De Anza College baseball team swings hot and cold in season with no home field
June 2, 2017
When the De Anza College baseball team got hot this season of all road games, it seemed that the team was capable of beating any team in the league. But the hot streaks ended eventually and the team became cold for just enough games to miss the playoffs.
The Dons finished the season with a 22-17 record, falling a couple of games short of a third consecutive playoff appearance.
THE ROAD TRIP
The team faced a rare challenge for the first half of the season: They didn’t have a home field. The Flint garage construction forced the school to pave over the baseball field to create a replacement parking lot.
The team’s alternative home for the season was supposed to be the Baylands Athletic Center in Palo Alto, but an uncommonly rainy winter caused the field to remain closed, forcing the Dons to play 19 games at their opponents’ schools or at neutral fields before having their first home game.
“I don’t think at the time it took a toll on us, but at the end of the season it started to show,” said head coach Eric Raich. “Nineteen road games in a row is tough. Especially with how far we had to travel, and, on some days, going back to back to far locations.”
Despite the challenge of the road trips, the team started the season off strong, winning five of their first six games including a 15-3 drubbing of Monterey Peninsula College. De Anza used 11 different pitchers during the game, a trend that would continue throughout the year as the Dons relied heavily on their pitching staff.
The staff was led by ace pitcher Nick Simonian, who led the team with nine wins and 63 strikeouts over 77 innings. “Nick was our horse all year” said relief pitcher and catcher Ro Mahanty. “He threw to his strengths and had a fantastic mentality.”
The other pitchers on the team starred along side Simonian as the staff combined for four shutouts, the fourth best performance in the conference.
“As a pitching staff we’ve worked hard every week and put our best foot forward,” said sophomore relief pitcher Lorenzo Gomez. “We trust each other to go on that mound.”
After cooling off at the end of February, the Dons roared back with a four-game winning streak that ended with a 17-0 win over conference rival Chabot College. De Anza’s sluggers combined for 15 hits with four players collecting multiple RBIs.
“Every time I stepped to the plate, I was looking to do damage and drive runners in,” said leadoff hitter Drew Mount. “Always having an aggressive mentality was key and never being afraid of anyone or any moment.”
This mindset allowed Mount to lead the Dons in every offensive category including hits, home-runs, and RBIs. Mount was a spark plug from the top of the order, helping De Anza stay competitive in every game.
THE COLD STREAK
After an up-and-down March, the Dons hit rock bottom, losing two games to San Mateo City College and two more to Chabot. Pitching and mental mistakes plagued the team down the stretch and cost them a playoff spot.
The team finished the year on a strong note, winning the last four games, but Chabot stayed hot and managed to hold on to the playoff spot by two conference games.
The cold streak also harmed the Dons overall record, putting them out of contention for one of the wild card playoff seeds.
“We need to be better mentally,” Raich said. “For us to turn a corner, it has to be every single game… we have to be good.”
The area of the game the Dons struggled most was fielding. They committed 56 errors this season, with 30 of the errors coming in losses. Eight of the Dons’ defeats were by only one run; six came during the 19 away game marathon.
One reason the Dons may have struggled and dropped the early, close games was the lack of a home field they could get comfortable on. The road trip meant the defensive players had to adjust to a new field and backstop every game.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Raich said. “Going 22-17 with the adversity we faced all season was pretty impressive.”