Baseball team looking to repeat as conference champions

The Rio Hondo College baseball team enter the final four games of the season with hopes of defeating San Bernardino Valley College and retaining the Foothill Conference Championship.

The Roadrunners (23-8, 15-4) will play a SBVC team (20-11, 16-3) that sits in first place and who won 13 consecutive games spanning from March 10 to April 14.

Rio Hondo had a seven-game winning streak come to an end after a, 6-4, defeat at home against Chaffey College on April 9. It was the third time this season that the Roadrunners won at least five consecutive games, having won eight in a row in the beginning of the season and five in a row from March 5 to March 14.

In the first encounter between Rio Hondo and SBVC, back on March 7 at Rio Hondo, the Roadrunners overturned an early four-run deficit to defeat the Wolverines, 6-5, in extra innings. In that game, freshman shortstop Mauricio Guadarrama had two hits in five at bats, including the walk-off RBI single off of SBVC’s sophomore reliever Jeremy Moreno.

Rio Hondo’s potent offense is one of the reasons for the team’s success this season.

Out of 88 community college baseball teams in California, Rio Hondo rank fourth best in batting average hitting an outstanding .314 and have scored the sixth most runs with 224.

Sophomores Antonio Ruiz and Nick Piraino have produced magnificent offensive numbers and continue to lead the team by example.

Ruiz leads the Roadrunners in several offensive categories including batting average, hits and RBI. The slugger is batting an incredible .462 with two home runs, 55 hits and 29 RBIs in 29 games this season and is also enjoying a respectable season on the mound.

Ruiz has started 10 games for the Roadrunners and has a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 4.60 in 43 innings pitched. The right-hander is second on the team with 33 strikeouts and first in walks with 21.

Piraino is the Roadrunners’ leadoff hitter and is first on the team with 39 runs and 18 stolen bases. The speedy second baseman, who can also play center field, is batting .333 with 40 hits and 23 RBIs in 29 games.

Right fielder Steve Andrade, catcher Kory Brown, center fielder Ray Gonzalez, and Guadarrama are all batting over .300 while freshman first baseman Ryan Viramontes is seventh on the team with a .298 average.

The Roadrunners have a good pitching staff that has helped keep the team within reach of first place in the Foothill Conference.

Rio Hondo’s Joe Wills has won seven games in 11 starts and has a 3.67 ERA this season. The right-hander leads all pitchers on the team with 39 strikeouts and 56.1 innings pitched, and has only lost one game.

The Roadrunners’ Austin Georgen, who was named Foothill Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2014, has started eight games this year and gone 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA in 43.2 innings.

Sophomore pitchers Chris Butcher and Juan Gonzalez have pitched a combined 72.2 innings out of the bullpen and have become a pair of reliable arms for head coach Mike Salazar.

Butcher is 6-1 with three saves and a 3.00 ERA in 16 games and Gonzalez has pitched in 15 games and gone 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA.

The Roadrunners will play the first game of the three-game series against SBVC on Tuesday, April 21 at 2:30 p.m. in San Bernardino.

The second game of the series will be played at Rio Hondo on Thursday, April 23 at 2:30 p.m. and the Roadrunners will play their final conference game on Friday, April 24 at 2:30 p.m. in San Bernardino.