Moorpark College Baseball prepares to make a strong comeback following season cut short due to COVID-19

Freshman+Noah+Balandran+launches+a+pitch+at+the+Bulldog+batter+during+Moorpark%27s+home+game+against+Allan+Hancock+College+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+20%2C+2020.+Photo+credit%3A+Evan+Reinhardt

Freshman Noah Balandran launches a pitch at the Bulldog batter during Moorpark's home game against Allan Hancock College on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Leslie Mendez

On March 19, the California Community College Athletic Association announced that they would be canceling the rest of the 2020 spring sports season due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. This hold on sports has affected many athletes and their eligibility to play.

Unfortunately, like many other teams, Moorpark College’s baseball team had their season cut short. The Raiders played 21 games and ended the season with a 13-8 overall record.

Sophomore Leighton DeMello makes contact with a pitch during the Raiders' home game against Pierce College on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. DeMello ended the game with one run from three at-bats.
Sophomore Leighton DeMello makes contact with a pitch during the Raiders’ home game against Pierce College on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. DeMello ended the game with one run from three at-bats. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Head Coach Mario Porto recognized the team’s efforts prior to the cancellation of the spring season and applauded them on their success.

“We were on a three-game winning streak when the season was shut down and 4-3 in conference,” said Porto. “I liked where we were at the time of the shutdown. We were playing very good.”

In community college sports, it is common for teams to have new faces every year and it’s very natural to have difficulty in coming together as a team. The Raiders made it very obvious that this team was special and shared a bond that was undeniably different from past years.

“This year, I have bonded with everyone so much that we have become brothers,” shared freshman pitcher William Pryor on how this team’s bond was something he had never experienced before.

“It’s truly heartbreaking to have had some guys that I now consider family, my baseball family got ripped away in the middle of something that would’ve been special,” Pryor said.

While this pandemic may have ended the Raiders season early, it hasn’t ceased the team’s ambition to grind.

Coach Porto explained that the coaching staff and players have continued to stay in close contact throughout this time away from the ballpark. Coaches have asked players to continue with their normal workouts to the best of their ability. They do this by sending in videos of their swings and pitches to receive feedback and make additional improvements.

Sophomore Alex Vega catches the ball right before the runner tries to tag first base during Moorpark's home game against Allan Hancock College on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.
Sophomore Alex Vega catches the ball right before the runner tries to tag first base during Moorpark’s home game against Allan Hancock College on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Considering the team has to practice individually to comply with social distancing orders, each member of the team has found a way to train with what they have at home.

“I myself have made a gym in my backyard within the past couple weeks to stay in shape during the off-season,” said sophomore pitcher Riley Stanford. “I’ve focused on maintaining arm strength to be ready for when we hopefully start back up in the fall.”

Despite the season being canceled, the Coronavirus has also put the dreams of ballplayers on pause. Pryor described how the pandemic has stalled his pursuit of playing baseball at a higher level.

“I hope to play ball again next year,” Pryor said. “But I’m not sure where I’m going to end up going to school, as I am receiving my AA and transferring.”

While this stressful time has brought Pryor uncertainty, he refuses to relinquish his dreams.

“I am trying my hardest to be the best player and person that I can be, and will continue to strive to be better until the last time I touch a ball,” Pryor expressed.

The pandemic may have stalled the Raiders season, but it has not terminated the team’s goal of working towards a conference and state championship next baseball season.