As Salt Lake Community College reaches the end of spring semester, the baseball and softball teams get ready for the postseason.
With their regular seasons now complete, the Bruin baseball and softball teams begin their regional tournaments in the Scenic West Athletic Conference this week. A strong finish is paramount to reaching their preseason goals.
From day one, the Bruin softball team has been the class of the league. A five-game winning streak to start the season set the tone for SLCC and set them on course to reach their goal of winning the conference crown.
“We are looking to return to the NJCAA tourney,” says head coach Cyndee Bennett. “We just need to keep working hard and stay focused on our goals.”
With eight wins against two losses in non-conference play, the Bruins knew they had the talent necessary to challenge for the conference crown. The only question was, would they be able to outlast their conference opponents?
After dropping back-to-back conference games against College of Southern Idaho on March 8, the Bruins began to separate from the pack, amassing a record of 32-2 against SWAC opponents.
SLCC currently holds a 23-game winning streak as they begin the Region 18 tournament Wednesday at Norma Carr Field.
“This team is just better than their opponents each week,” says Bruins PA announcer Anita Tsuchiya.
Paced by designated hitter/pitcher Tarni Stepto, the Bruins lead the SWAC in all major team statistics.
Reflecting their dominance against conference opponents, SLCC is first in nearly every major offensive category, only trailing in walks and home runs.
Several Bruins also litter the conference leaderboard. Stepto leads seven Bruins in the conference top ten in batting average. Mallory Barber leads the SWAC in slugging percentage, runs scored and RBI.
Stepto and Barber are also among the six Bruins in the conference top ten in on-base percentage.
On the defensive side, Bruin hurlers have dominated their opponents, leading the conference in earned run average, shutouts, runs allowed, walks allowed, opponents’ batting average against and many other major statistical categories.
Stepto has an incredible 0.39 ERA in SWAC play.
In addition to Stepto, SLCC boasts two other top pitchers in conference play, Mia Cullimore and Brook Carter. Kierstyn Mitchell and Kiara Grover round out the rotation.
SLCC also leads the conference in fielding percentage, converting over 95% of balls in play into outs.
Bruin baseball did not start out with the lofty aspirations that softball did.
With less of a tradition of success compared to the softball team, SLCC began the year by losing four consecutive games to South Mountain Community College in Arizona. Things didn’t look good.
After snow caused a cancellation of their next scheduled game, the Bruins had time to regroup.
“We’ve got a solid group that’s been exciting to watch,” says head coach D.G. Nelson. “It’s been exciting to watch us come together as we play more games.”
Beginning with a three-game sweep of the Utah State University club team, Bruin baseball went on a 23-game winning streak, rising as high as No. 11 in the National Junior College Athletic Association Baseball Top 25 rankings.
In the March 30 game against conference powerhouse College of Southern Nevada, the Bruins could have easily folded when ace starter Breck Eichelberger allowed three earned runs in seven innings, including a second-inning home run. Instead, the team banded together and scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead. The Bruins would not trail again, winning 4-3 in extra innings, setting a tone for how their season would go.
SLCC would drop the second game of the doubleheader to CSN, but held strong and won six more games. Heading into the weekend of April 12, the Bruins held a five-game conference lead over CSN, but promptly lost three of four to Southern Idaho, reducing their conference lead to two games.
The weekend of May 3-4 saw the Bruins come up short for the SWAC title, losing three out of four to CSN. SLCC returns to Henderson, Nevada, to play in the region tournament, which begins Thursday.
The Bruin baseball team has several players at or near the top of the SWAC in a variety of statistical categories. Left fielder Alex Bumpus takes charge with a robust .413 batting average and .609 slugging percentage. Josh Cowden and Tyler Dean also earned a spot in the top 15.
Cole Gambill leads the SWAC with 33 runs scored and 27 runs batted in. Jaxson Otis is second in runs scored with 29 and has a league-high 10 stolen bases.
On the mound, SLCC leads the conference with a 2.95 team ERA, after surrendering just nine home runs and holding conference opponents to a .236 batting average. Eichelberger, Jake Wilson and Cal Beardsley lead the starting rotation.
Both Region 18 tournaments will be live-streamed through the SWAC Digital Network.