By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Holding strong as Northern California’s top team, Santa Rosa Junior College is playing standout ball with the state baseball playoffs approaching.

Santa Rosa is battling to keep the top seed in the region with Big 8 Conference rival Sierra College right behind. Gaining home-field advantage in the NorCal Region would help the Bear Cubs toward a deep postseason run.

Also making solid bids for the state playoffs are Mendocino College and College of Marin, both led by former Empire prep standouts.

Continuing to lead the NorCal half of the state rankings, Santa Rosa has conference rivals Sierra and San Joaquin Delta right behind. The Bear Cubs face Delta on the road today going into the final week of conference play.

With players scattered among the conference leaders, Santa Rosa is a deeply talented, confident squad.

The offense has been led by Brent Gillespie, from Rancho Cotate, with a .331 average and tied for second in the league with three home runs. Both Gillespie and Anthony Sequeira, out of Petaluma High, have 28 RBIs, good for second in the conference.

Playing in one of the state’s toughest conferences, Santa Rosa not only outscores opponents, but pitches with the best among California’s more than 80 junior college teams. Santa Rosa gives up just a over two runs per contest.

Jason Alexander, from Cardinal Newman, is fourth in the conference with a 1.76 ERA and second with six wins.

With the state playoffs near, a pair of North Bay teams looks to join Santa Rosa.

Ranked fifth in Northern California, the College of Marin leads the Bay Valley Conference.

Marin’s offense is led by Patrick Hodges, from Petaluma High. Hodges is batting .339 with 30 RBIs, third in the BVC.

Mendocino is second to Marin in the Bay Valley and on the edge of making the state playoffs.

Several former Empire small school standouts lead the Eagles. Mike Davis, from Kelseyville High, is the team’s second-leading hitter at .318 and leads the team with 11 doubles. Connor Chick, from Middletown, leads the pitching staff with five wins, tied for second in the conference.

The conference leaders face off to complete regular-season play. Mendocino goes to Marin, in Kentfield, on Tuesday. Marin is at Mendocino, in Ukiah, on Thursday.