The Vaqueros lost to Orange Coast 9-8 on May 12 in the championship game of Glendale Community College’s Southern California Regional Tournament, which was held May 10 to 12, ending their season at 34-13, breaking its school record for wins at 34 the Vaqueros set a season ago.
“It just came down to us making mistakes, and when you make mistakes against good teams, they beat you, and that’s what Orange Coast did,” coach John Strauss said.
GCC lead the Pirates 4-1, 7-1 and 8-7 throughout the game, but an offensive burst in the seventh inning by the Pirates with two outs sealed their victory and ended GCC’s season.
“We had gotten away with making some mistakes in our conference,” said coach Strauss. “Particularly against Palomar [on Friday], we made a lot of mistakes. But against Orange Coast we were pretty evenly matched. We made mistakes and they didn’t, so that’s what it came down to.”
Glendale’s other loss of 9-4 on Saturday also came at the hands of Orange Coast in a winner’s bracket game. But they stormed back against Palomar College that night with a 12-5 win, allowing GCC to play in the regional championship game.
This was the Vaqueros’ first opportunity at hosting a tournament.
“It was new for us,” Strauss said. “My [assistant] coaches worked their tails off to get that field ready to go [by Friday].”
When asked about this season’s success, Strauss said that it was a combination of many things, but that it could mostly be attributed to good players.
“We had our three and four hitters back from last year, [Fernando] Valenzuela and [Evan] Shahak. That made it easier to have those two guys able to return and have productive years,” Strauss said. “And to get a guy like John Felfoldi, who’s our starting pitcher, it really solidified our rotation.”
Felfoldi was named Western State Conference co-player of the year in the southern division. He finished the season with a 10-2 record and was 7-0 in WSC play with a 1.42 earned run average. He also struck out 69 in 64 2/3 innings and walked just 21 of the 260 batters he faced.
Strauss said Felfoldi is on his way to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, if not before the draft then after it when he is drafted.
“He’s probably one of the top pitchers in Glendale history,” said Strauss. “I don’t know if there was [ever anyone more] talented than him.”
Strauss was named WSC Coach of the Year for the second straight season, with a record of 64-23 in his two years at Glendale.
“Well, I’m not in it for the awards. It’s just that you get the coach of the year when your team wins the conference. So I think being coach of the year is more of a tribute to the team. They won the conference, so I get the award. I think it’s more of a player award, so they make me look pretty good,” Strauss said.
The team’s other pitcher, Eddie Camacho, improved a lot this season. Ivan Lopez also did a great job as GCC’s third starter, Strauss said.
Valenzuela had a successful year as well. He developed some power and had a great year offensively, said the coach. Shahak hit 15 homeruns last year and 15 this year, where he set the college career record for home runs at 30.
Strauss added that the players this year can help lead [next season’s] new players. This season is considered a success because of the record in wins, winning the conference for the second straight year, and getting the No. 4 seed.
“In all of those aspects I think we got better as a program. Everybody up and down, one through nine could hit, and we had enough pitching.”
Strauss said the best part is having four players signing letters of intent to Division I schools, and thinks a few more players will follow that path.
“We have eight sophomores on our team this year. All eight of them will be at a four-year school next year. To me that’s the most fulfilling part of my job,” Strauss said. “Those guys did the job in the classroom. Academically and athletically, they did a great job.”
As for next season, the Vaqueros are looking to take the next step, which could be a little difficult.
“We just have to play fundamentally sound. We’ve got some good pitchers coming back and a couple good hitters. I think we’ve established ourselves as one of the top programs in this area and in Southern California,” Strauss said.
“We’ve just got to work extra hard.”