Story by Oscar Daniel Jimenez Iniguez
Over the course of 13 years, California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) baseball Coach Walt White has introduced a culture of success and winning into the program. In his first year as head coach in 2011, his team surpassed the previous season’s total wins, win percentage, and conference wins.
In 2013, White led his team to CSUMB baseball’s first California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) conference title and NCAA West Regional appearance. It was the first season that any CSUMB baseball head coach posted a winning record since the program’s inception in 2006. And it didn’t stop there, as just five seasons later he repeated his previous success winning another CCAA conference title and appearing in the NCAA West Regional.
White’s 12th season last year was nothing short of historic, as his team finished 38-17 with a CCAA regular season record of 31-9, where he yet again led his team to another conference title and regional appearance. Since becoming head coach he has posted an overall record of 330-230 along with coaching 21 all-region players and 52 players on All-CCAA teams.
Coming into this season, CSUMB baseball ranks No. 25 in the Division II preseason poll by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and for the first time in the program’s history was picked in the preseason coaches poll to win the CCAA title. However, White isn’t taking the preseason polls as a sign of accomplishment, but as a sign of respect.
“To be honest it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I think the meaning of it is that we’ve started to earn people’s respect. It’s taken three championships and us being at the top of our conference the three of the last four years, we’ve gotten to play to earn some of the respect from other teams.”
With all eyes on CSUMB favored to win back-to-back conference titles and make a deep run into the playoffs, White acknowledges that the spotlight on the team will attract more competition from other teams eager to dethrone them.
“In the grand scheme of things, it just puts a bigger target on our back. And we welcome that. I think when you’re picked as a preseason favorite, it’s a testament to some of the teams in the past that have put us on the map. In a sense we love the expectations, we embrace them and we’ve got a lot to prove.”
With expectations high this season, White aims to advance his team past the NCAA West Regional and into the Division II Super Regionals, something that he has not accomplished yet. He knows his team this season is more than capable enough to reach that goal, but always reminds himself and the team that it won’t come easily or so soon.
“Ultimately, we know we’re good enough to win the whole thing. It’s just about playing our best baseball at the end of the season. It’s a daily process to reach the goals we have set in front of us, but we know we aren’t going to reach them in February. It’s something that’s going to be gradual where we get a little bit better in small increments every day so at the end of the season we’ll be the best team.”
White believes his roster this season is overall the most talented one he has assembled at CSUMB. It is built on pitching and defense, but White feels as if pitching is going to be the team’s strength going into the season.
He returned some key players and has some notable transfer players that he believes are all sure to make an impact.
“You’re never going to be successful with just one or two guys, it’s a collective effort in terms of guys that are returning and leadership that is from within will get us off to a really good start,” said White.
One of the key returning players is Chase Lindemann (#9) who finished second on the team last season with 59 runs scored, fourth most in the CCAA. Also back is center fielder Kyle Guerra (#7) who batted .294.
Also returning is CCAA and CCA Regional Player of the year Brady Miguel (#8) who hit .395 and led CSUMB and the CCAA with 83 hits. Coach White believes that Miguel’s leadership along with his humble and reserved personality add a significant amount to the team’s overall success.
On the mound, Ryan Platero (#4) returns coming off 13 starts and 70 innings pitched last season along with second baseman Nico Hartjojo (#8) who finished second on the team in home runs with 7 and will be in the pitching rotation this season after a breakout summer.
Added to the pitching rotation this season is Aidan Lee, a transfer from the University of San Francisco, and University of Nevada transfer Nate Rohlicek. White believes that his new pitching rotation this season is on par with that of a Division I team and plans on incorporating each of his pitchers gradually while improving their arm strength along the way.
The team got off to a solid start this past weekend splitting a four-game series against Azusa Pacific University, which knocked them out of the NCAA West Regional last year. The Otters return home to face Point Loma Nazarene in another four-game series on Feb. 10-11. Both of the teams are ranked highly in the West Regional with Azusa Pacific at No. 2 and Point Loma at No. 1, with CSUMB at No. 3.
This was all by design according to White as he felt confident in scheduling both teams to face CSUMB early in the season. He believed he could have easily scheduled beatable teams but decided not to as he wanted to play against the best teams early in order to see where his team lines up going into the remainder of the season.
“We are playing two teams that are veteran teams that know us well. They probably had some better weather going into their practice time, so they may be more prepared. It’s going to be a challenge no matter what, but we’re excited about it and we look forward to it.”