Play in May: Saddleback Gauchos baseball preview

The Saddleback College baseball team gears up for the upcoming season. (DJ McAllister/Lariat)

The Saddleback College baseball team gears up for the upcoming season. (DJ McAllister/Lariat)

For baseball fans, fall usually means one thing: October baseball. The playoffs. The World Series. The Major League Baseball season is typically over by the end of October or early November. But for the Saddleback Gauchos baseball team, fall brings about the beginning of their season. Although they don’t begin the regular season until February 1st against Santa Barbara Community College, the Gauchos have been working since early September in hopes of a successful season.

Head Coach Sommer McCartney and his staff have been overseeing and helping the development of their players throughout the whole offseason program.

“The guys are working hard, the offseason program is more like an evaluation period. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of new freshman, but, you’re also trying to develop what you have, and so far they’re working pretty hard and showing signs of being competitive.” McCartney said. “We test them when they come in, their body fat, their strength, their explosiveness. We work on that in the weight room three days a week. We’re on the field, we’re practicing five days a week and working on every aspect of their game to make them better. ”

Player development is so crucial to any sport, whether it be at a youth or professional level. All of the hard work put in when no one is  nobody’s watching will hopefully pay off when every pitch matters. Although development is the main focus at the junior college level, there are still games to be won.

“Obviously we want to be competitive, but also our goal is to help them move on to the next level. Trying to develop their strengths and their weaknesses at the same time.” Said McCartney. “We talk about goals, and what are guys’ plans, the whole objective is to get to next level. I think winning is by product of developing players. If everyone is working to get better and play at the next level whether it’s to get drafted or play division I or II, and that should be enough motivation already.”

Speaking of that player development, The Gauchos have the potential to be pretty dangerous on offense, while having a solid pitching staff. Having a balance of production is key to staying consistent during the season.

“I think when schools recruit a ball player, they want recruit someone who can handle the bat and hit, not bunt. That’s west coast baseball, really small ball kind of stuff.” Said McCartney. “A big plus is our pitching has been pretty outstanding. We have a saying, play in May. If we can stay healthy, I think we can compete with anybody, I like our chances. We’ve made the playoffs the last six years in a row, and I expect us to play in May, that’s when playoffs start.”

While everybody must do their part if the Gauchos plan on making the playoffs, McCartney expects sophomore catcher Brett Auerbach to be right in the middle of the team’s success.

“Brett Auerbach was 1st team all-conference last year. He’s not the most vocal guy, but I think he’s going to be a leader type. It’s nice having a catcher, a guy behind the plate, be that leader. I think the pitchers like throwing to him, he’ll also hit in the middle of our lineup. He does a lot of good things for us.”

At the collegiate level, athletes are required to excel not only at their sport, but also in the classroom. The title of student athlete is taken seriously at Saddleback, and the baseball team is no exception. Coach McCartney wanted to make a special acknowledgement that his team is not only putting in hard work on the diamond, but also in their academics.

“Five out of the six years we’ve had over a 3.0 GPA.  These guys go to study hall every week, they do their three hours. We have a lot of bright student athletes. I’ve been really impressed with how these guys have done academically.”

Hopefully the squad’s commitment to all-around excellence will result in a rewarding season on the field and beyond.