Big things were expected from the Chico Heat in 2018 but even their most faithful of followers would not have predicted such domination through the first half of the Great West League season.
Chico enters the mid-point of the summer campaign with a 23-6 record with a five game bulge over the Lincoln Potters and seven games clear of the Medford Rogues.
The Heat have done it with a balance of pitching (4.17 ERA) and offense (.307) leading the league in both team ERA and batting average.
The Heat’s starting pitching has been tremendous with Justin Sterner leading the league in wins (5) and strikeouts (49). Will Clawson has four wins while Shane Gustafson has three victories.
The Heat also have three of the top six ERA leaders with Sterner at 2.46, Gustafson at 3.04 and Tucker Weaver at 3.70. The relief corps has impressed as well with Clawson at 1.86 in ten outings. University of Washington products Cole Eigenhuis at 2.25 in six appearances and Cole Galvagno at 2.84 in five outings. Youngster Reid McLaughlin has appeared in 11 games and has a 2.82 ERA and three saves while Brayden Bonner leads the club with 4 saves and has 26 strikeouts in 18 innings.
The Heat offense has been consistent. Up and down their line-up the Heat have gotten production. Brown University product Parke Phillips is leading the GWL in hitting with a .414 batting average. He has banged out 46 hits while driving in 25 runs. The consistency that Creighton Blue Jay Andrew Meggs has given the Heat can not be over-looked. Meggs is hitting .320 while driving in 20 runs. Cole Lemmel is among the league leaders in home runs with 6 and has driven in 18.
UC San Diego is one of Chico State’s biggest baseball rivals but the Triton program has let the Chico baseball fans borrow of couple of their young stars. Sophomore Brandon Stewart has played in 12 games for the Heat has 20 hits and is hitting a cool .400 with 14 RBI’s and 6 stolen bases. Red-shirt freshman Joe DeBaca is hitting .432 in twelve games with 12 runs batted in. The two Tritons have given the Chico Heat a tremendous boost.
Tanner Roundy is hitting .356 in 14 apperances. Arizona product Jordan Parker is hitting .280 and has driven in 18 runs.
One of the biggest challenges for Manager Fred Ludwig has been to keep everyone happy with playing time. It’s a great problem to have with such and competitiveness on the 2018 squad. Ludwig and the brain-trust of Ryan Lauer and Reece Borges know that having depth is important as the 60-game grind can wear down even the best of players.
After tonight’s game with Lincoln the Heat will have 15 more home games and 15 more on the road.
As well as the Heat are playing they know they want to be playing their best baseball in late July into August with the playoffs a little over one month away. But, so far so good for Chico as they look run away with the regular season.