Jaguars’ baseball is finding their stride

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Pitcher Brandon Weed got his first win of the season in the first game of an opening day doubleheader against Victor Valley College. SWC swept, 12-8 and 11-6. Photo courtesy Mary York

Heavy winter rains were a welcome relief for most Californians. Not so much for the SWC baseball team.

The Jaguars’ rocky start coincided with the unusual rainy weather that hit Southern California. Rain fell for four straight days, preventing the Jags from practicing.

Head Coach Jay Martel said rain played havoc with pitchers most of all.

“We only got on the field for five days due to all the rain,” said Martel. “We didn’t get to pitch many innings. Basically these games early in the year are like preseason games, except now they count for wins and losses.”

Martel blamed the lack of preparation.

“We haven’t pitched very well, we haven’t played defense well and we haven’t hit,” he said. “All three phases of our game are not where they should be at this point of the season.”

A baseball powerhouse for four decades, SWC suffered a losing season last year. Despite a stumbling start, Martel said he expects the team to bounce back in 2017.

Sophomore pitcher Andrew Lopez said the pitching staff has not pitched to capacity, but has been effective.

“Overall we’ve pitched a lot better,” he said. “We’ve allowed our offense to stay in the game. The more opportunities we get, the more changes we have to shut down opposing hitters.”

With the team playing solid baseball, Martel is confident heading into conference play.

“We’re getting hot at the right time,” he said. “All the pieces are there to be a good club. If we can pitch and play defense as the season rolls along, we will get better.”

Martel said he has been impressed with the way his team has bounced back, crediting timely hitting and execution in close ball games.

“We started off really slow,” he said. “Our guys have hung in there and have proven they are hungry and want to eat. Our ability to stay in a game for all nine innings says a lot about our ball club,”

Freshman Baley Castro’s presence at the plate has helped the offense heat up.

“As simple as it sounds, we’ve been able to put the bat on the ball,” said Castro. “Our team is getting stronger as our team chemistry grows.”

The Jags will begin conference play with a record of 10-5.

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