The Saddleback College spring sports programs had an excellent showing both regionally and state wide.
Overall, the Gaucho’s entire athletic program ranked 11th in the state out of 104 schools according to coasports.org.
“We’ve always been real strong. Athletically, our programs have always come through and this has been another big year,” Jerry Hannula, assistant athletic director, said.
Although even with a strong Spring, the Gaucho family was hit with the tragic loss of two of its own. Freshman swimmer Pat Moore died July 16 less than two weeks after Former Saddleback swim coach Flip Darr suffered an apparent heart attack July 6.
Moore participated in the breaststroke, backstroke and was also on relay teams. He was a graduate of Dana Hills High School.
Darr coached water polo and swimming and diving for 26 years during which time he won 10 state titles for the swimming and diving team, while winning conference water polo titles nine times.
The Saddleback men’s basketball team finished No. 2 in the state, falling to the Riverside City College, 69-60, in the California Community College Athletic Association state finals.
The Gauchos expect to return eight starters from last year’s Orange Empire Conference championship team, including guard T.J. Lipold. Lipold was a key member in the Gauchos’ run for State.
His shining moment came in a game against Chaffey College.
With 4.9 seconds left, Lipold hit a game winning three-pointer. The shot sent the Gauchos to the state tournament.
The men’s swim team finished eighth at the state meet.
“Anytime you crack the Top 10 at the state meet, that’s a pretty good accomplishment,” Hannula said. “This was their best state tournament finish since 2000.”
Women’s tennis reached the regional semifinals. They finished as state runner-up in 2007. This year, they were conference champions and finished third in the state.
The college athletic department has eight sports on tap in the fall semester including football, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s water polo and women’s golf. Women’s basketball and men’s basketball kick off their seasons in late November.
Football is expected to have a huge turnout of possible players, Hannula said.
Last year, there were over 140 recruits and walk-ons trying out for the team.
This year, the turn out is expected to be similar. The team returns running back Jai Morris.
Last season, Morris rushed for 889 yards and nine touchdowns.
He led the Gauchos to a 7-4 overall finish. They were 5-1 in conference play.
According to jcgridiron.com the Gauchos are ranked No. 15 in the nation in the preseason.
“We’re looking for more success in some of our other sports.” Hannula said. “Women’s golf and soccer should be much improved this year.”
The women’s basketball team started off last season strong but tailed off with a 15-16 record overall.
The Gaucho baseball team finished 29-20 overall and wound up in fourth place in the conference. It won the first round of regional play and went to the Southern California Super Regional Tournament, eventually losing to Mt. San Jacinto College, 11-6.
The softball team also went to the Super Regionals where it lost to Cerritos College, 12-4. This was the team’s second appearance in the Super Regionals. It ended the season with a 29-14 record.