by Seth Askelson
The annual GCC alumni baseball game commenced on the Gauchos baseball field Jan. 24. This is the time where old players reconnect with their coaches and get their first look at the new team. “There’s a lot of old teammates I get to see, a lot of old coaches,” alum Tony Blanford said.
Though there were good times to be had by all, there was also a game to be played. This year’s edition was drastically different from the last.
Cooper Gray went 2-3, including a two RBI triple, and Garret Skillings added another RBI and two runs as the Gauchos use two four-run innings to power past the alumni team, 13-2.
The Gauchos redeemed themselves from last year, losing 8-1 and being dominated throughout
“I don’t want the team to lose another game to the old guys,” infielder Stanley Gawelko said.
Jake Harner started the first three innings, giving up one run and three hits. A rough first inning, including an RBI triple by Dylan Brock, could’ve shaken the sophomore pitcher, but he settled down and retired 6 of the last 7 batters he faced.
“I just focused on throwing strikes, keeping the first pitch down, and letting my defense do the work,” Harner said.
The Gauchos responded to the Brock triple with a Nico Maldonado RBI following the leadoff walk to Brandon LeBoeuf.
After a shutout top of the second, the Gauchos put up their first four run inning in the bottom half. This was started by a Tyler Vanderham double and the Gauchos used small ball to bring home four.
Four crossed the plate for the Gauchos in the third, this time with the big hits. Gray brought home Vanderham and Sean Wagner with his triple, and he would later score on a Nick Haro double.
“First pitch fastball… was a little outside and I just took it out,” said Gray. “Felt pretty good.”
The fourth and fifth innings were slow offensively, with only one run by the Alumni. Brock struck again, this time with an RBI single following a Thomas Brendel two-out double.
Tyler Abrego struck out the side in the top of the sixth, and the Gauchos added three more in the bottom, as Kyle Anulao and Andres Salazar each had an RBI double, with Salazar’s two bagger bringing home a pair
Abrego continued his pitching stride into the seventh, putting out the side in order with two strikeouts and a flyout to right field.
“I trusted my catcher to put it down where I wanted and we just got on the same page,” Abrego said. “I just started throwing and let the rest happen.”
Instead of the tradition seventh inning stretch, both the Gauchos and the Alumni gathered at home plate to celebrate head coach Dave Grant’s 65th birthday.
The Gauchos finished off the Alumni as Ivan Torres pitched a squeaky clean eighth and ninth innings as they wrapped up the annual scrimmage with a win.
The Gauchos look to have a better finish to their season than last season. After a 10-1 conference, they fell apart down the stretch.
“Once we went to the bullpen [last year] we were not very good,” Grant said. “I think we’re better depth wise and pretty well convinced that we will play better defense. Our demise last year was that we were sloppy on defense.”
The Gauchos will lean on the experience and talent of pitchers such as Abrego and Harner. On the offensive side, veteran players like Gawelko, Gray, and Anulao will be leaned on.
The Gauchos will be in Las Vegas over the weekend for the Coyote Border Battle and will play their home opener February 3rd against the Grand Canyon University Club Team.