| June 19, 2023
Photo Credit: Brigid O'Connell
By CCL Reporters Sean Brennan, Sam Nute and Dylan Wickman
The California Collegiate League's 30th season is in full swing as all teams now have multiple league series under their belt. Some teams have set themselves above the competition while others are still finding their footing. Teams are ranked by overall record, the week's record, strength of schedule, and trends after the first two weeks. Read below to find out how each team played in Week 2 of league play and how they match up with the rest of the CCL.
#1 Healdsburg Prune Packers
The Prune Packers continued their torrid start to the season, remaining undefeated. In a three-game set with the Lincoln Potters, the Prune Packers took all three games in convincing fashion, outscoring the Potters 27-1 across their three matchups this week.
It would be difficult for Prune Packer starting pitchers to have a better week going forward this season. Pitchers Wyatt Tucker (Texas A&M), Christopher Stamos (Cal), and Andres Galan (Cal) combined to throw 12.0 innings, allowing zero runs, just four hits, and two walks while amassing 23 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Prune Packers generated 27 runs of offense. Across the three games against the Potters, the Prune Packers offense tallied 34 hits and four XBH. Outfielder Robbie Hamchuck (San Jose St.) was on base all week, going 7-for-12 with 3 RBI and one double.
Next week, the Packers wrap up their non-league series with the Bay Area Admirals before playing a doubleheader against the Solano Mudcats on Sunday, June 25.
#2 Conejo Oaks
Week 2 of the CCL season was another productive one for the Conejo Oaks. After opening with a two-game sweep of the Blues – one that saw Conejo’s red-hot lineup score a combined 19 runs – the Oaks dropped two of three to Santa Barbara, finishing the week 3-2.
Right-hander Zach Creighton (Cal Lutheran) enjoyed a solid start on Tuesday, going 3.0 innings and allowing two baserunners while striking out four. In need of stability after conceding seven runs in the first 3.1 frames of Wednesday’s matchup, the Oaks turned to reliever Brett Edwards (Los Angeles Valley College), who didn’t disappoint. The right-hander put together a flawless appearance, keeping the Blues off the base paths in 2.2 innings of work. Southpaw Tobias Plotkin (Glendale CC) earned his second win of the summer on Friday against the Foresters, allowing a hit and walk while retiring four via the strikeout in 4.0 scoreless innings.
Infielder Zachary Schwartzberg (Undecided) proved one of Conejo’s most reliable hitters this week, going 5-for-15 and sealing the sweep of the Blues with a walk-off RBI single on Wednesday. A highlight of the week as Christopher Wright's (Sonoma State) grand slam against the Blues. Wright has been steady at the plate, recording at least one knock in every game this week while contributing three RBI.
Next week, the Conejo will have a home-and-home with the Riptide before battling the Arroyo Seco Saints for three straight games.
#3 Walnut Creek Crawdads
The Walnut Creek Crawdads continued their solid start to the CCL Season this week, winning three games in their four-game series with the Sonoma Stompers.
Starting pitcher Ryan Spalliero (St. Mary’s) was dominant in his start in Game 3 three of the series, going four innings while striking out three and giving up zero runs on just three hits. After a rough start from EJ McGrew (Willamette) in the series finale, Austin Berggren (Nebraska) and Sean Fitzpatrick (Arkansas) picked up the slack and excelled. Over the final 7.0 innings of the game, Berggreen and Fitzpatrick combined for 13 strikeouts while allowing just one run and two hits, leading the Crawdads to a comeback win.
In the final game against the Stompers, infielder Ryan Ellis (St. Mary’s) capped off a stellar week with an amazing 4-for-4 performance with two doubles, a triple, and two RBI. The Stompers struggled to get Ellis out all series as he went 6-for-9 with five RBI and four walks, reaching base in 12 of his 16 plate appearances. In Game 2 of the series, infielder Ryan Brome (Texas Tech) broke out of a small slump going 3-for-5 with two RBI and his first home run of the season in a 7-4 Stompers win.
Next week, the Crawdads will play a game against the Potters before beginning a three-game set with the Prune Packers.
#4 Santa Barbara Foresters
Despite a 1-2 start with losses to the Saints and Oaks, the Santa Barbara Foresters finished their second week of the summer with a bang, picking up two consecutive wins over a scorching Conejo squad.
Santa Barbara’s pitching staff has impressed so far, posting a CCL South Division-best 2.65 ERA through the young league season. Starter Kolby Kmetko (Nevada) was dominant in his Saturday start against the Oaks, as he allowed six baserunners and struck out six in 6.0 shutout frames. Conceding a single earned run while striking out six in 4.0 innings, right-handed pitcher Mason Koch (Creighton) had his second solid relief appearance of the season on Thursday. Right-hander Sean Youngerman (Westmont College) has been lights-out at the backend of the Forrester bullpen, relinquishing just two hits and a walk while striking out seven in 3.2 scoreless innings of work.
Offensively, Santa Barbara has benefited from many contributors. Outfielder Rocco Garza-Gongora (Oklahoma) has led the way, totaling seven hits in his last five games. Outfielder Max Belyeu’s (Texas) six-hit, four-RBI week was highlighted by a solo shot against the Oaks on Saturday. Infielder Gianni Horvat (UNLV) was also efficient at the plate, going 5-for-15 this week.
The ‘Stars have a light week ahead, as they are slated to play just two contests, both against the Barons.
#5 Orange County Riptide
The Riptide got into swing this week after having just two league games in Week 1. Orange County competed in five games in Week 2, and there were some exciting results. The Riptide started with a two-game series against the MLB Academy Barons that they won in large part to their pitching, giving up four runs in the series. The San Luis Obispo Blues handed Orange County its first two losses of the season. The Riptide had a good chance to win game 2, outhitting San Luis Obispo 14-8, but could not capitalize enough to earn the win. They bounced back quickly with a comeback 10-inning win against the Arroyo Seco Saints, though. Orange County did not register a hit until the seventh inning, yet stayed alive long enough to steal the win.
The pitching staff started the week strong against the Barons, shutting them out in one of the games, but struggled with errors midweek in the Blues series. They finished strong against the Saints, though, giving up four runs in 10 innings. Righties Tyler Valdez (Arizona State) and Josh Randall (San Diego) each stood out in performances against the Barons. In his first action this season, Valdez struck out six batters in 4.0 innings to contribute to shut out. Randall, in the next game, tallied five strikeouts in 3.0 innings and has yet to give up a run in his two appearances this season.
Second baseman Connor McGuire (California Bapstist) was stellar in his four appearances on offense this week, as he recorded two hits and a double in game one against the Barons and then three hits in game two against San Luis Obispo. He is now batting .429 in the early season, the best on the team. Outfielder Cary Arbolida (Houston) has also solidified his offense thus far, as he leads the team in hits (7) and RBI (4) while batting .368.
This week, the Riptide will play two games against the Conejo Oaks before rematching the Barons for two more.
#6 Lincoln Potters
The Lincoln Potters had a busy schedule this week, playing seven games in just six days including a double-header. The week got started with a rough three-game series against the Prune Packers before turning things around in a four-game set with the Solano Mudcats.
The Potters’ pitching staff against the Prune Packers, starting pitcher Peyton Stumbo (Nevada) had one of the best starts in the CCL so far this year in game one against the Mudcats. Stumbo went 7.0 scoreless innings, allowing just two batters on two hits and striking out six. Over the final three games against the Mudcats, it was the Potters’ bullpen that stole the show, combining to hold the Mudcats scoreless over 15.1 innings.
The Potters’ series against the Packers did not go well offensively, as they were held to one run across the three contests, but the Potters’ offense got going again against the Mudcats, scoring 31 runs across the four games. In his first game with the Potters, catcher Nolan Wilson (Nevada) made a great first impression, going 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, and three RBI.
Next week, the Potters will play just one league match against the Stompers before starting a non-league midweek series.
#7 San Luis Obispo Blues
The Blues started off with a tough series against the Conejo Oaks that saw them lose both encounters in high-scoring affairs. They made up for it by winning two against the Orange County Riptide to hand them their first league losses of the season and bring their own league record to .500.
The pitching got better for San Luis Obispo as the week went on. Right-hander Lucas Alaniz (Modesto Junior College) had a stellar performance on the mound in the 5-1 win against the Riptide, striking out six batters in 7.1 innings while giving up two hits and a run. He has pitched the third most innings this season (12.0) yet has only given up four runs. Left-hander Robinson Lardner (Cuesta College) has also been among the premier pitchers in the league, giving up just two runs in 10 innings this season. He followed up Alaniz’s performance by giving up two runs in 5.0 innings.
The Blues have had a balanced approach on offense to start the season, with eight players tallying at least three hits. Shortstop Theo Hardy (San Jose State) has stood out, leading the team in batting average (.667), hits (6), runs (5), and walks (5). He had a near-perfect performance in the first win against Orange County, racking up five hits in as many at-bats with a double and two RBI. He had more than double the team’s total hits
The Blues will have a rather light week next week, with just a two-game series against the Arroyo Seco Saints.
#8 Arroyo Seco Saints
Week 2 of the CCL season was a mixed bag for the Saints, who split two-game sets with the Foresters and Barons before dropping a 10-inning marathon to the Riptide on Sunday – moving their record this week to 2-3.
Sstarter Caleb Reyes (Cal Poly Pomona) allowed just three baserunners in three scoreless innings of work in the Saints’ victory over Santa Barbara. Pitcher Carter Herrera (Cal State Fullerton) had a strong start on Friday as he kept the Barons off the scoresheet, allowing three baserunners and striking out three in 3.0 innings. Early pitching dominance was on display on Sunday against the Riptide, with southpaw Bradley Mullan (Gonzaga) and right-hander Murphy Brooks (TCU) combining for ten strikeouts in 5.0 scoreless frames.
At the plate, it’s been the Wichita State Shockers who’ve been getting it done for the Saints. Catcher Alex Birge (Wichita State) showcased his power all week long, belting two home runs and a three-RBI triple. With three multi-hit games on the week, Jack Little (Wichita State) is emerging as a regular contributor for Arroyo Seco. In four contests, the infielder has gone 7-for-21 with six RBI – tied for the team lead.
Next week, the Saints will play two games against the Blues and three against the Oaks.
#9 Sonoma Stompers
The Stompers had a grueling six-game week in the opening week and struggled following it up in week two. They had a three-game series against the Walnut Creek Crawdads and lost all three encounters.
The Stompers did not have too much trouble putting runs on the board this week, as they averaged six per game in the series. First baseman Xabier Iparraguirre (Cal State Chico) was a big reason for this, hitting home runs in back-to-back games including six RBI. Catcher Omar Gastelum (San Jose State) continued his great play in the early season, totaling four hits and two RBI in the series.
Despite the team’s best efforts on offense, the Crawdads were too much to handle. Sonoma could not find an answer for them throughout the series. Righty Orlando Leon Jr. (Hawaii Hilo) had the best performance among the pitching staff this week, throwing three strikeouts in 5.2 innings while giving up three runs.
The Stompers will look to get back on track in a three-game series against the Solano Mudcats next week.
#10 MLB Academy Barons
After starting off 0-5, the Barons earned their first win of the season – a 10-2 victory over the Saints – in emphatic fashion on Saturday, finishing Week 2 with a 1-3 mark.
Lefty Harold Boyce (Undecided) has quickly become a key reliever for the Barons, holding the opposition scoreless and retiring three via the strikeout in 3.0 innings of work this week. Another arm headlining the Academy's bullpen this week is right-hander Nicholas Romanowski (Undecided), who picked up two strikeouts and allowed two baserunners in 3.0 combined frames.
Infielder Dylan Lina (Golden West College) was an offensive force last week, and this was no different during week 2. In four games, Lina went 6-for-16 with three doubles and two RBI. Outfielder Jacob Klinovsky (Cal State Easy Bay) punctuated a solid week – during which he accrued five knocks – with a three-hit performance in the Barons’ victory over Arroyo Seco on Saturday.
Next week, the Academy will see the Foresters for two games and the Riptide for three.
#11 Solano Mudcats
The 2023 CCL Season has not gotten off to the start that the Solano Mudcats would want. This week their struggles continued as they finished the week on a seven-game losing streak.
A lot of the Mudcats' recent skid can be attributed to the team’s pitching struggles. Over the four-game set against the Potters, the Mudcats allowed 7.75 runs per game.
Despite the struggles, there was a bright spot on the offense. Fresh from Arizona State, catcher and outfielder Bronson Balholm batted .500 with two doubles across the four games against the Potters. Balholm is batting .325 in 10 games with the Mudcats, tallying four RBI and six walks while walking just five times.
Next week, the Mudcats will look to bounce back with a three-game series against the Stompers and a two-game set with the Packers.
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