The Cougars baseball team came out swinging in their first series of the season, playing three consecutive games at Cal State Monterey Bay. The Cougars took the series, going 2-1 against a very good Monterey Bay team.
“It’s always great to win on the road and take a series from a team,” head coach Paul Svagdis said. “That’s a tough place to play…I think there was a sentiment that was well deserved and we were really happy.”
In their opening game on Feb. 3, the Cougars produced an 8-0 shutout against the Otters, dominating the game with great pitching and solid defense. With Junior pitcher Bill Oxford making his first start for the team, worked around five hits and two walks in 5.0 frames, while also striking out four CSMB players. Senior pitcher Michael Fairchild came in after Oxford, and held the Otters silent in four innings, striking out another four players and only allowing three hits.
“This group in general, are a lot of players that have a chance to impact the game and added value to this weekend,” Svagdis said. “There’s depth there and a lot of guys who are working hard. The whole team had an impact on the results this weekend. They all did a very good job.”
However, the next day, the Otters’ offense went on the attack, and by the fifth inning, the Cougars were down 8-2. Yet, the Cougars were not out. APU roared back with six straight runs to tie the game 8-8, where a back-and-fourth battle would continue. After the Cougars would momentarily gain the lead, the Otters edged them out for their first win of the season, winning with a score of 13-12.
“Cal State Monterey Bay is a very good team, and I’m sure that we’ll be seeing them again later on in the year [in the playoffs],” Pablo O’Connor, a junior second baseman, said. “I liked the way we battled, despite the deficit we had. As a team, we never gave up and always knew we were in the game, no matter what the score was.”
The third and final game of the series between these two teams was a constant battle. With a little extra motivation and determination, the Cougars were able to pull out the win, defeating the Otters 8-6, and winning the series.
“We really wanted to beat them, especially with the history that we have with Monterey Bay,” Fairchild said. “For us, we wanted to take the opening game, but it was also kind of personal to go win at their place. We’re happy that we won two out of three, but I think we also very well know that we could of had three out of three if we could have locked some things down in that second game.”
However, the Cougars fully understand that they have a long season ahead of them with 47 more regular season games, and fully expect to see CSMB in the playoffs.
Cal State Monterey Bay, an NCAA West Regional qualifier last season, swept the Cougars at home last year, going 4-0 in the series. That experience did not sit well with many of the players, and gave the Cougars extra motivation going into this series.
“Last season it was our first heated encounter with another team. In my experience as a senior, I think there’s only been two times that we’ve been swept at home…including last season with Monterey Bay,” Fairchild said. “So anytime that happens, it never sits well. Personally, I was stoked to open up the season against them, because I had some unfinished business to deal with.”
Coach Svagdis takes advantage of moments like this, believing that these experiences make his team stronger.
“I think it built confidence with the team. With circumstances and the adversity they face, we got to overcome it at times. The last two games were like that, we were down from behind both times, and they did a good job at that,” Svagdis said.
Last year, the Cougars finished the season with a 30-20 record, and players admit that they had a slow start, along with some struggles throughout the season. This season is already poised to be better.
“This year our work ethic and the team mindset is more unified,” Svagdis said. “We understand the talent that we have, but we also understand that talent doesn’t win championships. It takes a good mindset and being great at the little things. It’s all about winning everyday. This team is special because we have the components of what I believe to be a championship team.”
The Cougars will begin their first-of-four game series at home against Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday, Feb. 9.