Author: Charles Sauter
While most Oxy students were confined to the indoors as rain pelted the greater L.A. area weeks ago, your Occidental baseball team did not let the abnormal weather conditions deter them from preparing for their upcoming season. Rain or shine, the Tigers can be seen on the field as they seek to improve on last year’s 16-24 overall record, 6-15 in SCIAC play.
Despite the weather and last year’s disappointing record, spirits are high in the Tiger dugout. “We have been having some really good practices lately,” said captain Tyler Eyrich (sophomore). “And I feel we are much farther ahead than last year at this point.”
The Tigers’ success is bolstered by Eyrich’s leadership, who stands at the helm of an experienced and talented pitching staff. Despite the loss of starters Matthew Jones ’09 and Noel Banuelos ’09, the pitching staff looks to be the power behind the team. Joining Eyrich on the mound will be Brooks Belter (junior) and Ross Pomerantz (junior), who are fresh off successful stints in competitive summer leagues.
Belter joined the Palm Springs Power of the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League where he, despite being the lone DIII player on the roster, posted an impressive .98 ERA in 18 innings of work.
Pomerantz travelled north to Corvallis, Oregon where he competed for the Corvallis Knights of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, and the Portland Lobos. Pomerantz had equal success, posting a 3-1 record, 3.10 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings.
“I was pleased with both Ross and Brooks’ improvements over the course of the spring,” said coach Jason Hawkins. “But the summers that both of them had were exceptional.” The summer success of these two Oxy players will carry onto Anderson Field.
Oxy will return six starters from last year’s squad, including first team all-conference, third team all-region shortstop Jason Jebbia (senior), second team all-conference second base player Dan Kelley (junior) and 2006 third team all-region outfielder Glenn Gray (senior), who missed substantial time last season due to injury.
Jebbia and Kelley look to anchor the middle of the infield and will provide Oxy with what Coach Hawkins describes as “one of the best double play combos in the conference.”
With the pitching staff providing a strong backbone, the Tigers will rely on incoming first-years and transfers to help complement the returning squad. Joining the Tigers this season are transfers Stephen Hilliard (junior), a third baseman/pitcher from University of San Francisco, and Brenton Wunner (junior) from Glendale Community College.
First-years and returners alike are bringing their all to practices and coming together to establish a formidable team. “We’re all working hard,” said Malachi Krishok (first-year). “We were told to not feel like rookies or incomers, and there is no apprehension so far.”
The Tigers’ coaching staff has high expectations for this incoming first-year class. “Freshman Logan Allen roaming in center field gives us a very solid middle,” Coach Hawkins said. “And freshman Pedro Aldape gives the [pitching] staff much needed depth.”
Hawkins added that Corey Popham (first-year) also has the potential to break into the starting rotation.
According to Hawkins, Jebbia and Kelley, along with Gray and Kevin Ozaki (sophomore), will provide the core of the Tigers’ batting lineup, as the team expects to be significantly stronger offensively this season.
Along with the burgeoning talent, the commitment and composure of this squad spells good outcomes for the future. The team’s steady improvement during practices and its camaraderie will be key to the season’s ultimate results.
“I’m excited about this group’s ability to go out every day and get better,” said Hawkins. “They understand what championship teams do. They also are developing chemistry that will be very important to us down the stretch. It’s a very fun club to step onto the field with each day.”
You can watch the Tigers open their season with a three game home stand against Whitworth University starting Feb. 6.
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