Baseball first in conference

Despite starting the season 3-14 prior to conference play, the Brahmas (11-4, 14-18) sit atop the Western State Conference – South with just over two weeks left in the season.

Head coach Bill Picketts thought it would be a three-team race for the conference title along with Bakersfield College (9-6, 14-18) and Mission College (11-5, 22-10).

The Brahmas took control of the conference during the last two weeks, first taking two of three games from Mission, and then sweeping a two-game series with Bakersfield.

“It definitely brings you that sense of confidence,” freshman Brandon Lewis said. “Next time, we go up against them hopefully we can secure that first place spot and move on to playoffs.”

The Mission series started with a bang when Lewis hit a walkoff solo home run in game one.

Lewis leads the conference with a .403 batting average. His seven home runs are second in the conference, with six in the last eight games.

Lewis’ bat, along with the rest of the team, woke up at the right time. The Brahmas averaged less than three runs through the first eight games. That number has jumped to more than four runs per game.

Starting pitcher Tommy Wilson took control of Bakersfield, throwing a three-hit, complete game shutout in a 3-0 victory on April 6.

Wilson’s 2.23 ERA and 86 strikeouts lead the conference, and his five wins have him tied for second along with fellow Brahma starter Chris Kovach.

Heading into the last two weeks of the season, Pierce is two games ahead of Bakersfield, and one game up on Mission in the loss column.

The week of non-conference matchups will allow Picketts to rest the players that need it, and properly set up his pitching rotation going forward.

The Brahmas’ final five conference games are bookended as they face Bakersfield at Joe Kelly Field. Pierce will host Valley College before hitting the road for games at West Los Angeles College and Mission.

Pierce, Bakersfield and Mission still control their own fates. Winning out to finish the conference schedule will ensure a conference title for any of the three.

Picketts said he looks forward to the final stretch of games.

“All I’ve ever asked about being here is playing meaningful games,” Picketts said. “And we’re going to do that, all the way through.”

Athletic director Bob Lofrano credits the season’s success to Picketts’ level head throughout the season.

“Starting out 0-6, no panic,” Lofrano said. “He has a good baseball mind, so it was just a matter of making those slight changes and keeping a positive attitude. Baseball will drive everybody crazy.”