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The Courier

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COD Baseball Brings Home Region 4 Championship

The Chaparrals beat the Owls to win the NJCAA Region 4 Championship for the first time since 2002.
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Rachel Wagner

For the first time in 22 years, the College of DuPage baseball team won the NJCAA Region 4 Championship.

Going undefeated in the tournament, COD met with Oakton College one final time on May 12 after they beat Joliet Junior College and Waubonsee Community College to make the Region 4 title game. The Chaparrals claimed a 10-2 victory over the Owls in game one of the tournament, but Oakton put up more of a fight in their second showing.

COD took a 10-3 lead in the sixth inning, but Oakton scored five unanswered runs in the seventh to threaten the lead. Scoring an insurance run in the eighth inning, the Chaps dashed the Owls’ hopes of a comeback. COD beat Oakton 11-8 to win the Region 4 Championship and advance to the Great Lakes District Championship series.

“No matter how bad it got, I always envisioned us getting here,” assistant coach Matt Gould said. “There were times when that vision got a little blurry or harder to see, but I always thought that we could get here. I think everybody in the region knew whose tournament this was to lose, and we had to prove that we could do it.”

The team drenches assistant coach Matt Gould in ice water to celebrate the win. (Rachel Wagner)

Along with the Region 4 title win, Gould was named Region 4 Coach of the Year.

“I don’t know if I’ve totally processed it yet,” he said. “Thinking about the whole journey here, I’m still fighting myself for a lack of words. I’m not often the speechless guy.”

Freshman pitcher Ryan Sigale came into the game as the reliever during the seventh inning. In his eleventh appearance, Sigale threw one strikeout and faced eight batters. He gave up no hits or runs to earn his first save of the year. After waiting to be called on through the tournament, he said he was ready to end any game he entered.

“I warmed up the last two days to go in, but we just kept walk-off slaughter-ruling [our opponents],” Sigale said. “I never had to go in [before today]. I knew that if I went in, [the Owls] had no chance.”

Sophomore catcher Filip Milatovic was named Most Valuable Player of the Region 4 tournament. Milatovic swatted two doubles in three at-bats. He scored two runs and picked up two RBIs. He recapped his performance in the tournament and praised his team for lifting him up.

“The first two days of region play, I wasn’t horrible,” Milatovic said. “Today [I focused on] whatever I could do to help the team win. I think I had some clutch hits when we needed them. It was pretty cool. I honestly didn’t think they were going to announce my name. I can’t thank my teammates enough. They put me into those spots to deliver, and this is one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of.”

Freshman outfielder Joe Pender smashed his first postseason two-run home run over the left-field wall in the fifth inning. The homer was Pender’s solo hit and run on the day, and he struck out once in four at-bats. He also secured three RBIs. He explained what he could remember from the play and expressed his excitement over the title win.

“I got scared because I bat flipped and the [left fielder] was still running toward the wall,” Pender said. “I didn’t know for sure if it was out. I couldn’t tell you what pitch it was. I don’t even know where I’m at right now. This is awesome.”

Freshman outfielder Joe Pender clinks helmets with freshman first baseman Mark Mennecke after hitting a home run. (Rachel Wagner)

Freshman infielder Vinny Spotofora made one hit in four at-bats. He walked once and collected three RBIs. In the field, Spotofora put out two runners and made four assists. He said he was just doing his job.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play and help my team win,” Spotofora said. “That’s it. It feels amazing.”

Freshman infielder Jack Wade smacked one hit in five at-bats. He stole two bases and notched two RBIs. He said the team set their sights on the national championship tournament, but are focused on winning the district in Ohio.

“Our game plan is to win,” Wade said. “We’re going to go there, be confident and not underestimate anybody. We’re going there with a purpose, and our purpose is to make it to New York; that’s where the national championship is. That’s our goal. We’re going one step at a time and [winning the district] is our next step.”

The Chaparrals continue their postseason run against the Terra State Community College Titans in a best-of-three series for the Great Lakes District Championship starting May 17 in Fremont, Ohio.

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