Three-Peat in CCL 30: Prune Packers Defeat Saints 8-5, Win Third Straight CCL State Championship

| August 7, 2023

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)

  • 7-16, 4 R, 2 HR, BB, 6 RBI

CCL 30 Postseason Most Outstanding Pitcher: RHP Michael Rice (San Jose State)

  • 4.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, Win
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