Logan Boyd walked back to the dugout, the beads of sweat shining off his forehead on a sweltering day, his jersey stained from the synthetic turf and his psyche damaged by what had just transpired. Boyd’s College of San Mateo baseball teammates were equally devastated. The Bulldogs entered the Northern California playoffs on a 17-game winning streak, but exited in heartbreaking fashion.
Defending state champion and No. 12 seed Santa Rosa defeated No. 4 CSM 3-2 Sunday, completing a 2-0 sweep in a best-of-three NorCal opening round series. Last year, the Bear Cubs (29-15) came out of the loser’s bracket in a Super Regional and beat CSM (31-11-2) two times by one run on the final day, denying the Bulldogs a trip to the California Community College Baseball Final Four. Over the weekend, history repeated, as Santa Rosa won Saturday’s game 4-3, prompting this question: Do the Bear Cubs have CSM’s number?
"If I knew the answer to that question, maybe we’d still be playing,” Bulldogs coach Doug Williams said. "I told the guys that they were going like a freight train at 90 mph, and all of a sudden, the train hits the wall and you come to a dead stop and you’re eliminated. It’s tough to swallow.”
The Bulldogs entered the playoffs as an offensive juggernaut, averaging over eight runs a game. However, they were shutdown by Santa Rosa’s excellent pitching corps, totaling only five runs and 12 hits in two games. On Sunday, Boyd generated both CSM runs with a seventh-inning, two-run homer over the fence in right-center field, tying the game at 2. The shot seemed to energize the entire CSM team, which came out of its dugout to hoot and holler, but the Bear Cubs scored a run in the eighth, then relied on one of the best pitchers in the state and a highlight-reel catch to seal the outcome.
In the top of the ninth, Boyd walked with one out before Matt Van Orden hit a fly ball to shallow left. Because there was a hit-and-run, Boyd was running on the play and was already rounding second when Santa Rosa leftfielder Travis Howard made a diving grab, an unbelievable play considering how much ground he had to cover. Howard then hit his cutoff man, second baseman Michael Brandi, who sent a perfect relay to first baseman Jeff McCall for the game-ending double play.
After giving up Boyd’s homer, Santa Rosa closer Will Morgan, who is a perfect 17-for-17 in save situations this season, struck out five hitters in three innings to earn the win. Williams said Morgan is to the Bear Cubs what former CSM great and current Texas Rangers reliever Scott Feldman was to the Bulldogs in 2002-03.
"Will Morgan makes as much difference in the game as Scott Feldman, and that’s as big a compliment I can give,” Williams said. "When Feldman pitched, the game was 95 percent over. With Will (this year), it’s 100 percent.”
In the playoffs, the team that advances gets the dominant pitching, key hits and makes all the plays. The Bulldogs’ Kyle Woodruff (Game 1) and Derek Thomas produced their usual solid outings, but were outdueled by their Santa Rosa counterparts. Woodruff tossed a complete-game Saturday, but made one big mistake in the sixth inning when he allowed a three-run homer with two outs.
Thomas tossed six strong innings yesterday, allowing just one earned run. The offensive shortage played a huge factor in the loss; CSM left nine runners on base Saturday and seven more in Game 2, none more glaring than in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game. CSM had runners at first and third with one out, but went down meekly. USC-bound Darren Gemoll led the Bulldogs with two hits Sunday, and teammate Tyler Heil had four in the series. Boyd said the toughest thing about the loss was seeing the visible emotions on his sophomore teammates, many of whom welled up with tears.
"They took me under their wings and showed me the ropes,” Boyd said. "All these guys, they’re a great group. They’ll certainly be missed.”
Said Williams: "What are you going to do? Santa Rosa did all the right things, and we didn’t. We’ve been very offensive this year, and when you get in situations like this, you have to hit. I told my guys they were champions, and that they really upheld the Bulldog tradition and pride. I’m as proud of this group as any I’ve had in my 12-years here. We came up short, but we’ll be back.”<