There’s a whole different type of target on the back of the College of San Mateo baseball team.
For years, once May rolled around, CSM would find itself with a top seed heading into the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs and thus had the majority of the postseason field chasing them.
But in 2013, with a No. 9 seed and a road playoff series to play starting Friday at Cabrillo College, the Bulldogs are that dangerous team that no one wants to play despite their seeding.
“It doesn’t matter at all,” said the newly named Coast Conference Golden Gate Division Most Valuable Player Brandon Defazio about the No. 9 seed. “When I look at it, I think it’s better for us where we are just because when you look at the teams that make the Final Four, it’s rare that the 1 or 2 seed that ends up taking the whole thing. It’s usually a team in the middle of the pack or towards the end. I think it’s a better opportunity, to be honest. We’ll still have the target (on our backs), but it gives us the opportunity to prove everybody wrong about where we were placed. From a team standpoint, it gives us a little bit of fire.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said CSM pitcher Zac Grotz, echoing his shortstop’s opinion. “Just to be in it is fine for us, especially against Cabrillo, who beat us earlier. It gives us another chance to prove that we’re better than them.”
Oh yes, in the Hawks the Bulldogs have a team that won a share of the Coast Conference Pacific Division and also handed them a 6-5 loss earlier in the year. In that loss, CSM plated three runs late in the game but could not overcome the early deficit. That said, things are different now and Bulldogs manager Doug Williams likes where his team is at heading into Friday’s Game 1.
“We talk each year, that our goal is to be playing the best baseball down the stretch,” Williams said. “Although we had an auspicious start … we’ve played very well down the stretch and I believe the team has continued to improve throughout the year. We didn’t play real well early, but I think it made us a stronger, better team.”
It’s hard to argue against Williams because, as winners of 11 of their last 13 games, it’s tough to find a team in Northern California playing better than the Bulldogs.
“Playoff baseball is not any different than what goes on the rest of the year,” Williams said. “You can drill that in, the players know it’s a little different obviously, but we want the mentality to be the same and it is to be sharp with what we’re doing here with this prep work. It’s just a whole bunch of review of what we’ve done the whole year. I think it’s counterproductive for a player to think, ‘Oh it’s the playoffs, I have to do something different, we have to do something more, try harder.’ We need to go out, play aggressively and really have fun and enjoy the experience.”
While Williams joked around the question of who would start on the mound for the Bulldogs, he did say Grotz had a strong chance to get the nod. Grotz was recently named to the Coast Conference First Team and just committed to play baseball for the University of Tennessee in the South Eastern Conference of the NCAA.
For Grotz, the formula against Cabrillo is simple.
“Just throw strikes,” he said. “A lot of hitters in this league get themselves out if you throw the ball over the plate and let your defense do its job behind you. That’s the main job. If you’re not walking guys, we’ll be in it.”
Game 1’s first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday at Cabrillo with a double-header on Saturday is Game 3 is necessary. The winner of the Best-of-3 series advances to the CCCAA Super Regionals.
In more post season awards news, Jeff VonMoser, Ryan O’Malley and Andrew Herrera were named to the Coast Conference Golden Gate First Team.
Gavin Long, Alex Palsha and Skyler Fuss picked up Second Team honors.