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SRJC has strong Petaluma connection

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.

The Santa Rosa Junior College baseball team completed one of the best seasons in the school’s history by reaching the California State Championships. The Bear Cubs finished the season with a 34-9-1 record, after winning the touted Big 8 Conference.

Along the road to success, the Bear Cubs received helped from several former Casa Grande and Petaluma high school baseball players. Representing Casa Grande were greyshirt freshmen Alex Perez and Dane Erbst and freshman Chase Stafford. R.J. Busse and Weston Bryan redshirted this season. The former Trojans were sophomores Anthony Sequeira and Stephen McElroy, greyshirt freshman Spencer Neve and freshman Brandon Hagerla.

Santa Rosa was loaded with returners this season, and a successful season was on their mind.

“We wanted nothing less than a state championship from day one. With all the pitching and hitting we had coming back, we felt like we had no weakness,” Sequeira said.

Santa Rosa was the top seed in Northern California, and hosted the Regionals for the first round of playoffs. Adversity hit the Bear Cubs early with a 5-3 loss to Los Medanos in the first game. Santa Rosa went on to win the next two games to win the Regionals, and swept the Super Regionals to advance to the Final Four.

In the first game of the Final Four, Santa Rosa lost 7-1 to Cypress, but heads were still held high. When Santa Rosa won the state championship in 2005, it lost the first game, and went on to win four straight.

“The goal was to get to Sunday,” Sequeira said. “We knew we had to reset and win the next one.”

Winning the next one was the goal, and that was the result in a 2-1 win over Feather River. The next game ended Santa Rosa’s fine season, when it lost, 3-2, in a 10-inning nailbiter to Fullerton.

Sequeira enjoyed a successful season as the Bear Cubs’ starting first basemen. He was awarded second team Big 8 Conference honors after hitting 11 doubles, scoring 26 runs, stealing eight bases and leading the team in RBIs with 34, while playing in all 44 games.

Another returning sophomore and former Trojan was outfielder McElroy. He led the team in triples with four, and his speed also led to seven swiped bags.

Catcher Neve found success in his first year as a starter. He was behind the dish in all 44 games, and finished third on the team in RBIs with 30. He was just as strong on defense, not having a single error and only allowing five passed balls.

Neve controlled a dominant pitching staff that put together a 2.25 earned run average.

“Chemistry was the main ingredient for success this season with the pitching staff,” Neve said. “Since I called all the pitches, I had to be on the same page with whoever was pitching or we weren’t going to get it done.”

Hagerla and Perez both supplied solid innings for Santa Rosa in their first year on the bump.

After being Petaluma’s go-to starter last season, Hagerla found success out of the bullpen. The right-hander pitched in 17 games and totaled 24 innings. He ended his first season with a 4-1 record and a 1.88 ERA.

Perez also had a positive first season out of the bullpen. In 15 games pitched, he threw 22 innings. The lefty compiled a 1-1 record with two saves and a stellar 0.88 ERA.

“Coming out of the pen I didn’t have the luxury of taking an inning to get things going,” Perez said. “I needed to get in there, mix speeds and hit my spots.”

The lone Casa Grande grad to supply offense for the Bear Cubs was Stafford. As a freshman, Stafford played 35 games in the infield, while hitting .272 with a .357 on-base percentage.

“I just wanted to do whatever it took to give my team the best chance to win,” Stafford said. “It didn’t matter if that meant being loud on the bench or getting a big hit.”

Former Gaucho Busse spent most of the season injured, and Erbst will be competing next season after playing behind a veteran outfield.

Both are looking forward to their chance to help continue the SRJC winning tradition.

“We were a band of brothers that were competitive as hell,” McElroy summed up the Bear Cubs.

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