GLENDALE — With a late-season surge, the Glendale Community College baseball team rose to the top of the Western State Conference South Division and stayed there, winning the program's first conference title since 2002.
Clinching the crown amid a crowded four-team race on the very last day of the regular season, the Vaqueros thrived on lights-out pitching, clutch offense and steady fielding, all of which was recognized in the recently released All-Western State Conference South voting.
A total of four Glendale players earned first-team nods, highlighted by the unanimous selection of sophomore outfielder Sean Spear.
"I was really honored and very excited when I got the award," said Spear, who batted a fifth-best .382 in conference with two home runs, 16 runs batted in, 14 runs scored and four doubles, while leading the conference with a .706 slugging percentage and six triples. "I think the reason I kind of stood out was because of my hitting all year. I had a really good year at the plate."
Infielder Sako Chapjian and pitchers Ryan Sherriff and Michael Noteware all sophomores, were also named to the first team.
Chapjian batted .293 in conference, where he was third in RBIs (21) and home runs (four), while also scoring 18 runs and slugging .507.
"We made the adjustment and put Sako and Spear back to back [in the batting order] so Spear could kind of protect him a little bit and guys could pitch to Sako a little bit more generously and it really worked out for our offense," Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto said. "Those guys are unbelievable hitters and they're the key to our power, our pop and our run production.
"They deserved that honor. They really came through, especially at the end of the year."
Sherriff, a left-handed starting pitcher, became the Vaqueros' ace down the stretch of the season and finished the campaign 3-2 in conference with a 2.30 earned-run average, 50 strikeouts and a .198 batting average against.
"Everything just started clicking for him and his last three performances were just unbelievable," Cicuto said of Sherriff. "In the home stretch, he stayed poised and focused and got better and better with every start. I don't even think he's hit the pinnacle yet."
Noteware was the Vaqueros' most versatile tool out of the bullpen whether entering late in games or in long relief and compiled a 1-1 record with a 1.98 ERA, two saves and 29 strikeouts.
"Noteware's our go-to guy," Cicuto said. "At the end of the game, he closes the innings that we need to get done."
Cicuto was also named the WSC Coach of the Division after guiding Glendale to a 23-13 regular-season record with a 13-8 conference mark.
"To me, it's a coaching staff of the year award and that's a reflection of our [entire] coaching staff, obviously," Cicuto said.
Glendale's second-team honorees were sophomore catcher Erik Suarez, freshman infielder Matt McCallister and freshman outfielder Chris Stroh.
Despite playing with a broken hand for much of the season, Suarez hit .262 in conference with 10 RBIs and 14 runs, had a .982 fielding percentage and handled the No. 2-ranked pitching staff (3.44 ERA) in the conference.
"I think Suarez is a first-team guy all the way," Cicuto said. "I thought, defensively, he was one of the top catchers in the conference. [College of the Canyons first-team catcher Michael Browne] had great offensive numbers, but Suarez, to me, is well-deserving because of his defense and all-around play."
McCallister, who batted .308 in conference with 13 runs scored and six stolen bases, also won the conference's gold glove award with a .963 fielding percentage and just three errors in 80 chances.
"I thought he was well-deserving with only a handful of errors, much less than any other infielder," Cicuto said. "He's just really good."
With 12 stolen bases in 12 attempts, Stroh was an offensive catalyst for the Vaqueros out of the nine hole. He batted .261 and scored 17 runs.
"The guy should be arrested for grand larceny," Cicuto said. "For us to get that kid on and for him to steal second and maybe third, that's just as good a s double in the gap for us. He was huge for our offense."
Three additional members of the Vaqueros' pitching staff earned honorable mention in sophomore starters Thomas Korn and Nick Woodward and freshman John La.
Korn went 2-2 in conference with a 3.34 ERA, Woodward was 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA and La was 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA.
"We knew the pitching staff was going to be our biggest strength this year," Cicuto said.
Crescenta Valley High graduate John Salas, who went 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA as a freshman starting pitcher for Canyons, garnered an honorable mention.
Juan Perez of Canyons was the Player of the Division and Bakersfield's Marcos Reyna was the Pitcher of the Division.