Bear Cubs romp in regional opener

Ryan Xepoleas singles in the 7th inning.  Santa Rosa Junior College beat Solano 13-3 on Friday.  Credit: John Burgess / The Press Democrat

Ryan Xepoleas singles in the 7th inning. Santa Rosa Junior College beat Solano 13-3 on Friday.
Credit: John Burgess / The Press Democrat

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In Friday’s opening-round game of the CCCAA Northern Super Regional, Santa Rosa JC batted around in two innings while pitcher Bryan Webster had visiting Solano hitting mostly ground balls.

The result was a 13-3 victory that moved the Bear Cubs to within two wins of a trip to the state championship, which begins May 17 in Fresno.

Santa Rosa takes on Delta today at 11 in a winner’s bracket game. On Friday, Delta defeated Chabot, 5-0. Delta, the No. 5 seed, took two out of three from the Bear Cubs during the regular season.

The four-team, double-elimination tournament concludes Sunday at Cook Sypher Field.

There was a muted celebration following the victory over Solano. The SRJC players quietly formed two lines and exchanged high-fives. No jumping in the air or hugging.

“This is a tournament and we’re happy to win one game, but we came here to do a lot more,” coach Damon Neidlinger said. “Our focus is to win three games.”

The Bear Cubs, the top-seeded team in Northern California, put three runs on the board in the first inning. Ryan Xepoleas, Chase Stafford (Casa Grande), Brent Gillespie (Rancho Cotate), Taylor Martin and Stephen McElroy (Petaluma) all had hits.

McElroy had the big blow, a two-run double that knocked in Stafford and Gillespie.

The score stayed at 3-0 until the fifth when Solano pushed across a run.

That run seemed to wake up the Bear Cubs’ bats as they scored six in the sixth and sent 11 players to the plate. Two errors by shortstop David Fernandez played a big role in the uprising. Xepoleas, Stafford and Nico Filice (Cardinal Newman) each singled.

Santa Rosa put up another run in the seventh and batted around again in the eighth while scoring three more.

While the home team was banging out 19 hits, Webster had control of the Solano bats. The 6-foot-8 sophomore induced 19 ground balls, including two double plays.

“Those three runs in the first boosted my confidence,” he said. “I concentrated on getting the first pitch in the strike zone and getting ahead in the count. It was one of my better games.”

Webster came in with a 4.36 ERA. His record is now 6-2.

“Bryan had been a little inconsistent late in the season,” Neidlinger said. “He put it together against Solano and pitched an excellent game.”

The right-hander has a three-quarter overhand pitching motion. His sinker and hard-breaking curve induce ground balls.

Leftfielder Xepoleas led the Bear Cubs’ offense with five hits in six trips to the plate.

Stafford, who brought a .265 average into the game, went 4 for 5. He was also hit by a pitch.

“This was a huge day for me,” he said with a smile. “I saw the ball well every time I was up and just tried to keep things simple. I didn’t try to swing for the fences, I just tried to hit line drives.”

Santa Rosa, the state champion in 2005, is now 33-8-1. Solano, 25-16, plays Chabot this morning at 10 at Cardinal Newman High.

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