CSUEB baseball team looking to hit home this season

Brett Fuchs,

The Cal State East Bay baseball team kicks off its 2018 campaign on Feb. 9 at Pioneer Field as the Pioneers go up against British Columbia Thunderbirds. East Bay is coming off a disappointing season where they missed the CCAA playoffs.

In 2016, the Pioneers had a season for the books clinching the North Division title of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). The season continued into the postseason where the Pioneers made it to the CCAA conference championship before falling to Chico State in the title game. The Pioneers were then invited to compete in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 39 years where they would fall to Dixie State in the second round.

The Pioneers looked to improve off of their historic season with new head coach Mike Cummins, however Last year, the Pioneers (16-21) finished fifth in the North Division missing the playoffs. Chico State (34-4) took the title finishing first, winning the CCAA tournament as well as being the regular season champion. Right behind Chico State was Stanislaus State (23-15), Cal State Monterey Bay (20-18) and Sonoma State (19-19). The Pioneers finished in front of San Francisco State (14-24) who finished last in the division.

In the South Division, Cal Poly Pomona (27-11) took the division with UC San Diego (24-13) finishing right behind them. Cal State LA (19-19) finished in third with Cal State San Bernardino (12-26) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (12-26) tying for fourth and Cal State San Marcos (7-31) finishing last. East Bay is coming off a disappointing season where they missed the CCAA playoffs.   

“Compared to last year, I would say we have a lot more depth at each position,” said junior catcher Matt Cantelme. “So far, we have had really good chemistry and everyone seems to be willing to put in the extra work to get better.”

The 2018 team is heavily dominated by juniors and seniors returning only two sophomores and only bringing in five freshman. The team also brought in 15 transfers this year all looking to help improve on last year’s season.

Andrew Fernandez, a leader on the team is coming off a stellar year and looking to make a major impact again in his senior campaign. Fernandez, a native of Castro Valley, earned his first All-CCAA honor. Fernandez led the the team with 17 appearances with a 2.55 ERA as well as seven saves. During his campaign, he pitched the lowest opponents batting average of any pitcher in the CCAA with at .170, only allowing 23 hits in 42.1 innings of works.

“My success from last year really stemmed from staying locked in with my mechanics, along with focusing on pitch sequence” Fernandez said. “Every day in practice, I would break down my motion and make sure that I was consistent with both my arm slot and my rhythm.”

The Pioneers struggled last season both offensively and defensively which led them to miss the playoffs. Last season, the Pioneers batting average was .280 which was 8th best in the CCAA with Chico State leading the way batting .313. The Pioneers also finished ninth in RBI’s only batting in 230 with UC San Diego leafing the division with 430.  

“I think last year’s playoff miss was due to our team, as a whole, falling apart both offensive and defensively. Often times when we had chances to score with runners on base and in scoring position, our hitters couldn’t execute in order to drive those runs in,” said Fernandez.

Defensively, the Pioneers had an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 4.89 which put them ninth in the conference with Stanislaus State leading the way with a 3.25 ERA. The Pioneers also committed 68 errors which put them in the middle of the pack. Chico state lead the conference with the lowest errors committing 36.

“Defensively our pitching staff was lacking and wasn’t nearly as consistent with throwing strikes as we were in the first half of the season. By the end of the season there was maybe two to three pitchers that were able to pound the zone and get hitters out.” said Fernandez.

The Pioneers spent the off season working hard in the weight room and on the field getting ready for the upcoming season. The team used this time to make improvements both offensively and defensively.  

“One of our main focuses has been our hitting approach and how we should go up to the plate with confidence, finding a way to have a productive at bat. Overall, both the position players have been improving each day through bullpens, team defense situations, and scrimmages,” said Cantelme. “We are looking to make a deep playoff run this year to show what the Pioneers are all about.”