Popham leads GCC's honor roll

With last year's historic squad having won the Western State Conference before advancing all the way to the state tournament, the 2012 Glendale Community College baseball team inherited a lofty standard of success, even though it featured few holdovers from its predecessor.

The Vaqueros lived up to the expectations and effectively maintained Glendale's status as a contender, as the team is currently back in the playoffs.

They also brought home the program's second straight WSC South Division title and reaped the rewards when the all-conference team was released recently.

"I think there was maybe a little [pressure] at the start [of the season], maybe some guys were feeling that," said Glendale sophomore pitcher Cory Popham, who earned the conference's pitcher of the year award. "Our team's a really talented team and I think once everybody realized it's just baseball and whether we do as well or better or not as well as last year's team, it doesn't really matter.

"As long as we're playing the best we can, we feel like we're in a position to do well."

Behind the arm of Popham, the steady mitt of conference Gold Glove winner Sergio Plasencia and the collective efforts of two additional first-teamers, five second-team picks and three honorable mentions, the Vaqueros went 27-10 and 16-5 in conference.

Popham led the Vaqueros staff by going 7-2 with a 2.92 earned-run average and 71 strikeouts to 29 walks.

"He's well-deserving," said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto, who was named the WSC Coach of the Year for the second straight season. "There were some really good pitchers in our conference."

Popham allowed just two home runs in 77 innings of work and tossed two complete games.

"I was excited [to get the award], it's an individual award, but it also shows how well my team played behind me," Popham said. "Without a good defense, none of that happens. I was just very fortunate."

Plasencia won the Gold Glove award at second base and was also the top defensive player in the conference overall with a .969 fielding percentage and just five errors on the year. As a result, he is now eligible for Pacific Division Gold Glove voting.

"Sergio made instinctual plays that really put our pitchers in good situations to succeed," Cicuto said. "His instincts really took over with him shifting on his own on certain pitches."

Freshman Julian Jarrard also won a conference Gold Glove at first base.

Sophomore designated hitter Adam Ochart (unanimous) and freshman reliever KJ Edson were also voted to the first team.

"He earned every bit of it," Cicuto said of Ochart, who batted .286 with three home runs, seven doubles, 20 runs batted in and 20 runs scored. "This year he just kind of took over that spot from the get-go and provided us with power in the middle of our lineup. He was hands down the best DH in the conference."

Edson was the stopper at the back of the Vaqueros bullpen, leading the conference with a 0.80 ERA and seven saves, the second most in conference. He struck out 30 to just four walks and only allowed three earned runs all year.

"KJ just brought big time saves and save opportunities for us," Cicuto said.

Second-team nods went to sophomore shortstop Ruben Padilla, sophomore outfielder Chris Stroh, freshman starting pitcher Alonzo Gonzalez and sophomore reliever John La.

Padilla batted .233 with 21 RBI, a team-high 21 walks, three homers, three triples and five doubles. He also scored 24 runs and stole nine bases.

Stroh batted .333, led the team in runs (36), hits (52), triples (five) and stolen bases with 23, which was also second in the conference.

"I put Stroh up for player of the year not because of his individual statistics, but his defense alone is first-team caliber and same with Padilla," Cicuto said. "They really made some big time plays in conference and Ruben had some big hits."

Gonzalez also went 7-2 with a 2.59 ERA, struck out 40 and didn't allow a home run, while La went 4-0 with two saves, a 1.98 ERA with 37 strikeouts.

Honorable mentions went to freshman outfielder Edgar Montes (.264 batting average, 27 RBI, 26 runs, 12 doubles), sophomore outfielder Cameron Gardner (.275, 27 runs, 23 RBI, 19 stolen bases) and freshman reliever AJ Monarrez (1-2, 2.45 ERA, 15 strikeouts).


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