SANTA ROSA – After playing poorly in a California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Northern Regional Championship - Regional Round 1 opening game 7-3 loss on Friday to visiting Reedley College from Fresno County, host Santa Rosa Junior College came out smoking on Saturday to sweep a doubleheader, 8-0 and 6-2. The victories move the Big 8 Conference champions into the CCCAA Super Regional Run.
Santa Rosa (31-7), the Perfect Game No. 14 ranked team nationally and No. 1 team in California, faced elimination in the best of three series. However, after a 1-hour rain delay the host Bear Cubs got busy fast in amending a Friday performance that saw their pitching staff issue 12 walks and the offense only score three runs despite 14 hits in the loss.
“To get 14 hits but only score three runs and lose was tough, so we needed our offense and pitching to do what it did today, and they came through,” said 13-year Santa Rosa JC Coach Damon Neidlinger.
In the first game on Saturday, Big 8 MVP Jake Scheiner, a sophomore from nearby Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa, hit a two-run home run in the first inning that gave Santa Rosa all the runs it would need behind sophomore staff ace Alec Rennard, a teammate of Scheiner at Maria Carrillo.
Rennard pitched seven and two-thirds innings and scattered seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts. In the fourth and fifth innings was when the 6-2, 190-pound sophomore was most dominant. Rennard, who has solid offers from Hawaii, UC San Diego, Missouri, Penn State, Sacramento State and UC Irvine, struck out the side in the fourth inning on 11 pitches, and then got the side in order in the fifth on 10 pitches.
Scheiner went 2-for-5 with the home run and three RBIs with a run scored. Matt Bone, a sophomore from Claremont High, was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Bryce Nagata, a sophomore from Mid-Pacific Institute (Kaneohe, Hawaii), went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Jeff Bart, a freshman from Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park had two hits including a double and scored twice, and Mitch West, a sophomore from Montgomery-Santa Rosa had an RBI single.
The second game was a little more difficult, although it was still Scheiner that shined. The 6-0, 200-pound shortstop, was also flawless in the field in both games.
Mitch West, a sophomore from Montgomery, singled to open the bottom of the first, stole second and was sacrificed to third. Up stepped Scheiner and he hit what looked like a home run to dead center but the heavy air held it up and instead it only went 395-feet and was caught at the fence, however West could have walked home and scored to give the Bear Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Santa Rosa struck for another run in the fourth inning courtesy of Scheiner once again. He singled on a nubber to open the inning, advanced to second when Hawaii native Ryder Kuhns was hit by a pitch, and came around to score on an RBI single by sophomore George Foster from Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa.
Reedley (25-14) got to starter Ezio Bruchler for two runs in the fifth inning when Sawyer Pitman drove in two with a triple. The visitors nearly took the lead but when the next batter hit a grounder to short Scheiner made a perfect throw home and the tag was made by catcher Charlie Magana from Cabrillo-Lompoc. Jared Noonan, a freshman from Montgomery that relieved Bruchler, then got the next batter to pop to second to end the inning.
From there it was all Bear Cubs, and the pitching shut down Reedley.
Santa Rosa immediately got the two runs back when West got on and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Nagata singled, advanced to second on the wild pitch that scored West, and he came home on a single by Foster. The Bear Cubs got the game’s final two runs in the seventh inning when Scheiner singled, Kuhns doubled, and both scored on a single by Bart and a bases loaded walk by Bone after Foster reached on a fielder’s choice that loaded the bases.
Noonan, who got the win, walked two but didn’t give up a hit in three innings of work. He turned it over to closer Anthony Bender, a sophomore from Casa Grande that can top out his fastball at 96-miles per hour. He gave up a seeing eye hit in the eighth inning and a walk in the ninth, but he struck out two and handcuffed the last three batters with comebacker to the mound the game’s final out.
“After we lost on Friday my mindset was I knew I had to lead by example by getting on base and hitting balls hard. I told the guys this is our day. Let’s go get em,” said University of Houston-committed Scheiner, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Foster was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, West had two hits and scored twice, Nagata scored once as did Kuhns.
Pitching a key
The Bear Cubs put on their hitting shoes on a day that was damp and wet for both games, but the pitching of what has been an excellent staff all season really stood out. They held Reedley scoreless for the first 13 innings of the twin bill and after they gave up two runs they slammed the door shut.
“Without a doubt the pitchers did a great job today,” Neidlinger remarked. “When you lose the first one you have to go to your bullpen but we still saved arms for today.”
Rennard, who can touch 90 miles per hour with his fastball cruised around 87-88 and kept Reedley off balance with his change-up, slow curve and slider. Bruchler, who is on the radar screen of Sonoma State and Chico State, pitched well despite giving up two runs, but the buzz was about Bender and his heater.
Scouts from several Major League teams, including the Dodgers and Cubs, were at the game, and they weren’t there to just see Bender, but he was definitely the main attraction.
The 6-4, 208-pound Bender has just what the Major Leagues like, size and a 95-mile per hour fastball. He’s only made a few appearances after battling some back issues all season, but from the way he looked on Saturday the Cal State-Northridge commit may very well have made a big enough impression on the scouts that he will be drafted.
“My oblique (muscle) is doing really well and I’m feeling good and getting back in the process of throwing more pitches,” Bender said. “Right now I’m conditioning my arm to go more than two innings.”
Last won it all in 2005
The top-seeded Bear Cubs now host a CCCAA Super Regional best of three series next weekend against No. 14 seed Folsom Lake College. Folsom Lake (25-13) swept No. 3 seed Sacramento City College, 3-1 and 12-8.
The ultimate goal is a CCCAA state championship that Santa Rosa last achieved in 2005 when Neidlinger was the CCCAA State Coach of the Year.
Last season Santa Rosa made it to Super Regional before being eliminated.