Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Office of College Advancement
Fremont, CA-While Ohlone College had put together a remarkable season already, it wasn't going to be complete unless they could accomplish one more thing - a trip to Fresno for the CCCAA State Championships. In a year where big names carried the team all season, it was the unlikeliest hero who emerged Sunday, May 21, to give the Renegades a 5-1 victory over Sacramento City College, and a trip among the state's prestigious Final Four.
The offensive production of LMU signee Ryan Ruley, UCONN signee Thaddeus Phillips, former Sacramento State 1st baseman AJ Curtis, and CCCBCA pre-season All-American Isaac Cruz carried the Renegades all season long. The pitching staff was anchored by 11-win ace Carlos Jimenez and 12-win lefty Brian Martinez. But as the final game of the CCCAA NorCal Sectionals rolled around on Sunday, the Renegades turned to seldom-used freshman Kawena Alo-Kaonohi to save the day.
After a 4-3 walk-off win for Ohlone on Friday, May 19, Sacramento City responded with their own 4-3 thrilling walk-off of their own on Saturday, May 20. After the game, head coach Mike Curran didn't have a clear idea of whom he would send to the mound for the championship game on Sunday. However, late Saturday night, pitching coach Chris Perry sent a text to Curran saying, "Kawena wants the ball tomorrow." Curran responded immediately to his pitching coach with one simple word - "Done!"
Kawena entered the game on Sunday with just 18 innings and only 6 strikeouts on the season. However, he didn't lack big-game experience. Last season, he was the ace of state power at Baldwin High School in Hawaii. Over the summer, he lead Team Hawaii to a berth in the Connie Mack World Series in Cary, North Carolina. "He's not afraid of the limelight," said Curran. "He just doesn't get rattled. It's pretty impressive to see from an 18-year old to be able to handle stuff like that when such huge consequences are on the line."
Alo-Kaonohi was ready for the challenge. He threw a total of 80 pitches (after pitching just 20 hours earlier in Game 2!) and lasted 5-2/3 innings. He scattered three hits, walked two, and struck out two while exiting the game in the 6th with a 5-1 lead. Teammate Anthony Garcia entered the game in the top of the 6th with bases loaded and two outs; he proceeded to strike out the first batter he faced and went on to pitch the final three innings. His final pitch of the game was a 2-2 breaking ball for a called third strike to end the game and set off a raucous celebration.
After winning their conference with a 17-1 record, Ohlone beat Cosumnes River College with a 10th inning, 2 out, walk-off thriller to capture the Regional Championship. The following week they swept Cabrillo College for the Super Regional title. After beating Sacramento City for the Sectional title, the Renegades will open the CCCAA State Final Four with Grossmont College. Gametime will be 6:00 PM at Fresno City College. Santa Rosa will face off against El Camino in the other side of the bracket, at noon that same day.