After finishing last season in the middle of the conference pack, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team has set its sights on the upcoming season — hoping to have a breakout year and take home a SCIAC title.
However, with competition from the likes of Cal Lutheran — which won the Division III NCAA Tournament in 2017 — and Chapman — the reigning SCIAC and DIII champs — climbing to the top of the conference will be no easy task.
“The SCIAC is one of the best baseball leagues in the country,” right-handed pitcher Diego Avila CM ’22 said. Despite the competition, the Stags are not deterred.
“The team’s goal this year is to win a SCIAC championship. … [We] won’t be satisfied with our performance until we raise a SCIAC championship banner,” Avila said.
They’ll have to exceed expectations to do so — the Stags were voted to finish in fifth in a preseason poll, the same position they finished in 2019, when they logged a 19-14-1 overall record (12-12 SCIAC).
CMS will take the first steps toward potential SCIAC glory this weekend — facing off in a three-game set with Cal Lu to open conference play. The Stags will play Feb. 21 at Arce Field, before heading to Thousand Oaks for a doubleheader Saturday.
The team is captained by right-handed pitcher Justin Hull CM ’20, SS Zach Clarke CM ’20, right-handed pitcher Brandon Mitchell CM ’21 and C Truman Miller CM ’20.
In their first four games, all non-conference affairs, Hull and Mitchell posted a staggering combined ERA of 1.32.
Mitchell was also named SCIAC Pitcher of the Week for his performance Feb. 8. Mitchell tossed 7.0 innings against Lewis & Clark, and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with a walk en route to a 4-3 victory. He also struck out a whopping 14 batters in the win.
Avila also lauded Miller’s performances in the non-conference matchups.
“[Miller] anchors our defense as a wall behind the plate,” he said.
Although winning the SCIAC is one of the Stags’ main goals, enjoying baseball is certainly the other.
Avila said his favorite team tradition is the Stags’ daily joke: The team’s pitching coach tells each player to come to practice with their best joke.
“If the joke is unsatisfactory, the player is utterly embarrassed by the lack of laughs, and must come back the next day with a joke that will lift the team’s spirits,” Avila said.
The Stags are also looking to put last season’s hazing incident behind them. The incident centered around events that occured on CMC’s campus at the team’s annual senior-organized “talent show,” in which first-year players performed for the rest of the team. The team was left on probation from the beginning of April until the end of the academic year, but will move forward in this season with high spirits.