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Play Ball: Wildcat baseball looks to rebound in 2016

Senior+pitcher+AJ+Epstein+pitches+the+ball+during+a+scrimmage+on+Jan.+21.+Photo+credit%3A+Lindsay+Pincus
Senior pitcher AJ Epstein pitches the ball during a scrimmage on Jan. 21. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Senior pitcher AJ Epstein pitches the ball during a scrimmage on Jan. 21. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Senior pitcher AJ Epstein pitches the ball during a scrimmage on Jan. 21. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus


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The Chico State baseball team returns to Nettleton Stadium determined to gain a spot in the 2016 College World Series. The Wildcats start their season at home against Menlo College on Saturday, Jan. 30.

After ending last spring with an overall record of 18-25 and a winning percentage of .419, the Wildcats are thirsty to redeem the top spot of the CCAA conference. The team struggled at the plate with the lowest batting average in the conference at .240.

Using last season as fuel, the Wildcats are returning better than ever.

Top returners – With the highest batting average on the team of .325 last spring, senior second basemen Andrew Carrillo returns for his second Chico State baseball season. Carrillo says he is very confident about this upcoming season because each player has an overall sharper focus compared to last year.

“All the guys want to step up and get the job done,” Carrillo said.

A junior pitcher and infielder, Clayton Gelfand, is another returner who will continue to make a positive impact on the program. With the third best batting average of .309, Gelfand will make his mark both at the plate and on the mound.

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Cody Snider steals second base as Kyle Kramer prepares to catch the ball on Jan. 21. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

 

Top recruits – This year, there are 26 newcomers shaping the program from all over California.

Among these new players is senior first baseman, Ben Gamba, a transfer from Holy Names University. The Wildcats will surely benefit from Gamba’s precision and skill.

“I think Ben Gamba will be a big impact for us this year. He’s a big bat in the middle of our lineup,” Carrillo said.

A fellow player, junior catcher Dillon Kelley, will make an impression behind the plate this season. As a junior transferring from the College of the Sequoias, Kelley’s control and focus is bound to lead the Wildcats to victory.

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A new scoreboard has taken its place at the Chico State baseball stadium. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

 

Big Games – Compared to last spring’s three preseason matches, this year the Wildcats are scheduled to play 12 times before their first conference match against the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters. The Wildcats will hit the ground running at the end of February with a weekend full of home games against the Otters.

Carrillo says he looks forward to pre-conference matches so the team has more time to get comfortable at home and solidify their connection before league.

Five times out of the year, the Wildcats will face games Friday, doubleheaders Saturday and final games Sunday. With the team’s strong mentality and determination, it hopes to overcome the long weekends.

“We are a lot closer this year. Everyone wants to win,” Carrillo said.

Anna Baytosh can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @anna_baytosh.

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Play Ball: Wildcat baseball looks to rebound in 2016