Ohlone College baseball team makes improbable return to Final Four
By Matt Schwab, Oakland Tribune.
Thursday, May 19, 2011-Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.
The Ohlone College baseball team is back in the state's Final Four.
The Renegades started the season 1-5 in defense of their California Community College State Championship. They had an untested head coach in Julian Russell and a bit of an identity crisis.
That was then.
Friday, Ohlone (26-17) opens the double-elimination state championships against Santa Ana (29-13) at Bakersfield College at 6 p.m. The winner will face either San Joaquin Delta (31-11) or Glendale (28-14) at 2 p.m. Saturday. That winner advances to Sunday's championship round.
Russell told his players early on to stop trying to be the Renegades of 2010 and to establish their own identity. Ohlone did just that, surging to win the Coast Conference-Pacific title before dancing around a series of land mines in the Regional and Super Regional playoffs.
Russell, 31, an assistant last season who was hired in July to replace Jordon Twohig, credits the turnaround to plain old grit and good execution, along with clutch pitching from Matt Fontaine, a sophomore out of West High.
"Once they realized who they were; a scrappy, hardworking type of a team, they took off after that," Russell said.
Outfielder Ryan Tella, a former Irvington star, ranked sixth in the state with a .425 batting average in the regular season. He also was in the top five in slugging percentage (.685), runs scored (43), hits (62) and triples (8).
The Auburn-bound Tella is one of four Renegades going to Division I programs. The others are Foothill graduates George Asmus (Washington) and Cody DeMera (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Irvington product Christian Weeber (Arkansas-Pine Bluff).
The Renegades didn't wow opponents with power and talent -- they just won't go away.
"They never quit," Russell said. "We were a couple of games back in conference but kept grinding it. That's been kind of our motto."
In the double-elimination Super Regionals, Ohlone rebounded from a 12-10 loss to Sacramento City to advance with a 4-2 victory over the same Panthers. Ohlone also took a wild 16-15 win in 11 innings over College of San Mateo, last year's state runner-up.
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