By Jesse Muñoz
For The Signal
College of the Canyons may have come up short in its playoff series vs. Palomar College, but the Cougars certainly aren’t lacking in postseason accolades.
Canyons had 13 players recognized with All-Western State Conference (WSC), East Division honors including sophomore slugger Calvin Estrada, who was named Player of the Year and sophomore southpaw Jacob Lopez who tossed a season worthy of Pitcher of the Year Honors.
Lopez finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and state-leading 119 punch-outs after logging double-digit strikeout totals in six of his 13 starts. He also led the entire WSC with a 1.76 ERA across 82 innings of work. Opponents batted just .219 vs. Lopez and scored 16 earned runs.
The Saugus High School graduate later tossed a gem vs. Palomar in the opening game of the Southern California Regional playoffs. Lopez earned the win after allowing two runs, one earned, on six hits and striking out nine batters in seven and 2/3 innings of work. That effort lowered his ERA to 1.62, currently the sixth-best mark in the state.
Lopez, who also earned All-WSC First-Team honors as a freshman, will transfer to Texas Tech in the fall. He follows in the footsteps of former COC hurler Justin Dehn, who earned conference Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017 before transferring to New Mexico State. COC pitcher JC Cloney won the same award as a freshman in 2014 and later transferred to University of Arizona. He is currently playing in the Kansas City Royals organization.
Estrada had a year to remember for the Cougars in 2018. The sophomore finished the regular season with a blistering .458 batting average to lead the state, and clubbed 13 home runs, with 43 RBIs, 47 runs and 11 stolen bases. Estrada slugged .901 along the way and reached base at a mark of .547 to lead the club in every category.
He becomes the second Cougar in as many years to pick up Player of the Year honors, joining 2017 honoree Cole Kleszcz who has since moved on to UC Santa Barbara.
COC starting pitcher Jackson Cunningham and reliever Connor Dreyer were both named to the All-WSC First Team.
Cunningham (6-2, 5.46 ERA, 70 strikeouts) helped usher Canyons into the postseason by posting a perfect 5-0 record vs. conference opponents and averaging 11.72 K/9. Dreyer (3-1, 2.38 ERA, 39 strikeouts, two saves) pitched 34 innings out of the pen and led the club with 22 appearances. He registered a 0.39 ERA in 12 conference games.
Canyons also had six players named to the All-WSC Second Team with first baseman Blake Doremus (.284, nine HRs, 42 RBIs, 18 runs), third baseman Tyler Erne (.316, 22 RBIs, 27 runs), second baseman Eddie Rodriguez (.277, 25 RBIs, 25 runs), outfielders Senituli Taufahema (.353, 22 RBIs, 23 runs) and Corbin Williams (.294, 25 runs, seven stolen bases) joining relief pitcher Jarrett Poh (3-1, 0.69 ERA, 28 Ks). Williams also picked up a Golden Glove award for his stellar play in center field.
COC shortstop Trace Eldridge (.301, five HRs, 30 runs, 23 RBIs), catcher Ryan Mendoza (.231, five HRs, 18 RBIs, 25 runs) and utility man Nick Henry (.348, four HRs, 15 RBIs, 11 runs) were all Honorable Mention nods.
The 13 all-conference selections for COC were three more than the Cougars received in 2017.
Canyons ended the regular season a game back of Glendale College in the WSC, East standings to qualify for the postseason for the third straight year.
COC Golf Is Runner-Up at State Championships
Canyons had two players rank in the Top 10 as the Cougars finished runner-up to Cypress College at the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championships at Sandpiper Golf Club on Monday.
The Cougars carded a five-man score of 373 in the afternoon round to top the eight-team field, but it wasn’t enough to catch Cypress, which had opened up a commanding 16-stroke lead after the first 18 holes. The Chargers (736-70/73) were trailed by runner-up COC (754-381/373), third place Orange Coast College (760-378/382) and Reedley College (760-380/380) which had to settle for fourth after a card off.
Clayton Kucera (147-74/73) was the low man for Canyons. He finished sixth in the field of 60 individuals to earn All-State Team honors. The freshman’s one-over round of 73 to finish the event was fourth best on the day.
Jones Comerford (149-75/74) capped his fantastic freshman campaign with a 10th place finish at the state tourney, a week after winning an individual SoCal Regional Championship. Comerford was also named the Western State Conference (WSC) Player of the Year.
Canyons, which was competing in its 23rd state championship event, has now finished either first or second at the state finals every year since 2012, having won titles in 2017, 2015 and 2013.
COC ends the year having won the 2018 CCCAA Southern California Regional Championship and a ninth straight WSC crown.
Cougar Track & Field Heads to State Meet
Canyons will complete the home stretch of its season with a trip to the CCCAA State Championship meet hosted by Bakersfield College this weekend.
The Cougars claimed a total of nine state qualifying spots at last weekend’s CCCAA Southern California Championships hosted by San Diego Mesa College.
COC will send six athletes from the women’s team to compete in six events (10,000m, 5,000m, 1,500m, high jump, 4x100m relay, heptathlon) at the state championship meet.
The women’s 4x100m relay team of Sydni Jordan, Amber Gatewood, Alicia Hurst and Takaira Beard clocked a time of 50.57 seconds to finish fifth in SoCal and nab a qualifying spot.
Beard also tied for sixth place in the high jump with a leap of 1.55m and will move on to the state championships after previously winning the WSC title in the same event. She will also compete in the heptathlon after placing eighth in SoCal earlier this spring.
COC sophomore Stephanie Martinez qualified in the 10,000m by placing third with a time of 40:57.65. She will also compete in the 5,000m after recording an eighth-place time of 19:01.24. Sophia Stephan placed ninth in the 1,500m at a pace of 4:53.63 to also nab a qualifying bid.
COC’s men’s team will send six athletes representing three events (high jump, 4x100m, 4x400m) to the state meet.
The Cougars’ 4x100m relay team of Leo Lambert, Slade Cavallaro, Blake Beeler and Calel Christian took second-place at a time of 41.91. That result should position Canyons as a top contender for a state championship in the event.
The 4x400m team of Lambert, Steven Arrington, Beeler and Cavallaro will also advance to the state meet.
Marcel Sylvester settled for third place in the high jump with a mark of 2.05m, which tied for the event’s top result. However, Sylvester was slotted into the No. 3 spot based on his previous jumps. He should also be among the top competitors at the state championship meet.
For more information about the Cougars’ 17 intercollegiate sports programs visit www.COCathletics.com.