Bear Cubs in good shape for consecutive Big 8 titles


Will Mathis, Contributing Writer

Securing the three-game sweep over the Modesto Junior College Pirates with a 5-1 win April 23 puts the Santa Rosa Junior College baseball team in a perfect position heading into post season play. The Victory wrapped up the Bear Cubs 2017 season and the team now eyes the No. 1 seed in the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California playoffs.

In the most recent California Community College Sports Information Association State Top 20 rankings released April 13, the Bear Cubs [29-7, 19-5] ranked No. 3 overall top in Northern California. The Bear Cubs are 4-1 since April 13, which includes splitting two games with No. 7 San Joaquin Delta College [29-8, 14-7].

Though the Bear Cubs played their final regular season game, there’s one week left in the CCCAA baseball season and the Big 8 Conference Championship is still up for grabs.
No. 9 Sacramento City College [27-9, 17-4] can win the Big 8 Conference this weekend if it wins its three-game series with Delta April 25-28. If Delta sweeps the series, SRJC wins its second straight Big 8 title.

SRJC, Delta and Sac City will likely receive three of the top four seeds in the CCCAA Norcal playoffs. SRJC lost both series against Sac City and Delta, 2 games to 1 in Big 8 play this season.

The Bear Cubs look to be playing their best baseball of the season heading into playoffs. SRJC rallied back from a 4-0 first inning deficit to beat Modesto 9-8 in 11 innings April 18.

“Our team has begun to figure out our edge that we need to beat good teams,” said sophomore shortstop Matt Kimura. “It’s been a difference maker.”

Kimura, who competed for playing time last season with second baseman Myles Andrews and ultimately lost due to his low batting average, has solidified himself as the Bear Cubs shortstop and No. 2 hitter with a .293 batting average and only four errors this season.

In the second game of the series, Modesto had the bases loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, down 3-1. Bear Cubs sophomore starter-turned-reliever Justin Bruihl got the next batter to fly out to right fielder Jeff Bart, who threw the tagging base runner out at home plate.

The next batter grounded out to second base to end the game.

“There was one component missing [from this team early in the season],” said assistant coach Tom Francois. “That was mental toughness.”

Bruihl has been moved to the bullpen in a season-long effort to limit his pitch count. This season he is 4-0 with 2 saves, a 2.04 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 35.1 innings pitched.

Freshman Ryan Calderon has taken over starting duties in Bruihl’s place. Calderon hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in his last four starts and has a 7-0 record with a 1.72 ERA.

“He’s a real gem that we happily discovered,” Francois said.