By Kimberly Citron
Cougar baseball got a taste of the big leagues Tuesday evening in an exhibition game versus the minor league Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
The team held their own against the Class A Advanced Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate, bringing two runners home in the first inning and adding another two runs to lead 4-3 into the fifth inning. The Quakes pulled ahead in the bottom of the fifth and solidified the lead with an eighth-inning run for a 6-4 victory.
“I was proud of the guys,” Head Coach Paul Svagdis said. “I think it’s always a phenomenal opportunity for our guys to get a chance to match up with these professional players. We’re really appreciative of the Quakes and Dodgers organizations for allowing us that chance. Most athletes want to get a feel for how they match up against the best, and these guys are the best to us.”
Senior outfielder Alex Ring and junior first baseman Jonathan Erb led a four-run flare-up in the first two innings and rounded up six of the eight Cougar hits with Ring 4-for-4 and Erb 2-for-4. Ring returns to the field this season after a wrist injury left him on the bench in 2010.
“These guys are throwing so hard and their stuff is so good, you just have to keep it simple. All I tried to do was get my foot down and get the barrel of the bat on the ball—if you can do that, good stuff happens,” Ring said. “This is one of the highlights of the year. It’s a lot of fun to have the chance to come and here and compete with them. They’re all, you know, professional talent, so they’re as good as it gets.”
Svagdis attributes Ring’s 4-for-4 performance to his dedication and devotion to the game.
“I was really excited for him. You always want the best for the guys that work the hardest, and Alex just wills himself to be great every day,” Svagdis said. “He works hard in the batting cages on his own pre-practice, post-practice, so for him to be a senior and the adversity he went through last year, he’s our emotional leader and kind of our spiritual leader on the team. He, hopefully, as a senior guy can walk off the field and say, ‘I can play with these guys.’ He’s a guy you want to have that type of game.”
A devoted San Francisco Giants fan, Ring is well aware of the Quakes’ new affiliation with the Dodgers.
“Believe me, I knew all about that,” Ring said. “It was the best beating up on the Dodgers affiliate. That was my favorite part of the whole day.”
Sophomore outfielder Trevor Lothrop was hit by a pitch to bring Ring home for the first run and freshman righthander Jacob Cage sent Erb in for the second. Erb batted in Ring and sophomore infielder Ryan Henley in the second inning to cap a four-run surge.
The Cougar offense held on late in the game with singles by Ring, Erb and junior short stop Anthony Rodriguez. Sophomore catcher Daniel Shouldice took the plate in the ninth inning and was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A ground out ended the game.
The Cougars are 1-for-4 in the annual exhibition game versus the Quakes.
“We’re trying to enjoy the process and have fun when we play but we still want to play hard. Having fun means playing hard and competing, and our guys have a good handle on that,” Svagdis said. “We have a good group of guys.”
Shouldice was diagnosed with an eye contusion and is expected to make a full recovery.