Baseball showdown in Fresno brings Grossmont, Santa Rosa, El Camino and Ohlone together

Grossmont College baseball
Grossmont College baseball

Tournament Central

FRESNO, Calif. - After three rounds of post-conference baseball, the four remaining teams will converge on John Euless Ballpark at Fresno City College this weekend ready to determine the 2017 California Community College champion. Defending champion Santa Rosa, Grossmont, El Camino and Ohlone will open play on Saturday with the championship set for Monday.

It's undoubtedly going to be an exciting weekend of baseball and John Van Gaston, Cerritos College sports information director, breaks it all down in the team-by-team previews below.

All games will be broadcast by You can get links to watch the broadcasts, follow live stats, see photos and read the recaps with the CCCAA Baseball tournament central here.

North #1 Seed (35-9) – Defending CCCAA State Champions

Big 8 Conference Champions
Head Coach: Damon Neidlinger – 15th Season
CCCAAA State Championships: 3 (1952, 2005, 2016)
Defeated Golden West, 5-3 in 2016 CCCAA State Championship Game

Road to the Final Four:
def. #15 Reedley, 2-1 (13-8, 5-6, 3-1)
def. #17 Los Medanos, 2-0 (18-10, 8-4)
def. #5 San Joaquin Delta, 2-1 (8-2, 6-8, 5-0)

The defending CCCAA State Champion Bear Cubs are looking to defend their title, but have had a tough road making it to Fresno. In the first round of the playoffs, they needed some late-inning heroics to escape past #15-seeded Reedley College, while they were also extended to a winner-take-all third game against #5-seeded San Joaquin Delta College in the Sectional Round. The Bear Cubs rank sixth in the state with a .314 team batting average and have turned to Ryder Kuhns for their power, as he ranks second in the state with 15 home runs and 49 RBI to go along with a .369 batting average. Josh Lenney leads the team with 16 doubles and has also clubbed eight home runs entering the state tournament. On the basepaths, Jeff Bent has swiped 21-of-23 bases and is hitting at a .347 clip, with six starters batting over .300 on the season. The bump has been maintained by Garrett Hill and Ryan Calderon, who are a combined 14-1, while Justin Bruihl has taken over a relief role and is 6-0 on the season with two saves and a 2.00 ERA. Santa Rosa ranks 10th in the state with a team. 3.22 ERA, and have not tossed a shutout since opening the season by blanking their first two opponents.

South #2 Seed – (39-9)
South Coast Conference South Division Champions
Head Coach: Nate Fernley – 11th Season (333-180)
CCCAA State Championships: 0

Road to the Final Four:
def. #12 Glendale, 2-1 (3-1, 2-6, 20-8)
def. #7 Pasadena City, 2-0 (8-1, 9-2)
def. #1 Orange Coast, 2-1 (4-5, 10-8, 9-5)

Faced with the task of taking on the #1-ranked team in the state – Orange Coast College – on the road, the Warriors were able to post a pair of wins after falling behind in the series, 1-0. Sophomore catcher Trevor Casanova has gotten hot in the post-season and is batting .500 (17-for-34) with 14 runs scored from his lead-off position. Additionally, Connor Underwood is riding a 12-game hitting streak since being inserted into the lineup every day and drove in three runs in both the team’s wins over OCC. As a team, the Warriors have received productivity from a variety of players, as five have driven in at least 40 runs on the season. As effective as they have been at the plate, it’s been the work of their pitching staff that helped them win 27 games in a row during the year. They boast the state’s top two strikeout artists, as Taylor Rashi (11-4, 1.93 ERA) leads the state with 133 punch-outs, while Cassius Hamm (12-3, 3.16 ERA) is second with 125 strikeouts. Late-inning specialist Jake Carr has posted seven saves on the season, while state tournament pitching hero Kenneth Haus tossed 6 1/3 innings and is 4-0 on the year with three saves. As a team, the Warriors lead the state with 400 strikeouts, while their 3.17 team ERA ranks eighth, while they are the prolific offensive team in the state, scoring 399 runs.

South #1 Seed – (35-7-1)

Pacific Coast Conference Champions
Head Coach: Randy Abshier – 13th Season (294-215-2)
CCCAA State Championships: 0
1st CCCAA State Championship appearance

Road to the Final Four:
def. #18 Irvine Valley, 2-0 (9-2, 13-3)
def. #11 Cypress, 2-0 (3-2, 6-3)
def. #4 Long Beach City, 2-0 (7-2, 16-2)

The only team to go undefeated in the post-season, the Griffins are riding a 10-game winning streak as they enter their first-ever appearance in the state tournament. Boasting the third best team batting average in the state (.330) and the second most runs in the state (395), Grossmont also ranks fifth in the state with 38 home runs and second with 105 doubles. Noah Strohl is the team leader in home runs (10) and RBI (51), while the team has seven batters in the lineup who are hitting at least .315, led by Cabot Van Til and his lofty .442 average. Outfielder David Maldonado has been a dual threat with six home runs and 49 RBI to go along with a team-high 21 stolen bases. Historically one of the better pitching teams in the state, this year has not been any different. The Griffins have a team 3.05 ERA and have been led by dual 9-game winners Donavon McCrystal (9-2, 2.30 ERA) and Tim Holdgrafer (9-0, 2.45 ERA) while Hayden Shenefield is 7-0 with two saves and a team-leading 1.70 ERA. The tandem of Javier De la Torre and Jeremiah Barr have each posted four saves on the year.

North #2 Seed (42-5)

Coast Pacific Conference Champions
Head Coach: Michael Curran – 3rd Season (96-28)
CCCAA State Championships: 1 (2010)

Road to the Final Four:
def. #14 Cosumnes River, 2-1 (1-10, 8-4, 10-9)
def. #11 Cabrillo, 2-0 (5-4, 8-4)
def. #4 Sacramento City, 2-1 (5-4, 3-4, 5-1)

The state-leader in wins (42), the Renegades are led by a pair of double-digit winning pitchers. Freshman Brian Martinez is 12-0 on the year with a pair of saves and a 3.00 ERA, while sophomore Carlos Jimenez is 11-2 with 90 strikeouts and a 2.27 ERA. Not to be outdone, the pairing of CJ Romero and Michael Newman are a combined 10-0, while Ohlone has used eight different starting pitchers on the season. At the plate, sophomore outfielder Ryan Ruley ranks second in the state with his .435 season batting average and leads the state with 87 hits. He has collected hits in 38 of the team’s game and went eight straight games with multiple hits at one point during the year. Ruley also leads the team with 30 thefts and also provides power at the plate with 11 round-trippers and 53 RBI. Catcher Thaddeus Phillips has a team-leading 15 home runs and 59 RBI to go with his lofty .355 batting average, while A.J. Curtis is also hitting at a .355 clip with seven home runs and 54 RBI. The Renegades are the only team in the state with three players driving in at least 50 runs.

(Information compiled by John Van Gaston, Cerritos College Sports Information)