A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Hot bats fuel unlikely comeback as Bear Cubs topple undefeated Mustangs for 8th straight win

Christian Vieyra
Jake McCoy yells in celebration after hitting a homerun that gave the Bear Cubs a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

In what was a heated battle Wednesday afternoon, a timely pinch-hit three-run home run by Bryce Cannon separated two conference rivals as Santa Rosa Junior College completed a five-run comeback to win 9-8 against San Joaquin Delta.

The Bear Cubs entered the seventh inning down 8-3. A two-RBI double with bases loaded from first baseman Ian Avalos cut the lead to three. After another walk by a Mustangs reliever, left fielder Michael O’Daniel hustled down the first baseline after hitting into a fielder’s choice. His extra effort kept the inning alive as he beat out the throw to first.

San Joaquin’s lead had shrunk to two runs.

The biggest moment of the game came on the very next pitch. Head coach Damon Neidlinger made the decision to pinch hit lefty power hitter Cannon, a third-year sophomore who hasn’t had the opportunities he’d hoped for early in the season.

Neidlinger emphasized the importance of keeping players on the bench engaged and committed to winning. “I said, ‘Look, you’re not in the starting lineup right now… do you want to win only when you’re in there or do you really want to win?’” Neidlinger said, “He looked at me and [he said] ‘I wanna win.’ I’m proud of that, I’m proud of his growth, I’m proud of who he is as a man.”

Cannon made his opportunity count as he launched a home run deep into the parking lot beyond the right-field fence on the very first pitch  to give his team a one run lead. The crowd and the dugout erupted in what was a huge and emotional moment for Cannon.

This didn’t happen by luck or by chance. Neidlinger said he saw Bryce all game with a bat in his hands watching each of the opponent’s pitchers just waiting for his opportunity. “I was talking to him throughout the game. ‘You’re not gonna get a second shot at this… there is no second at bat,’” he said.

Luckily for Cannon, he didn’t even need a second pitch.

Despite extending the win streak to eight games, Neidlinger wants to make sure the team is still improving in the areas that put them in such a big deficit in the first place. “I’m hoping that we’ll continue to grow, but even in a win like this that’s very positive, sometimes the best form of growth you can have is a little bit of pain,” he said.

Sticking to the plan this season, Coach Neidlinger started the game with an opener for just an inning rather than a typical starting pitcher. The right-handed sidearm pitcher Collin Medeiros pitched the first inning, and after conceding one run, Neidlinger made the change and sent right-hander Heikili Robello out for the second inning.

A lead off triple by center fielder Alex Leopard led to an RBI single by third baseman and pitcher Connor Charpiot that tied the game in the bottom of the first.

The pitching change between innings proved to be fruitful for Santa Rosa as Robello went on to pitch four no-hit innings, slowing down a San Joaquin offense that was looking to get going in the first.

Neidlinger hopes his team can trust the process of adjusting to this pitching style and team dynamic. “Everybody that’s in these pitching roles is gonna get better and better and better,” he said. “Guys are doing a better job of keeping the score down, [but] eight [runs] is typically bad unless you score nine.”

The score remained knotted at one until the fourth inning when right fielder Jake Mccoy uncorked a home run to deep-right-center field off of San Joaquin’s flamethrowing right-handed starter William Watson. In the following inning Charpiot hit his second RBI single to give the Bear Cubs a 3-1 lead.

In the top of the sixth things started to come off the rails for Robello, who gave up four quick runs, surrendering the lead to the Mustangs. Similarly in the top of the seventh, pitcher Eli Yamanaka struggled with walks, and let three more baserunners cross home before getting out of the inning. With Santa Rosa trailing by five, the home dugout was much quieter than earlier in the game.

In the next inning San Joaquin made a pitching change, pulling in starter William Watson, who ended up pitching six strong innings with seven strikeouts. This proved to be the spark the Bear Cubs needed; a single for shortstop Aiden Lombardi, who’s exceptional defense stood out all game, started the rally that led the Bear Cubs improbable comeback.

Charpiot moved from third base to the pitching mound for the last two innings as he closed out the Mustangs, getting the save and securing the win for his team. Charpiot continued his great two-way play early in this season.

The Bear Cubs play the San Joaquin Delta Mustangs again on Thursday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. Both games will take place in Stockton at the University of the Pacific.


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About the Contributors
Cameron Romanik
Cameron Romanik, Sports Editor
Cameron Romanik (he/him) is in his third semester at SRJC and his second at The Oak Leaf. He's very knowledgeable about sports, and loves to share his opinions and insight. He also is often focused on music and film, and stays up to date with what's popular and successful in those fields.
Christian Vieyra
Christian Vieyra, Sports Editor, Reporter
Christian Vieyra (he/him) is in his fourth semester at The Oak Leaf and is a sports editor. He aspires to be a professional sports journalist and plans to transfer to a 4-year college this fall.

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