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The Week Ahead for Hancock Athletics, April 23-29: Conference Title Chase and Playoff Positioning on the Diamonds

The Week Ahead for Hancock Athletics, April 23-29: Conference Title Chase and Playoff Positioning on the Diamonds

The baseball and softball teams enter their final week of the regular season with plenty at stake. The baseball team is one game out of first place with two games remaining. The program is looking for its first conference title since 2001. The softball team closes the season Tuesday with a doubleheader at home against Oxnard. The Bulldogs are trying to build their resume for the postseason.

BASEBALL (10-8, 21-17)
This Week:
Tuesday, April 24 @ Cuesta*, 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 26 vs. Cuesta*, 2:30 p.m.

The Hancock baseball teams enters the final week of the regular season still in the hunt for its first Western State Conference title since 2001. The Bulldogs, winners of three straight games, start the week 10-8 in conference and 21-17 overall. Hancock trails first-place Moorpark (11-7) by one game in the standings, followed by Santa Barbara (9-8) and Ventura (9-9). The Bulldogs close the regular season with an away-and-home series with rival Cuesta College. Hancock plays at Cuesta on Tuesday, April 24, before hosting the Cougars on Thursday, April 26. Both games will begin at 2:30 p.m. The Cougars are 8-10 in league and 19-17 overall.

Hancock went 3-0 in conference games last week. The Bulldogs scored twice in the bottom of the eighth inning to edge Moorpark 4-3 last Tuesday. Josh Tonascia (San Benito HS) delivered the game-tying hit and sophomore Chad Jones (Faith Lutheran HS) followed with the go-ahead single for the Bulldogs. Tonascia finished 2-for-3, while Brendan Gomez (Santa Ynez HS) went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. The Bulldogs went on to sweep a home-and-away series with Ventura, taking the first game 8-3 in Ventura behind four hits from Dylan Maiden (Cabrillo HS) and a 5-for-5 effort by Jake Shusterich (Arroyo Grande HS). Shusterich doubled, tripled, hit a home run and drove in two runs. Hancock finished with 16 hits in the 8-3 victory. Jeff Fernandes (Arroyo Grande HS) earned the win in his second start of the season, allowing four hits and two runs over five innings. The Bulldogs finished the sweep with a 14-10 win at home against Ventura. Cordell Bowie (Del Sol Academy) drove in a career-high four runs, while Maiden, Josh Harmonay (Faith Lutheran) and Gomez collected three hits and multiple RBI apiece in the victory.

In his last two games, Gomez is 7-for-13 with three triples and 4 RBI to raise his season average to .360. Maiden has gone 7-for-12 with five runs and 3 RBI over his last three games to up his season average to .327. For the season, Shusterich leads the team with a .376 batting average, 10 doubles, seven home runs and 37 RBI.

Earlier this season, Hancock and Cuesta split their series with Cuesta winning in Santa Maria, 9-6, and the Bulldogs winning on the road, 6-5. Cuesta's Andrew Navigato leads the conference with a .404 batting average and 47 RBI.

While Hancock and Cuesta battle this week, Santa Barbara faces Ventura, and Moorpark squares off against Oxnard.

The Bulldogs are in contention for their first conference title since 2001. The Bulldogs have already reached the 21-win mark for the first time since 2014 when Hancock went 24-16-1 and made the playoffs.

The CCCAA Regional brackets will be released on Sunday, April 29. Play-in games for the No. 15-18 seeds will take place on Tuesday, May 1. The first round of regionals will take place May 4-5 with the higher seed hosting. The first round is a two-out-of-three-game series.

SOFTBALL (9-3, 19-13-1)
This Week:
Tuesday, April 24 vs. Oxnard*, 1 and 3 p.m.

The Hancock softball team closes its regular season at home on Tuesday, April 24, with a doubleheader against Oxnard. Hancock enters the week 19-13-1 overall and 9-3 in Western State Conference play. Oxnard and its five-game losing streak start the week 1-11 in league and 6-28 on the season. Game one of the doubleheader will start at noon.

Last week, Hancock routed Moorpark 11-1 in five innings at home. Crystal Gonzalez (Righetti HS) went 3-for-3 with 5 RBI, while Nakaila Fuggs (Righetti HS) drove in two runs, and Sabrina Ornelas (Righetti HS) and Zaiden Bakke (Pleasant Valley HS) added two hits apiece. Bailey Killough (Arroyo Grande HS) threw a complete game with five strikeouts in five innings. The Bulldogs ended the week with a 12-4 win in six innings at L.A. Valley last Friday. Killough slugged a two-run home run, while Bakke hit a three-run shot, her first of the season. Killough, Bakke and freshman Mallory Townsend (Cabrillo HS) each had 3 RBI. Townsend and Bakke had three hits each. Mackenzie Baird (Cabrillo HS) and Fuggs added two hits each. Hannah Diaz (Pioneer Valley HS) earned the win with five strikeouts over six innings.

The Bulldogs are looking to build their case for a spot in the postseason, where only the 18 teams make the Southern California Regional. Last season, Hancock, seeded No. 18, defeated No. 15 Fullerton, 4-1 before falling in two games to undefeated and eventual state champion Cypress in the next round.

The CCCAA Regional brackets will be released on Saturday, April 29. Play-in games for seeds No. 15-18 will take place on Tuesday, May 1. The first round of regionals will take place May 4-5 with the highest seed hosting. The first round is a two-out-of-three-game series.

Overall this season, Bakke is the team's leading hitter with a .414 batting average, followed by Killough at .412 with six home runs and 41 RBI. Gonzalez is hitting .395 with 31 RBI, 25 walks and 33 runs scored. Townsend is hitting .316 with 33 runs scored, six triple and 27 RBI.

Tuesday's game will be the final home game for five sophomores: Nikole Cody (Yucca Valley HS), Fuggs, Killough, Sierra Martinez (Orcutt Academy) and Diaz.

TRACK AND FIELD
This Week:
Friday, April 27 @ Western State Conference Finals, Ventura College

The Hancock track and field team heads to Ventura for the Western State Conference Finals looking to add to its accomplishments at last week's WSC Prelims.

Last week, freshman Haleigh Batty (Cabrillo HS) broke her own college record to win the conference's women's long jump title at the WSC Prelims at Santa Monica College. Batty broke her own college record by three inches with a top jump of 19 feet, 10.25 inches. She won by nearly two feet. Batty automatically qualified for next week's Southern California Regional Prelims at San Diego Mesa College. Batty extended Hancock Head Coach Louie Quintana's streak to five straight years with at least one conference champion. Freshman Cherry Inay (Pioneer Valley HS) advanced to this week's WSC Finals in two events: the 100-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles. Her times during last week's prelims of 16.68 seconds and 1:11.51 qualified her for the finals.