Taft College Cougars Men's Baseball

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Taft @ Reedley College
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 23, 2015

The Cougars traveled to Reedley College on Thursday afternoon to complete their regular season play.  They have won 5 of their last 6 games to put themselves within arms reach of playoffs.  They will await the polls on Sunday to find out if they are going to playoffs but they will need some help today.  Reedley plays Sequoias and if Reedley wins it is unlikely for the Cougars to be selected. 

The Cougars jumped to an early 1-0 led in the top of the first after Michael Dagg got on base and was sacrificed in by Fabian Gutierrez.  Reedley scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd but the Cougars refused to back down from the challenge.  In the top of the 7th Austin Pendergrass and Dagg were on base for Nick Kawano’s 2 run triple.  Reedley was unable to respond and Kade Erickson later hit a triple that brought Keith Tatum in to score.  Tatum went 3-4 while Kawano went 2-5. 

Robby Brewster pitched 7.1 innings giving up 6 hits and 2 earned runs.  Kendal Daniels and Eric Evans finished the game off. 

The Cougars finished off the season with a 21-15 record and a 13-11 record in CVC play.

Cougars top COS in 10 to Stay Alive in Playoff Hunt
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 21, 2015

Three Taft College pitchers stifled the College of Sequoias offense for nine innings until the Cougars got timely hitting in the 10th inning to eke out a 2-1 Central Valley Conference victory.

More importantly, the win keeps TC playoff hopes alive. 

The Cougars (12-11 CVC, 20-15 overall) now must win their regular season finale today at Reedley College (13-9, 16-18).  Taft can tie Reedley if the Tigers lose tomorrow at College of the Sequoias.

If Taft and Reedley finish the season in a tie, the Cougars stronger power rating would break the deadlock.

Hop hits game-winner
Chris Hopballe’s third hit of the day was the game-winner against COS.

The sophomore first baseman/pitcher lined a single down the third base line in the bottom of the 10th to score shortstop Fabian Gutierrez, who cracked a one-out single and moved into scoring position when Rick Sottile walked.

COS scored in the first inning on a two-out walk and back-to-back singles but Matt Rogers, Nick Risucci and Eric Evans combined to shut out the Giants over the next nine innings and limit them to five hits.

They retired the side in order in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh and allowed just four base runners after the second on two hits and two walks.

Starter Rogers worked five innings, giving up one run on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Risucci allowed one hit in three innings and struck out four batters.

Evans came on to pitch the last two innings to get the win – his third of the season against one loss.  He allowed a hit, struck out one and walked one.

Gilstrap homers
TC’s other run came in the second inning when third baseman Jeff Gilstrap led off with a homerun – his third of the season.  He also had a single.

Gutierrez had two hits, Keith Tatum smacked a double and Nick Kawano, Kade Erickson and Rey Figueroa all had singles.
Taft out-hit COS 11-5.

CVC Standings:
Fresno 19-3 (27-7)
Merced 15-7 (22-12)
COS 13-9 (18-16)
Reedley 13-9 (16-18)
Taft 12-11 (20-15)
West Hills 4-18 (7-12)
Porterville 2-12 (5-29)

Taft vs College of the Sequoias
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 21, 2015

The playoff hopes are still alive for Taft College after winning 2 straight against conference powerhouse teams Fresno and Sequoias.  The game yesterday against Sequoias was a defensive duel with only 3 total runs scored through 10 innings of baseball. 

Matt Rogers threw 5 shut down innings on the mound giving up only 3 hits, 1 run, and struck out 3.  Nick Risucci who struck out 3 and gave up only 1 hit followed him.  Eric Evans finished the game off throwing 2 innings giving up only 1 hit.  The Cougar pitching staff has really stepped up the last couple games.

The only two runs scored were Jeff Gilstrap’s solo homerun in the 2nd inning and Chris Hopballe’s game winner in the bottom of the 10th.  Fabian Gutierrez and Gilstrap had 2 hits on the day while Hopballe went 3-5.

The playoff hopes are still alive as the Cougars move to 20-15 on the year and 12-11 in CVC play.  They will travel to Reedley College to play their last regular season game on Thursday.

Taft vs West Hills College
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 18, 2015

Chris Hopballe made his second start on the mound for the Cougars as Taft and West Hills squared off in their 4th game of the season.  Hopballe is now 2-0 after throwing 5.1 innings giving up only 4 hits, 2 earned runs, and striking out 5.  The Cougars took full advantage of their bullpen throwing 5 more pitchers through 4 innings.

The Cougars bats were alive in this dominant performance getting 14 hits and scoring 6 runs.  Michael Dagg lead the cougars with 3 hits, a homerun and a pair of RBI’s.  Nick Kawano, Fabian Gutierrez, Kade Erickson, and Jeff Gilstrap all collected 2 hits. 

The Cougars are still fighting for their lives to make the playoffs but they are confident in their abilities to win out.  The Cougars are now 18-15 overall and 10-11 in CVC play.

Former Cougar Named Head Coach at CSU Dominguez Hills
April 16, 2015

Former Taft College Cougar baseball player, Tyler Wright, has been named the Interim Head Coach for California State University, Dominguez Hills for the 2016 season.

A 2002 graduate of Liberty High School in Bakersfield, before coming to Taft College where he was a 2nd team All-CVC first baseman. Tyler lead the team in batting average and on-base pct. his sophomore season. He graduated from TC in 2004. He attended BIOLA University and served as the associate head coach there for 6 seasons.

Congratulations Tyler!!

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Big Inning Pushes Cougars Past Porterville 9-4
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 14, 2015

It took a while for the Taft College bats to get active, but when they did the Cougars were able to cruise to a 9-4 Central Valley Conference victory over Porterville College Tuesday afternoon.

The visiting Pirates nursed a 2-1 lead into the fifth thanks to centerfielder Rory Finch’s two-run homer in the second.

In the bottom of the fifth the Cougars combined six hits with three stolen bases, a walk and an error to produce six runs.

The Cougars added two in the sixth to push their lead to a commanding 9-2 before the Pirates added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

Right-fielder Kade Erickson drove in three runs with a single and double to lead TC’s 11-hit attack.

Chris Hopballe had a single and double to drive in a run, Nick Kawano cracked a two-run run single and Austin Pendergrass had two singles.

Keith Tatum and Juan Cruz hit a single.

The Cougars had a good day on the base paths.

Erickson swiped two bases and Michael Dagg, Cruz and Pendergrass one each.

The Cougars also turned four double plays to help the defensive cause.

Fabian Gutierrez, who had a sacrifice fly, got the fifth inning rally rolling with a single but was erased on a force out on a Tatum grounder.  Hopballe socked a double between left and center field to get Tatum home from first with a run that tied the game.

After Jeff Gilstrap fanned for the second out, Erickson blooped a single over second base that scored Hopballe from second and gave the Cougars a lead they would not relinquish.

Erickson swiped second and Cruz kept the rally going with a single to left field.  Cruz initiated a delayed double steal that got Erickson home.

Pedergrass singled to right field to get Cruz to third, then caught the Porterville defense off guard with another delayed steal.

Dagg walked on a 3-and-2 count to load the bases.

Kawano grounded a single into right field that Pirate fielder Justin McIntosh misplayed and two more runs scored to finish off the uprising.

The Cougars put the final touches on their scoring parade in the sixth when Tatum singled, Hopballe walked and Gilstrap was hit by a pitch to load the bases and set the stage for Erickson’s two-run double down the left field line.

Cougar starter Matt Rogers (4-4) worked six innings, gave up two runs on four hits, walked four and struck out one.  Brett Haney, Nick Risucci and Eric Evans each worked an inning.

The Cougars will travel to Merced College on Thursday for a 3pm start; host West Hills Saturday and travel to Fresno on Sunday.  Both weekend games begin at 1 p.m.

Taft vs Porterville College
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 14, 2015

The Cougars hosted Porterville at Cougar field on Tuesday to wrap up the 4 games they square off against each other this season.  The Cougars are eagerly fighting to make a spot in the playoffs and this was the biggest game of the year for them.

Porterville jumped to a 2 run lead in the top of the second off of a 2 run homerun. The scoring for the Cougars began in the bottom of the 3rd when Michael Dagg hit a leadoff double down the line.  This brought up Nick Kawano who hit a ground ball to 2nd base to move Dagg to 3rd.  Fabian Gutierrez was due up next and hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score him. 

It was a long bottom half of the 5th inning as the Cougars batted in 6 runs.  Chris Hopballe doubled to score Keith Tatum.  Kade Erickson’s single was enough to bring Hopballe around to score. Kawano also hit in Austin Pendergrass and Juan Cruz.

One thing the Cougars did well this game and must continue to do to win games was having 0 errors defensively.  Matt Rogers started on the mound for Taft going 6 innings pitched and getting the win.  He gave up 4 hits, 2 earned runs and had 1 strikeout.  Brett Haney, Nick Risucci and Eric Evans followed his performance.

Taft is 17-14 overall and has a 9-10 record in CVC play.  They will travel to Merced on Thursday for a game at 3:00.

Cougars Head into Home Stretch of Baseball Season
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 11, 2015

Now that all of the three-game series are in the book, Taft College’s baseball team heads into the final stretch of the season.

The Cougars will now play each Central Valley Conference team once, beginning with today when they host Porterville at 2 p.m.  TC will wind things up April 23 at Reedley College.

TC wrapped up the conference series grind against second place Merced by getting a pitching gem from Robby Brewster last Thursday – a 3-1 win – before finishing the series with a thud on Saturday – a 6-4 loss – when three errors opened the door to five unearned runs.

Brewster, a freshman right hander from Las Vegas, allowed just four singles – two of them in the first inning when Merced scored its lone run – in his eight innings of work while striking out five and walking three.

Eric Evans came on to get his fourth save of the year by setting down the Blue Devils 1-2-3 in the ninth.

When the teams returned to Taft Saturday for the series finale first baseman Chris Hopballe got the call on the mound because the other Cougar starters have been struggling lately.

The 6-foot-4 right hander, who pitched two innings in relief early in the season, gave up one earned run on seven hits in five innings. 

Reliever Kendal Daniels struck out the first batter in the seventh before in infield error gave Merced a runner.  After a fly ball out, which should have been the third out, Daniels made one bad pitch to Blue Devil centerfielder Joseph Salmeri, who lined the mistake over the left field fence for what proved to be the game winner.

The Cougars had the tying runs on in the ninth but Merced reliever Izaak Hurtado got a strikeout to end the game.

The Cougars outhit Merced 11-8.

Nick Kawano hit two doubles and drove in two runs, Kade Erickson had a double and single, Austin Pendergrass two singles and an RBI, Chris Hopballe doubled, and Michael Dagg, Fabian Gutierrez, Juan Cruz and Chris Wedel had singles.

In the win at Merced the Cougars broke open a pitcher’s duel between Brewster (5-3) and Ryan Sanchez (3-6) with three runs in the eighth.

Pendergrass drew a walk to lead things off and moved to second on Dagg’s sacrifice bunt.  Kawano flied out for the second out before Jeff Gilstrap cracked a run-scoring double that tied the game at 1-1.

Keith Tatum drilled a single that scored Gilstrap.  Hopballe, who has five homers on the season, was walked and Gutierrez put the finishing touches on the rally with a single that sent Tatum home.

Tatum also had a double and Cruz and Pendergrass singles.

CVC Standings
Fresno 17-1 (25-5)
Merced 11-7 (18-12)
COS 11-7 (16-14)
Reedley 10-8 (13-17)
Taft 8-10 (16-14)
West Hills 4-14 (7-22)
Porterville 2-16 (5-24)

Taft @ Merced College
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 9, 2015

Taft traveled to Merced on Thursday to play game 2 of the 3 game series.  The Cougars knew that if they were going to win they would have to have solid pitching the whole game and Robby Brewster got it all going for the staff.  Brewster pitched 8 innings giving up only 4 hits, 1 earned run and had 5 strikeouts.  Eric Evans came in to close the 9th getting 3 quick outs to end the game.

Offensively the Cougars had 7 hits on the day and scored 3 runs.  Merced was winning 1-0 until the top of the 8th.  Pendergrass got on base, Dagg bunted him to second and Gilstrap hit a double to drive him in evening up the score.  Keith Tatum was up next and he belted a ball to left field scoring Gilstrap making the score 2-1.  Before the inning ended Fabian Gutierrez singled scoring Tatum.  The Cougars were up 3-1 going into the bottom of the 8th and held Merced to 0 runs the rest of the game. 

The Cougars next game is Saturday April 11 at Cougar Field for the last of the 3 game series with Merced College.

Merced's Big Inning Breaks Open Close Game
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 8, 2015

Merced College saved its biggest hits for one inning, and that was enough to power the Blue Devils to a 9-7 Central Valley Conference baseball win over Taft College Wednesday afternoon at Cougar Field.

Taft was leading 4-3 heading into the top of the sixth when the Blue Devils combined a hit batter, two doubles and two homers into a five-run inning.

They got a run in the seventh to push the lead to 9-4 before the Cougars scored three times in the home half to make it closer. 

Merced closer Brandon Adame earned his fourth save of the season by retiring the Cougars in order in the eighth and ninth.

It was the seventh straight CVC loss for the Cougars and their ninth in the last 10 games overall.

Cougar starter Matt Rogers had allowed three runs on four hits through five innings and got the first out in the sixth before designated hitter Trevor Chaney doubled and trotted home ahead of Daniel Hermosillo, who knocked one over the left field fence.

Rogers hit a batter, gave up another double, got the second out on a fielder’s choice before giving up a three-run homer to Ryan Cumberland – a hit that proved to be the game-winner.

Alfred Souza got the final out to end the disastrous inning.

TC leads twice
After Merced scored twice in the second the Cougars tied it in the third when Austin Pendergrass lined a one-out single to center field and rode home on leadoff hitter Michael Dagg’s homer over the left field fence.

Cougar first baseman Chris Hopballe led off the fourth with a double to center field, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a squeeze bunt by Rick Sottile to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

After Merced scored in the top of the fifth to tie it the Cougars again took the lead in the home half of the inning.

Nick Kawano led off by drawing a walk, moved up on Jeff Gilstrap’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Hopballe’s line drive single to center.

After the Blue Devils increased the lead to 9-4, the Cougars struck for three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Dagg and Kawano led off with back-to-back singles, Gilstrap got aboard on an error to load the bases, Keith Tatum socked a two-run single to center and, after Hopballe grounded into a double play, Kade Erickson lined a single to get Gilstrap home with the Cougars’ final run.

TC has 12 hits
Kawano went 3-for-4 and Dagg and Hopballe finished with two hits apiece.  Pendergrass, Tatum, Erickson and Juan Cruz had the other Cougar hits.  TC outhit the Blue Devils 12-11 but couldn’t overcome the two dingers in the sixth.

The Cougars and Blue Devils will finish off the three-game series Saturday at Cougar Field.  First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

Taft @ Merced College
by Jeff Gilstrap
April 8, 2015

Merced College traveled to Cougar Field to take on Taft in their first time squaring off this season.  Matt Rogers pitched 5.2 innings giving up 9 hits, 8 earned runs and struck out 3.  Brett Haney came in to pitch late in the game with 1 out and the bases loaded.  He got a ground ball that Juan Cruz fielded and made a double play to finish the inning.  Eric Evans closed, had 1 strikeout and gave up no hits.

Austin Pendergrass got the bottom of the 3rd inning going with a single bringing up Michael Dagg who blasted a 2 run homerun over the left field wall.  Keith Tatum had a clutch hit in the bottom of the second bringing in Nick Kawano then Kade Erickson singled to bring in Gilstrap.

Nick Kawano recorded 3 hits on the day with 2 RBI”s.  Michael Dagg and Chris Hopballe both had hits and a combined 3 RBI’s.

The Cougars 7 runs off of 11 hits weren’t enough to beat Merced after they scored 9.   Taft will travel to Merced tomorrow for game 2 of the series at 3:00.

TC Snaps Losing Streak; Heads Back to CVC Action
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 3, 2015

RIVERSIDE – It took a ninth inning wild pitch, but Taft College snapped a seven-game losing streak here last Thursday with a 4-3 victory over Riverside City College.

The celebration didn’t last long, though.

On Friday the Cougars suffered a 12-4 at Moorpark College that wrapped up the team’s three-game spring break week break from Central Valley Conference action.  TC went 1-3 and heads back into CVC action today at home with the first of three games against Merced College (9-6 CVC, 16-11 overall).  First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

In the win at Riverside, TC (7-8 CVC, 15-12 overall) broke a 3-all tie when Riverside reliever Octavio Lara, who took over for starter Tyler Rowe in the ninth, loaded the bases on two hit batters and a walk.

Lara then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Cougar catcher Rey Figueroa with what proved to be the winning run.  Figueroa was plunked by a Lara pitch to open the inning.

Until the ninth Riverside’s Rowe had been locked in a pitching duel with Cougar starter Robby Brewster (4-3).

Riverside (18-10) scored single runs off Brewster in the fourth, sixth and eighth.  The run in the eighth, which tied the game, was a homerun by Tiger cleanup hitter David Schuknecht.

Taft scored three times in the fifth.

Rick Sottile lined a single to left to get the rally going and rode home with Taft’s first run on Michael Dagg’s one-out double to left.  Austin Pendergrass plated Dagg with a line drive double to left.

Jeff Gilstrap singled to center to get Pendegrass to third and Keith Tatum’s sacrifice gave TC a 3-1 lead.

Brewster did a good job of limiting Riverside to just one run in the sixth.  He gave up a double and two singles for a run but then got three straight popups to end the inning.

Eric Evans retired the side in the ninth to preserve the win and earn his third save.

Dagg and Pendergrass had two hits apiece.

Riverside’s top three hitters went 8-for-12 but the rest of the Tiger lineup just 2-for-22.

In the spring break finale Friday, Moorpark built a 10-0 lead before the Cougars scored twice in the top of the sixth.  The Raiders hiked the lead back to 10 with two in the home half.

TC managed just eight hits with Nick Kawano, Figueroa and Sottile each banging a double.  Pendergrass, Gilstrap, Kyle Wedel, Juan Cruz and Fabian Gutierrez each collected a single.

The Cougars used seven pitchers.

The CVC had a rough time during spring break, managing just three wins in 10 tries.  Even league-leader Fresno was upended – 8-1 by Cuesta.

As the Conference heads into its final week of three-game series, the standings look like this:
Fresno 17-1 (24-4)
Merced 9-6 (16-11)
Sequoias 9-6 (14-13)
Taft 7-8 (15-12)
Reedley 7-8 (10-17)
West Hills 3-12 (6-20)
Porterville 2-13 (5-210

Taft @ Fresno City College
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 24, 2015

The Cougars traveled to Fresno for game two of the series on Thursday.  Robby Brewster started on the mound and got the loss for Taft after throwing 3.1 innings giving up 6 hits and 6 earned runs.  The defense struggled a bit early on with mental mistakes giving up 3 unearned runs as well.

It didn’t take the offense long to get rolling after Chris Hopballe’s RBI single in the first inning to score Kade Erickson.  Hopballe singled again in the 3rd scoring Jeff Gilstrap and Keith Tatum.  Keith Tatum had a huge home run in the top of the 7th bringing in Nick Kawano and Gilstrap.

Gilstrap and Tatum both collected 3 hits on the day while Hopballe drove in 3 runs on 2 hits.

Nick Risucci came in following Brewster and had a great performance going 3.2 innings giving up only 2 hits and 0 runs.  Eric Evans closed the game throwing 1 inning giving up only 1 hit.

The Cougars are now 14-9 on the season and 7-7 in CVC play.  They host Fresno at home on Saturday at 1:00.

Taft vs Fresno City College
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 24, 2015

Matt Rogers took the mound for the Cougars facing the number 1 team in the conference on Tuesday.  Rogers was credited the loss after giving up 7 hits and 5 earned runs through 4.1 innings pitched.  Bryan Sanchez, Brett Haney, Nick Risucci and Caleb Newman followed his performance.  The Cougars staff gave up 19 total hits and 18 runs scored. 

The Cougar offense tacked on 9 hits, walked 4 times, and struck out 3 times as a team.  This was not enough to keep them in the game after only scoring 2 runs through 9 innings.  Kade Erickson and Juan Cruz collected RBI’s today.  Erickson had a double in the bottom of the 9th but was unable to cross home.  Taft went on to lose the game 18-2.

The Cougars are now 14-8 on the season and have a 7-6 record in CVC play.  They will travel to Fresno City on Thursday to play the second game of the 3 game series.

High Flying Fresno Buries Cougars with Scoring Spree
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
March 24, 2015

After the first four innings of Tuesday’s Central Valley Conference baseball game between Taft College and visiting Fresno City College just two runs had been scored – both by Fresno in the first inning.

Over the next four innings 18 runs crossed the plate – 16 of them by Fresno resulting in an 18-2 rout by the league leading Rams, who are the No. 2 team in northern California.

The Rams got to Cougar starter Matt Rogers for two runs on three hits in the first inning before the Cougar freshman left hander settled down.

Fresno hitters came alive in the fifth, scoring five times – three earned – before lanky sophomore Bryan Sanchez came on to get the final two outs but not before giving up two unearned runs on two hits.  Brett Haney, Caleb Newman and Nick Risucci finished up.

The Cougar defense complicated things by committing five errors.  Seven of Fresno’s runs were unearned.

Fresno scored four runs in the sixth and eighth and finished the game with 19 hits, including five doubles and a homerun.

Taft managed nine hits – six of them against Fresno starter Connor Brogdon, who worked six innings to improve his record to 7-0 and his earned run average to 1.38.  He has struck out 47 batters and walked 16 in his 45.2 innings of work.

The Rams have a team ERA of 2.39.

Zak Taylor and Tucker Salles each had three hits for Fresno.  Thirteen different Rams had base hits.

Designated hitter Keith Tatum went 2-for-5 to lead TC’s nine-hit attack.  Kade Erickson had an RBI double.

When the game turned into a blowout both coaches dipped heavily into their benches. 

Fresno used 19 position players and four pitchers while Cougar head coach Vince Maiocco pressed 16 position players into the action plus five pitchers. 

Fresno solidified its hold on first place in the CVC.  The Rams are 15-1 (20-3 overall). 

Second place Merced is 9-6 (14-10 overall).

TC, ranked 13th in northern California, remained in third place despite losing its fourth CVC game in a row.  The Cougars are 14-8 overall and 7-6 in the conference.

Taft will take another crack at the conference pacesetter Saturday at 1 p.m. at Cougar Field on the TC campus.

COS Beats Cougars for Second Time
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
March 12, 2015

A catcher’s interference call in the top of the ninth inning Thursday led to the winning run as visiting College of the Sequoias came away with a 4-3 victory over Taft College.

It was the second win for COS in the Central Valley Conference series.  The Cougars hope to avoid a sweep when the teams meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in Visalia in the series finale.

After the catcher’s interference call on TC’s Keith Tatum, the Giants got a sacrifice bunt and a soft line drive double down the right field line that scored what proved to be the winning run.

In the home half of the ninth, TC got a leadoff, pinch-hit single from Rick Sottile, who moved to second on Juan Cruz’s sacrifice bunt, but a groundout and a popup ended the threat.

TC got a run in the second when Jeff Gilstrap, who led the Cougars with three hits, singled, moved to third on a single by Tatum and scored on a groundout.

COS took a 3-1 lead in the third on a three-run homer by first baseman Joey Gallegos, but the Cougars tied it in the bottom of the inning on Kade Erickson’s single and back-to-back RBI doubles from Gilstrap and Tatum.

Cougar starter Robby Brewster worked eight innings, gave up three runs on seven hits, struck out four and walked one.

Other CVC scores:
West Hills 4, Merced 2
Fresno 8, Porterville 5

Taft vs College of the Sequoias
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 10, 2015

Kendal Daniels took the mound for the Cougars on Tuesday throwing 5.2 innings giving up no runs until the 6th inning when the Giants scored 3 runs.  Daniels finished the day with 3 strikeouts, 3 walks and gave up only 5 hits.

The Cougar offense was on point all day squaring the ball up but unfortunately they were hitting it right to the defenders.  They still had 10 hits compared to Sequoia's 8.  Their one run came off of a push bunt from shortstop Fabian Gutierrez which scored Michael Dagg. Kade Erickson collected 3 hits on the day with a triple and two singles.  Chris Hopballe and Austin Pendergrass each had 2 hits on the day.

The Cougars lost 5-1 and will host Sequoias at home on Thursday at 2:00.  They are now 14-5 this spring with a 7-3 record in CVC play.

Taft College baseball tops Porterville 8-2 at BC, now ranked 11th in northern California
by Casey Keirnan

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The Taft College Cougars had their "road" games moved to Bakersfield College due to lackluster facilities at Porterville College.

The move worked well for Taft, they topped the Pirates 8-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Link to original article

COS Rallies for 5-1 Baseball Victory Over Cougars
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
March 10, 2015

VISALIA – College of the Sequoias scored three runs on just one hit in the sixth inning here Tuesday afternoon that sparked a 5-1 victory over Taft College.

The Cougars scored a run in the third and were riding behind sophomore lefthander Kendal Daniels until a disastrous sixth inning.

It started when freshman centerfielder Austin Pendergrass mishandled a line drive that turned into a two-base error.

From there the Giants capitalized on three walks, two stolen bases, an RBI single, and two run-scoring passed balls.

An inning later the Giants scored two more runs on single, double, sacrifice fly, a walk and another passed ball.

The Cougars had nine hits in the first six innings but in the final three managed just one.
Freshman outfielder Kade Erickson had three of them, including a triple, the Cougars’ lone extra-base hit.

First baseman Chris Hopballe and Pendergrass had two hits apiece.  Fabian Gutierrez, Michael Dagg and Keith Tatum each had a single.

Gutierrez’s hit scored TC’s lone run.

Dagg opened the third by drawing a walk and Hopballe lined a single to center that send Dagg to third.

Gutierrez laid down what was intended to be a squeeze bunt, but it was so effective it went for a base hit that scored Dagg.

Other than that the Cougars were unable to string hits together to score runs.

None of the three runs Daniels gave up were earned.  He gave up five hits, walked three and struck out three.

With the win the Giants improve to 3-6 in the CVC and 6-12 overall.  The Cougars came away at 7-3 in the conference and 14-5 overall.

The teams will finish their three-game series Saturday in Visalia at 1 p.m.

The Cougars will take next week off, drawing the conference bye.  They will resume CVC play March 24 at home when they open a series with league leader Fresno City College.

Taft vs Porterville College
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 7, 2015

The Cougars traveled to Bakersfield College on Saturday to take on the Porterville Pirates to complete the 3 game sweep with an 8-2 win. 

Matt Rogers threw his best game thus far this spring going 6 innings giving up 0 runs and striking out 5. Rogers is a key component for the Cougar pitching staff giving them a reliable arm to start games and to come in and shut down teams in crucial situations. 

The scoring didn’t start until the top of the 4th when Keith Tatum hit a sacrifice fly to score Fabian Gutierrez.  In the 5th inning Logan Mace entered the game to run as Gutierrez singles to score him from second.  Kade Erickson also singled in the inning to score Gilstrap. 

Kyle Wedel entered the game in the 6th inning and stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.  Wedel worked the count seeing 5 pitches then hit a double down the left field line scoring Gutierrez, Dagg and Sottile. 

The Cougars are now 14-4 this spring and 7-2 in CVC play.  They will travel to College of the Sequoias this Tuesday for the first game of their 3 game series.  Taft will host them at Cougar Field on Thursday the 12th at 2:00.

Taft vs Porterville College
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 5, 2015

Porterville traveled to Taft on Thursday for the second game of the 3 game series.  Chris Hopballe ignited the Cougar offence with a home run in the bottom of the 1st inning. 

Robby Brewster was credited with the win throwing 7 innings giving up only 4 hits, 1 run and 0 earned runs. Blake Betts and Hopballe both entered late in the game to pitch and each had 2 strikeouts.

After Michael Dagg and Nick Kawano got on base in the 3rd, Fabian Gutierrez hit a sacrifice fly to score Dagg and advance Kawano to 3rd.  Jeff Gilstrap was up next and sacrifice flied as well to bring Kawano in. 

Gutierrez was 3-3 on the day with one RBI and a stolen base.  Josh Roelofs (2B) and Gilstrap both collected 2 hits. 

The Cougars won 6-2 and are now 13-4 on the spring and have a 6-2 record in CVC play.  They will travel to Bakersfield College on Saturday to play Porterville College again to finish the 3 game series.

Cougars Come Back, Hold off Porterville
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
March 3, 2015

PORTERVILLE – Taft College rallied for four runs in the eighth and scored what proved to be the winning run in the ninth to claim an 8-7 Central Valley Conference victory at Porterville College.

TC improved to 5-2 in the CVC and 12-4 overall heading into the final game of the series Saturday at Bakersfield College.  Porterville (0-4 CVC, 3-121 overall) plays its home games at BC because its campus field was deemed unplayable by the conference.

The Pirates led 4-3 heading into the eighth when the Cougars scored four times on five hits.  Designated hitter Kade Erickson smacked a two-run single after Keith Tatum and Josh Roelofs hit back-to-back one-out singles and moved up on a wild pitch.

Austin Pendergrass singled and after a fly out he and Erickson advanced on a wild pitch.  That set up Nick Kawano’s two-run single that gave the Cougars 7-4.

Porterville scrapped back in the home half of the inning for two runs on a walk, single, sacrifice and a two-run single from leadoff hitter Florencio Aguilar that cut the lead to 8-6.

With two outs in the top of the ninth Jeff Gilstrap got aboard on an infield error and stole second.  Tatum was safe on another infield miscue that advanced Gilstrap to third.  Those errors were the only ones the Pirates committed.

The Cougars then pulled off a double steal with Tatum swiping second and Gilstrap scoring with what proved to be the winning run.

The Pirates weren’t through, though.

Gabriel Mendez hit a one-out single and Rory French doubled to put the winning runs in scoring position.

Chris Covert hit a run-scoring fly ball to center but the Cougars got the final out to snuff the rally.

Tatum led TC’s 16-hit attack with a 3-for-5 day and an RBI.  Michael Dagg, Kawano, Fabien Gutierrez, Gilstrap and Roelofs all had two hits.  Both of Gutierrez’s hits were doubles.

Gilstrap drove in two runs and had two stolen bases.

Kendal Daniels got his first start on the mound after performing well as a reliever.

The sophomore lefty from Canada worked six innings, did not allow an earned run, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

Blake Betts came on in the seventh to work an inning and two-thirds and pick up his second win. 

After finishing off the series with Porterville the Cougars will take on College of the Sequoias (1-3 CVC, 6-8 overall).  The Tuesday and Saturday games will be in Visalia, and the Cougars will host next Thursday.

CVC Standings
Fresno 7-0, 12-2
Merced 5-1, 10-5
Taft 5-2, 12-4
Reedley 2-4, 5-10
Sequoias 1-3, 6-8
Porterville 0-4, 3-12
W. Hills 0-4, 3-12

Taft vs Porterville College
by Jeff Gilstrap
March 3, 2015

Kendal Daniels got his first start on the mound against Porterville at Bakersfield College on Thursday.  He pitched 6 innings striking out 6 giving 2 runs but both were unearned.  Kendal has been a huge part of the Cougars bullpen so far this season but has proven that he can start as well. 

In the top of the 4th Keith Tatum singled to score Fabian Gutierrez.  This made the score 1-1 going into the top of the 6th where Jeff Gilstrap hit a 2 RBI double scoring Gutierrez and Hopballe.  Porterville was quick to respond in the bottom half of the inning scoring 1.  They tacked on 2 more runs in the 7th making the score 3-4.

The Cougars had a big 8th inning off 2 clutch hits from Kade Erickson and Nick Kawano.  Erickson pinch-hit and drove in Josh Roelofs and Tatum.  Kawano singled before the inning was over scoring Pendergrass and Erickson.

The score was 7-6 for the Cougars going into the 9th inning.  Gilstrap got on base and was able to advance to third off a hit by Tatum.  Tatum stole second and allowed Gilstrap to score making the score 8-6.  Porterville responded in the bottom of the 9th scoring 1 more run but Taft held on to win 8-7. 

Blake Betts was credited for the win on the mound but Alfred Souza and Matt Rogers also made appearances. 

The Cougars are now 12-4 this spring with a 5-2 record in CVC play.  They will play Porterville again Thursday at Cougar Field for game 2 of the 3 game series. Game begins at 2 pm.

Taft vs Reedley College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 28, 2015

Matt Rodgers took the mound for the Cougars against Reedley in this 12-inning roller coaster of a game.  He threw 6 innings giving up 2 earned runs and struck out 3.  Reedley jumped to a quick 1 run lead in the top of this first and were able to tack on 3 more before the Cougar’s offence started rolling. 

In the bottom of the 7th Nick Kawano pinch-hit and singling to score Kade Erickson and advance Michael Dagg to 3rd.  Nick Kawano had a delay steal from 1st base and forced an error by Reedley’s shortstop to score Dagg making the score 3-4.

Reedley was able to scratch one more run across in the top of the 9th putting them up 5-3.  Dagg and Josh Roelofs got on base with 2 outs bringing up Kawano again.  Kawano hit a towering fly ball to center field that bounced out of the glove of their outfielder.  Dagg and Roelofs scored on the unlikely play that evened up the score 5-5.

The game went to the 3 more innings with both teams struggling to score a run.  In the bottom of the 12th short stop Fabian Gutierrez smoked a ball over the right fielders head hitting a double to get the inning going.  Jeff Gilstrap was due up to the plate and hit a ground ball to move Gutierrez to 3rd. Kyle Wedel stepped in to pinch-hit and was hit by the pitch putting him on first.  Roelofs was up next to the plate and bunted Gutierrez in to score with 2 strikes and the Cougars won 6-5. 

Eric Evans gets the win by tossing 4 impressive innings of relief.  The Cougars are now 11-4 this spring and have a 4-2 record in conference putting them in 3rd place behind Fresno and Merced.  They will play a 3 game series against Porterville College this upcoming week.  The March 3rd (2:00 pm) and 7th(1:00pm) games will be held at Bakersfield College and the March 5th game will be held in Taft at Cougar Field at 2:00 pm.

Taft @ Reedley College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 26, 2015

The Cougars lost their second straight at Reedley College yesterday.  They jumped to a quick one run lead in the top of the first inning off of a sac fly from Chris Hopballe scoring Austin Pendergrass but Reedley responded in the 3rd with a 5 run inning.

Robby Brewster was the pitcher for the Cougars throwing 5 innings.  He gave up 7 hits, 5 earned runs, and struck out 3.  Kendal Daniels, Alfred Souza, Blake Betts and Brett Haney followed his performance.  They collectively gave up 4 hits, 3 runs and had only 1 strikeout. 

The Cougar offence was only able to scratch across 1 run compared to Reedley’s 11 hits and 8 runs.  The Cougars are now 10-4 this spring and 3-2 in CVC play.  They hope to finish the 3 game series with a win on Saturday when they host Reedley at 1:00 pm on Cougar Field.

Reedley Pitchers Continue to Dominate Cougars
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
February 26, 2015

Reedley College pitchers continue to throttle Taft College hitters.

For the second time this week, the Cougars couldn’t figure out a Tiger pitcher and on

Thursday lost an 8-1 Central Valley Conference game.

On Tuesday the Tigers thumped Taft 8-2 on a three-hit, complete game performance by Kyle Dunnegan.

This time McKay McNair, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore from Clovis, limited the Cougars to an unearned run on three hits in his eight innings of work.  He improved his record to 2-1. 

McNair spotted the Cougars their only run in the first inning on a hit, error and sacrifice fly from Chris Hopballe, his 12th RBI of the season.

McNair’s teammates jumped on Cougar starter Robby Brewster for five runs on six hits in the third inning.  The first five batters did all the damage with two singles, an RBI double, an RBI single and a three-run homer by designated hitter Josh Montelongo.

Nick Kawano, Keith Tatum, Jeff Gilstrap and Logan Mace had TC’s hits.  Tatum’s was a triple.

The Cougars will try to keep from getting swept when the teams meet in Taft Saturday at 1 p.m. in the finale of the three-game series.

Records: Reedley (2-3 CVC, 5-9 overall), Taft (3-2 CVC, 10-4 overall).

Cougars Looking to get their Mojo Back
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
February 25, 2015

Taft College’s usually prolific hitting was silenced Tuesday when Reedley College ace Kyle Dunnegan pitched a complete-game three hitter and Tiger batters roughed up four Cougar pitchers for 17 hits en route to an 8-2 victory at Cougar Field.

The top of Reedley’s order wore out Cougar pitching.

The first four batters went 13 for 20 including three doubles and drove in half of the Tiger runs.

By contrast, Taft’s top four hitters went 2-for-12 against Dunnegan.  The rest of the lineup managed just a single base hit.  All were singles.

Reedley got to Cougar ace Nick Risucci for four runs – two of them unearned -- on four hits in the first inning.  It was all the Tigers really needed.

The Cougars will try to reverse fortunes Saturday when the teams meet at Cougar Field at 1 p.m. for the finale of the three-game Central Valley Conference series.

They played yesterday in Reedley.  Log on to taftmidwaydriller.com for the details.

Tuesday’s thumping was the Cougars’ first CVC loss after starting the league season 3-0. 

It also ended a seven-game Cougar winning streak.

Taft broke the shutout with two runs in the seventh.

Nick Kawano opened the inning with a single and moved up when Keith Tatum was safe on an infield error.  Fabian Gutierrez drove in Kawano with a single that sent Tatum to third. 

Kade Erickson hit into a groundout that scored Tatum with an unearned run.

Kevin Cordero had the other Cougar hit.

Risucci (2-1) gave up four runs on six hits in his three innings of work striking out one and walking none.

Bryan Sanchez gave up two runs on five hits in an inning and two-thirds.  He struck out two and walked none.

Blake Betts also worked an inning and two-thirds.  He gave up a run on a hit and a walk.

Caleb Newman finished up, giving up a run on five hits.  He struck out one and walked one.

Team records: Reedley 1-3 CVC, 4-9 overall, Taft 3-1 CVC, 10-3 overall.

Taft @ Reedley College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 24, 2015

Taft loses their first game in CVC play on Tuesday to Reedley College.  Reedley’s starting pitcher went all 9 innings allowing 2 runs as Reedley scores 8 to win their first conference game.

Nick Risucci started for the Cougars and went 3 innings giving up 2 earned runs.  Bryan Sanchez, Blake Betts and Caleb Newman followed his performance.  Reedley had 17 hits on the day and scored 6 earned runs.

The Cougars hit the ball hard but didn’t have much to show for with only 3 hits.  Fabian Gutierrez and Kade Erickson had RBI’s. 

Kevin Cordero started in left field but left the game after diving for a ball resulting in an injury. The Cougars hope to have him back soon.  He is hitting .414 with an on base percentage of .667.  Nick Kawano entered the game to replace him and had one hit.

The Cougars lost 8-2 and are now 10-3 on the spring and 3-1 in CVC play.  They will travel to Reedley on Thursday to play game 2 of the series and will be back home on Saturday for game 3.

Cougars go Extra Innings for CVC Sweep
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
February 22, 2015

COALINGA – Pitchers restored order Saturday after hitters dominated the first two games of the Taft College-West Hills Central Valley Conference baseball series.

The Cougars had to go 12 innings before eking out a 4-3 victory that gave them a sweep of the first series.

In the first two games the Cougars scored 26 runs on 36 hits in racking up 12-6 and 14-5 wins.

But on Saturday Braxton Lorenzini silenced the TC bats.  He gave up just two hits and struck out 12 Cougars before coming out with two outs in the seventh.

“We were very fortunate to get a win (Saturday),” said Cougar coach Vince Maiocco.  “He (Lorenzini) is legit.  He’s definitely the best arm we’ve seen this season.”

Reedley next
The Cougars (3-0 CVC, 10-2 overall) will take a seven-game winning streak into this week’s conference series against Reedley College (0-3 CVC, 3-9 overall) that begins today at Cougar Field at 2 o’clock.  Game 2 is at Reedley on Thursday and the series finishes up Saturday in Taft at 1. 

West Hills (0-3 CVC, 3-9 overall) took a 2-0 lead into the ninth when the Cougars pushed over two runs to force overtime.

The rally began when Chris Hopballe was hit by a pitch and moved up on Keith Tatum’s single to left.  It was just TC’s third hit of the game.

Shortstop Fabian Gutierrez grounded into a force play at second that sent Hopballe to third. 

Third baseman Jeff Gilstrap cracked a double that got Hopballe home with the first Cougar run, but Gutierrez was thrown out at home trying to score on the play.

Kevin Cordero got aboard on an infield error that sent Gilstrap to third and pinch-hitter Nick Kawano drilled a single to tie the game.

“Nick had a huge pinch hit for us,” Maiocco said.

In the top of the 12th the Cougars loaded the bases on two hit batters and Braxton Argyle’s single.  An infield error scored a run and Kade Erickson drove in another with a single.
The Cougars still had the bases loaded with no outs but reliever Shawn Kelly struck out Hopballe and got Rey Figueroa to hit into an inning-ending double play.

West Hills scratched out a run in the bottom of the inning on an error, stolen base and RBI single but Kendal Daniels quieted the uprising.

Rogers solid
Lorenzini’s performance tended to overshadow a solid outing from Cougar starter Matt Rogers, who threw eight innings, allowing two runs on seven hits.

“Matt threw a great game,” Maiocco said.  “He didn’t any strikeouts like he usually does, but he was very efficient with his pitches.

After Alfred Souza worked the ninth, Daniels came on to get the save and preserve the win.  He struck out six batters in three innings, allowed one hit and did not walk a batter.

Thursday game
In the second game of the series, played in Taft, the Cougars scored seven times in their first two at-bats and cruised to a 14-5 victory.

Hopballe, a sophomore first baseman from Las Vegas, drove in three runs with a single and homer and Keith Tatum, Jeff Gilstrap and Kevin Cordero all had two hits apiece.

TC jumped on West Hills starter Dakota Stanek (1-3) for five runs in the first inning on a walk, RBI singles by Tatum and Gilstrap and a two-run double by Cordero, who scored the fifth run by stealing home.  The rally also took advantage of two errors.

Hopballe lined a 2-0 pitch over the left field fence in the second to give the Cougars a 7-1 lead.  It was his third homer of the season.

Freshman Robby Brewster got his second win of the season with seven innings of work. 

He allowed an earned run on four hits, struck out nine and walked one.

West Hills bunched four runs in the eighth on four hits, a walk and an error.

Cordero and Michael Dagg each had a double, Hopballe was 2-for-3 and Kawano, Jose Roelofs and Austin Pendergrass had base hits.

CVC Standings
Taft 3-0 (10-2)
Fresno 3-0 (8-2)
Merced 3-0 (8-4)
COS 0-0 (5-5)
Reedley 0-3 (3-9)
West Hills (0-3, 3-9)
Porterville 0-3 (3-10)

Taft @ West Hills College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 21, 2015

The Taft College Cougars traveled to Coalinga on Saturday to play West Hills in their third matchup of the week.  West Hills was hungry for their first win putting up 2 runs through 9 innings and shutting out the Cougar offence until the top of the 9th.

Chris Hopballe and Fabian Gutierrez got the top of the 9th inning going by getting on base bringing up Jeff Gilstrap.  Gilstrap hit a double scoring Hopballe but Gutierrez was thrown out attempting to score.  This put the Cougars down by one run. Nick Kawano stepped in to hit with a runner in scoring position.  He knocked a line drive to left scoring Gilstrap to even up the game.

West Hills was able to get one more run across the board.  Michael Dagg stepped to the plate in the top of the 12th with bases loaded and hit the ball to the third basemen who threw to home.  The catcher caught the ball and looked to stop any other runners from advancing thinking he made the lead out at home.  The umpire called Logan Mace safe because the catcher had positioned himself a foot in front of the plate before catching the ball.  Kade Erickson singled bringing in Nick Kawano making the score 4-3. 

Matt Rogers pitching performance was what allowed the Cougars to stay in this game.  He threw 8 innings giving up 7 hits and only 2 earned runs.  Alfred Souza went 1 inning striking out 1 batter following Rogers. Kendal Daniels was credited with the win coming in for the last 3 innings striking out 6 and giving up only 1 hit.

The final score was 4-3 completing the sweep for Taft College.

The Cougars now have a 10-3 record and are 3-0 in CVC play.  They are the first Northern California team to reach 10 wins this spring.  They play a 3 game series against Reedley College this upcoming week.

Cougars Rout West Hills 14-5
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
February 19, 2015

Taft College improved to 2-0 in the Central Valley Conference (9-2 overall) Thursday afternoon by pounding out 13 hits in a 14-5 victory over visiting West Hills-Coalinga.

The Cougars will try to sweep the series Saturday when the teams meet in Coalinga at 1 p.m.

Sophomore first baseman Chris Hopballe drove in three runs with a single and homer and Keith Tatum, Jeff Gilstrap and Kevin Cordero all had two hits apiece.

TC jumped on West Hills starter Dakota Stanek (1-3) for five runs in the first inning on a walk, RBI singles by Tatum and Gilstrap and a two-run double by Cordero, who scored the fifth run by stealing home.  The rally also took advantage of two errors.

Hopballe lined a 2-0 pitch over the left field fence in the second to give the Cougars a 7-1 lead.  It was his third homer of the season.

Freshman Robby Brewster got his second win of the season with seven innings of work. 

He allowed an earned run on four hits, struck out nine and walked one.

Taft @ West Hills College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 19, 2015

West Hills College traveled to Taft on Thursday to take on the Cougars in the 2nd CVC game of the season.  Robby Brewster took the mound throwing 7 innings giving up only 4 hits and struck out 9.

West Hills jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the first after Brewster gave up his only walk of the day.  The Cougar offence didn’t take long to respond.  Keith Tatum and Jeff Gilstrap both had RBI singles and Kevin Cordero doubled bringing in Tatum and Gilstrap.  The 1st inning ended with a score of 5-1.

Chris Hopballe stays hot hitting his 3rd homerun of the year bringing in Kade Erickson.  Hopballe had 2 hits and 3 RBI’s on the day.

Rickey Sotille entered the game in the 7th and hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Kevin Rocha.  Later in the inning Michael Dagg doubled bringing in Kevin Cordero and Kyle Wedel. 

Brewster came out in the 7th inning after giving up only 1 run.  Hank Johnson, Brett Haney and Eric Evans followed his performance. 

Chris Hopballe, Keith Tatum, Jeffrey Gilstrap and Kevin Cordero each collect 2 hits for the Cougars.  Michael Dagg, Kyle Wedel, Nick Kawano, Josh Roelofs and Rickey Sottile all had RBI’s in the win.  

The Cougars are 9-2 on the year and 2-0 in CVC play. They will travel to West Hills to finish the 3 game series this Saturday.

Cougars Open CVC Campagne with 23 Hit Performance
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
February 18, 2015

COALINGA – Taft College sprayed base hits all over Keith Scrivner Field here Tuesday as the Cougars kicked off the Central Valley Conference baseball season with a 12-6 win over West Hills College.

TC banged 23 hits – 21 singles, a double and a triple – with four players collecting four hits apiece.

Freshman shortstop Fabian Gutierrez smacked a triple and three singles, designated hitter Josh Roelofs a double and three singles and first baseman Chris Hopballe and centerfielder Austin Pendergrass four singles each.  Hopballe drove in two runs and

Pendergrass, a freshman from Taft High, one.

Right fielder Kade Erickson went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs and leadoff hitter Michael Dagg had two hits, a walk and an RBI.

The Cougars scored five runs in the first and four in the second before adding two in the fourth for an 11-0 lead before the Falcons bunched four runs in the sixth. 

Roelofs had a two-run double in the first inning and Gutierrez a two-run triple in the second.

The bottom of the order did most of the damage for the Cougars.

The 7-through-9 hitters – Erickson, Roelofs and Pendergrass – went 11-for-16 and drove in four runs.  Hitters 1-through-4 went 7-for-21.

Nick Risucci started for the Cougars on the mound and earned his second win.  He pitched five shutout innings before giving up four runs in the sixth.  He struck out two and walked one.

Bryan Sanchez, Kendal Daniels, Logan Mace, Blake Betts and Caleb Newman finished up.  Cougar hurlers combined for seven strikeouts and just two walks, but gave up 13 hits.

West Hills starter Joe Cochran got a rough greeting.  He gave up nine earned runs on nine hits, walked three and struck out two in an inning and two-thirds.

Catcher Keith Tatum and third baseman Jeff Gilstrap also had base hits.

With all those base runners, TC hit into three double plays and stranded 17 runners.  West Hills left nine on base.

Neither team committed an error.
The Cougars will make another trip to Coalinga Saturday to finish the three-game series. 

They played Thursday in Taft.  Check taftmidwaydriller.com for information on that game.

Next week the Cougars will host two of their three games against Reedley College.

Other conference opening day scores: Merced 15, Porterville 3; Fresno 7, Reedley 3.  Sequoias drew the bye but will play two non-conference games at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento today and Saturday.

Taft @ West Hills College
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 17, 2015

After completing the pre season with a 7-2 record the Cougars jumped into Central Valley Conference against West Hills College.  They made their presence known in the top of the first inning jumping to a quick 5-0 lead with singles by Fabian Gutierrez, Jeff Gilstrap and Kade Erickson.  Josh Roelofs doubled before the inning concluded.

Taft used 6 pitchers in this game including Nick Risucci who started.  He pitched 5.2 innings giving up 9 hits, 4 runs and struck out 4.  Bryan Sanchez, Kendal Daniels, Logan Mace, Blake Betts and Caleb Newman finished off West Hill’s offensive game. 

Fabian Gutierrez, Chris Hopballe, Josh Roelofs and Austin Pendergrass each collect 4 hits apiece and Kade Erickson goes 3x4 in Taft College's 12-6 win vs. West Hills College. The Cougars are now 8-2 overall and 1-0 in the Central Valley Conference and will continue their 3-game series with the Falcons this Thursday at 2 in Taft at Cougar Field.

TC Opens CVC Season
by Dennis McCall
February 17, 2015

After sweeping its last three-game non-conference series the Taft College baseball team has some bounce in its step heading into Central Valley Conference play today.

The Cougars finished the pre-conference grind at 7-2, one of the best starts in recent history, and hope to keep the trend going when they travel to Coalinga today to begin a three-game series against West Hills College.

The teams will play at Cougar Field Thursday at 2 p.m. and finish the series on Saturday at Coalinga.

“I’ve been coaching here since 2002 and I think this is the best start we’ve ever had,” said head coach Vince Maiocco.  “It’s a great start and gives us a lot of confidence heading into conference.”

The Cougars capped the nine-game conference tune-up – all of them at home – by sweeping a doubleheader from Monterey Peninsula, 10-3 and 8-7, on Friday and building up a 10-0 lead before capping the series with a 12-5 win over Cerro Coso on Saturday.

“I like the way we’re winning,” Maiocco said.  “We’re getting some clutch hits.  We’re finding ways to win.  That’s a good sign.  Our guys are battling until the final out.”

He was especially pleased with the come-from-behind 8-7 win over Monterey in the second game of Friday’s twin bill.

The Cougars trailed 7-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh.  They scored three to get close and three more in the eighth to win it.

Eric Evans shut out the Lobos in the ninth to preserve the win.

What gives Maiocco an extra measure of confidence heading into CVC battles is his bullpen.

“The one common denominator we’ve had so far is our relief pitching,” he said.  “Our bullpen has done a phenomenal job.”

Talent and depth have allowed Maiocco to bring in hurlers for situational pitching.

“We’re able to bring in a right-hander to pitch to a right-hander and a lefty to pitch to a left-handed batter.  It’s nice to have that option.”

The statistics bear that out. 
A dozen Cougar hurlers saw action in the series.

No. 1 starter Nick Risucci will throw the league opener today and hopes to bounce back after a rough outing in the 8-7 win over Monterey Friday.

After retiring the first seven batters he faced, Risucci gave up two singles and a walk but got out of the third without allowing a run.

Then he gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits (2 of them homers) in the fourth before giving way to Alfred Souza, one of the nine relievers Maiocco used.

As the conference campaign begins Fresno (5-2), Merced (5-4) and Sequoias (4-4) are expected to battle it out for conference supremacy.  In preseason northern California rankings, Sequoias was No. 4, Fresno No. 6, Merced No. 13 and Taft No. 19.

“It’s the same cast of characters,” Maiocco said.  “The MVP of the conference last year is back at Merced.  Fresno and COS are always loaded.”

The Cougars hope to crash the party.

Jeff Gilstrap: 4-for-11, 6 RBI, double
Keith Tatum: 5-for-7, 2 RBI, double, 2 runs, 3 BB
Michael Dagg: 4-for-9, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 2 runs
Nick Kawano: 3-for-8, double, 3 runs
Chris Hopballe: 3-run homer, 3 walks
Rey Figueroa: 3-for-9, 2 runs
Robby Brewster: 6.0 inn. 2 ER, 6 H, 4 SO, 1 BB
Matt Rogers: 6.2 inn. 1 ER, 8 H, 5 SO, 1 BB
Eric Evans: save (his 2nd)

Taft vs Cerro Coso
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 14, 2015

Matt Rogers goes 6 2/3 innings, only allows 1 earned run and picks up his 2nd win on the year.  Alfred Souza, Kendal Daniels and Caleb Newman followed his performance. 

The scoring for the Cougars started in the bottom of the second when Jeff Gilstrap singled to score Keith Tatum who singled earlier in the inning.  Austin Pendergrass and Rick Sotille walked bringing up Michael Dagg who singled to bring in Gilstrap and Pendergrass. 

The Cougars had a big 5 run inning in the 4th.  Tatum doubled bringing in Dagg and Josh Roelofs.  Rey Figueroa singled bringing in Tatum and Gilstrap doubled to clear the bases. 

Kyle Wedel entered the game and hit a double to score Figueroa and Kevin Rocha in a clutch situation.

Coach Maiocco is pleased with his bullpen pitchers coming into the game and dominating.  He believes this will give the Cougars an edge going into CVC play.

Third baseman Jeff Gilstrap goes 3x3 with 4 RBI as the Cougars beat Cerro Coso College 12-5. 

Dagg, Roeloefs, Tatum, Figueroa and Wedel recorded RBI’s while Tatum and Wedel both doubled in the victory.

The Cougars are now 7-2 on the season and start CVC play Tuesday at West Hills College in Coalinga.

Taft vs Monterey Peninsula DH
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 13, 2015

Game 2:
The Cougars took full advantage of their bullpen using 7 pitchers in this 9-inning comeback victory.  Nick Risucci started and went 3.1 innings giving up 7 hits, 5 earned runs and had 2 strikeouts.  Alfred Souza, Kendal Daniels, Logan Mace, Hank Johnson, Blake Betts (W) and Eric Evan’s followed his performance.

The scoring started early for the Cougars as they jumped to an early 1 run lead in the first.  Michael Dagg lead off with a walk and was later brought in to score off of a Fabian Gutierrez single.  

Both sides struggled to score until the bottom of the 4th when Monterey’s Boyle homered to start a 6 run inning.  They tacked on one more run in the 5th making the score 7-1.

Kade Erickson singled to get the bottom of the 5th inning going.  Dagg was hit by a pitch-putting runners on first and second.  Kawano hit into a fielder’s choice advancing Erickson to 3rd and leaving him on 1st.  Fabian Gutierrez singled bringing in Dagg making it 7-2. 

Erickson singled again to start the bottom of the 7th for the Cougars.  Kawano and Chris Hopballe walked loading up the bases.  Gutierrez grounded out to the pitcher bringing in one run leaving runners on second and third.  Jeff Gilstrap singled to center bringing in 2 runs before the inning ended. 

Kevin Cordero led off the 8th inning bringing up Blake Betts.  Betts belted a ball over the center fielders head scoring Cordero and shifting the momentum.  Betts attempted to advance to 3rd base on the throw home and forced an overthrow bringing him in to score as well.  Dagg singled and moved to scoring position for Gutierrez to bring him in for the go ahead run. 

Evans shut out the 9th on the mound and the Cougars pulled off the 8-7 victory.

Game 1:
Robby Brewster took the mound for the Cougars against Monterey in the first game of Friday’s double-header.  Brewster got the win after facing 27 batters through 6 innings giving up 9 hits, 2 earned runs, and struck out 4.  Alfred Souza, Bryan Sanchez, and Brett Haney threw one inning following his performance.

The scoring didn’t start for the Cougars until a 5 run inning in the bottom of the fourth.  Keith Tatum lead off the inning getting hit by the pitch, Fabian Gutierrez singled and Jeff Gilstrap walked to load up the bases.  Austin Pendergrass was hit by a pitch bringing in one run followed by a walk from Michael Dagg to score another. 

Chris Hopballe hit a homerun in the 6th bringing in Nick Kawano and Dagg.  Rey Figueroa singled to bring in Tatum later in the inning.

Nick Kawano (2B) and Chris Hopballe (HR) recorded extra base hits.  Michael Dagg, Chris Hopballe, Kyle Wedel, Rey Figueroa and Austin Pendergrass had RBI’s.

The Cougars won 10-3.

Taft vs Folsom Lake
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 7, 2015

Taft bounced back after leaving the field with a bitter taste on Friday.  It was a rainy morning for the Cougars but after hours of rain and numerous bags of Diamond Dry it was time to play ball.

Matt Rogers took the mound for the Cougars throwing 7 innings striking out 9 hitters, giving up only 3 hits and 1 earned run.  Matt’s performance was followed by Caleb Newman and Eric Evans who both threw one inning.  Evans had 2 strikeouts.

Cougars jumped to an early lead in the bottom of the first after Chris Hopballe doubled to bring in Michael Dagg and Nick Kawano.  Keith Tatum grounded out to shortstop bringing in Kawano before the inning ended.

Gilstrap walked to start the bottom of the second.  Dagg doubled to bring in Austin Pendergrass and Gilstrap putting them up 4-0.

Fabian Gutierrez and Gilstrap both singled to start the bottom of the 3rd.  Pendergrass singled bringing in Gutierrez and advancing Gilstrap to 3rd.  Dagg stepped to the plate and hit a sacrifice fly to score Gilstrap.  Later in the inning Kawano singled moving Pendergrass around the bases.  Hopballe singled bringing in Pendergrass.  Keith Tatum doubled to bring in Kawano. 

Kade Erickson reached first on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the fourth.  Pendergrass singled advancing Erickson to scoring position for the Cougars.  Dagg singled bringing in Erickson and moving Pendergrass to 3rd.  Kawano hit a sacrifice fly to center field bringing in Pendergrass. Gutierrez tripled scoring 2 runs before the 7 run inning was over. 

A pitch hit Rickey Sottile after entering the game getting the bottom of the 5th going.  Sottile was moved over by Dagg.  Kevin Cordero entered the game and grounded out to shortstop bringing in Sottile. 

The Cougars offence responded to Roger’s shutout innings on the mound.  They had a total of 14 hits and 15 RBI’s.  Dagg, Gutierrez, Tatum and Hopballe (2) had extra base hits.  RBI’s were recorded by Dagg (3), Kawano, Cordero, Hopballe (2), Tatum (5), Gutierrez (2) and Pendergrass.  Dagg and Kawano both had a sacrifice fly.

Taft vs Siskiyous
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 6, 2015

The Cougars showed up on Friday looking to beat College of the Siskiyous again after polishing off the win 3-2 the day before. 

Robby Brewster pitched 6.1 innings giving up 10 hits and 3 earned runs.  Alfred Souza, Blake Betts, Bryan Sanchez, Kendal Daniels, Hank Johnson and Brett Haney followed Brewster’s performance.  Coach Maiocco likes his matchups with certain pitchers against specific offensive hitters so he likes to utilize the staff’s depth.

Siskiyous started their scoring with a triple by Higgs bringing in Neese.  Higgs ended up crossing home on a wild pitch.  The cougars struggled defensively, which cost them runs in return. 

Michael Dagg singled in the bottom of the 5th to bring in Braxton Argyle making the score 2-1.  Santiago responded for Siskiyous in the top of the 6th hitting in Clack.  Chris Hopballe’s homerun in the bottom of the eighth brought life back to the Cougars offense but they could not regain the lead.

Taft lost to Siskiyous 6-3.   Keith Tatum (2B) and Chris Hopballe (HR) recorded extra base hits. Michael Dagg (1) and Hopballe (1) had RBI’s.

Taft vs Siskiyous
by Jeff Gilstrap
February 5, 2015

The Cougars played behind last weeks Northern California Player of the Week, Nick Risucci against College of the Siskiyous Thursday afternoon. Rissuci gave up only one hit in his previous outing against Feather River.

The offensive scoring for the Cougars was started by Jeff Gilstrap who hit a one run homerun in the bottom of the second inning. Siskiyous was quick to respond in the 3rd putting one run on the board. They were able to bring one more run across in the top of the 5th leaving the Cougars trailing 2-1.

Rissuci threw 6 innings giving up 6 hits and 2 earned runs. Alfred Souza came in and shut down 3 batters in the 7th, giving the Cougars the momentum going into the bottom half of the inning.

Chris Hopballe and Keith Tatum got the inning going with 2 walks. Runners were on 1st and 2nd for shortstop Fabian Gutierrez who singled to bring in Hopballe to even the score. Jeff Gilstrap hit a sacrifice fly to left field bringing in Tatum to put the Cougars up by 1.

Kendal Daniels and Eric Evans shut down the Siskiyous offence for the remainder of the game.

The final score was 3-2 making the Cougars record 3-1. Nick Kawano, Chris Hopballe, Josh Roelofs, and Austin Pendergrass all had stolen bases. Extra base hits were credited to Josh Roelofs (2B) and Gilstrap (HR).  RBI’s were recorded by Fabian Gutierrez (1) and Jeff Gilstrap (2).

The Cougars are set to take on Siskiyous again Friday morning at 10:30.

Cougars Host 3 Games This Week, Get Ready for Conference
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
February 7, 2015

Taft College has one more three-game series to get ready for Central Valley Conference baseball action, and after going 2-and-1 in the first two the Cougars are hoping for a sweep this time.

“In baseball you will take two wins out of three anytime, and we did that,” said head coach Vince Maiocco.  “But if you have an opportunity to be 3-for-3 you need to work hard for that.  I really like the start we’re off to, but we need to be more consistent.”

That’s the team goal when Monterrey Peninsula College (1-5) comes to town Friday for a 10:30 a.m. doubleheader at Cougar Field.  On Saturday the Cougars will host Cerro Coso College (3-3) of Ridgecrest in a single game at 1 p.m.

Then it’s on to conference wars beginning Feb. 17 at West Hills College in Coalinga.

Last week the Cougars split a pair with College of the Siskiyous – winning 3-2 with a two-run seventh inning rally and losing 6-3 before closing things out on a rainy Saturday by scoring early and often in a 17-4 rout of Folsom Lake College.

“Siskiyous is significantly better this year,” Maiocco said.  “In the game we lost, our hitters just didn’t have a good approach against their pitcher.  We didn’t get good swings.”

Maiocco formerly coached at Siskiyous and the Eagles’ head coach, Billy Hefflinger, played for Maiocco.

Siskiyous touched seven Cougar pitchers for 14 hits in the Eagles’ 6-3 win.

The Cougars got good pitching, though, in games one and three.

Nick Risucci, who was the northern California Pitcher-of-the-Week after his season-opening one-hit gem against Solano College, worked six strong innings.  He gave up two earned runs on six hits, struck out three and walked one.

One of he hits he gave up was a solo homer to Robert Higgs, his former teammate at Bonanza High in Las Vegas.

“He’s hit me pretty well for the last five or six years,” Risucci said.  “He owns me.”
Risucci left the game in the sixth trailing 2-1 but the Cougars scored two runs in the seventh for the win.
First baseman Chris Hopballe worked a 1-out walk and promptly stole second.  Catcher Keith Tatum also drew a walk and shortstop Fabian Gutierrez’s line drive single scored Hopballe.

A wild pitch put Tatum on third, and he scored what proved to be the winning run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of third baseman Jeff Gilstrap.

The Cougars also got a solid pitching performance from freshman left-hander Matt Rogers, who worked seven innings in the romp over Folsom Lake, giving up an earned run on three hits, striking out nine and walking none.

Cougar pitchers walked just two batters over the three games and struck out 23.

“Matt did a nice job of pitching,” Maiocco said.  “Overall, our pitching has been pretty good.”

Rogers’ performance was overshadowed a bit by the Cougars’ hitting display.

TC scored twice in the first and second, put up five runs in the third and followed that with a seven-run fourth to put the game out of sight at 16 zip.

The Cougars had 14 hits and took advantage of five Folsom errors.

Tatum drove in five runs and Hopballe and leadoff hitter Michael Dagg plated three runs. 

The Cougars smacked a triple (Gutierrez) and four doubles (Hopballe 2, Dagg and Tatum.

Hopballe, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore from Las Vegas, went 6-for-9 in the series with three runs batted in, two doubles, and scored three times.

Dagg had five hits and drove in five runs, Tatum was 3-for-8 with five RBIs and a double, Gutierrez had a triple, drove in three runs and scored twice, Gilstrap was 3-for-9 with two RBIs and three runs scored, and Nick Kawano had three hits, drove in a run and scored once.

Taft Falls to Barstow
by Jeff Gilstrap
January 31, 2015

The Cougars jumped to an early lead against Barstow in the 1st inning with a hit from Keith Tatum bringing in Michael Dagg.  They gave up the lead in the 4th and could not regain control of the game.

Matt Rogers was given the loss with 4 innings pitched and two earned runs given up.  It was a rough defensive outing for the Cougars with 3 fielding errors on the day.

Keith Tatum and Jeff Gilstrap recorded extra base hits.  Rey Figueroa and Tatum were credited with RBI’s.

It was a humbling loss for the Cougars but they plan to bounce back against College of The Siskiyous and Folsom Lake this upcoming weekend.

Cougars on the Prowl
by Jeff Gilstrap
January 30, 2015

The Cougars showed up Saturday afternoon hungry for a win. They took the field against the number 5 ranked Feather River in a game that will be remembered for a long time.

Robby Brewster stepped up to the challenge throwing 6 innings and giving up only one run while Feather River’s O’Keeffe Hall threw six innings giving up 0 runs. 

The game went scoreless until the 6th inning when Michael Sanderson of the Golden Eagles hit a sacrifice fly to score Nathan Reynolds.  The Cougars responded in the bottom of the 7th with a bunt from Josh Roelofs bringing in Fabian Gutierrez to even the score 1-1.

Sanderson singled to bring in Reynolds again in the top of the 8th which gave The Cougars momentum going into the ninth. 

After a clutch walk in the bottom of the 9th from Cougars Juan Cruz, Braxton Argyle was called to pinch run.  Michael Dagg stepped to the plate looking to even up the score as he hit a towering fly ball to shallow to right field.  Three Golden Eagles closed in on the ball as it dropped to the ground.  Argyle crosses the plate and evens the score 2-2.

The game was cut short as the sun fell behind the mountain and was set to be finished the next morning in the 11th inning.

Both teams stormed the field looking to seal the victory.  Argyle reached 2nd on an error by the left fielder in the fourteenth inning.  Austin Pendergrass bunted him over to put him in scoring position-bringing Dagg to the plate yet again.  He took the first pitch setting up the suicide bunt, which brought Argyle across to win the game. 

The Cougars used a total of 9 pitchers including: Robby Brewster, Bryan Sanchez, Kendal Daniels, Alfred Souza, Eric Evans, Caleb Newman, Hank Johnson, Blake Betts, and Chris Hopballe who was credited with the win.  Hits were recorded by: Fabian Gutierrez, Kade Erickson and Josh Roelofs.

Risucci's Gem Powers Cougars in Baseball Opener
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
January 29, 2015

 Sophomore right-hander Nick Risucci struck out the first batter he faced Friday in Taft College’s baseball opener against visiting Solano College from Fairfield.

The next guy, though, Alvaro Rubacalba, socked one out of the park to give Solano a quick 1-0 lead at Cougar Field.

Risucci took command and retired the next 24 batters he faced through eight innings to help the Cougars to a 6-1 victory.  He needed just 65 pitches.  Reliever Kendal Daniels retired all three batters he faced in the ninth – two by strikeout.

Freshman catcher Keith Tatum went 2-for-3 for TC at the plate, drove in two runs, scored a run and walked.

Taft High product Austin Pendergrass was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
The Cougars had 10 hits, nine of them singles. 

TC will try to make it two in a row today against Feather River (Quincy) at 2 p.m. 

Solano and Feather River will collide in the morning game at 10:30.

Barstow will join the three-day, four-team mini-tournament on Saturday, playing Feather River at 10:30 a.m. and the Cougars at 2 p.m.

Fans may struggle finding parking because spring semester classes are in session. 

Taft College Opens with Authority

by Jeff Gilstrap
January 29, 2015

 Taft took on Solano College for the opening game of the 2015 season.  Nick Risucci took the mound for the Cougars throwing only 65 pitches allowing one hit and one walk through his 8 innings pitched.

Solano jumped to an early one run lead after a homerun was given up by Risucci. This lit the fire as the Cougars went on to collect 10 hits as a team with no errors on defense.

Kendal Daniels closed out the 9th inning retiring 3 batters in a row with 2 strikeouts. 

The Cougars offence manufactured 6 runs with RBI’s credited to Nick Kawano, Austin Pendergrass, Keith Tatum (2), Josh Roelofs, and Kade Erickson.

Other Cougar hits accounted for were from Michael Dagg, Fabian Gutierrez, and Jeff Gilstrap. 

Coach Maiocco was pleased with the way his players executed hit and runs which got the wheels turning for the Cougar offense.

Cougars Open Baseball Season with 9 Home Games
Taft Midway Driller
by Dennis McCall
January 26, 2015

 Local baseball fans can get a jump on the season this week when Taft College launches a new campaign with three home games – the first of nine in a row.

And for the diehards there’ll be a couple of other match-ups among the three visiting teams that will be playing at Cougar Field Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“We’ll have five games in three days,” said head coach Vince Maiocco, entering his 12th season as the Cougar baseball boss.

“It’ll give us a good look at what we have,” he said.  “We had a very, very good fall season.  We played some four-year schools that really challenged us.”

Coming to town to help christen the season are  Solano College of Fairfield, Feather River College of Quincy and Barstow College of, well, Barstow.

The schedule:
Thursday –Taft vs. Solano at 1:30 p.m.
Friday – Solano vs. Feather River at 10:30 a.m.; Taft vs. Feather River at 2 p.m.
Saturday – Feather River vs. Barstow at 10:30 a.m.; Taft vs. Barstow at 2 p.m.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Maiocco said.  “All nine of our games leading to conference play will be at home.”

TC has never played Solano before but Feather River has become a familiar foe when the Cougars kick off a season.  The Golden Eagles are one of the top programs in the state and are usually in the hunt for the state title.

“We have a few other teams on the schedule that are new,” he added.  “Mid-season we’ll play Fullerton, Riverside and Moorpark.”

He likes the progress he’s seen in his team since the beginning of the fall season.

“I really like the direction we’re going,” he said, despite losing nine key players who moved on to the next level.  They included all-conference pitchers Kevin Little (1.86 ERA) and Brandon Van Stone (2.61 ERA).  Little was co-Pitcher of the Year in the conference and first-team all-state.

“We have good pitching depth this year,” he said, “which allows us to create some situational match-ups.”

Nick Risucci, 4-4 with a 3.60 ERA, leads the pitching corps.  Robby Brewster, a transfer from College of Southern Nevada, also is a likely starter.

Offensively, he has more power in the lineup.

“We have some guys in the middle of the lineup that can swing the bat with power,” he said. 

One of them is freshman catcher Keith Tatum, who played high school ball in Bishop.

Another rookie who can hit with power is shortstop Fabian Gutierrez from Selah, WA.

“He’s not built like a shortstop at 6-1 and 220,” Maiocco said.  “He gives us a solid left handed hitter in the lineup.”  Gutierrez throws right and hits left.

The Cougars have good depth both on the infield and in the outfield,

“We have a very solid infield and we have six or seven outfielders who are pretty even,”
Maiocco said.  “We’re expecting a lot of competition for those starting outfield positions.”

The rest of the non-conference grind looks like this:
Feb. 6 Siskiyous (doubleheader); Feb. 7 Folsom Lake; Feb. 13 Monterey (DH); Feb. 14 Cerro Coso.

TC will open the conference schedule at West Hills in Coalinga on Feb. 17.

Ghouls vs Goblins
by Jeff Gilstrap
November 6, 2014

 On Thursday, October 30th the Taft College Cougars held their second annual Halloween game.  The players sported their favorite Halloween costumes in the 5 inning showdown between the Ghouls and Goblins. The players were ecstatic and the crowd was on the tip of their chairs watching the array of characters put on a show.  Position players took the mound to pitch while the pitchers were allowed to throw on a helmet and hit.   It was fun for the players to loosen up and put their personalities into their costumes.  This will be a tradition Coach Vince Maiocco hopes to keep going for years to come.

more pics

Student Athlete Spotlight
February 2013


Merced College Baseball Defense Drops Ball Again

by Sean Lynch
Merced Sun-Star
February 22, 2012

Pitching and defense are the philosophy on which the Merced College baseball team has been built.
The theory being, if both are sound, you've always got a chance to win.

The Blue Devils' pitching has been very solid over the first three weeks of the season, but defensive miscues have led to blown leads in three of their last four ballgames. MC made it four games in five as a pair of two-error innings opened the door for a Taft comeback on Tuesday afternoon at Blue Devil Field.

Catcher Pierce Belaustegui made the Blue Devils pay, blasting a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning that proved to be the difference in a 6-5 Cougars Central Valley Conference-opening victory.

"One bad defensive inning and one bad inning of pitching was all it took," MC head coach Chris Pedretti said. "You can't give teams extra outs or base runners, and we were guilty of both.

"We hit the ball well. We got a lot of people on base, it was just one of those tough-luck games that happens in baseball sometimes."

It didn't look like it was going to be that way for most of the afternoon.

MC got men on base in eight of the nine innings and had hits in seven of nine.

The NorCal No. 6 Blue Devils (0-1 CVC, 6-3) didn't see a lot of payoff for their efforts early, but finally got to Taft starting pitcher Corey Gilligan in the fifth inning.

Ricky McColloch singled in a run to open the scoring. Sammy Ramirez then walked in a run and Kirk Rocha added a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

MC starter Russell Longworth limited Taft to just two runs, one earned, while striking out eight in seven complete innings.

Ryan McDaniel relieved him, but exited quickly after hitting two batters following a strikeout.

Closer Carl Jameson relieved McDaniel, but left with an injury after walking the bases loaded.

Derick Velazquez came on and surrendered a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3-3. Two pitches later, Belaustegui deposited a ball over the left-field wall to give Taft (1-0, 5-5) a 6-3 lead.

Matt Farias got the Blue Devils back in striking distance with a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth, but MC stranded the tying run in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings.

The Blue Devils left 11 on base in the game.

Skinner, Sanchez Set Pace as TC Takes 2 of 3
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
February 13, 2012

Taft, Calif. —
Taft College leadoff batter Chase Skinner put his mark in the scorebook time and again as the Cougars won two out of three games in their mini-tournament with College of the Siskiyous and Barstow College.

Skinner went 8-for-14 with a triple and two doubles, scored seven runs, drove in two runs, and stole four bases – including home.  He had a total of 12 bases.

The Cougars split with Siskiyous – winning 9-5 on Thursday and losing 7-6 on Friday before finishing things out with an 8-0 win over Barstow Saturday behind Allan Sanchez’s complete-game two-hit shutout.

Sophomore first baseman Forrest Smith went 4-for-11 with a double and three-run homer to drive in six runs.
Skinner – the smallest player on the team at 5-6, 165 – transferred to TC from Cerro Coso College in Ridgecrest after playing at Legacy High in Las Vegas.

His big series boosted his batting average to .468 and hiked his number of stolen bases to seven.

Smith is hitting .350 and leads the team with two homers and eight runs batted in.

Sanchez, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound sophomore right-hander from Puerto Rico, has 16 strikeouts in 15 innings of work and has not walked a batter.  With the shutout of Barstow he lowered his earned run average to 0.60.
He delivered 72.6 percent of his 106 pitches in the strike zone.

TC had 30 hits in the series and came close to a sweep were it not for the one-run loss in the second game.
The Cougars trailed from the start after Siskiyous roughed up starter Cole Bryant, who gave up five runs (three earned) on six hits in two and a third innings.

TC trailed 6-3 heading into the seventh when Smith evened the score with his line drive, three-run dinger over the 343 sign in right field.  On the previous pitch, he socked one out that was barely foul.
But Siskiyous scored in the top of the eighth to pull out the win.

P.J. Matha and Matt Gunderson pitched well in relief, each giving up an earned run.

Skinner and Smith had three hits apiece in the series opener and Corey Gilligan got the win, working seven innings.  He gave up one earned run on six hits, struck out five and walked two.

Luis Trinidad went 4-for-8 in the series and scored a run.  Anthony Uran had a double and two singles and stole three bases. Cougar runners swiped 11 in all.

The Cougars, who are 2-4 in the non-conference grind, will be in Monterey Friday and Saturday.  They’ll play Lassen (2-4) twice – at 2 on Friday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday – and Monterey Peninsula (3-0) at 2 on Saturday.

Fans can follow Cougar games on the Internet over Gamechanger, which provides live pitch-by-pitch coverage.
To sign up for the service, visit Gamechanger.io.  The fee is $7.99 a month or $33.99 for a year.

Feather River Sweeps Cougars in Baseball
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
February 7, 2012

Taft, Calif. —
When you get swept in your season-opening three-game series, you look for the positives.

That’s what Taft College baseball coach Vince Maiocco found after visiting Feather River College took a three-game
Friday/Saturday series by scores of 7-2, 4-3 and 7-6 in 10 innings.

There were some good pitching efforts, and the Cougars committed just a single error over the three games.
“Those are positives,” he said.  “Despite everything, I’ve got a good feeling about this team.  They’ve got some fight in them.”

The biggest disappointment was the inability to score with runners in scoring position.
“We certainly had our opportunities in all three games, especially the two we lost by a run,” he said.  “Those opportunities you just can’t let go by.”

He was especially disturbed with the inability to bunt successfully.

“We really struggled in the bunting game,” he said.  “We had a great suicide squeeze by Chase (Skinner) that got us a tie in Saturday’s game, but overall we couldn’t get a bunt down when we needed to.”

In Saturday’s loss, after Skinner’s eighth-inning squeeze bunt pulled the Cougars even in the bottom of the eighth, the game ended on a strange note.

Cougar reliever Brad Smith came on in the 10th and actually struck out four batters, but leadoff hitter Kyle Ford got on base when he whiffed at a wild pitch. 

Smith struck out the next two batters but gave up an infield single, a walk and another hit that scored Ford.  His fourth strikeout ended the inning, but the damage was done.

In the first game of the series 6-foot-7 Eagle starter, Alex Vetter limited the Cougars to just two hits over his six innings of work while his teammates supported him with a 12-hit effort.

Cougar starter Allan Sanchez gave up just one earned run, struck out nine and did not walk a batter in six innings.
In the second game freshman Cole Bryant had four solid innings in relief, giving up an earned run on four hits, striking out six and walking none.

Four Cougar pitchers struck out 14 batters in the final game of the series.

Skinner and Forrest Smith were 3-for-5 on Saturday and Sean Arbaut also had three hits in the series.
Clem Ferrer cracked the team’s first homer.

The Cougars will try to rebound this week with home games against College of the Siskiyous Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 10:30 a.m. and a single game Saturday against Barstow at 1:30 p.m.  Siskiyous and Barstow also will play Saturday morning.

Cougar Nine Cautiously Optimistic
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
February 2, 2012

Taft, Calif. —
Taft College baseball coach Vince Maiocco has some questions about the 2012 edition of the Cougars.
“I’m excited as always, but we’re kind of an unknown quantity this year,” he said.  “We could have a good team, and we could have an average team.”

He may find some answers today and tomorrow when Feather River College – one of the strongest programs in the state – visits for a three-game series.

The teams are playing a doubleheader today and a single game tomorrow that starts at 1 p.m. on the campus field.
Next Thursday, Friday and Saturday College of the Siskiyous and Barstow will be in town for a three-team mini-tournament.

Maiocco’s biggest task will be filling the shoes of four key members of the pitching staff – Taft High grad Matt Davis, now at St. Edwards State Univ. in Texas; Austin Christiansen (Dixie State in Utah), Jesus Del Rosario (Azusa Pacific), and Braden Keathley (Christian Brothers University in Tennessee).

As of now only two returnees – 6-foot-4 Allan Sanchez and his only lefty Corey Gilligan – have clinched spots in the starting rotation.

Both are penciled in as today’s starters. 

“We’re still trying to find the No. 3 guy and our closer,” Maiocco said. 

Among the candidates is Bruce Lewallen of Las Vegas, whose dad also pitched for TC.

“Defensively, we have the same depth problem we do in our pitching,” Maiocco said.  “We can’t afford any injuries, but if we can stay healthy we’ll be OK.”

Puerto Rican newcomer Luis Trinidad has looked sharp at shortstop and Matt Packer from Stockdale High might have the inside track on second.

Sophomore Sean Arbaut, who “had a great fall season and a great January” has taken aim at the starting third base slot, but is being pressed by newcomer Scott Koenen from Las Vegas, “who can DH and pitch for us as well.”

Maiocco plans to use a two-man rotation at first base like he did last year with Christiansen and 6-4, 230-pound Forrest Smith.

Smith, who emerged as a big hitter late in the season and finished with a .302 average and a team-high four homers, returns and will share duties with another sophomore – Jay Huggins (.289).

Maiocco will try to get both in a lot of the games.

“Both of them will see a lot of at-bats either at first or designated hitter,” he said.

Taft Building a Winning Program Under Maiocco
by Jeff Evans
The Bakersfield Californian

Taft College baseball has had three straight winning seasons, and coach Vince Maiocco said it's been a special achievement.

The Cougars have had back-to-back 22-14 seasons and went 24-19 in 2009. "You have to go back to the 1985-87 window the last time we had three straight winning seasons," Maiocco said.

This season's squad, which began play Friday with a doubleheader against Feather River College, has four returning starters but a new look among front-line pitching.

Friday's opening day starter was Allan Sanchez, a Puerto Rico native who was 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA last year in limited time split between starting and relieving.

Left-hander Corey Gilligan is in the starting rotation but had only 61⁄3 innings last season. Bruce Lewallen, a freshman right-hander from Las Vegas, begins the year as the No. 3 starter.

Among the other pitchers is Liberty High graduate Cole Bryant, who will work out of the bullpen.

There are four returning starters among the position players. They are catcher Pierce Balaustegui, who hit .305 with two homers and 17 RBIs last season; first baseman Forrest Smith from Foothill High who hit .302 with four homers and ended the season as the starting designated hitter; center fielder Anthony Uran from Henderson, NV, who hit .265 last season; and right fielder Clem Ferrer from Puerto Rico who can play all three outfield spots.

The other starters project to be freshman Matt Packer, a 2010 Stockdale High graduate at second base who is the probable No. 3 hitter; Puerto Rico native Luis Trinidad at shortstop; sophomore Sean Arbaut from Tehachapi at third base; and Clint Jorgensen, a redshirt last season who graduated from Taft High in 2010 in left field.

Other players to watch include Chase Skinner, an outfielder and catcher who transferred from Cero Coso College in Ridgecrest; Scott Koenen, a corner infielder transfer from College of Southern Nevada, the same school that produced major league superprospect Bryce Harper; and first baseman-DH Jay Huggins, who hit .289 last season in limited play.

The Cougars are in the Central Valley Conference; where they went 14-10 last season.