PBB: Chargers win fourth straight Channel League title

Dos Pueblos made it four Channel League baseball titles a row and got over the .500 mark in the process on Friday at San Marcos.

Sophomore Darby Naughton pitched six shutout innings and senior Luke Coffey drove in three runs with a double and a single, leading the Chargers to a 7-0 victory that gives them a share of the league title and a 15-14 overall record.

Dos Pueblos completes Channel League play at 8-4. Santa Barbara or Buena can tie the Chargers for the title. They’re 6-4 and play twice next week. One team needs to sweep the series to finish at 8-4. If the teams split the series, DP claims the title outright.

A fourpeat was probably the furthest thing from coach Nick Katzenstein’s mind after his club started league play at 1-2.

“You’re wondering,” he said.

But the Chargers turned things around by getting steady pitching, solid defense and some good fortune.

“I just told them I’m proud of them,” Katzenstein said. “On paper, stats and other things, I don’t think we’re probably the top team. But, they have heart and they fight. The players had set their goals to be league champs, and we did what we needed to do: we played good defense, got out of jams… things just fell our way at times.”

He recalled the first meeting at San Marcos, when the Chargers got only one hit and still won, 1-0.

“A lot of luck went into (winning this title),” Katzenstein said. “They fight and they believe in one another, and they find a way to win.”

Naughton also pitched in that 1-0 win at San Marcos and gave six strong innings.

He said the team’s chemistry is great. “We all play for each other. It’s awesome.”

Coffey concurred: “We’re lucky as seniors to have these sophomores and juniors keeping us in ballgames.”

Coffey has played on three of the league championship teams.

DP capitalized on two San Marcos errors to score a run in the first inning. Dustin Demeter’s sacrifice fly brought in Gio Macias.

The Chargers scored four runs in the second. Boelter hit a two-run single up the middle and Coffey belted a double into the left-center field gap for two more runs. In the seventh, Coffey singled in Drake Hawn and Speier hit a ball off pitcher Ian Churchill’s leg to drive in the seventh run.

Naughton said the attitude on the team was: “We didn’t want this to be the year that we didn’t win it.” After losing two of three to start league, “We stepped on the gas pedal and kept working hard.”

The emergence of Naughton as the ace was key to DP’s turnaround in league, Katzenstein noted.
“It took a little bit of time to figure out what our rotation was going to look like,” he explained. “Darby came in for us last year as a freshman and did well and pitched a couple of good games. He’s growing and he’s doing a lot of good things. And, he’s become our ace.”

The other members of the staff stepped up, too.

“Travis Craven this late part of the season has been our guy to step up in that two hole,” Katzenstein continued. “It’s come together nicely, the pitching staff as a whole. Josh Knight, Peter Appel, Michael Boelter, Austin Bull, our pitching staff is keeping us in these games. They’re doing a wonderful job. Our offensive numbers aren’t great, but our pitching numbers are doing really well. Our ERA in league is hovering around two.”

DP’s hitting is starting to pick up. Jesse Speier went 2-for-3 on Friday and Boelter rapped a two-run single before Coffey’s big double in a four-run second inning.

“I haven’t been consistent all season, but now I feel I’m more consistent and getting more hits,” said Coffey.

“He’s hitting the ball well,” Katzenstein said. “He’s modified his swing a little bit and good things are happening for him.”

While the score was one-sided, San Marcos generated several chances to get on the board.

The Royals had runners in scoring position in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. But each time they were denied by Naughton.

“He is a competitive kid,” Katzenstein said. “I know when he’s up there and he’s in trouble, he’s going to bear down and give me everything he’s got. And he’s going to give his teammates everything he’s got. He’s our guy.”

Naughton said it was all about being comfortable. “I just felt good. I didn’t feel any pressure because we had a bunch of runs. I knew all I had to do was throw strikes and let my defense do the work. It worked out.”