By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ranked and aiming for the state playoffs, Santa Rosa Junior College’s baseball and softball teams first must contend in one of California’s toughest conferences.

While the lady Bear Cubs seek the postseason for the first time in more than a decade, Santa Rosa’s baseball squad will be challenged for a return to the state finals.

BASEBALL TEAM REBOUNDS

Santa Rosa’s bid for a repeat engagement in the California Community College Athletic Association final four started well with a dozen wins against two losses to open the season.

Then the Bear Cubs opened Big 8 Conference play 1-4 before winning three of four to regain momentum. Santa Rosa went 12 innings to defeat Diablo Valley at home Friday.

Ranked ninth in Northern California in the latest CCCAA poll, Santa Rosa could move up if the Bear Cubs continue their winning ways after opening against the conference’s toughest teams. Santa Rosa’s first three opponents in Big 8 play held higher rankings — five of the Nor Cal top 10 are from the conference.

Leading the Santa Rosa attack is Matt LoCoco (Piner High), the top hitter and a stolen-base threat. Chase Stafford (Casa Grande) also sparks the Bear Cubs with his bat and speed. Four hitters have contributed double-digit RBIs this season.

Spencer Neve, the catcher out of Petaluma High, anchors a stingy pitching staff. Santa Rosa outscores opponents by nearly two runs a game.

Brandon Hagerla, from Petaluma, leads in wins, with Brett Obranovich, out of Napa, the other primary starter. Leading the Bear Cubs in appearances is J.J. Jamerson (Cardinal Newman).

SOFTBALL TEAM IN THE HUNT

Playing well enough to remain among the best in the state, Santa Rosa softball is positioned for a postseason bid.

Santa Rosa is in the middle of the pack in the Big 8 conference, where four of the teams are ranked in the state top 15. Santa Rosa is 10th in the CCCAA.

Narrowly missing the state softball playoffs last season, Santa Rosa has climbed into the ranks of the state’s best with strong bats and steady pitching.

Santa Rosa is outscoring opponents by nearly two runs per game. Four players have averages above .350, led by shortstop Samantha Bartee, who also leads in hits and runs batted in. The second-year player from Maria Carrillo started two seasons ago before sitting out a year.

Krystina Pardoski, from South Fork High in Humboldt County, Megan Winters (Analy) and outfielder Chauntel Cesna (Rodriguez High in Fairfield), bolster the top of the lineup.

The pitching pair of Winters and Dana Thomsen (Petaluma High) have shared the mound many games to contain opponents.

While expectations are high, SRJC is playing a stretch with 10 of 11 on the road that will largely determine if the Bear Cubs reach the state playoffs.