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Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table

SBCC Baseball Coach Says Regional Playoff Foe Should ‘Fear the Persh’

Bishop Diego baseball coach Ralph Molina is joined by Travis Pierce and Matthew Pate at Monday’s Athletic Round Table press luncheon. Click to view larger
Bishop Diego baseball coach Ralph Molina is joined by Travis Pierce and Matthew Pate at Monday’s Athletic Round Table press luncheon. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

SBCC baseball coach Jeff Walker noted at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon that Cypress College asked about possibly hosting the Southern California Regional playoff series with the Vaqueros despite being the lower seeded team.

“Cypress wants nothing to do with our field,” Walker said. “They tried to get the home field even though we’re the higher seed, so that’s a win of us. We’re excited with that.”

SBCC (23-16), champions of the Western State Conference North Division for the fourth time in seven years, is the No. 6 seed in the 18-team regional while Cypress (27-13), the third-place team in Orange Empire Conference, is No. 11. The teams play a best-of-three series starting Friday at 2 p.m., at Pershing Park. Game 2 is Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by a third game, if necessary.

The Vaqueros are 15-3 at home. “We play very well at home, it’s definitely an advantage — hash tag: ‘Fear the Persh.’”

Walker said he appreciates the fan support from the Pershing Park faithful. “All the homeless people will be there in full gear,” he cracked.

UCSB: Coach Andrew Checketts said his team is leading the Big West in slugging percentage. “We can hit it over the fence but a lowlight for us is the other team hits it over the fence, too. Pitching and defense has been a bit of struggle.”

The Gaucho skipper, who cracked that his team has been treading water for a long time, has been giving several players from a highly rated recruiting class opportunities in games.

“There is hope for the future if we’re able to get ourselves out of the pool.”


Santa Barbara High: The Dons have won six of their last seven games behind the play of catcher Antonio Andrade and pitcher Tim Piozet.

Piozet picked up three wins last week, two in relief against Ventura in Channel League play and a start in a non-league game against Malibu.

“After the season he’s going to get a huge tattoo of a vulture on his back because he likes to come in and pitch one or two innings and just get it done that way,” cracked coach Donny Warrecker. 

Piozet has the lowest ERA on the team at 1.92. “He’s a little bit of a mystery man in that he doesn’t always throw two strikes in a row.” Warrecker said.

He called Andrade a selfless player. “He came into the program as an infielder and last year we asked him to play outfield,” Warrecker said. “This year, we felt like we had a gap in the catcher position and we converted him into a catcher. He’s done an incredible job.”

The coach added that Andrade is the team’s second leading hitter and "takes care of it in the classroom." He signed to continue his career at Occidental College.

The  Dons (10-13, 6-4 in league) play a non-league game on Wednesday at Santa Ynez before concluding Channel League play next Tuesday and Thursday against Buena.

Bishop Diego: Shortstop Matthew Pate is improving with each game while maintaining a low scoring average for the Cardinals’ golf team.

“He’s the league’s best golfer,” said baseball coach Ralph Molina of the son of highly decorated amateur golfer John Pate and the nephew of former PGA player Steve Pate. “At shortstop, he keeps getting better and better. He misses two days out of the week (for golf matches) but comes to practice and makes up for it.”

Molina said Bishop’s defense has been solid. “In our last eight games, we’ve had only four errors and the infield has committed only one of the four.”

Travis Pierce has been a standout in center field. He made a fantastic running catch to rob Cate of a go-ahead run in the seventh inning. The Cardinals held on to win the game 2-1.

“He had a great week for us,” said Molina, who added that Pierce carries a 4.14 GPA with a full class load of advanced placement courses.

The Cardinals (4-2 in the Frontier League) have a big two-game series this week against Thacher, which is also 4-2. The teams play at Bishop on Wednesday.

Dos Pueblos: The Chargers erupted for 21 runs in two wins last week over Buena after going 23 innings without scoring.

“I think the guys were a little bit tired of that,” coach George Hedricks said of the scoring drought. “They really worked hard in the cage and in our live reps to get their swings down, and we were fortunately able to take care of business in two Channel League games.

“We’re hoping to carry that into this week when we play our two biggest games of the year. We play San Marcos Tuesday at home and Friday at their place. They’re really two must-wins for us to stay in playoff contention.”

San Marcos is in first place at 5-2 while DP is in fourth at 5-4-1.

Hedricks introduced senior relief pitchers Julian Amador and Thomas Jimenez. Amador, second on the team in pitching appearances, has come through for the Chargers in close games.

“When we need someone to come in in a tight game or get us through a couple of innings, Julian has been able to come in like he did last year,” Hedricks said. “He has a funky delivery and arm angle that gets a lot of bad contact.”

Jimenez, a standout player on the Channel League-champion basketball team, returned to baseball for his senior year and has provided a lift.

“It’s been a blessing,” Hedricks said. “Thomas is a great kid, everyone loves him and we love having him.”


SBCC Women: Coach Chuckie Roth said his team got off to a shaky start at the WSC Championships, when the 400 medley relay team false started and was disqualified. But the Vaqueros followed their motto of "digging deep,"  bounced back with a vengeance and won the team title.

“It was amazing what we were able to do,” he said. “Every single session we got better and better. Girls were swimming times that were out of their minds. Everybody was on a great high as a team.”

He noted that Reese Ellestad made up a 15-foot deficit on the anchor leg of the 400 free relay and beat the swimmer from Cuesta for first place.

“It was one of the most amazing swims I’ve ever seen her have. To finish the meet on that note, was awesome,” he said.

Roth will take a team of two divers and seven swimmers to the California Community College State Championships at East L.A. this week. His calculations have the team finishing fifth or six.

“I’d be happy with that,” he said.

San Marcos Girls: The Royals begin their postseason with the Channel League Prelims and Finals this week at Buena.

Roth introduced standout swimmers Amanda Hayes and Megan Musick. Hayes, the team captain, is a four-year varsity member who has qualified for CIF all four years and earned All-American honors for three years.

Roth said Hayes changed swim clubs last year and praised her for having the courage to make the change.

“I have so much respect for someone who stands up for what they believe in and stand up for what’s best for themselves and pursue that,” he said. 

Musick has been a versatile performer. She’s earned points as a diver and has developed into a sprint freestyler. She’s going to swim the 50 and 100 freestyle at the league championships.

“I think she’s going to surprise herself and the rest of the team,” said Roth.

The Royals went undefeated in dual meets and won the Mt. SAC Meet of Champions.

San Marcos boys: The Royals are seeking their first Channel League title in 40 years. They enter the league finals on Thursday after going undefeated in league dual meets.

Freshman Hunter May has been a key performer for the team. “From the first day he showed up, he’s been, if not our best swimmer, definitely our most versatile swimmer,” said coach Jeff Ashton. “He’s can swim any event, he’s very competitive, loves to win, hates to lose. He’s a real blessing to our team.”

May went undefeated in the 200 individual medley, 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He is seeded first in the 200 IM for league finals.

Ashton also singled out sophomore Tristan Depew. He’s seeded first in the 100 fly and second in the 200 free. He and May also are part of a relay team that set a school record this season.

“They are the cornerstone of our team for the future,” said Ashton.

Dos Pueblos: Oliva Kistler started out as a sprinter but turned to the 500 free and 200 IM and has excelled in both events to help the Charger girls, said coach Kendall Kuga. 

Kuga said Dani Castleberg is a fierce competitor who swims on a CIF-qualifying relay teams and does the 100 butterfly and 200 free.

From the boys team, she called Jason Teng a workhorse. He does the 100 free. Eric Lindheim-Marx is unbeaten in the 500 free and also swims the 200 IM. He’ll continue his swim career at Wesleyan College in Connecticut.


Westmont: Coach Russ Smelley said the 4x100 relay told the story of how the Westmont women pulled away from Biola to win the GSAC championship.

He said when the baton got to Madison Herrera, the Athlete of the Week, for the third leg, she went from last to first place before the Warriors’ senior anchor leg finished off the victory.

“The first part of it is the look on the Biola anchor leg’s face of total dejection and defeat,” Smelley said of the No. 1 sprinter in the conference. “They expected to win that. They were in the outside lane and thought they were winning the whole time.  And they get romped down the home stretch and the meet was over. At that point,  Westmont picked up and scored points in a way that we could only hope we could and Biola just stressed and pressed for points all day long. It was an exciting day.”

He added that with Biola moving to NCAA Division 2, “We felt like we ran them out of the conference.”

The Westmont men also won the GSAC title, their fifth in a row.

“Everything went the way we wanted to,” Smelley said. 

He credited assistant Josh Priester for getting the Warriors perform better at the championship meet.

The Warriors have 12 qualifiers for the NAIA Nationals and will try to qualify more athletes when they host a meet in two weeks.

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