Baseball games between Sonoma State and rival Chico State are usually nothing short of thrilling, and this weekend’s series was no exception as both teams fiercely competed to finish first place atop the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular season standings.
The Seawolves only needed to win two out of the four total games this weekend to finish in first place, but that is much easier said than done against an archrival in Chico State who was coming into the series ranked No. 6 in Division II for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Also not to mention that the fourth and final game of the series taking place at Raley Field in Sacramento for the third annual “Capital City Clash” to raise the stakes even higher. In a see-saw like fashion, the Seawolves split the series with Chico, topping it off with a dramatic game four win in Sacramento to essentially take the CCAA crown as well as the No. 1 seed in the CCAA Baseball Championship Tournament taking place next week.
Game one of the series clearly foreshadowed the intensity of the weekend, as the Wildcats were able to barely scrape by with the first victory in a 4-3 win over the Seawolves. The Seawolves turned to red-hot senior ace George Asmus to toe the rubber, coming into this game only allowing four earned runs through a total of 62 innings this season. Unfortunately for Asmus, the Wildcats were hungry for offense.
After the Seawolves started off hot putting up three runs through the third inning off of several throwing errors, an RBI base hit from junior Jourdan Weiks as well as a sacrifice fly off the bat of junior Eric Ehlow, Chico was able to strike back driving in two runs the next inning followed by another in the fifth to knot the score up at 3-3. It was not until the seventh inning when Chico’s Ruben Padilla drove in the go-ahead run on a single to the opposite field off Asmus to make what would be the final score of 4-3. The Seawolves would make a last minute effort at a comeback in the bottom of the ninth with a stolen base from pinch-runner Cameron Merriwether to put a runner in scoring position, but the Wildcat’s pitching proved to be too much as they recorded one final strikeout to end the game.
Chico was able to carry this pitching momentum into game two Saturday morning, with their ace Nick Baker baffling the Seawolf hitters with eight scoreless innings, putting up four strikeouts and only allowing five base hits. The Wildcat’s offense came hand-in-hand with its pitching racking up 16 hits, a season-high off the Seawolves, and putting up seven runs throughout the game that would hold out the lead. Once Baker was finished after the eighth inning, the Seawolves jumped on the new pitching in the bottom of the ninth and were able to rally three runs before the Wildcats shut it down to end the game 7-3.
Now being down in the series 0-2, the Seawolves knew they had to do something to turn the tables around if they wanted to finish on top. It was back and forth action between the two teams as they both scampered up two runs throughout the first four innings tying it up 2-2 going into the fifth. The moment had come for the Seawolves when pinch-hitter Justin Serrao walked up to the plate in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and drove in a clutch two RBI double to take the go-ahead lead of 4-2. The lead would hold off as junior reliever Aaron Gillis proceeded to shut down the remaining Wildcat batters, only allowing two more hits in the final three innings.
The stage was now set for what was now being called “Clash for the Crown” as both teams traveled to Sacramento for the final game Sunday afternoon to decide the regular season champion. Going into Sunday’s game, Seawolf catcher Steven Moen expressed how important this game meant for himself as well as the team.
“These are the games that you dream about as a kid, facing off against a rival team for all the marbles on a big stage in front of your friends and family,” said Moen. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Both team’s offenses rose to the occasion with Chico’s starting it off in the first inning, putting up two runs to give the Wildcat’s the early lead. The Wildcats went on to score two more runs in the third inning before the Seawolves were able to loudly answer back the same inning with a three-run homer coming off the bat of Jourdan Weiks to put the score at 4-3 Wildcats.
Un-phased by the big fly, Chico’s offensive still continued to flourish throughout the game by adding one run in the fifth inning followed by two more runs in the sixth to give them back their four-run advantage at 7-3. The Seawolves bounced back in the bottom of the sixth by putting up two more runs off of a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice to make it 7-5 but it was not until the seventh when the fireworks started to go off. Senior Jackson Stogner started it off with an RBI single with two runners on and was quickly followed by Eric Ehlow also driving in a run off a base hit to match the score at 7-7.
The very next batter, junior Alex Crosby, absolutely crushed a go-ahead three-run homer to drive in Stogner and Ehlow to secure the victory for the Seawolves and finish the season ranked No.1 atop the CCAA.
“That was the hit of my life,” said Crosby. “ I knew it was a high-pressured situation so I just went up there and tried to make something happen and sure enough I was able to turn on it and drive it out of the park.”
The Seawolves will now travel to Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton next Thursday to take on No. 4 seed Cal Poly Pomona to kick off the CCAA Baseball Championship Tournament.