Grand Canyon University’s club baseball players finished their season ranked 15th nationally, stayed on campus past the end of spring semester classes and dyed their hand blonde in anticipation of a postseason that never came.
The Lopes were not among the 32 teams invited to compete in the National Club Baseball Association’s regional playoffs but the unexpected snub was only a dim ending to a bright season.
GCU went from winning its region as a Division II club last year to being a top-20 team in the NCBA Division I Rawlings national poll and finishing one game from the SoPac South Conference championship this year.
“It was probably one of my best teams from the perspective of the unity,” Lopes club baseball coach Rich Warnol said. “They were really close and did a bunch of things together. We competed. We played all year to make the playoffs. We felt like we were the best team in the league but it didn’t pan out that way. We definitely achieved and got where we need to be.”
GCU went 12-3 in SoPac South Conference play with junior shortstop Michael Doty leading the conference in batting average (.440) and junior ace Jarrett McDonald leading the conference in earned run average (1.20).
“It was a good season overall,” said GCU sophomore catcher Justin Horton, a Vero Beach, Fla., native. “We won a lot of games, played really well and grew as a team and a brotherhood. We obviously wish we were still playing and feel like we should be. We feel like we’re one of the better teams in the country.”
The Lopes’ season highlight was winning a series against conference champion Arizona State when the Sun Devils were ranked fourth in the nation. GCU beat ASU 11-1 and 19-9 and lost the middle game 5-4 to jump into the national rankings.
GCU’s pitching was supplemented by sophomores Gabriel Garcia (3-0, 1.53 ERA in conference) and Patrick Cardiasmenos (2-0, 2.04 ERA). Other top hitters were freshman centerfielder Kadin Breeze (.329), sophomore first baseman Zachary Broussley (.321), junior second baseman Anthony Alamillo (.299) and freshman rightfielder Isaias Reyes (.293).
“It was a brotherhood for sure,” Horton said. “It was a really close-knit group. We hung out on the weekends. After practice, we’d all go get food together. We were close friends and had fun playing together.”