College Division : A Fast Finish Puts Cal Poly Pomona Into Baseball Playoffs
Cal Poly Pomona’s Coach John Scolinos admits that there were times this baseball season when he had doubts about his team’s postseason possibilities.
One of those times occurred early in California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play at the start of April. The Broncos were 4-4 in conference play and 16-15 overall.
“I never thought we would make it, the way we were going for a while,” Scolinos said. “I knew it was going to be real tough. But this team has two things going for them. They have the ability to get tough and the ability to bounce back.”
Scolinos’ team bounced back and won the conference title with a 19-11 record, finished at 31-22 overall and qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s Division II West Regional against Cal State Sacramento (37-18) starting today at Sacramento. The best-of-five series will include a single game today, a doubleheader Saturday and another doubleheader--if necessary--Sunday.
Scolinos, who has coached for 41 years and is the all-time college leader in wins among active coaches with 1,128, said the turning point this season may have been when the Broncos won 2 of 3 games against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo April 15 and 16.
“When we went up to San Luis Obispo in April and took two out of three, I thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got a pretty good ballclub,’ ” he said. “Before that, it was really a hit and miss deal. But that’s when this team first showed me something.”
The Broncos played even better in sweeping a doubleheader from UC Riverside May 7, which moved Pomona into first place. Most notably it was the pitching of sophomore Wayne Koklys, who threw 6 innings in the first game and 7 in the second, recording wins in both.
Pomona finally wrapped up the title with a 16-4 win over Cal State Northridge last Friday. Scolinos said that Koklys has played a crucial part in the team’s success.
Koklys will start postseason play with a 13-3 record and a 3.79 earned-run average. He was 9-1 with a 2.94 ERA in the CCAA.
The Broncos have also awakened offensively at the right time and will take a .313 batting average into the playoffs. Pomona has eight of its nine starting offensive players hitting .300 or higher. Leaders are second baseman Dave Hajek at .368, catcher Chris Goldback at .367, third baseman Bill Beeman at .342 and right fielder Chris Butterfield at .337.
“This has been one of our better hitting clubs and they’ve gotten hot right in the stretch,” Scolinos said.
That’s a good thing for the Broncos because their playoff opponent is ranked No. 2 in Division II and has been an outstanding hitting team. The Hornets, led by outfielder Mark Gieseke at .482 with 8 homers and 44 runs batted in, have a .339 team batting average. Two other standouts are second baseman Brian Hewitt at .405 and third baseman Lorenzo Lesky at .348.
The Hornets also have a good 1-2 pitching combination with Erik Bennett, who has a 9-2 mark with a 2.73 ERA, and Brad Stoltenberg, 10-2 and 3.95.
Before he became coach of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps this season, Randy Town spent six years as a baseball assistant at Cal State Stanislaus.
Town will coach against his former team for the first time when Claremont plays Stanislaus in the NCAA Division III West Regional starting today in Turlock.
Claremont, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion, will start the best-of-five series ranked No. 14 in Division III with a 28-9 record. Stanislaus, the Northern California Athletic Conference champion, is 26-10 and ranked No. 5.
Claremont, making its fourth appearance in postseason play since 1978, goes into the series with an 11-game winning streak and one of the top offensive teams in Division III with a team batting average of .364. The Stags have nine players hitting better than .300, led by designated hitter Neil Nichols at .435, shortstop Paul Urrutia at .400 and outfielder Daren Hengesbach at .387.
They also have an impressive team earned-run average of 2.63. Starters Scott Stallings and Karl Gneiting have 10-2 and 9-1 records, respectively.
The Stags, however, have not played for nearly three weeks. Claremont’s final regular-season game was April 30 against La Verne.
The winner of the regional will advance to the 6-team NCAA Division III College World Series starting June 2 in Bristol, Conn.
Azusa Pacific is in a familiar position playing host to the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics’ 4-team Area 1 baseball playoffs, which started Thursday.
It is the fifth time since 1981 that the Cougars have competed but the first since 1984.
Competing with Azusa Pacific, ranked No. 8 in the NAIA with a 39-12-1 record, are Central Washington (25-20); 16th-ranked Hawaii Hilo (27-13) and Linfield of Oregon (24-14).
Azusa Pacific advanced to area playoffs by winning the NAIA District 3 playoffs in three straight games last week, including a 4-1 victory over regular-season champion Westmont in the finale. It was the Cougars’ first win in five attempts against Westmont this season.
The Cougars have won with an offense that has produced a .355 team batting average and 10 runs a game. Azusa Pacific has 12 of its 14 players batting .300 or better.
Leading the way has been outfielder Ralph Acosta at .412 with 10 home runs and 53 runs batted in. Other top hitters include second baseman Javier Murrillo at .380 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs, shortstop George Lazalde at .378 with 11 homers and 57 RBI and first baseman Pat Woods at .393.
But it was pitching that made the difference in Azusa Pacific’s victory over Westmont in the district final. Senior David Toigo allowed only 4 hits in 6 innings for the win. Not bad, considering that he started the game with a 6.61 earned-run average.
The winner of the Area 1 tournament will advance to the NAIA World Series, starting May 27 at Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Ida.
College Division Notes
Cal State Bakersfield won its first NCAA Division II women’s softball title with consecutive 4-3 victories over Lock Haven of Pennsylvania last Sunday at Cal State Sacramento. The Roadrunners, ranked No. 2 in the final regular-season Division II poll, eliminated top-ranked Cal State Northridge Saturday, 2-1. . . . Junior tennis player Xenia Anastasiadou of Cal Poly Pomona won the NCAA Division II individual singles title with a 6-4, 6-1 decision over Portia George of Southern Illinois Edwardsville Sunday at Sonoma State. The Cal State Northridge doubles team of Missy Conn and Alison Kincaid finished second to Christina Bokelund and George in individual doubles play.
As further evidence of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s strength in women’s tennis, four of the eight teams that competed for the NCAA Division II tournament last week were from the conference. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo finished the highest, dropping a 5-4 decision to Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the championship match. Cal Poly Pomona placed third, Cal State Los Angeles fifth and Cal State Northridge sixth.