Despite a heart-breaking, 6-5, extra-inning loss to West Chester Wednesday at Point Stadium in Johnstown, it has been a strong season for the California University baseball team.
The Vulcans were ranked nationally in NCAA Division II, have won 35 games overall and went 19-9 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
California is plus-125 in run differential, has a .295 team batting average and a team earned run average of 4.05
“I knew that we had a high talent level,” said veteran Coach Mike Conte. “I was hoping they would come together as a unit, which they have.
“The culmination of them playing like a team and using different facets of the game to win – hitting, pitching, defense and timely hitting – has made the difference.”
Even in defeat, in the first-round of the PSAC tournament Wednesday morning in Johsntown, California kept battling back.
While Conte said prior to the tournament winning early was important because “the path can be a little smoother,” the Vulcans cannot be counted out.
“Really, any loss early will mandate the need for more pitching,” Conte said.
“I am impressed with everything (about the team) from the veteran leadership all the way to the new players’ performance. Everything has just gelled for us.”
California will play East Stroudsburg in an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. today.
W&J is PAC’s top seed
After a rough start to the season, the Washington and Jefferson baseball team regrouped, put together a long winning streak and won the regular-season championship in the President’ Athletic Conference.
The Presidents are far from satisfied.
Two years ago, W&J roared to conference and regional titles and fell one victory short of winning an NCAA Division III national championship, losing in the decisive game of the World Series.
Obviously, the bar has been set high for the program.
“I expected we’d be OK this season,” veteran Coach Jeff Mountain said. “The Florida trip was a disappointment. We didn’t play or compete very well We faced a lot of tough competition. With the reputation the program has built, we were seeing the No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers from every team we faced. It was an impressive array of arms we saw. I have followed those teams and pitchers throughout this season and for the most part, they are all having great individual and team success.”
Mountain said it was a matter of having some success when the team returned home.
The Presidents responded. They reeled off 16 wins in a row after losing to Point Park, 5-1 in 13 innings. W&J started its streak with a 4-1 win over the Pioneers in the second game of a doubleheader March 19. The Presidents did not lose again until a 5-2 decision to Bethany on April 15. W&J defeated the Bison two games the prior weekend.
The Presidents finished with a 21-3 record in the PAC (29-11 overall) and begin its quest for another PAC title today when it hosts Bethany at 1 p.m. in the conference tournament. The other game features Grove City and Waynesburg. The PAC championship is a double-elimination tournament.
The PAC champion with advance to a four-team NCAA regional.
Clay Martin, a pitcher and Canon-McMillan product, said the Presidents were able to overcome early-season missteps because of how they were prepared by the coaching staff and their belief in themselves.
“We feel we have a really good body of work,” Martin said. “Losing early made u hungry. I think with any year; you try to be better as you go on. We have done that.
“There is no doubt, that last year we played with a little burden of trying to get back to what we were the year before. I think that is gone no. This is our team this year.
“Personally, I was knocked around a few times. I haven’t been as good as I’ve wanted to be. But I won’t dwell on that. My job is to fix it and be the best I can, and hopefully the team can be, in the playoffs.”