Baseball: Conference awards cap Rams’ best season in a decade

Rams starting pitcher Shea Adams delivers a pitch in the bottom of the 8th inning Monday afternoon agianst Hartnell.

Ten Gavilan College baseball players were honored with conference accolades days after the Rams closed out the program’s best season in more than a decade.

“We have some good quality kids who competed and got it done on the field, and didn’t accept failure,” Gavilan manager Neal Andrade said. “They bounced back from losses and got better with wins. All the guys who received awards, as well as the team as a whole, grinded it out all season long. There was no quit even toward the end as we got a little banged up. We kept competing until the last pitch of the last game.”

Were it not for a disappointing five-game losing skid to wrap up the 2012 campaign, the squad’s 17 victories, could have been clicked up another notch or two, as three of the five losses were decided by a combined four runs.

As it were, Gavilan finished 17-19 overall and 10-14 in the Coast Conference – the 10 conference wins were more than the team had totaled in the previous four seasons and the highest sum in the past 11 years. The closest comparison is to Gavilan’s 2007 season, in which the Rams had 16 overall victories and six conference wins. This year, though, playoffs were a possibility until late in the season, and the Rams also spent three weeks ranked in the Northern California Coaches’ Poll.

“There were three or four games where we got beat pretty good. And then there were three or four games where we beat someone else pretty good. And the rest were typical college baseball games where a hit or two here or there would mean the difference,” Andrade said. “And that’s what it’s all about. You want to be in those types of games.”

Gavilan was 8-7 in one-run games.

Leading the cast of 10 award winners was Chris Bradley, the Pacific Division’s Pitcher of the Year. Bradley signed a letter of intent to play for New Mexico State two months before his first regular season pitch of 2012. With that out of the way, the outbound sophomore did what any Division I prospect would do – he won ball games. Bradley led California with 101 strikeouts en route to a seven-win season on the bump. He allowed just 54 hits in 93 innings pitched (47 hits in 69.1 innings in conference) and posted a 2.23 earned run average.

Sophomore Tyler Oertle and freshman Shea Adams were presented first-team recognition, sophomore infielders Cal Tashiro and Johnny Cox received second-team honors, and Kenny Hall was selected to the second-team as a first baseman. Brian Bradley (infield), Colby Lee (outfield), Julio Cortez (designated hitter) and Chad Badger (relief pitcher) made the honorable mention list.

As the Rams’ everyday catcher, Oertle hit .338 in conference, good for seventh. Adams, Andrade’s No. 2 pitcher, matched Bradley’s win total with seven. Adams struck out 63 batters in 94 innings. He hit .262 and led the Rams with four triples.

Shortstop Cox appeared in all 36 games this season. His 22 RBIs were third most on the team. Second baseman Tashiro, whose seven stolen bases led the club, ended the season on a seven-game hit streak, including a four-hit performance against Skyline and a 3-for-4 day versus Monterey Peninsula. Tashiro’s .333 batting average ranked second on the team behind Hall, who hit .362 – second highest in the conference.

Hall was primarily used at first base this season and accumulated 47 hits in 35 games. He padded those stats with 24 RBIs and 23 runs.

“I knew where we were strong and where we were deficient,” Andrade said. “We definitely overachieved in certain areas offensively. We weren’t the most offensive team, but if you look at batting averages, we are up there. If anything surprised me it was our offensive output, until late, was pretty solid.”

Although seven of the 10 players mentioned are sophomores, Adams, Hall and Badger will return – a foundation to which Andrade said he hopes to continue to build upon with greater efficiency now that the Rams have once again established themselves as a conference force.

“We have some good things going for us, but the nature of JC ball is year to year,” Andrade said. “Everybody is in the same boat. Every team has some work to do. “Obviously (for us) it’s arms. The one thing we had this year were those two quality starters that gave us a chance in at least two or three games  every week. That’s what we need to address. There are going to be some freshmen coming in that will need to step up in order to keep this thing going. We have to strike when the (iron) is hot.”

Andrade and the rest of the coaching staff have more kindling, so to speak, to use this summer to keep the program a hot commodity through recruiting.

“It’s definitely a more attractive place to play now than it has been in the past,” Andrade said. “The recruiting process has been a little easier because we have more to sell with the coaching staff that is in place, the year that and some of the accolades and scholarships some of these kids have earned.

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