GCC set to host Cypress

GLENDALE — With its first Western State Conference title since 2002 in the rear view, Glendale Community College's baseball team will move forward in search of postseason success.

The sixth-seeded Vaqueros are now set to host No. 11 Cypress in a best-of-three series in the regional round of the 2011 California Community College Baseball Playoffs beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at Stengel Field, as pairings were released on Sunday afternoon.

"We're excited to be in this spot," said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team will host the second game of the series on Saturday at 11 a.m. with a third game, if necessary, set to start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the morning tilt. "We're excited to compete against the best teams."

Cypress (21-15) went 10-11 to take fourth place in the well-regarded Orange Empire Conference, while GCC won its last two games of the season against Bakersfield to claim the WSC South Division and earn a home playoff series in the process.

Cicuto said he's likely to start Ryan Sherriff, who threw a shutout on the road to defeat Bakersfield in the last week of the season to key GCC's push to the conference crown. Sherriff sports a 2.45 earned-run average and a 5-4 record.

"I think our pitching staff will keep us in the game," said Cicuto, who's relied on a stellar starting squad that also features Nick Woodward (4-1, 2.14 ERA) and John La (3-3, 2.29 ERA), as well as a lights-out bullpen, led by Michael Noteware (1.53 ERA, 41 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings).

Winners of eight of their last 10 and five of six at home, the Vaqueros (23-13) have been led offensively by the likes of Sako Chapjian (.310 average, 27 runs, 36 RBI, six home runs) and Sean Spear (.337 avg., 20 runs, 19 RBI, six triples).

As for Cypress, Cicuto admitted he didn't know much about this year's group, but was well aware of the history program, which has won four state titles under Coach Scott Pickler, one of the most highly regarded junior college coaches in the country.

"They're extremely well-coached. He's extremely well-respected," Cicuto said. "It'll be fun for us, it's be a challenge for us."

On the mound, Cypress is led by Connor Haddock, who sports a 2.90 ERA to go with a 6-4 record. At the dish, Cypress is averaging nearly seven runs a contest and has eight players with more than 25 starts hitting .300 or better.

For Cicuto, however, he believes one of the most important steps — and one he and his staff outlined to the players on Monday — was realizing the accomplishment of winning conference was in the past and it's time to look forward, all the while maintaining the momentum that carried the Vaqs to a championship last week.

"We're the conference champions, but that's in the past. Now it's all about doing something special," he said. "We're playing good baseball now, we just gotta keep it up."

Three other WSC South teams made the postseason, though all are involved in play-in games today, with No. 18 College of the Canyons traveling to face No. 15 Southwestern out of the Pacific Coast Conference, while L.A. Pierce will travel to face Citrus. The lowest seed of the play-in winners will take on top-seeded Rio Hondo College, which narrowly defeated GCC, 3-2, on April 21, while the second-lowest seed of the play-in winners will face second-seeded Chaffey.

Opening-round winners will advance to the Super Regional Tournaments May 13-15, with the state tourney set for May 20-22 at Bakersfield College.

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