. “I just told myself, ‘Just stay short to the ball up the middle, and good things will happen.’”

The Broncos would tack on four more runs in the eighth with back-to-back doubles from Pappas and Nimeh to bring the final score of game two to 12-6 for CPP.  Pappas and Nimeh combined for nine of the team’s 12 RBIs.

“I was so proud of his effort and when he continues to do so he brings energy with his bat and then his defensive prowess in the outfield as well,” said Betten. “He just continues to grow and continues to get better and help our team be successful.”

Game three was smoother sailing for the Broncos. Starting pitcher Caleb Reyes had six shutout innings, succeeded by pitcher Ruben Del Castillo to preserve the shutout win.

Again, the Broncos were able to get in the box score first in the second inning, with a first pitch leadoff home run to left field from Gibbons, putting the score at 1-0.

Five consecutive walks allowed the Broncos to build their lead to 3-0 with no outs in the third, before a sac-fly from Gibbons to right field tacked on another run, tallying the score to 4-0 after three innings of play.

The Pioneers thought they had gotten on the scoreboard after Daniels sent a ball over the left-field fence. However, while rounding the bases, he never touched home plate. Pappas stepped on home and Daniels was called out, keeping the score at 3-0.

The final runs came in the sixth with Price drawing a leadoff walk and being moved over by a Sanders infield single.  Both runners would advance on a passed ball and would eventually score due to a Pappas’ base-clearing single, bringing the final score to 6-0, giving the Broncos a 2-1 series lead.

In the last game of the series, East Bay scored first due to three consecutive singles in the first inning bringing the score to 1-0. The Pioneers added on two more runs in the fourth resulting from a combination of singles and walks putting the score at 3-0.

The Pioneers again capitalized off their opportunities and added on two more runs in the top half of the seventh putting the Broncos in a 5-0 hole.

CPP fought its way back into the game with Cota being hit by a pitch and Pappas being walked with one out. The runners advanced with Nimeh at the dish, who singled to right center, making the score 5-2. Nimeh then stole second and scored off a Malerba single to center to bring the score to 5-3 after seven innings.

“I thought we did a great job really fighting and just never giving up and always showing that no matter what the score is the situation,” said Nimeh.  “We’re always going to be in it so I’m just giving ourselves the best chance.”

The Broncos had a chance to win it in the ninth with a Cota leadoff walk and a double from Nimeh, putting runners on second and third. Gibbons would score Cota by grounding out to third. With two outs and the game-tying run on second base, the Broncos couldn’t capitalize and lost 5-4, ultimately splitting the series at two apiece.

“It’s a team effort. It takes everybody, it’s not just one side of the ball,” said Betten. “For us, it’s three phases. It’s pitching, defense and hitting, and we have to pick each other up.”

The Broncos then went on the road to face the Sonoma State Seawolves resulting in a 3-1 series victory for CPP. The team will next face the San Francisco State Gators starting Thursday, March 28.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

Verified by MonsterInsights