Week 1 Recap: Saints Looking to Bounce Back After Slow Start to CCL PlayBy Arroyo Seco Saints June 12, 2023 05:53pm
PASADENA, CA – While an 0-2 start in CCL league play was not what players or fans of the Arroyo Seco Saints were hoping for, the team still has shown true promise in their opening week of the 2023 campaign. Dropping a home/away series with the Orange County Riptide was not ideal, but the Saints have experienced a win thus far, a feeling that should not be overlooked.
On opening day for the Saints, the team defeated the Ventura County Pirates 11-5 in an exhibition matchup. Third basemen AJ Ortiz (Biola) caught on fire with his bat late in this matchup and hasn’t looked back since. After a three-hit night against the Pirates, Ortiz would collect three more hits for the team in their matchups against the Riptide. In 12 at-bats this season, that puts Ortiz at six hits, giving him a whopping .500 batting average to start the season.
Returning Saint Max Blessinger (Belmont) has also found success behind the plate early in CCL play. In seven at-bats in league play, Blessinger has reached base in five of them, totaling four hits and a walk. His .571 batting average in league play is exactly what this team needs from him.
Production behind the plate isn’t the only tool Blessinger has been providing to the Saints this season. While most fans would expect to see Blessinger catching fly balls in the outfield, the Belmont product has started the season at second base defensively. Due to a few gaps in the Saints’ early season roster, Blessinger is stepping out of his comfort zone to provide for the team, further showing why the Saints are happy to have him back for a second season.
“I think I echo what Coach Milam tells the group,” says Blessinger. “We have a talented team, and we are only going to get better as the roster starts to fill out. We aren’t worried about our ability to win games this Summer.”
Blessinger’s leadership of the team is another reason why he is vital to the Saints’ success this season. Another adjustment he pointed out in conversation with him was the transition to wood bats.
“Offensively, our guys will start to get into a pregame routine and get more comfortable with the wood bat adjustment,” says Blessinger.
Defensively, Blessinger noted that he was pleased with how the team performed despite some guys playing out of position.
“The added depth will definitely help, but I think our guys held their own in the first two games.”
Luckily for the Saints, part of the added depth has already arrived in Pasadena. Infielder Jack Little (Wichita State) will look to provide a spark behind the plate and in the field for the Saints. Little already has excellent chemistry with members of the Saints’ squad, as the infielder played for Wichita State this spring with Kyte McDonald and Alex Birge.
While Blessinger and Ortiz have been a bright spot behind the plate for the Saints, perhaps the most impressive performers can be found in the Saints’ bullpen. Despite two losses to the Orange County Riptide, the Saints’ middle relievers dominated both matchups.
In the team’s road matchup Friday night in Irvine, right-hander Carter Herrera (Cal State Fullerton) was nearly flawless on the mound. In three innings pitched, the Saints’ reliever allowed zero hits while striking out five batters. As if his pitching wasn’t turning enough heads, the pitcher is currently rocking bleach-blonde hair. In a quick conversation with Herrera, he laughed when asked about the hair, adding that many of his teammates at Cal State Fullerton elected to go with that style for the team’s playoff run.
In Saturday’s home matchup against Orange County, Kent State teammates Calvin Bickerstaff and Peyton Cariaco also dominated. Cariaco struck out six batters in two innings for the team, perhaps earning more innings in games to come for the team.
This Saints will look to get their first win in CCL league play Tuesday night at home against the Santa Barbara Foresters, a team many would consider the Saints’ rivals. Fans are offered free attendance for the game at Jackie Robinson Memorial Field but are also welcome to tune in on our YouTube Channel.
Due to his red-hot start behind the plate in the team’s first two CCL games, this week’s player of the week goes to Max Blessinger!
- Saints Reporter Bennett Snyder (Ohio University)
- Saints Photographer Angie Martinez (Mount Saint Mary’s University)