Disappointing season marred by injuries

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What’s the theme for this year’s Skyline baseball team?

Injuries.

“We lost our three best offensive players at the beginning of the year and our best pitcher in the middle,” said head coach Dino Nomicos.

The team concluded a disappointing 15-21 season. The preseason feeling was that of optimism and expectations. But the team faced adversity right from the get-go.

The team lost infielder Michael Orozco and outfielder Nick Bongi to back injuries, and infielder Armando Fajardo suffered a torn tricep and missed 15 games early in the season. Later on, the team lost top of the rotation pitcher Daniel Madigan to a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which required the dreaded Tommy John surgery, which will require a year to 16 months to recover. But even with these setbacks, both Nomicos and pitching coach Tony Brunicardi felt the team battled through to achieve what it can.

“I think we were successful, considering injuries,” said Nomicos.

“We had high expectations, but with the adversity we faced I’m still proud,” said Brunicardi. “The team continued to to compete. I’m proud of the group.”

A roller coaster of a season

The whole season comprised of streaks. For most of the season, the team either won or loss at least three games. There were only three instances where the team either won or loss a pair of games. At the start the season, the team dropped its first two games and ended the season winning the last pair. In the middle of the season, from March 22 to April 1, the team went 3-2, including an impressive 7-5 win over eventual division champion Cabrillo College Seahawks. That was the most diverse spell the team went through.

The team was in a funk during the early part of the season. Again, the team lost three of its top offensive contributors. The team lost eight of its first 11 games, including a six game losing streak where the team visited San Diego Mesa College and was outscored 40-13 by the Olympians in a rough three game set. After coming back to Northern California, the team turned it around and won its next four games to bring their record back to an alive 7-8.

But the team again went into another funk and dropped its next six games, losing Madigan in the process. The team was fading heading into the latter part of the season, sporting a record of 10-16. Still eyeing the postseason, even though being a longshot, the team knew it needed to turn it around.

The team won its next three games against bottom feeders Gavilan College, De Anza College and CCSF. But unfortunately, the next five games sealed their fate: all losses. Eliminated from the playoffs, the team played for pride and won the last two games, posting a .500 record on its last 10 games.

As a team they batted .244, their most consistent hitter, and defender, being freshman outfielder Michael Franco. Nomicos would say Franco was the team MVP.

“He ended up hitting [.307] and played great defense for us,” Nomicos said.

The team hit six homeruns, with Lance Montano providing the power with half of the dingers. He also shared the lead with most RBIs on the season with outfielder Nick McHugh and was just a hit away from tying Franco for the lead in hits.

As a team, the pitching staff posted a 5.11 ERA. Madigan was brilliant in his short time playing. He started out rough, losing his first game by allowing four runs on 10 hits and walking two in just north of three innings, finishing the game with a harsh 10.80 ERA. But he rounded into form in his next five games, allowing only one earned run in 30.2 innings pitched and striking out 25.

But when Madigan went down, others stepped up. Freshman starter Aldo Severson comes to mind, who went 1-1 and posted a 3.98 ERA in 43 innings pitched and was second in strikeouts for the team.

“He struggled early, but matured as a college pitcher as the season went on,” said Brunicardi.

A leader on the staff, Bryan Hidalgo also had a strong season. He pitched for 56 innings and had a 3.05 ERA, leading the team in strikeouts with 44.

Improvements for next season

The team returns 18 players next season, after boasting one of the largest freshmen class ever, and now with a season of experience, there are still areas for them to improve on. Of course one is getting healthy.

“We could’ve been better if we stayed healthy,” said Brunicardi. “[injuries] put guys in roles they weren’t accustomed to being in.”

“I think they all need to improve physically,” said Nomicos. “They need to get stronger.”

On the pitching staff, four players are returning: two starting pitchers and two relievers.

“The goal for Dino and myself is bringing pitching, arms that can help us right away,” said Brunicardi. “That will be our recruiting focus.”

The pitching must also lower walks, something that plagued the team and killed them at times, according to Brunicardi.

“We walked too many. When we got beat, we beat ourselves,” he said.

After having a strong season defensively, the team must focus on improving on the opposite side.

“We need to improve on offense,” said Nomicos. “Then they’ll be good. They have the will to win.”