BASEBALL: A quarter century of dominance ends.
Despite entering the season ranked No. 1 in the state, the Dons will not play in the California Community College Athletic Association Southern Regional Playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
The Dons won seven straight to start the season, and 11 of the first 12 games, all non-conference. But Santa Ana College lost six of its first 10 Orange Empire Conference games. In five of the six losses the Dons had a lead at some point. OEC leader Fullerton College went 8-2 during that same span.
“We lost games when we out-hit the other team,” freshman utility player Christopher Ferret said.
Only Irvine Valley College finished with a worse conference record.
The team went into the season with scant pitching. Less than half of the 11 pitchers on the roster have thrown double-digit innings. Injuries depleted the small staff. During spring break, in a non-conference contest, sophomore Richard Diaz dislocated his throwing elbow.
The Dons struck out the most batters in the OEC, compiling 40 more than Orange Coast College. But they couldn’t locate the strike zone.
With 102 free passes, including 13 in an 8-4 loss to visiting Riverside College on April 18, the Dons led the conference in walks.
That turned into runs. In 178 and 2/3 innings SAC gave up 94 earned runs, finishing with a 4.74 earned run average. Only IVC had a higher staff ERA.
“For whatever reason, our pitchers couldn’t translate successful bullpen sessions into actual game situations,” Head Coach Don Sneddon said.
But the responsibility isn’t all on the mound. A team expected to slug itself into a playoff berth petered out in the box.
During conference play, the Dons left about eight runners on base each game. Extra-base hits were scarce.
Only three players hit more than five during conference, including shortstop Josh Vargas, right fielder Blake Walker and first baseman
Last season, the team combined for 18 home runs, with Madrid smacking six. In 2011, NCAA changed bat regulations, taking the ‘ping’ and, ultimately, the power out of college baseball. This year the team hit four in about 1,200 at bats.
The team’s freshmen can’t wait to redeem the stink of 2013.