GLENDALE — One weekend to get three wins. That's the mission for the Glendale Community College baseball team, which has never been closer to its goal of winning a state championship as the opening round of the 2011 California Community College Athletic Assn. Baseball State Championship tournament draws near.
"The team is really excited," said Glendale outfielder Sean Spear, who has been an offensive catalyst for the first Vaqueros squad to reach state under the tournament's current format. "When we started in early fall this is exactly the position we wanted to be in. Our team motto is pitch by pitch and day by day, but our ultimate goal is to get to the state championship."
It will take more of the same timely hitting, unflappable pitching and refusal to quit that has carried the Vaqueros to a Western State Conference South Division title and wins in the regional and super regional rounds of the playoffs, but mostly, according to Coach Chris Cicuto, it will come down to limiting mistakes and taking advantage of every opportunity.
"If we can just continue with that philosophy and control what we can control, I think we have a good shot to come out with a couple wins and, hopefully, some hardware," said Cicuto, whose team will open the four-team double-elimination tournament at Bakersfield College against San Joaquin Delta of Northern California at noon Friday. "Going into this series, it's just like Week One. We don't have a lot of information on these guys, just a little bit, but it's about us making adjustments pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat and trying to find some weaknesses and try to expose them."
The other two teams in the tournament are Southern California's Santa Ana and defending state champion Ohlone of Northern California, which will meet in a first-round game at 6 p.m. on Friday.
"They can all hit, they all have pitching," Glendale third baseman Sako Chapjian said. "They're all solid teams."
San Joaquin Delta (31-11) finished second in the Big 8 Conference and advanced to the state tournament for the second time in the last three years with a win over Cosumnes River College on Sunday.
"We have very good starting pitching and our bullpen's been pretty good, as well," San Joaquin Delta Coach Reed Peters said. "We're battle-tested and we've played some great teams all year long. I think that's really helped us come playoff time."
"Offensively, we do what it takes to win games, whether it's play small ball or get more offensive and we've got a little pop in the lineup, as well. We've got pretty good depth."
The Mustangs, who have won eight of their last nine, boast a deep four-man starting pitching rotation. Jake Cose (3-1, 1.82 earned-run average) has been their best starter in the playoffs, going two for two while going seven innings and allowing one run in each start, and Peters said he is likely to start on Friday. Trevor Miller has gone 9-0 this season with a 2.18 ERA and Kyle Hassna is 8-3 with a 3.07 ERA.
Offensively, they are led by outfielder Josh Grijalva (.352 batting average) and third baseman Steven Patterson (.288, 29 runs batted in).
"Our coaching staff's done a great job trying to get us prepared," Cicuto said. "At least we have an idea of how we want to pitch guys, how we want to defend guys and put them in the right situation for success."
Glendale (28-14), which has won five in a row and swept through its Super Regional, capped by an 11-5 win over Southwestern on Sunday, counters with a sturdy rotation of their own led by lefty Ryan Sherriff (5-4, 2.45 ERA) and featuring Nick Woodward (4-1, 2.14) and Thomas Korn (4-2, 3.27).
The bullpen is anchored by Michael Noteware, but Cicuto anticipates having to go deeper into the bullpen during the tournament.
"Even our freshmen, who didn't contribute a lot statistically [during the season], I think they can still get outs and we're going to have to go to them this weekend," Cicuto said. "In a three- to five-game series that we potentially could play this weekend, those guys are going to be called upon to be ready."
Chapjian (.310, six home runs, 36 RBIs) and Spear (.337, 19 RBIs) form a potent one-two punch in the middle of the lineup, which features enough speed, having swiped 125 bases, and versatility to score runs in a variety of ways.
"It all comes down to trust, we all trust each other 100%," Chapjian said. "We believe in each other and in ourselves.
"We're ready. We can't wait to go up there."
Santa Ana (29-13) has won four in a row and five of six and swept through its Super Regional. Gary Apelian is hitting .384 with 44 runs, 18 doubles, 10 home runs and 47 RBIs, while Andy Peterson is batting .383 with 36 runs 26 RBIs and 17 steals. Santa Ana has three pitchers with seven wins in Marcus Garrett (7-1, 3.02) Ben Burke (7-4, 3.08 ERA) and Ruben Orosco (7-4, 3.72).
"We've seen Santa Ana play and we've gotten a couple reports and talked to a couple coaches from our conference about them," Cicuto said. "They've always been a solid club year in and year out."
Ohlone (26-17), winners of five in a row, went 3-0 in their Super Regional, beating Sacramento City, 7-6, to make it back to state. The Renegades are led by Ryan Tella (.425, 35 RBIs) and Michael Briseno (.304).