Playoffs possible for Pioneers

Louis LaVenture,
News and Sports Editor

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If things start as good as they ended last year, the Cal State East Bay men’s baseball team has a strong shot to make the playoffs in 2016.

Last year, the Pioneers ended the year on fire. They won their last six games in a row and over their final 17 games went 14-3. They finished the year 21-26 overall and 18-22 in California Collegiate Athletic Conference play, however they were on the outside looking in when it came to the postseason.

Since moving to NCAA Division II, CSUEB has yet to qualify for the playoffs, even in 2013 when they went 32-18 overall and 22-18 in CCAA contests. Senior catcher Chris Porter is confident that the team can make their first postseason appearance this year.

“Making the playoffs is a goal,” Porter said. “I’m a senior, this is my last year and I’ve never made it. We want to let the CCAA know East Bay is legit and get our name out there.” 

Winning a championship is our goal.”

Porter drove in 19 runs on 21 hits and 5 homeruns last season and the team will rely on his senior leadership to lead the way this season.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Porter said. “We just want to work hard and have fun. No pressure.”

CSUEB lost nine seniors from last year’s squad including some crucial players like Ryan Kochan. Kochan led the team last year in batting average, hits, doubles and runs batted in. However, the Pioneers have 11 seniors on this year’s squad, including Rudy Navarro who was dominant last year as a junior. Navarro was vital last season and finished his junior campaign with a .311 batting average, second only to Kochan in hits, doubles and RBI’s as well.

Marcus Williams is another senior who will be relied upon to help CSUEB end their playoff drought. Last year, Williams had the third best batting average at .291 after he tallied 41 hits in 141 plate appearances. Junior Bryan Mason is confident the seniors can lead the way.

“I feel like everybody feeds off the upperclassmen,” Mason said. “We can carry over that momentum from last year. Winning a championship is our goal.”

Mason compared this CSUEB team’s style to that of the MLB 2015 World Series Champions the Kansas City Royals.

“Everybody just do their job,” Mason said. “Play defense, get the next guy up and do whatever it takes to win.”

Departing senior pitchers Michael Pope, Julian Garcia, Jacob Phillips and Justin Harr leave a hole in the rotation; however, the Pioneers welcome back six underclassmen hurlers who saw significant action last season. Seniors Cole Compton, David Elzig and Angel Lara, as well as sophomores Alex Vesia and Jacob Call could become the top of the rotation, with some newcomers possibly being added to the mix.

The first step to making the playoffs will take place Feb. 5 at Laney College Baseball Field in Oakland, when CSUEB takes on the Academy of Art University at 6 p.m.