BASEBALL: There’s no place like home. Really- they don’t have a home field this season.
By Jorge Belon, Managing Editor
With two games left in the season and 1,053.2 miles already logged in their Chevrolet Express, the team spirit of the Valley College baseball team has yet to dampen. Even though construction at their home field means the entire 2015 season has been on the road, the Monarchs currently sit in third place of the Western State Conference South division with a 18-14-1 overall record (11-7 in conference).
The players have welcome this season away from home. With the season nearly over the Monarchs have found their ways of dealing with the road blues. While seating in their vans the players do numerous things from playing cards to just simply talking to each other. However, when the game time approaches it has become a tradition to zone out and listen to their personal music to prepare for another match as the away team.
“I like being away, it’s not that bad,” said pitcher Robbie Stowell. “It has helped us bond being on the road in the vans. It’s also nice that we don’t have to do field jobs. You go to a field and they have to clean up after you, which is awesome.”
Stowell’s teammate shortstop Issac Dominguez echoed his excitement, “It has been awesome, I personally feed off it.”
Valley is behind division leaders Glendale Community College because of their solid conference record of 13-5 despite their pedestrian 17-16 overall record and Los Angeles Mission College (19-14 and 11-7 conference). With only two games left in the season, the boys in green head to Bakersfield College for two days (Thursday and Friday) which will add 210 more miles on the meter before the regular season is over.
The Monarchs will be expecting to improve their conference record to 13-7 when they face the Bakersfield Renegades, putting pressure on the Glendale Vaqueros and the Mission Eagles to win out. The Renegades are currently dwelling near the cellar of the WSC South with a 14-19 overall record.
Dave Mallas, Monarchs head coach was asked to put into words on how his team has been able to perform while playing in front of the opposing team’s fans- he struggles while displaying a grin.
“I honestly don’t know what is driving this team,” said Mallas. “Every year as a coach you bring in a group of players and you attempt to bring the group together and get the best out of them. But this group has done something special by accepting this challenge and embracing this rare situation and simply not making excuses.”
Sophomores are leading the way. First baseman Nick Snyder is batting .395, which is good for second in the conference. Outfielders Mike McCallister and Blake Berry are tied in ninth with 11 stolen bases.
“The fact that we don’t have a home makes it that much more challenging to get wins,” said McCallister.” People don’t expect us to be a strong team or get any results.”
The offense might not be flashy but they are quick on their feet. The Monarchs have stolen 55 bases, which places them in third. As they say, it’s pitching and defense that win championships.
The men in green have to deal with different mounds and parks almost every game. Yet the pitching stands in the top five of four key categories: hits allowed (285), runs allowed (149), walks allowed (85) and ERA (3.93). Defensively, the Monarchs are solid by only committing a mere 33 errors, best in the WSC.
And none of this can be attributed to a home-field advantage.
“Our pitching and defense have really helped us this season,” said Mallas. “This group of players always finds a way to win. Our leadership has been tremendous to say the least.”
The Monarchs have fought their way into the playoff conversation by hitting the freeways and never playing in their backyard. But if they make the playoffs there is still no plan yet on what they would do with their home games, according to Mallas.
“If we make the playoffs, I would just like for us to play on the road,” said Valley’s 11-year-head coach. “There is no point of renting out a field and getting it ready and having this team go through that adversity, so we would want to keep it as normal as possible.”
Their success so far is not a big shocker for the players or the coaching staff. Mallas and his coaches have had five years to prepare for this, since the first rumors of tearing down the old field and playing an entire season on the road first came up. However, the coach can’t wait until the new stadium opens possibly in September.
“Oh man, that is going to be a great day,” said Mallas. “We are going to crank up the music and then take some good batting practices. I cannot wait for that day. But I do not want my players to lose focus and think about that, because if we do not make the playoffs that will be very disappointing since we have done so much.”
The baseball team will be in action again on Thursday at Bakersfield College, when they face the Renegades at 3 p.m.