Wildcats snag 1-2 record at the Houston Winter Invitational


Jacob Jablonski at bat, photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics

The Chico State baseball team made a trip to Houston earlier this month to compete against some of the division’s toughest teams at the Houston Winter Invitational. This marks the first time since 2017 that Chico State’s baseball team got the opportunity to compete in the tournament. 

“It was definitely a cool opportunity to go over there,” All-California Collegiate Athletic Association catcher Jarret Lindsay said. ”The travel was crazy but the facilities and the whole tournament and everything set up was pretty cool to be a part of.”

The Houston Winter Invitational took place at Minute Maid Park, the major league stadium that hosts the 2022 World Series champion, the Houston Astros. It was a three-day event spanning from Friday to Sunday, with the Wildcats playing one game each day. 

The Cats’ first game on Friday went historically astray against Arkansas Tech University when the team set a program record for strikeouts, notching 17 in total. Only four hits were achieved throughout the game, two of those coming from All-CCAA and All-West Region infielder Jeffrey Ray. The only other hits came from Jacob Jablonski, who received All-CCAA second-team honors last season, and infielder Dom Meza. The final score of the game was 0-5. 

Fortunately, the boys found their swings Saturday after beating Florida’s Flagler College 6-4. The Wildcats had a rough start, giving up four runs in the first inning, but bounced back defensively by not allowing another run after their first inning mishaps.

The Wildcats got their swagger back at the bottom of the fourth scoring four runs. Jablonski led the inning with a homer that sailed over left field. His teammates Xabi Iparraguirre, Dom Meza and Cameron Mahaffy continued the hitting streak by all getting singles, loading up the bases. The following at-bat, Jarret Lindsay, brought in two runs hitting a single to center field. Then, Ernie Arambula tied it up by hitting an RBI groundout. 

“I kinda was dreaming like, ‘Did I really just do this?’” Jablonski said while describing the feeling of hitting a home run at a major league stadium. “You know it’s something you can mark off your bucket list, it was an awesome experience.”

The Wildcats took the lead in the fifth when Meza scored off a wild pitch. Later the Cats scored another run in the seventh due to a safety squeeze bunt by Lindsay, marking his third RBI of the day. The final score saw Chico State winning 6-4 over Flagler. 

“We take a lot of pride in bunting at Chico because we win a lot of one-run games and a lot of those games come down to a single bunt or certain situational hitting,” Lindsay said. “Bunting to me personally and this team means a lot, it’s a big part of our game.”

In their last game at the Houston Winter International, the Wildcats faced off against North Greenville, the NCAA defending national champions. Chico State started off in the driver’s seat up 4-0 in the sixth inning but ultimately crashed after giving up seven runs in the bottom of the sixth. 

The Cats tried to rally late by earning two runs in the eighth inning bringing the score to 6-7. In the ninth inning, All-CCAA outfielder Kyle Dobson led off the inning strong with a base hit but Nate Roof, North Greenville’s reliever, had other plans and closed out the game by striking out the next three Chico State batters. The final score resulted in a close 6-7 loss to the defending champs.

Kyle Dobson sliding, photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics.
Kyle Dobson sliding, photo courtesy of Chico State Athletics.

The Wildcats finished their trip to Texas with a 1-2 record and a positive outlook for the 2023 season. Their first home game is at 2 p.m. this Friday at Nettleton Stadium against Fresno Pacific, followed by a noon doubleheader on Saturday. 

“If we keep working hard at practice, stick to the game plan and the goals that we want to achieve, I’m pretty sure we can go far into this year,” Jablonski said. “I just think the depth that we have this year is going to project us into that final stretch that we need.”

Alex Poletti can be reached at [email protected]