SELECTIONS BY POSITION
Brendan Durfee – CO
Nolan Wilson – LP
Omar Gastelum – SS
Jake Tandy – SM
Ryan Brome – WCC
Eamonn Lance – SBF
Hunter Dorraugh – HPP
Ryan Ellis – WCC
Connor McGuire – OCR
Raider Tello – AS
Jeff Hoffman – SM
Kamau Neighbor – MLB
Matt King – WCC
Zach Chamizo – LP
Will Rogers – SBF
Robbie Hamchuk – HPP
Jay Burden – SS
Cameron Nickens – HPP
Max Belyeu – SBF
Damian Bravo – HPP
McCabe Moyer – CO
Max Blessinger – AS
Cole Fellows – WCC
Patrick Hackworth – OCR
Connor Charpiot – HPP
Dylan Lina – MLB
Chris Stamos – HPP
Tyler Valdez – OCR
Ben Bybee – SBF
Myles Patton – HPP
Fisher Johnson – SLO
Caleb Reyes – AS
Jack Kirrer – OCR
Carter Herrera – AS
Sean Youngerman – SBF
Carson Turnquist – SBF
Robert Aivazian – HPP
Jacob Henderson – AS
Brian McBroom – HPP
Arthur Stienkamp – LP
Boston Warkentin – SLO
Sean Fitzpatrick – WCC
Cade Cushing – WCC
Aidan Colin – SS
Kevin Warunek – AS
Hayden Lewis – AS
SELECTIONS BY TEAM
MLB Academy Barons: Kamau Neighbor, SS // Dylan Lina, DH
Arroyo Seco Saints: Raider Tello, 3B // Max Blessinger, OF // Caleb Reyes, RHP // Carter Herrera, RHP // Jacob Henderson, RHP // Kevin Warunek, RHP // Hayden Lewis, RHP
Conejo Oaks: Brendan Durfee, C // McCabe Moyer, OF
Healdsburg Prune Packers: Hunter Dorraugh, 2B // Robbie Hamchuk, OF // Cameron Nickens, OF // Damian Bravo, OF // Connor Charpiot, DH // Chris Stamos, LHP // Myles Patton, LHP // Robert Aivazian, RHP // Brian McBroom, RHP
Lincoln Potters: Nolan Wilson, C // Zach Chamizo, UTL // Arthur Stienkamp, LHP
Orange County Riptide: Connor McGuire, 2B // Patrick Hackworth, OF // Tyler Valdez, RHP // Jack Kirrer, RHP
San Luis Obispo Blues: Fisher Johnson, RHP // Boston Warkentin, RHP
Santa Barbara Foresters: Eamonn Lance, 1B // Will Rogers, UTL // Max Belyeu, OF // Ben Bybee, RHP // Sean Youngerman, RHP // Carson Turnquist, RHP
Solano Mudcats: Jake Tandy, 1B // Jeff Hoffman, 3B
Sonoma Stompers: Omar Gastelum, C // Jay Burden, OF // Aidan Colin, RHP
Walnut Creek Crawdads: Ryan Brome, 1B // Ryan Ellis, 2B // Matt King, SS // Cole Fellows, OF // Sean Fitzpatrick, LHP // Cade Cushing, RHP
MLB – MLB Academy Barons
AS – Arroyo Seco Saints
CO – Conejo Oaks
HPP – Healdsburg Prune Packers
LP – Lincoln Potters
OCR – Orange County Riptide
SLO – San Luis Obispo Blues
SBF – Santa Barbara Foresters
SM – Solano Mudcats
SS – Sonoma Stompers
WCC – Walnut Creek Crawdads
By CCL Reporter Sean Brennan
(THOUSAND OAKS, CA) – For the third straight year, the CCL State Championship belongs to the ‘Burg.
After dropping the first contest of the best-of-three CCL 30 State Championship Series against the Arroyo Seco Saints, the Healdsburg Prune Packers pulled off a gutsy, come-from-behind victory in Game 2, setting the stage for a winner-take-all Game 3. With nine innings separating the Packers from cementing their dynasty and bringing a third title back to Healdsburg, head coach Joey Gomes’ message to his team was simple – he urged them to “Empty the clip” and give 110% on the field.
And the Packers, the CCL North Division’s regular-season champion with a 26-9 league record, did just that. Despite the score being tied at two after five innings, the Packers’ offense came to life during the two ensuing frames, plating a combined six runs en route to an 8-5, title-clinching win.
“This is a really resilient group,” Gomes said. “With the amount of injuries and guys that came in and out, the core stayed together, and the resiliency and how much fun these guys have playing the game [stuck out to me].”
From the get-go, the Packers had their work cut out for them. Starting on the hill for the Saints was right-hander Carter Herrera (Cal State Fullerton), who tossed 6.0 scoreless innings in Arroyo Seco’s 1-0 CCL 30 Divisional Round victory against the Orange County Riptide. Herrera’s regular season numbers very much reflect those of his first playoff appearance, as the Calimesa, Calif. native pitched to a 2.00 ERA and 0.86 WHIP this summer while striking out 35 in 36.0 innings of work, a resumé deserving of the nod when the first CCL State trophy in franchise history up for grabs.
It appeared Herrera’s momentum had carried over from the Divisional Round early on, with the rising sophomore retiring the side in the first. Healdsburg would break through a frame later, posting a three-hit second highlighted by an RBI single from infielder Peyton Schulze (Cal).
The lead was short-lived. In the third, Arroyo Seco outfielder Kyte McDonald (Rice) drove in fellow outfielder Max Blessinger (Belmont), who doubled and reached third on an error. McDonald, much like Herrera, played a major role in his team’s hard-fought Divisional win, hitting the fifth-inning solo shot that punched the Saints’ ticket to the title round.
After a scoreless fourth inning, the pendulum would swing once again during the fifth courtesy of Healdsburg infielder Hunter Dorraugh, one of five San Jose State Spartans on the Prune Packers’ roster. Leading off the frame, Dorraugh unloaded on a 2-1 pitch, sending a majestic, 388-foot, 102 mph blast off the bat sailing over the left-field wall – against the wind – to give Healdsburg a 2-1 advantage. But this wasn’t nearly the first big moment the Vacaville, Calif. delivered this postseason. In four playoff games, Dorraugh totaled seven hits with two home runs and six RBI in 16 at-bats, earning him CCL 30 Postseason Most Outstanding Player honors.
“The goal when you do everything is to win,” Dorraugh said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity Joey Gomes has given to me to come out here and develop as a player, and to be able to make a great relationship with those guys… I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Saints would again tie the score in the bottom of the 5th inning, but the Packers’ bats had found their groove. Outfielder Robbie Hamchuk (San Jose State), Healdsburg’s second hitter of the sixth inning, set the tone with a one-out triple and later cashed in thanks to a sacrifice fly from Dorraugh. Infielder Connor Charpiot (Long Beach State), another focal point of the Packers’ offense, extended the lead with an RBI double.
Charpiot’s dominant performance in the postseason didn’t come as a surprise, as he claimed the CCL regular season batting title with a .410 average in 83 at-bats. Throughout the playoffs, he continued to deliver, hitting .500 in 14 at-bats and recording three-hit performances in Games 2 and 3. And for Charpiot, the key to success was remaining consistent in his approach.
“[My approach] wasn’t changed from the season,” Charpiot said. “You’ve got to treat it like any other game and luckily, it worked out for me.”
Healdsburg struck again in the seventh, scoring three more runs, but the offense was only part of the equation throughout the game’s late innings.
After Packers starter Caden Bugarske (Concordia) held Arroyo Seco to one run in three innings – a solid outing against a Saints’ offense that has been among the league’s best all season long – Healdsburg looked to its bullpen, which has proved a major asset of late. During the first two contests of the State Championship series, the Packers’ relievers didn’t allow a single earned run, keeping their squad within striking distance in both games.
Right-handed reliever Michael Rice (San Jose State), who succeeded Bugarske on Sunday, was named the postseason’s Most Outstanding Pitcher. Rice was key in the bullpen holding Arroyo Seco scoreless in the final four innings of Game 2, tossing three strikeouts in three scoreless innings. During the series finale, he faced the minimum in his first frame of work before running into trouble the next time he took the mound. Despite this, Rice played well enough to earn his fourth win of the summer.
While imperfect in Game 3, allowing four runs – three of which came on a three-run homer from outfielder Connor Bradshaw (Pepperdine) in the eighth – the bullpen did its job, as five different arms combined to prevent Arroyo Seco from erasing the lead Healdsburg’s offense had built.
Right-hander Grant Cherry (Long Beach State) entered the game in the fifth inning and immediately made his presence felt, retiring each of the first three batters he saw. In total, Cherry tossed 3.0 innings of one-run ball, striking out five batters in the process. Following short stints from righties Brian McBroom (New Mexico) and Charpiot, who also contributed on the mound – reliever Gary Hall (San Jose State) picked up a strikeout and save, completing the Packers’ memorable championship run.
“Every single one, a tip of the cap to those guys,” Gomes said. “Grant Cherry was just the nail in the coffin, to kind of extend us and get the ball to Gary Hall, who just threw the heck out of it.”
What makes this year’s title so much sweeter is the fact that it sealed a back-to-back-to-back CCL State Championships for the Packers, one of the most demanding accomplishments in sports. Most players, new or returning, cherished contributing to this special moment.
“I mean, it’s great,” Charpiot said. “I grew up around Healdsburg. And seeing them win the last few years, now that I finally get to be a part of it, it’s great.”
The Healdsburg Prune Packers cap off the California Collegiate League’s 30th season in style—State Champs for a third consecutive time.
CCL 30 Postseason Most Outstanding Player: INF Hunter Dorraugh (San Jose State)
CCL 30 Postseason Most Outstanding Pitcher: RHP Michael Rice (San Jose State)
(LOS ANGELES, CA) – The California Collegiate League Showcase Game Selection Committee has announced the participants for the CCL 30 Showcase Game. The following players will play in the league’s signature midsummer event:
Click to view the CCL 30 Showcase Game Rosters
By July 5, each of the CCL’s 11 teams nominated players for consideration to the Selection Committee. Final North and South Division rosters and the managers of the game were chosen based on each of the division’s highest winningest percentage through July 8.
The CCL hosts an annual all-star game highlighting its brightest stars to coaches, scouts, and fans alike. This tradition remains today, as nearly 60 of the CCL’s most outstanding players will participate in the mid-summer classic in Compton, Calif. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. PST live on eight Bally Sports regional networks.
In addition to a nine-inning North vs. South Division contest and USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline combine, the CCL 30 Showcase Game will feature an inaugural Home Run Derby presented by the Walter Bat Company adding even more fireworks to an already action-packed event.
Texas Tech play-by-play broadcaster Chris Sylvester and San Diego Padres color commentator Bob Scanlan will have the call. Check your local listings for viewing instructions.
Fans can purchase tickets to the CCL’s premier event at the gate, watch live on Bally Sports TV, or follow the CCL on social media.
Team Designations // MLB – MLB Academy Barons, AS – Arroyo Seco Saints, CO – Conejo Oaks, HPP – Healdsburg Prune Packers, LP – Lincoln Potters, OCR – Orange County Riptide, SLO – San Luis Obispo Blues, SBF – Santa Barbara Foresters, SM – Solano Mudcats, SS – Sonoma Stompers, WCC – Walnut Creek Crawdads
By CCL Reporter Sean Brennan
(LOS ANGELES, CA) – For 30 years, the California Collegiate League has been a stepping stone for some of baseball’s most exciting prospects, allowing top collegiate players to hone their skills while preparing for professional baseball.
The CCL hosts an annual all-star game highlighting its brightest stars to coaches, scouts, and fans alike. This tradition remains today, as nearly 60 of the CCL’s most outstanding players will participate in the CCL 30 Showcase Game at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. PST.
“The 2023 CCL Showcase game is a must-see event for the ardent baseball fan,” said CCL Commissioner Michael Simpson. “This is an opportunity to view top notch collegiate players demonstrate their prodigious talents. You may be witnessing a future major league player before they attain national fame.”
In addition to a nine-inning North vs. South Division contest and USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline combine, the CCL 30 Showcase Game will feature an inaugural home run derby adding even more fireworks to an already action-packed mid-summer classic.
Texas Tech play-by-play broadcaster Chris Sylvester and San Diego Padres color commentator Bob Scanlan will have the call live on Bally Sports TV. The game will be re-aired regionally on NBC Sports West throughout July and August. Check your local listings for viewing instructions.
Fans can purchase tickets to the CCL’s premier event at the gate, watch live on Bally Sports TV, or follow the CCL on social media.
By July 2, each of the CCL’s 11 teams will nominate players for consideration to the CCL 30 Showcase Game Selection Committee. Final North and South Division rosters and the managers of the game – which will be the head coach of each division’s winningest team through July 8 – will be announced by July 9.
As part of USA Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline, CCL 30 Showcase Game position players will take part in pre-game workouts at 3 p.m. in front of MLB scouts and college coaches. The PDP is a collaborative effort between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball that establishes an official identification and player development pathway for amateur baseball players in the United States.
By CCL Reporters Sean Brennan, Sam Nute, and Dylan Wickman
(LOS ANGELES, CA) – The 2023 NCAA Super Regionals wrapped up with multiple CCL alumni putting on impressive performances. Now, with the beginning of the 2023 NCAA College World Series, the premier event in college baseball has arrived. The CCL has 27 current players or alumni competing on four of eight teams that are battling it out in Omaha. Check out standout performers from the Super Regionals and a complete list of the CCL members competing to win college baseball’s most coveted prize.
🚨 COWLEY CALLS GAME 🚨— California Collegiate League (@CCL_Baseball) June 10, 2023
Prepped in the CCL: @ArroyoSecoCCL alum Drew Cowley completes the largest comeback in NCAA Super Regional history as @OregonBaseball erases an eight-run deficit 🦆#CCL30Years #CCLBaseball #SaintsOfSummer #RoadToOmaha #GoDucks https://t.co/0epi1G068c
Tie ballgame 💪— California Collegiate League (@CCL_Baseball) June 13, 2023
Prepped in the CCL: @SBForesters alum Jack O'Dowd brings @TexasBaseball all the way back, tying Game 3 of the Stanford Super Regional with a bases-clearing double!#CCL30Years #CCLBaseball #steritup #RoadToOmaha #HookEm https://t.co/z4BVF73CZK
Hey, we know this guy… 💪— California Collegiate League (@CCL_Baseball) June 11, 2023
Prepped in the CCL: Former @PrunePackers pitcher @samstout15_ holds Indiana State to three runs in a 5.1-inning start, sending @TCU_Baseball to a @CWSOmaha berth!#CCL30Years #CCLBaseball #gopack #RoadToOmaha #FrogballUSA https://t.co/kV21ZGdwQC
By CCL Reporters Sean Brennan, Sam Nute, and Dylan Wickman
(LOS ANGELES, CA) – The California Collegiate League is heavily represented as the race heats up for the Division I National Championship and a trip to Omaha at the College World Series. Fifty-seven current and former CCL players are on nine teams competing in the 2023 NCAA Super Regionals. Many have left their mark on the postseason, putting together standout performances that helped propel their squad into the tournament’s second week.
Listed below are select CCL players that made significant impacts in the NCAA Regional Round. Following is the total list of current and former players that will be competing in the 2023 NCAA Super Regionals.
By CCL Reporter Sean Brennan
(IRVINE, CA) – If there’s one word that defines Connor Spencer’s career in baseball, it’s offense. A seemingly natural ability to bring the best out of lineups he oversees has helped him quickly ascend the collegiate baseball coaching ranks, as he was named the sixth manager in Orange County Riptide history.
Spencer’s immediate success with an offensive-minded approach makes sense considering what he achieved as a player. The Orange County native enjoyed a decorated college career at UC Irvine, winning the Big West Conference batting title in 2013 with a .373 average. As a junior, Spencer was a driving force throughout the Anteaters’ historic 2014 season that concluded in Omaha at the College World Series, a journey that he won’t soon forget.
“For me, it was definitely our playoff run in 2014,” Spencer said of his greatest playing memory. “Going to No. 1 in the country, Oregon State – Michael Conforto’s Oregon State – knocking them off, then going to Oklahoma State, knocking them off to go to the College World Series. That was definitely the most memorable moment I had [in my career], I still get together with the guys, we still talk about that.”
Spencer’s ample contributions in Irvine didn’t go unnoticed, as he was taken by the New York Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. While the competition he faced daily intensified, he didn’t need much time to adjust – not even close to a full year. In his inaugural season of professional baseball, Spencer became the first minor leaguer in Yankees’ history to earn a minor league batting title, boasting a .364 average in the New York-Penn League in 2014.
The two-time all-star ended his professional career after four years to become a national scouting coordinator for Perfect Game. Spencer would evaluate some of the country’s best college and high school talent. Almost immediately, any doubts he had about being suited for off-field scouting, instructional, and coaching roles were eliminated.
Spencer returned to the diamond in 2021 to coach his alma mater, Tesoro High School, and then the Arroyo Seco Saints of the California Collegiate League (CCL). There, he oversaw the Saints’ offense resulting in a semifinal appearance in the 2021 CCL State Championship. Being a native of the OC, Spencer chose to stay closer to home the following summer and manage the Orange County Riptide’s offense and infield. He continued to display his knack for winning in the CCL, coaching in a semifinal game for the second straight year.
In September 2022, Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Jason Dietrich named Spencer the Titans’ director of player development.
“I really didn’t know if I was going to be a good coach, what I thought I was going to bring as a coach,” Spencer said. “And it kind of just fit like a glove, it felt really natural. I kind of felt like I had been doing it for a long time as soon as I was doing it, because of all the years that I played … it all just flowed nicely.”
Spencer used lessons he learned from playing under legendary USC and UCI skipper Mike Gillespie to shape his coaching philosophy – a bullish mindset that emphasizes offense, the area of baseball he knows best.
“I’m far more offensive-minded, I enjoy running offenses,” Spencer said. “To be honest with you, the kind of style that I run after playing for Mike Gillespie is, I’m someone [who] is very aggressive. I like to put the pedal to the metal, and I like to expose defenses a lot. When I smell blood, I’m going to try and get everything out of my offense that I possibly can.”
But Spencer’s impact in 2022 went beyond contributing to positive results on the scoreboard.
As fast-paced and competitive as he is during games, Spencer is known for his laid-back demeanor and never losing sight of summer baseball’s paramount objective: slowing the game down, sharpening players’ baseball IQ and sending them back to school with an improved skill set. Most importantly, he hasn’t forgotten what it means to be a college athlete and put significant effort into developing relationships with his players – seven of which will return to Irvine for the 2023 campaign.
These efforts ultimately paid off, as many members of last year’s squad supported Spencer becoming the team’s next head skipper. Riptide General Manager Moe Geoghegan agreed, promoting him to manager for the 2023 season this past November.
“[Connor] is a player’s coach,” Geoghegan said. “The biggest key for him is becoming a head guy and maintaining that player-coach relationship he had as an assistant … I do think he’s currently a perfect fit for summer ball because I think he has an understanding of what the current players need … And the players that played last year that are returning, the reason they’re returning is because they liked playing for him.”
The jump from assistant to head coach isn’t a small one, but Spencer will come back to the Riptide with increased experience. His No. 1 goal remains to build upon the culture he established last season, which begins with assembling a supporting staff that compliments the identity he wants his organization to bear.
Spencer is retaining multiple coaches from last year’s squad and feels that this season’s staff will provide a perfect mix of insight and relatability.
“We have a staff that I’m very excited about,” Spencer said. “It’s a staff that has a lot of experience, a lot of playing experience and a lot of savvy. And it’s something that I think players don’t necessarily get on other teams around the country, a bunch of coaches that have been there, done that [and] know exactly where they’re coming from.
“I’m excited about that…and I think I have a staff assembled that’s right on that line. We’re able to relate with the players, yet we’ll still be able to get everything that we possibly can out of them.”
Going into every season, it’s unclear how each CCL team will fare on the field. There are many variables throughout the summer, ranging from a group meshing together to the number of injuries sustained down the stretch of the spring college season. Bringing in an experienced coaching staff – led by Spencer – makes Geoghegan optimistic that a player-focused culture will yield on-the-field results.
“You want [the summer] to be a little bit looser than the college season,” Geoghegan said. “I think it’s important that you have a coach that provides a fun atmosphere for the players, where there’s less pressure. We emphasize winning, but we can’t make that the only goal for these guys. We have to provide a place where they like their coaches, they want to come out, they want to work [and] they want to get better.”
If history is any indication of the future, the Riptide are in good hands with Spencer leading the way.
By CCL Reporter Sam Nute
(WALNUT CREEK, CA) – The Walnut Creek Crawdads follow a similar structure to most sports organizations. Longtime owner, general manager, and head coach Brant Cummings runs the day-to-day operations, recruiting players to Northern California, overseeing administration and finances, and coaching his squad through games and training sessions.
Cummings is a baseball guy through and through, dedicating his entire life to the game—and it shows. Cumming was named 2022 General Manager of the Year by his California Collegiate League peers.
Delegating and recognizing up-and-coming talent are important tasks in running any organization.
This year, Walnut Creek’s GM role is occupied by someone fans might not expect. Twenty-year-old Austin Ota is a journalism major at the University of Oregon and spent the 2022 season as the Crawdads’ play-by-play broadcaster and marketing manager.
“Walnut Creek is about an hour away…,” Ota, a San Jose native, said. “I reached out, and I pretty much got the [broadcasting] job right away which was really, really cool to have that job security for a summer as a freshman…” Ota loved the work he did with the team, and he saw the love and care Cummings was putting into all the work he did for the Crawdads.
Ota wanted very much to come back for another year and asked Cummings if he needed help. Cummings offered Ota the job of hiring all the Crawdads’ interns for the summer, and Ota attacked the opportunity.
The job has turned into much more than that.
“I started the intern hiring process in about October and then had them pretty much finalized by January,” Ota said. “Then, over the last couple of months, it’s kind of just grown to me and Brant talking pretty much every day either on the phone or over text. He’s asked me to…find players and set up sponsorship contracts…”
Trusting a sophomore in college to help find players, organize sponsorship deals, and oversee marketing is a bold move that other owners might not take, but Cummings saw something in Ota that he doesn’t see in a lot of people very often. Cummings referenced Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.
“Tony La Russa said this many years ago when he was in St. Louis as the skipper,” Cummins said. “He said, ‘You want to have people that care. When you lose, they’re not giddy about it. When you win, they’re happy, and they’re pleased with the success.
“If I were to describe how Austin feels about our organization, he loves it. He loves the team, and he wants to see us win on the field as well as off the field. And there aren’t a lot of people in this business that feel that way about any of these teams. There are some people that will take positions…It’s just a resume builder. It’s rare to find someone who cares about the team as much as he did…It’s rare to find someone who cares about the team as much as he did.”
The care and love that Cummings showed for the Crawdads leaked over to Ota, who, with his new promotion, led to an increase in the amount of time Cummings and Ota communicated. The pair have developed a strong working relationship.
“We had a call at the end of last season where we just sat and talked for like an hour about what we wanted from this, what I thought could be better…,” Ota said. “Since then, he’s just become like a father figure, like a mentor to me. I feel like I can call him any time of the day; he’ll text me any time of the day and either check on me and how I’m doing personally or ask me things about the team. He celebrates all the little things like they’re the biggest thing in the world, which is really important to me.”
This summer could be a breakout year for Walnut Creek. Crawdads’ fans can expect to see some familiar faces returning for the 2023 season. Texas Tech infielder and 2022 CCL Showcase Game participant, Ryan Brome, is returning to build off his highly successful 2022 campaign. In 39 games with the Crawdads last season, Brome had a .363 average walking 28 times.
Joining Brome on the infield is St. Mary’s junior and 2022 CCL All-League selection, Ryan Ellis. Like Brome, Ellis had an outstanding 2022 summer with the Crawdads, hitting .356 with four home runs and 15 doubles.
Perhaps the Crawdads’ most exciting addition for the 2023 season is University of Nebraska reliever, Corbin Hawkins. In 38.1 innings with the Big Red so far this year, Hawkins has struck out 30 to the tune of a 2.35 ERA and has not allowed a single home run.
“We’re getting these guys that I think are proven hitters [too],” Ota said. “I think we’re going to be really, really good this year. I’m very excited for what the Crawdads are going to do.”
With a mix of returning talent and new blood, the Crawdads are looking to improve on a second-place finish in the North Division and a 2022 CCL State Championship appearance.
Cummings, Ota, and the rest of the Crawdads’ organization could see push for even more in 2023.
By CCL Reporter Sean Brennan
(THOUSAND OAKS, CA) – The 2022 California Collegiate League summer was one to remember for the Conejo Oaks. During his twelfth year at the helm, manager Dave Soliz led his team to a 20-14 conference mark – its best since a 2018 season that concluded with Conejo claiming its first league title – and clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the 2022 CCL State Championship tournament.
And this success wasn’t limited to the regular season. The Oaks showed they were deserving of the top seed, making it all the way to the final game before falling just short of their second championship in franchise history.
As is the case with any dominant team, there are many factors that went into Conejo’s winning ways in 2022. But for General Manager Rebecca Willson, a key force that fueled the Oaks’ success is the sense of family among the players; a collective bond that only strengthened as the season progressed.
“I think we had … overall a great group of guys,” Wilson said. “You never know what you’re going to get when you have players come in that have never played with each other before… There can always be mishaps or differences of opinions, but for the most part, I think the players meshed really well. That showed on the field.”
Perhaps the most apparent benefit of the camaraderie in the Conejo dugout – aside from earning the third-most conference victories in the entire league – is everyone’s attitude on the diamond. While summer baseball is centered around played development, the Oaks also fostered a fun, easy going atmosphere that helped keep morale high throughout the summer sprint that is the CCL season.
Conejo’s sustained prowess last year can also be attributed to coaching, which is not only a major time commitment during the summer, but a responsibility requiring year-round involvement. In short, being the Oaks head skipper goes far beyond instructing his team for a two-plus month campaign.
Quote about recruiting – follow-up with Rebecca.
In addition to recruiting, Soliz is tasked with creating relationships with colleges. The proof is in the progress – players returning to their schools improved is the best way to build a strong reputation. And this year’s incoming squad is highly reflective of the pipelines Conejo has established over the years.
Given the positive overall experience last summer, it should come as no surprise that ten players are coming back to Thousand Oaks for another go-around. One of these returners is infielder Zach Daudet (Regis), who had the CCL’s fourth-highest batting average in 2022. Because Daudet improved while playing under Soliz, he isn’t coming back alone, as he’ll be accompanied by two additional members of Regis Baseball. This is only one example – the Oaks are welcoming multiple players from the likes of Oregon, Hawaii and Grand Canyon.
But how can schools be sure that each player they send will get better? For the Oaks, the answer is simple. While on-the-field results are important, development matters most, meaning everyone on the roster is guaranteed to get in-game reps throughout the summer.
“At the end of the day, you want to win,” Willson said. “Whether it’s baseball or any sport, you’re going to put your best players out there. But you have to think this is summer baseball … [The players] are here to get more at-bats, they’re here to get more playing time. Yes, there are some players that get more playing time than others. But coach Soliz does a fantastic job of making sure that everyone plays.”
It also helps that Conejo’s players have the opportunity to learn from a professional baseball icon: former Major League Baseball catcher and manager Mike Scioscia. The three-time World Series Champion founded the Oaks in 2004 along with Amateur Baseball Development Group (ABDG), a nonprofit which aims to expose young athletes in Southern California to baseball. While he isn’t in the dugout during every game, Scioscia is heavily involved with his team – as he is in contact with Soliz on a daily basis and is always willing to help players during practices.
“First, he’s the greatest guy, he’s so present,” Willson said. “He’s fully committed … He shows up when he can and is there working the guys, and you can see a shift in the players when he’s there … They’re really soaking it in as much as they can. He’s not just there to be like, ‘I’m here.’ He works with the guys, he’s out there.”
Between strong relationships with college baseball programs, a player-friendly environment and heavy emphasis on development, it’s easy to understand why the Oaks have achieved great success during their time in the CCL. There’s no telling where Conejo will finish in the standings this time around, but it’s likely another tight bond will be formed between the players – just as it was last year.
“The players loved being around each other,” Wilson said. “Whether it was their first-time meeting, they’re lifelong friends now … Some of them didn’t want to say goodbye … I definitely know some of them wanted to stay as long as they could.”
(LOS ANGELES, CA)
CCL CELEBRATES 30 YEARS
To kick-off its 30th year, the California Collegiate League released its slate of games for 2023 summer season. All CCL teams will play 35 league games plus select non-league matchups.
2023 CCL POSTSEAON
New for the 2023 summer season will be an updated postseason format. The CCL’s 11 teams will vie for a spot in the 2023 CCL State Championship, a best two-out-of-three game series Friday to Sunday, August 4-6.
Following a coin flip at a regular offseason league meeting, the South Division representative will serve as the State Championship host this year. The North Division will host next year and rotate back and forth between Northern and Southern California in subsequent years.
To get to the State Championship, the CCL’s second and third place teams from each division, North and South, will take part in the 2023 CCL Division Wild Card Round on Tuesday, August 1.
The winners of these two Wild Card games will then play the first-place teams in their respective divisions on Wednesday, August 2 for a chance at taking home the CCL’s 2023 State title.
2023 CCL SHOWCASE GAME
The 2023 CCL Showcase Game will be held at Major League’s Baseball Youth Academy on Wednesday July 12. Close to 60 of the CCL’s best players will be in attendance showing off their skills and talents.
NEW CCL COMMISSIONER
Executive Director, Aaron Milam, announced the addition Dr. Michael J. Simpson as new commissioner earlier this month.
“I am looking forward to celebrating the 30th year of the CCL,” said Simpson. “Collectively we will have an opportunity to reflect on the league’s historic accomplishments and anticipate the excitement of a new season. This summer our teams, players, partners, fans and communities can expect to enjoy an entertaining time at the ballpark and an exhilarating brand of baseball.”
#CCL30Years & #CCLBaseball
Follow all of the action all summer long using the hashtags #CCL30Years and #CCLBaseball.