BASEBALL: Comets lose playoff spot
Palomar’s baseball team didn’t have the ideal season, but it was enough to get the team into the playoffs – or so they thought.
After the final game of the season on April 27, the team was mistakenly told that it had the No.1 playoff seed, and that it would be hosting the first round of the Southern California Community College Regionals from May 5-6. The team wasn’t notified until April 29 that there was a mistake in the playoff assignments.
The season ended in a three-way tie for first place in conference; Palomar shared the title with Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College. With three teams tied for first place, it was the best overall season record that determined who goes on, not the season run differential between the three teams, as was originally thought. Southwestern became the No.1 seed and San Diego Mesa became the No. 2 seed.
The team’s final regular season record was 18-18, 15-10 conference.
The Comets started off the season with a record of 3-8 before heading into conference play. Conference play helped the team get back into the win column after hitting bottom.
A six-game losing streak that hit in the middle of the season, including two losses to Imperial Valley and three losses to San Diego Mesa, was the breaking point for the Comets.
“It was big,” Manager Buck Taylor said. “You look back and if we had beat IVC twice, we’d be in first place right now.”
But the team made up for the losing streak by winning 10 out of its last 13 games. The Comets only lost three out of 17 games at home, while they only won four out of 19 games on the road.
Palomar’s last two consecutive home games went to the 14th inning, on April 21 and April 24. In the first game, the team won 7-6 when Tommy Cheek singled with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 14th. In the second game, the team won on Brett Clark’s single with one out in the bottom of the 14th.
As always, Taylor started the season with a high turnover of players. He said that only one player, Casey Munoz, played the same position that he played the year before.
“It’s a grind, man,” Taylor said. “Every year, same deal.”
On the offensive side, Taylor said that the team had issues with timely hitting. The team left 269 runners on base in the season.
“Two-out hit here and there, and I think our season is a little bit different,” Taylor said. “When we slump, we slump together and when we hit, we hit together.”
Audie Afenir led the team with a batting average of .348. Munoz had the second best batting average on the team with a .321, but he was also the best defensive player with a fielding percentage of 1.000. Danny Hawksley drove in the most runs in the team with 30 RBIs.
The pitching was a strong point this year for the Comets. Taylor pointed out D.J. Zapata and Nick Carmichael as solid pitchers for the team this year. Zapata had the best ERA on staff with a 1.71 against all opponents, and a 1.19 against conference opponents. Carmichael got six saves and struck out 16. Julian Esquibel, who was also a solid starter for the Comets, had a 2.20 ERA and struck out 48 batters in the season.