For the first time since 2008, the Riverside City College baseball team has reached the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship tournament. Not only have the Tigers reached the tournament, but they will waltz into the big dance as the top seed from the Southern region.
Riverside will face off against the North's second seeded Folsom Lake College Falcons (38-6-1) under the lights on Saturday, May 28 at 6 p.m. The North's top-seeded Ohlone College Renegades (44-4) and the South's second-seeded Palomar College Comets (37-11) will face off in the first game of the tournament at 12 p.m. prior to the Tigers match up.
All games will be live streamed on BAOSN Network and live stats will be available at www.rccathletics.com and the links below. If you are planning to be in attendance, you can purchase tickets online at the link below. All other information can be found on the CCCAA website.
LIVE STREAM– LIVE STATS– TICKETS – TOURNAMENT CENTRAL
The last five times Riverside has reached the state tournament, they walked away with the title four times featuring victories in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2007. They fell short in 2008, but look to get back on track starting this Saturday.
"This is the goal that we set out every year," said Head Coach Rudy Arguelles. "There are different things you want to achieve throughout the year, both athletically and academically. From a baseball standpoint, this is it. This is the ultimate goal."
The message is simple from Arguelles and it has not waivered the entire season.
"We feel grateful and blessed. We 100% earned it. Best part about it is the guys understand that were not done yet."
The state championship format is double elimination with the winner being crowned on Monday, May 30.
"It is always going to be a competitive atmosphere, but the team is built in a way to prepare for this moment."
Riverside (35-12) is coming off a Southern Regional Finals sweep over second-seeded Glendale after outscoring them 20-6 in two games. They trailed just once in the series coming early in the second game, but they promptly responded by etching eight unanswered runs in the third and fourth innings combine leading to a 14-2 tromping.
Offense has been at a premium for the Tigers as they average over eight runs per game and have plated a total of 368 runs on the year. Furthermore, they boast a perfect .300 team batting average featuring a .427 slugging percentage and 18 homeruns.
Leading the Tigers on the offensive front is the Orange Empire Conference (OEC) Player of the Year and freshman right fielder Matthew Bardowell. The power hitting phenomenon has been slotted in the heart of the Tigers order all season and has not disappointed. He leads his team with a .444 batting average, .752 slugging percentage, .580 on base percentage, six homeruns, 21 doubles, 68 hits and 54 RBI. He launched a two-run jack in the second game of the Southern Regional finals to aid the 14-2 victory.
"I couldn't be happier and proud of the young man," said Arguelles. "He is a prime example of what a lot of community college and junior college athletes represent: stories of obstacles and overcoming adversity in order to continue to grow. You are seeing and witnessing a guy who has had that on display from the Fall until now."
Freshman third baseman Ignacio Alvarez follows as of the most highly touted, if not the best, third baseman in the community college system and the country.
"I try to not get too emotional," said Arguelles after a long pause. "But this guy is special. He is just completely different. The staff and I identified it early in the Fall. He truly has a chance to be one of the best RCC Tigers of all time. The young man is a difference maker."
Alvarez has manned the hot corner to perfection all season by committing a mere four errors on 136 total chances. He has made countless top-10 plays diving toward the line and the five-six hole with ease.
Offensively, he boasts a .368 batting average, .577 slugging percentage and .493 on base percentage. He has barreled 60 hits, 14 doubles, and four triples and has scored a team-high 49 times. Furthermore, he has drawn a team-high 33 walks while swiping 11 bags.
Freshman first baseman Daniel Garcia barreled a solo round tripper in game one to remain scolding hot at the dish. In the last three games, Garcia has gone 6-for-14 with two homeruns, three RBI and four runs scored.
While the offense has come up clutch, it is the Tigers bullpen that has toed the line featuring sophomore southpaw Ryan Hernandez.
"Bullpen has been huge, no denying it," explained Arguelles. "We don't get through and get here without them. That is one thing we feel good about going into the format due to the depth of our bullpen. The talent is the talent, abilities are the abilities. Difference maker is the players figuring out how to pitch with what is between their ears."
Hernandez has been the first out of the pen and has yet to waiver. In three post season appearances, the craft lefty has tossed 12.1 innings of scoreless baseball while allowing a mere six hits and fanning 14 batters leading to a set of wins. He has punched out six batters on two separate occasions in games that were decided by three runs or less.
Freshman reliever Luis Sakemi Sato has been equally as effective after being called upon in three postseason games. He has earned all three of his wins in postseason action after tossing 8.2 innings and allowing just three runs. He has amassed 13 strikeouts in his appearances with a 2.70 ERA.
Arguelles is confident in his squad if they stick to their approach thought the final tournament of the season.
"Things have clicked up top. Mindset needs to remain the same and we need to compete fearlessly, plain and simple. We made it. Now, let's get it done."