Year in Review

I had little expectations of the year. Obviously, I wanted to be able to play but I knew that the coach would do what was best for the team. When I heard my name called in the first series, I knew that I would get my opportunities to show what I could do on the field and potentially play more given how I did. I proved to myself and the coaches that I was college ready as a freshman, which was almost unheard of. From the first start to the last, I provided competitive at-bats and a strong presence in the outfield. This was a product of my teammates and coaches making me a better player. I grew from a kid fresh out of high school to a collegiate athlete really quickly. Hell, if I hadn’t then this blog would have been about a hobby instead of the start of my career.

The friendships that I now have for the rest of my life will prove to be the best thing that has every happened to me. These guys are like family to me now and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. We bonded together and put together one of the grittiest seasons this program has ever seen. From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. We fought together, hurt together, and celebrated together.

To all of the seniors whose season and career’s ended today, I just want to say thank you for everything you have taught me about baseball, how to be competitive, and life in general. Words cannot describe how emotional it was to see it end, but how thankful I was to be apart of something so life changing. I am and forever will be a grinder after this year and that has unspeakable value. IMG_0953.JPG

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Playoff Baseball

It was game time. Play off baseball has now reached the battered Chico State Baseball team. It seemed like a stretch that we would be making it to this after the struggles of the season, but we finally reached our first goal of the CCAA Conference Tournament. The first game was a thriller. Back and forth with Cal Poly Pomona. We took the lead in the 8th after I drew a leadoff walk, was bunted to second, and then a 2 out single by Kyle Blakeman. CPP tied the game in the top of the 9th inning with a solo home run which made it 4-4. In the bottom of the 9th, we got a lead off hit by pitch from Tyler Stofiel, followed by 2 more walks which loaded the bases. From there, the closer spiked a curveball which allowed the winning run to score. Walk off win for the first game.

The next 2 games were the exact opposite as we dropped the next to UCSD and then Monterey. The game agains UCSD was much closer than Monterey’s game, but both ended up in loses eliminating us from the tournament. Our hopes of making it to a West Region Tournament laid in the hands of the NCAA. There was a selection show and it turned out that they deemed our record was one that allowed us to be selected as the last seed in the tournament of 6 teams.

 

We had our rematch against Monterey first game. Like most games all year, it was very back and forth. This was a great game for me personally, as I went 2-4 with 2 singles, an RBI, and a walk. We produced 7 runs on 11 hits, but fell short to the #1 team in the tournament 10-7. Knowing the season was on the line, we faced Azusa Pacific in an elimination game. All hope was lost after a 7 run first inning for Azusa. They handled us easily with a 17-3 win. This game ended our season. For all of the ups and downs that this team encountered, we had exceeded all expectations set. Overall, the season was a great one when all was said and done.

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CSU Dominguez Hills

The weekend started off tough. Dominguez Hills was having an off year and we were surging after a first half slump. We needed to win almost every series to be able to make play offs, so every game was critical. The Friday game went back and forth. We scored first in the game but they quickly answered with 2 runs of their own. We were down 4-5 in the 8th inning and I was up first. Their second relief pitcher grooved me a first pitch fastball and I landed on it down the right field line. I raced to the base with a feet first slide. Safe. The next batter bunted and then I scored on an infield hit. Tie game in the 8th inning in what seemed like a must win game. I was taken out after that for a defensive sub, but they hit a leadoff home run which lead to be the difference in the game. Losing 5-6 to a sub .500 team was hard to swallow, but that feeling didn’t last for long. The next game we came out with a vengeance. We scored 3 in the first, 4 in the second and sprinkled one run innings throughout the rest of the game. Grant Larson, our game 2 starting pitcher, went 8 strong with only a few hits and no runs. We won 13-0, feeling good about ourselves again. The second game of the double header was more of the same from our offense. Not only did we score 3 in the first again, our pitching shut out Dominguez Hills again. We hadn’t had back to back shut outs all year.

Our final day was another grind defensively and with pitching, but our offense stayed hot. They put up multiple runs in the first couple of innings with a home run and a few

 

extra base hits, however, our offense put up 4  doubles and lots of good at bats all game long. Just as we left off the last 2 games, putting up 12+ total hits. I went 5-14 that weekend with 2 doubles and 3 rbis. The final game of a series is always a grind but we made it out on top with a final of 13-7.

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Brian Pozos Interview

Brian Pozos, one of the most invested players when it comes to learning the swing of baseball. Pozos is a senior at Chico State and is an infielder in the Baseball organization. He is constantly learning from videos and working on his craft every day. Not many people are more knowledgeable about a baseball swing and its mechanics than him.

 

When asked about how he approaches his swing, he states: “The baseball swing is very unique to each individual. Not only is it unique but it is a day to day feeling. One day something in your swing might be working and the next you need to focus on something else. For example, if you keep popping the ball up, then maybe focus on using your top hand more.”

 

What Pozos is referring to is the hand that is the highest on the baseball bat. For right handed hitters it is their right hand and for left handed hitter it is their left. Also what he is referring to when it comes to the swing being “unique” is not one swing is the same as another. There is not one way to hit a baseball. There are thousands of variations to the swing, some big and some small, that make it your own. For example: some people start with open feet while others start closed. Another is the stride as the ball is coming, some have a leg kick while others just pick up their front heel.

 

Another big myth in hitting is you have to be big and strong to hit the ball far. Pozos answered, “Yeah, it helps to be strong to hit the ball farther, but what it really comes down to is technique. If you can get your hips rotated, hands in the right position, and barrel the baseball, then the ball will jump off of the bat.” (What he is referencing is having the proper mechanics when hitting the ball).

 

“Look at me for example. I only weigh 185 pounds, but I can hit a ball 400 feet. If you are purely looking at my build, then those numbers wouldn’t add up. It’s all about technique and using your lower half properly.”

 

Pozos is very versed when it comes to his swing and what works for him. Not only did he talk about the swign and what is entails but he also talked about a common myth that is false.

CSU San Marcos Series

Seeing my name up on the list to travel after a rough UCSD series at the plate was a boost of confidence for me. Not only did that tell me that the coaches believed that I can bounce back from a tough couple of games, but that meant more opportunities to redeem myself against a team that was having a down year. This series meant a lot to our team because if we were to have lost or split the series (2-2) then we would have been in 5th place, but instead we won 3 out of 4 games and are tied for second place.

The first game was a tough one. The coaches gave another player a chance to start in left field since he wasn’t able to play the series before. San Marcos came out swinging and ended up beating us the first game of the series 8-6. After losing the first game of a series, it is always hard to take 3 in a row from a team because they have all the momentum at that point. But for us, it was crucial that we won as I stated before. The first game of the Saturday double header was a tight game until the 7th, when I started off a 5 run rally with a 0 out 2 rbi double down the third base line. From there, we walked twice and then hit a bases clearing double. At that point it was commanding 8-5 lead with our stellar bullpen pitchers yet to come. We tacked on 3 more after they put up a 2 spot in the bottom of the inning. Chico took the win in the first game.

The second game of the double header was very similar to the first game. Tight in the beginning but in the 4th, I got another 2 rbi single into right in the second, then another single up the middle later in the game. We tacked on 6 runs in the span of 4 innings to go up 2-1 in the series and 2-0 on the day. Chico took the final day and absolutely destroyed San Marcos 7-2. Cats took the series and moved up to 2nd place with 2 series to go. It was a huge series that we took advantage of and set ourself up to have a strong finish to the end of the year.


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Getting Recruited to Chico

This post will be taking us back to the recruitment process in high school and how I got to Chico:

In the beginning of my senior year of high school, I was taking all kinds of recruiting trips to different colleges that I was interested in playing baseball for: USD, UCSB, UNR, Oregon, and a handful of others. As you cn see, Chico was not one of the schools that was high on my list. They weren’t on there because I didn’t like the school, but rather because I hadn’t explored the idea of playing here. After narrowing my schools down to UCSB and USD (mainly because they were the schools showing most interest), USD came to a game of mine in the middle of the season and really liked what they saw. At the same time, Chico reached out to me saying the same things as USD. I decided that I would go to both of their prospect camps near the end of my season for both of the schools to check me out and see what I thought of the campuses.

When I came to Chico to play, I was taken around town to see what it was like. I fell in love immediately. Not only was everyone so friendly, but the coaches seemed very interested in making the players the best they could be. Plus, all the guys on the team working the camp were super friendly. I appreciated all of the hospitality and way they treated the recruits.

Then came there prospect camp. The first ball that was pitched of the game was hit slightly up the middle so I made a back handed play and I did, throwing the runner out at first. Right after the play was made, I glanced over to the coaches who were posted 10 feet behind the catcher with a screen in front and saw all 3 writing something down.My first plate appearance was nerve-racking. I knew I was getting looked at to preform as one of the best on the field, so I tried too hard to be just that. I ended up flying out to shallow center field and jogged back to the dugout frustrated. I had a talk with myself after and basically just told myself to relax and to play as hard as I can. The rest will take care of itself, and that it did. My next at bat I faced another kid who was their top pitching prospect at the camp; a left handed pitcher throwing 87 MPH. I jumped on the first pitch he threw me. A fastball down the middle, and I made him pay. I crushed this ball about 40 feet over the 330 foot wall in left field and promptly jogged around the bases with a ton of confidence, knowing I did just what I needed to do.

After the camp was over, the head coach pulled me aside and told me that they would call me soon with an offer to play at Chico and I told him that I would commit right away. It was a perfect situation for me and I capitalized on an opportunity. Little did I know that I would be playing my first year and contributing to the team.

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Home Run Swing

The Catch

Fast forward to the CSULA series. We finally get down to LA after a 9 hour bus ride. First game I wasn’t in the line up because the other left fielder had a good week of practice, but had a rough first game so they put me in for the second and third games. The second and third games during a weekend series are a double header on Saturday’s: the first game is 9 innings and the second is a 7 inning game.

We won the first game of the double header by a decent amount, but the second game is always the toughest to stay focused in. Luckily for me, I had a good day at the plate both games so it helped me stay engaged in the games. The second game was much closer than the first, however. The score was 3-1 in the last inning. Runner on first base with no outs. A right handed hitter was up who only hit the ball to right field all series up to this point, so I was shifted more towards the left-center field gap. First pitch he sees, he turns on it DEEP into straight away left field. I immediately turned and ran angling to my right.  I sprinted for 7 steps towards the corner and took a leap with my glove flipped over to make a jumping backhanded grab. At the apex of my jump, I felt the ball land perfectly in the pocket of my glove. That catch completely turned the momentum of the inning around because if I don’t catch it, LA has the tying run on second base at least with no outs. Yet again, proving how I can preform under pressure situations.IMG_0922.JPG

Longest Game in Program History

The most playing time in the season through 4 series for me came in Monterey, one of the powerhouse schools in our conference. My name was called in the ninth inning, yet again, for a pinch hit opportunity. It was a tied game in the top of the 9th inning and we had runners on first and second with 2 outs. The conditions were brutal down in Monterey. The ocean fog had blown all the way on the field, with any ball in the air being impossible to see. So naturally, that was my thought process coming to the plate: hit the ball in the air. Unfortunately for me, the left fielder was able to track down the ball and we weren’t able to score.

Our coach decided to leave me in the game for the first time after a pinch hit to play defense in left. Trusting a freshman was a big move at the time because this program is run by the junior college transfer player. In the top of the 13th inning, the game was still tied. There were runners on first and second with one out. The winning run on second base. A ball was smoked into left field right at me, but sinking towards the grass. I took four hard steps in and went into a full extension dive to save the game. Our dugout exploded with excitement knowing that we still had life.

Fast forward to the 15th inning, I got my second chance with the go ahead run on third base with 2 outs. Game was still tied. I worked my way to a 3 ball, 2 strike count. The tall left-handed pitcher came set and delivered: a change up low and away. This, however, was the exact pitch I was hoping he would throw. I waited back and barreled the ball up the middle and into center field, scoring the go ahead run. Again, the whole dugout exploding with life and confidence now having the lead in this marathon game. I ended up coming around to score giving us a 2 run lead. Now the bottom of the 15th was a whole different “ballgame”, if you will. Our 6th pitcher of the game got the first out, walked the next batter, and got the third batter of the inning to hit the ball right to the shortstop. He hesitated to throw the ball as our second baseman was late to the base to start the double play, forcing the throw wide right allowing both runners to advance. The following 3 batters all got hits, winning the game for Monterey. The result was very demoralizing for the team; however, I proved to the coaches that I am able to preform under pressure.IMG_0946.JPG

Travel to Stanislaus

There it was. The list for who is traveling and who is staying. Coach Taylor had told us prior to practice that the list would be posted after we got done cleaning the field. Taylor also went on to explain the rules and regulations of when we travel, what the appropriate way to act while away. Finally, he went over the format of the list (being pitchers listed first, next would be infielders, and finally outfielders). Being an outfielder, I knew my name would be later on the list. When we got to the clubhouse after our practice, the list was up on the door that we leave from. I tried to play it cool and not rush to it and make me look like an eager freshman, even though on the inside I clearly was.

I changed as quickly as possible, but took a slow walk to look at the list casually. I went down the list and couldn’t find my name. Out of the 28 people traveling to Stanislaus State, I finally found my name next to the last number. The only freshman traveling. My teammates gave me a pat on the back and some “congrats man” but I knew I needed to prove myself every opportunity I had so that my name would stay on the list.

Our series was cut short due to weather, but I only had one at bat in 2 games and got an infield single to lead off the ninth when we were down by a run. I knew that was the beginning of something good for me…

T's 1st Collegiate Away Game

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