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Can the upswing continue?

COC baseball’s bats could carry the team in 2010

Posted: February 26, 2010 11:04 p.m.
Updated: February 27, 2010 11:02 p.m.
COC baseball player Jeremy Weber slides into second base as teammate Tyler Pugmire make a tag during practice on Monday afternoon. COC baseball player Jeremy Weber slides into second base as teammate Tyler Pugmire make a tag during practice on Monday afternoon.
COC baseball player Jeremy Weber slides into second base as teammate Tyler Pugmire make a tag during practice on Monday afternoon.

Sure, Orange Coast College isn’t the same baseball team it was last year — with a youthful pitching staff and mix of freshmen and sophomores in its lineup.

But the school does have the defending state baseball championship and came into the season ranked No. 1 in Southern California by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association.

And College of the Canyons owns a victory against it this season.

The score on Feb. 16 was 15-9 — a possible sign of things to come for the Cougars.

“Everyone was pumped,” said returning All-Western State Conference first baseman Hugo Hernandez. “We had fun. We hit the ball hard.”

Hard-hitting is what the Cougars, ranked 10th in the same poll, will rely on in 2010 as they vie for a third straight Western State Conference, South Division title.

The Cougars have been on an upswing for the last couple of seasons after a so-so stretch in the mid-2000s.

Expectations are that the Cougars will once again challenge for a title, but it’s too early, said head coach Chris Cota, to determine if this is a team built for a postseason run.

The early part of the season has revealed one obvious — COC scores and scores in bunches.

After losing back-to-back games to open up the season, COC has won six straight, averaging 10 runs per contest during that stretch.
Credit quite a few guys for that offensive success.

Hernandez is 7-for-15 thus far.

West Ranch graduate Cal Vogelsang is batting .419 with two home runs and nine RBIs, Jeremy Weber is at .409 with three homers and 11 RBIs and Nico Moreno has three homers and 11 RBIs also.

Seven players who have seen significant time are batting over .300 and the team has 12 home runs.

Vogelsang was recruited to go to UC Irvine and completed his first semester at the school, but decided it was in his best interest to come back to the Santa Clarita Valley and play for the Cougars.

The freshman right fielder credits COC’s hot start to cohesiveness.

“We have really good team chemistry,” Vogelsang said. “I’ve been on teams on the past where one kid has a bad attitude, and it’s like a cancer and it goes down hill from there.”

Hernandez said he has seen a different commitment with this year’s squad.

So the team is together and goal-minded and will probably score a lot of runs.

That leaves two major aspects of the game left.

“We’re going to have to play defense. I think we’re going to score runs, we’re going to have to pitch and play defense. I don’t know what the average run scores are (so far), but if we can pitch decent and play good defense, we have a chance.”

A lot of that pitching load will fall on the shoulders of returning conference Pitcher of the Year Trevor McDonald.

McDonald hasn’t pitched yet this season because of some pain near his shoulder, but has been cleared and could be in the rotation this weekend.

“Pitching overall is the most important thing right now. We’re trying to get settled in more,” McDonald said. “Hitting got settled quickly.

We’ve got to stop giving away so many free bases.”

COC’s team ERA is 5.27 after eight games.

The pitchers have walked 48 batters in 70 innings pitched.

But there have been a couple of bright sports.

Sean Gavin, a former Canyon High player, has been solid in relief and big right-hander Brian Kernochan has been the team’s strongest starter with a 2-0 record and a 3.85 ERA.

Cota expects contributions from others as well, like former Cal State Los Angeles and Canyon outfielder Kenny Shanahan, freshman infielder Robert Vickers and pitchers Devon Ramirez and Harley Thompson amongst others.

Now, if they can survive those low-scoring games.



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