COC Insider: Center fielder homers his way to accolade

College of the Canyons freshman center fielder Cole Kleszcz connects on his first of two home runs during the Cougars 11-3 win vs. Antelope Valley College on April 7. Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information

College of the Canyons center fielder Cole Kleszcz has been named the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association (CCCBCA) Southern California Player of the Week after a scorching four-game performance that has vaulted the freshman to the top of the state’s home run leaderboard.

Kleszcz ended last week with a .588 batting average after going 10-for-17 with three walks, six home runs, 12 RBIs, 10 runs and two stolen bases over a four-game span from April 4-8.

The Valencia High School grad, who redshirted for the Cougars in 2016, homered in all four of COC’s games, smacking two home runs in back-to-back contests. In Game 2 of COC’s series with Antelope Valley College, Kleszcz went 4-for-6 with two home runs, three runs and five RBIs.

Kleszcz left the yard in five straight games to start the month of April, and currently leads the state with 14 home runs on the season after launching another round-tripper in COC’s 5-4 loss to Cypress College on Wednesday.

“Cole is having an outstanding freshman season as our leadoff hitter,” said COC head coach Chris Cota. “His hard work has shown with his performance on the field.”

Canyons (22-11, 12-2) is currently the No. 17 ranked team in the state according to the most recent California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) State Top-20 Baseball poll, released on Thursday.

The Cougars are also ranked No. 8 in Southern California in the most recent statewide coaches poll.

Earlier in the week, COC participated in the annual Allan Hancock Spring Classic Baseball Tournament in Santa Maria. The Cougars finished the tourney 2-1 after picking up a 4-3 win over Merced College in the opener, and capping the week with a 10-7 come-from-behind win over East Los Angeles College. In the game vs. ELAC, COC trailed 6-2 after six innings, but rallied for the win.

The Cougars sit half a game behind Glendale College (27-5-1, 12-1-1) in the Western State Conference (WSC), East Division, but will face the Vaqueros three more times this season.

But first, Canyons will begin a three-game series with conference rival Citrus College on Tuesday, at Cougar Field. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Men’s Golf

COC won its third conference tourney in as many weeks on Monday, with four Cougars shooting rounds in the 70s at Oakmont Country Club to open up a 17-stroke advantage on host Glendale College.

Canyons (381) was trailed by Glendale (398), Ventura (403) and Santa Barbara City College (417) in the top four spots.

COC golfers held down four of the top five individual spots as well, with Ricky Hoefert and Jaeyeol Kim both carding rounds of 74 to lead the field and share medalist honors.

Ben Campbell was next for Canyons with his round of 75. Daniel Taplin shot a 76 to tie for fourth place and Greg Smith rounded out the COC top-five with his score of 82, which ranked ninth on the day.

Canyons continues to hold the conference’s top spot, followed by Ventura and third place SBCC.

Individually, Campbell — who won the 2016 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) individual state championship — ranks third in the conference, four strokes behind the top spot.

Canyons will compete in two more conference tourneys before teeing off in the WSC Finals on May 1.

On Monday, the Cougars head to Spring Valley Lake Country Club in Victorville, for the WSC tourney hosted by Victor Valley College. Tee time is at 10 a.m.

Track & Field

The COC track & field teams combined to win eight events at the 2017 Vaquero Classic Invitational hosted by Glendale College on April 8, highlighted by a sweep of the men’s relay events and five first place finishes on the women’s side.

The team of Leo Lambert III, Slade Cavallaro, Delon Buncio and Louis Eusebi clocked a time of 43.15 seconds in the 4x100m relay to finish just ahead of San Bernardino Valley College (43.43) and Cuyamaca College (43.62). Later, it was the combination of Tochukwe Eze, Keion Broadus, Cavallaro and Lambert with a time of 3:20.28 to place first ahead of the team from El Camino College (3:20.63).

The COC men’s relay teams have performed well all season, with a 4x400m squad that finished first at four events, including two conference meets, already this season.

Elsewhere, Weston Lombardo took first in the pole vault after clearing a height of 4.31m to represent the only individual first place finisher for the men’s team.

Canyons also performed well in the sprints, with Eusebi taking fourth in the 100m (11.24), Blake Beeler finishing runner up in the 200m (22.34) and Cavallaro third in the 400m (49.90). Beeler was also a fourth place finisher in the 400m (50.01).

The COC women’s team also earned high marks in all areas of competition.

Ariana Cooper took first in the 400h (1:05.96), finishing nearly a full second ahead of her next closest competitor. Cooper also earned a fifth place finish in the 100h (15.88) to trail the first place time of 15.44.

Díani Ellis was first in the 3000m steeplechase with her time of 11:26.81.

Kaitlyn Matthews cleared a distance of 1.55m to finish first in the high jump, one spot ahead of teammate Dana Bowers (1.45m) in second place.

Bowers had a big day for the Cougars, also taking first in the shot put (12.20m), second in the javelin (32.75m), fifth in the hammer throw (27.66m) eighth in the discus (26.92m).

Likewise, Samiyah Hawkins was first in the discus (40.15m), third in the shot put (12.20m) and fourth in the hammer throw (32.70m).


COC took to the pool for the 17th Annual Pasadena Invitational held April 7-8 as part of a field of 408 swimmers representing 22 schools from across the state. Canyons finished eighth on the men’s side while the women’s team ended the meet in ninth place.

Jennifer Yamauchi represented the Cougars well, with a first place finish in the 200-yard backstroke. Her time of 2:15.71 bested the field of 44 swimmers by nearly three seconds, and was nearly two seconds faster than her seed time (2:17.89). The sophomore had a busy two days on the deck, finishing sixth in the 100-yard backstroke (1:05.83) and ninth in the 400y individual medley (5:17.17), while also swimming as a part of several relay teams.

COC’s best relay performance came in the form of a sixth place time of 1:49.47 in the 200-yard freestyle relay posted by Antoinette Peterson, Jordan Arceneaux, Yamauchi and Brooke Coffey. Later, the 400-yard medley relay team of Yamauchi, Coffey, Peterson and Arceneaux placed seventh at 4:37.61.

COC freshman Jessie Kim was the top swimmer for the men’s team. His time of 53.72 in the 100-yard backstroke was good for third place. Kim also posted a time of 2:04.55 in the 200-yard backstroke to earn fourth place honors.

Canyons will now have an off week before hitting the water for the Western State Conference (WSC) Finals April 21-23 in Santa Maria.

COC has fared well in conference competition this season. The men’s team has finished third in all three conference meets. Meanwhile, the women’s team is coming off a second place finish at the most recent WSC event held March 31.

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