COC Insider: Cougars on the championship prowl

College of the Canyons baseball players Anthony Lepre (55), Anthony Medina (20), Ivan Lomeli (2) and Wes Felber (9) greet center fielder Cole Kleszcz at home plate moments after he hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning of a 6-5 loss to Santa Ana College on March 2. Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information

With all five College of the Canyons spring sports set for competition in various stages of the postseason, the Cougars will enter the weekend on a championship prowl.

The COC baseball and softball programs will be the next to join the hunt, with their respective playoff series set to get underway on Friday.

No. 3 seed COC baseball will host No. 14 Santa Ana College in a best-of-three series during the opening round of the California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Regional Playoffs.

Canyons (27-12 overall, 17-3 in conference) ended the regular season as Western State Conference, East Division champions. The title was the program’s first since 2009, and the fifth for coach Chris Cota. The Cougars have now advanced to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

COC’s mark of 52 home runs this season led the entire state, with the team’s .313 batting average good enough to rank sixth.

Freshman center fielder Cole Kleszcz has played a key role in helping the Cougars reach that mark, socking 18 home runs to lead the state while posting a .417 batting average to go with 45 RBIs.

Santa Ana (26-14, 10-11) finished fifth in the Orange Empire Conference, one game back of the third-place mark. The Dons won six of their final eight games to close out the regular season.

The Cougars played a two-game set vs. Santa Ana earlier in the season, with the Dons winning the first game 6-5 on the road and returning home for the 13-9 victory in game two.

 Canyons and Santa Ana will begin their playoff series at 2 p.m. Friday at Cougar Field.

Action will resume the following day at 11 a.m. with a potential third and final game scheduled to follow at approximately 2 p.m.

 No. 9 COC softball will begin its postseason run by traveling to face No. 8 Southwestern College in a best-of-three series beginning on Friday in Chula Vista.

Canyons (28-11-1, 13-5) finished the regular season second in the WSC, East Division. COC, which batted .397 through the regular season while smacking 36 home runs to rank fourth in the state, has now advanced to the postseason in six straight seasons under coach John Wissmath.

Southwestern (27-10, 13-3) finished second in the Pacific Coast Conference. The Jaguars posted a .340 team batting average with 11 home runs on the year.

Canyons and Southwestern will begin their series at 2 p.m. Friday. Game two will follow at 12 p.m. on Saturday, with a potential third and final game to follow approximately 30 minutes after the second contest.

Entry for fans to all CCCAA baseball/softball playoff contests is $12 for general admission and $8 for students and staff with ID, senior citizens and children under 12 years old.

 Men’s golf

 The COC men’s golf team claimed its eighth straight WSC title on Monday, with the Cougars able to hold off second place Ventura College to taste victory for the sixth week in a row.

The WSC Finals were played over 36 holes on a clear day at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Arroyo Grande. COC ended the day with a five-man score of 753 (377/378) to lead the pack. Ventura at 755 (377/378), Santa Barbara City College at 768 (383/385) and Citrus College with a round of 785 (391/394) were next on the leaderboard.

Freshman Daniel Taplin’s combined score of 147 (73/74) led the Cougars, while his opening round of 73 was the second best score of the day.

Sophomore Ben Campbell shot a round of 150 (76/74) to tie with teammate Ricky Hoefert (74/76). Sophomore Jaeyeol Kim was one shot off that pace, and ended his day at 151 (75/76). Freshman Michael Lindgren carded a first round score of 78, but had his second round of 78 scratched.

 Campbell was named conference co-MVP, sharing that honor with Joey Herrera of Ventura. Taplin, Kim and Lindgren were all named to the All-WSC team, with COC coach Gary Peterson earning Coach of the Year accolades.

The 2017 WSC Championship is the program’s 23rd conference title. The Cougars have also qualified to compete at the CCCAA Southern California Championships 29 times, including a streak of 23 straight seasons dating back to 1995. COC has won three consecutive Southern California regional titles (2014, 2015, 2016) heading into this year’s event.

The 2017 CCCAA SoCal Championships will be held Monday at El Camino Country Club in Oceanside. The 36-hole event is scheduled to tee off at 7 a.m.

 COC track and field

Canyons will send a combined 29 student-athletes to Friday’s CCCAA SoCal Regional Prelims at Cerritos College just one week removed from claiming three conference titles at the WSC Finals hosted by Moorpark College on April 28.

COC sophomore Jasmine Hall ended the conference portion of the season by clinching a WSC title in the high jump with a leap of 1.68m. She followed up that effort with a dominating all-around performance that included a WSC championship in the javelin with a throw of 38.72m.

Hall also placed third in the 200m (25.78), third in the 100h (15.36), third in the triple jump (10.86m), fourth in the long jump (5.20m), and fifth in the shot put (10.79m). She later ran on both relay teams.

Sophomore Dana Bowers won a conference title in the shot put after throwing for a distance of 11.96m. Bowers added a third place finish in the javelin with her throw of 34.37m.

Also making a mark in the throwing competitions was sophomore Samiyah Hawkins who finished as runner up in the shot put (11.65m) and the discus (37.83m).

Ariana Cooper finished runner up in the 400h (1:03.86) and later joined Sophia Stephan, Keyana Session and Hall to clock a second place time of 4:06.16 in the 4x400m relay.

As a team, COC’s women’s squad netted 155 points to finish as runner up behind conference champion West Los Angeles College (173.5).

Top individual finishers for the men’s team included the second place 4x400m relay team of Blake Beeler, Delon Buncio, Louis Eusebi and Connor Holcomb with a time of 3:18.94.

Garrett Noltemeyer took third in the 3,000m steeplechase (10:07.40) and fourth in the 10,000m (34:17.77). Weston Lombardo finished third in the pole vault at 4.30m.

COC’s men’s team finished in sixth place.

Canyons will now head to the SoCal Championships. Preliminary events are scheduled for Saturday with the finals slated for May 13. COC has qualified for a combined 47 spots across 31 men’s and women’s events.

3 Cougars heading to state finals

The COC swim and dive program will be represented at this weekend’s CCCAA State Championships after winning four individual conference titles at the WSC Finals meet held April 20-22 at Allan Hancock College.

COC sophomore Jennifer Yamauchi is one of three Cougars prepping for the state meet after winning a WSC title in the 100-yard backstroke with her school record time of 1:01.11. In doing so, Yamauchi became the first individual WSC champion in women’s program history.

Yamauchi also finished runner up in the 200-yard backstroke with a school record time of 2:10.91, to qualify for the state championships in both events.

Freshman Jessie Kim was the top finisher on the men’s side after winning individual WSC titles in both the 100-yard (53.07) and 200-yard (2:01.86) backstroke events. Kim’s time in the 100-yard sprint established a new school record. He too will head to the state championships.

William Karren took home a WSC title in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 52.26. He also finished third in the 200-yard butterfly (2:01.49) to qualify for the state meet in both events.

The CCCAA Swim & Dive State Championships will be held Thursday through Saturday at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS