Author: Ryan Graff
When “Electric Feel” by the band MGMT echoed through Anderson Field, it captured the atmosphere for the beginning of baseball season. The Tigers played their first series on Feb. 4-6 against Menlo College, a school that grants athletic scholarships to talented players, in front of large and optimistic crowds. Despite struggling early and dropping the first two games, the Tigers rolled to a 6-3 victory over the Oaks in Sunday’s game.
The Tigers, who posted a pedestrian 14-25 record last season, worked hard through a rigorous off-season and made noticeable improvements. After graduating two players, head coach Jason Hawkins is left with seven seniors and welcomes a squad of eighteen first-year players.
Developing young talent will be a motif for the Tigers this year, and Hawkins seems to be up to the challenge. “We’ve been really pleased with our preparation. This is the hardest working group of guys I’ve had, and they’ve gotten a lot better. They know how to play the game the way we want them to play the game, and they’re doing a great job,” Hawkins said.
Cory Popham (red-shirt first-year) has been named the number one pitcher in the Tigers’ rotation this season and got the Feb. 4 start on the mound. Despite a solid opening day outing in which he threw five plus innings and a total of ninety-three pitches, he picked up his first loss of the 2011 campaign.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of countless hours working out, running and getting back in shape and healthy to throw this year. Although today was disappointing, there’s a long way to go and God’s blessed me with an additional year of baseball. I’m grateful for that and glad I can be back here throwing,” Popham said.
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His season ended abruptly last year due to a throwing arm injury that required therapy, so the NCAA has granted him an additional year of eligibility. Before the injury, he started six games and pitched 37 cumulative innings. Popham had an overall record of 3-2, which he complimented with the third lowest earned run average (ERA) in SCIAC of 2.92. He also hurled one complete game against conference rival Redlands in which he had zero earned runs.
Aside from Popham, other top performers for the Tigers are mainly underclassmen. Shortstop leadoff hitter Logan Allen (sophomore) and left fielder Chris Caldwell (first-year) have both become valuable assets for the team.
Allen, who had a batting average of .364 last year in 37 games, finished the series hitting 4 for 10 with six runs and one run batted in (RBI).
Caldwell is currently 4 for 11 with one run scored and two RBIs through his first three collegiate baseball games. Pedro Aldape (sophomore) has the lone home run for the Tigers thus far—a behemoth three run shot on the first pitch of his season.
“When we came back for camp week I kind of struggled a bit, but I always kept my cool, stayed calm and told myself that it’ll come through. Today, it just showed that my swing came through and we did pretty well for our first game,” Aldape said.
Veteran leadership is also crucial for the baseball team. On opening day, the Tigers started three seniors: Stephen Hilliard, Casey Harms and Brenton Wunner.
Also, Ross Pomerantz (senior) started game three on the bump, striking out five in over six innings to earn the win. These four players have been consistent contributors all throughout their respective careers, leading by example on the field and earning the best statistics.
Seniors Brooks Belter, Dale Garrett and Daniel Kelley have also proven to be critical players.
Collectively, the senior women will be vital assets to the team not only for their talent and experience, but also for promoting camaraderie and mentoring younger players. Their presence is already evident, as they treat the underclassmen like best friends rather than inferiors.
The Tigers will face Lewis and Clark this weekend in a four-game series, and they will host Cal Lutheran on Feb. 18 to open their SCIAC schedule. The Tigers look to capitalize on their successes thus far and continue to progress so that they can win for the seniors.
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