The Pomona-Pitzer baseball team clinched at least a SCIAC co-championship and an automatic NCAA tournament appearance Saturday with an 8-5 win over Cal Lutheran. James Brunswick PO ’10 used his strong fastball as he pitched the Sagehens to victory, going 6-2/3 innings and allowing just four runs on eight hits.
“Brunswick did a great job on the mound,” said coach Frank Pericolosi. “We asked him to start the biggest game of the season and he gave a great performance against a solid hitting team.”
“All week, I was getting ready for Saturday,” Brunswick said afterwards. “When I got out on the mound, I really felt good. I was attacking hitters and getting ahead in the count, throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes. I was hitting my spots well, and the defense was making a lot of plays behind me.”
The Sagehens need to win just one of their next three SCIAC games against La Verne to officially clinch the conference title.
“I shouldn’t have to motivate guys to go out and do that,” said Pericolosi. “They should want some revenge for last year,” when La Verne won SCIAC on Pomona-Pitzer’s home field.
The Sagehens know there is still a lot of baseball to be played this year.
“We kind of debated whether or not to make a pig pile on the field after we won the first game [at Cal Lu],” said Teddy Bingham PO ’11. “We decided not to, and it was kind of bittersweet since we wound up losing the second game.”
But not even a close loss in the final game of the series could put a damper on P-P’s spirits. In Friday’s game, the Sagehens came back from a two-run deficit to win, 8-7, when Brandon Huerta PI ’09 cranked a two-run homer over the left-field fence.
“I was really surprised it went out, I was just trying to hit a fly ball and get a sac fly and it just kept going,” Huerta said. “I was just really excited.”
This weekend’s wins cap off one of the most phenomenal regular seasons in the history of Pomona-Pitzer baseball. Currently, the Sagehens are ranked No. 1 in the national coaches’ polls and No. 2 in the national media poll. They are also headed to the NCAA regional tournament in Oregon, the first step on the road to the College World Series.
Star hitter Drew Hedman PO ’09 is also vying for individual honors: he is currently slugging it out for the Division III Triple Crown. He is currently leading the nation in batting average and runs batted in and only one away from the top in the home run category. Showing off his consistency and dominance throughout his career, Hedman is also 4th on the all-time home run leaderboard and looking to move up.
So the Sagehens’ amazing baseball season marches on, and you can follow updates on our website. For the last print edition of TSL, I sat down with some of the baseball seniors to reflect on the 2009 season and discuss their plans for the future.
“To come from being a sub-.500 team and to be in this place,” said Tom Church, referring to P-P’s No. 1 ranking, “it’s really something special.”
“Everything’s clicking on all cylinders,” said catcher Mike Silva PI ’08.
Silva is around for this season only by accident. He missed his entire sophomore year because of two injuries.
“I tore my ACL, but didn’t know it,” he shrugged. Silva is a catcher—it’s his job to spend most of the game squatting down and put tremendous stress on his knees. How he could not notice the pain of a torn ACL is beyond comprehension.
“At first, the trainers just thought it was a hyperextension, so I kept playing,” he said. “I took a month off during the summer, and when I came back it still hurt so I got an MRI. While the results of the MRI were pending, I was standing in the dugout and this guy took a swing. He let go of the bat and it hit me right in the face.”
Five reconstructive surgeries and countless hours of rehab later, Silva is hitting .382 with seven home runs and an astonishing .641 slugging percentage. I asked him what kind of a legacy he thought this year’s seniors would leave behind. He answered simply, “Hard work will pay off.” Silva is living proof.
“To me, it’s like a four-year season,” said pitcher Kevin Graf PO ’09. “You come in and work with the expectation that your senior year is your best. It’s been a growing experience each year, but it’s great to have success as a senior. For this class, our legacy will just be hard work.”
“We’re never going to get a D-I transfer who can throw 92 mph with a hard slider, like Cal Lu had last weekend,” Slagle observed. “It’s hard for athletes to get into Pomona, so we have to work smarter and harder than everybody else.”
Hard work is what transformed P-P from a mediocre team to the No. 1 D-III team in the country. It’s what the Sagehens relied on when they dodged bullets this year against CMC and Chapman. The Stags took P-P into extra innings before Silva hit a walk-off home run, and Chapman got an 8-0 lead before the Sagehens staged a massive comeback. A strong work ethic will doubtlessly serve graduating Sagehens in the playoffs, as well as in their future endeavors.
Huerta may try to play baseball in Europe after he graduates, but a more conventional path is likelier. The same is true for many of his teammates. Slagle, who is planning on going to law school, wants to return as a coach.
“Every year, you see the rankings come out,” said Silva. “You see who’s in the top 10, the top 25, the top 5. It’s amazing to actually be up there in that position. Hopefully we’ll keep pushing forward.”
“I think that after this year, I’ll hang up my spikes and call it a career,” said Andrew Nino PO ’09. “But first, I want to finish on top, and that’s what this year is about.”