The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Pitching staff leads Panthers

Sacramento City College sports facilities -- Photo by Robert McClintock (c) 2010 by Robert McClintock --
Sacramento City College sports facilities — Photo by Robert McClintock (c) 2010 by Robert McClintock —

A combination of young freshman and veteran leadership has catapulted the Panthers’ pitching staff to the top of the rankings in for California community colleges.

The Panthers had three starting pitchers post a sub 2.50 ERA this season, and the team’s 2.30 overall ERA is the seventh best in the state.

Sophomore Gabe Araj, the team’s only left-handed starter, made 11 starts for the Panthers posting an ERA of 2.30 in 54.2 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts and a record of 5-3.

Panthers head coach Derek Sullivan says the team’s consistent pitching was the key to their success this season. “We can re-ally pitch, that’s the most important thing in baseball and we’ve really done that well this year from start to finish,” said Panthers head coach Derek Sullivan.

This is Araj’s only season pitching for the Panthers. Last year he pitched for the University of Pacific, but said he decided it wasn’t working out there. This year he made the move to City College and said he has strived to be a leader since his arrival.

Once the season is finished, Araj said he wants to continue playing at the next level.

“It was a little tough coming in here and trying to be a leader because I didn’t [attend City College] last year, but as the fall went on and into the spring and I started doing well, I started to understand the program and began to lead by example,” said Araj.

Araj said he believes it’s a combination of coaching and team chemistry that has led to the team’s success on the mound this season.

“The biggest thing is the coaching and also the cohesiveness we have as a team and as a pitching staff,” said Araj. “Being a good pitching staff is a lot about picking each other up.”

Freshman pitchers Zach Smart and Ben Ritchey were unexpected surprises, according to the Panthers’ coaching staff. Smart started nine games, had an ERA of 2.00 in 63 IP, throwing 42 strikeouts and recording a 4-0 record. In 10 starts, Ritchey had an ERA of 1.71 over 68.1 IP with 44 strikeouts and a 5-1 record.

Both Smart and Ritchey were chosen for the All Big 8 Conference Team. Ritchey garnered a first team selection while Smart went to the second team.

“I knew they had a chance to be pretty good, but I didn’t think they would be as good as they are,” said Panthers pitching coach Deskaheh Bomberry. “I’m not completely shocked, but I don’t think anyone expected it.”
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Early in the season the Panthers veteran pitcher Nate Berumen went down with an injury and the team looked to Smart, who had previously been a long reliever, to step up in the starting rotation, according to Sullivan.

While baseball may not carry some of the risks inherent in more contact-oriented sports, ergonomic injuries are commonplace, according to

A major concern in baseball is the outbreak of Ulnar Collateral Ligament injuries among pitchers, in which a ligament in the elbow tears due to overuse.

According to, since 2012 over 70 MLB players have had Tommy John surgery—a UCL repair procedure named after the first pitcher to receive it. So far this season 16 players who have required the surgery. Smart said the team does everything possible to prevent any form of injury.

“We throw long toss every day, we do pull downs, ice our arms after throwing to keep down the inflammation—just every-thing we can to condition our arms and avoid injury,” said Smart.

Because community college athletes can only play for two years, 12 of this year’s players will be moving on next season. Smart said he looks forward to giving advice and leadership to incoming recruits and freshmen.

“I will do my best to be a leader and teach the Panther way,” said Smart.

Going into next season, Ritchey said he plans on improving himself and feeding off the success of this season.

“I can improve a ton,” said Ritchey. “I need to get stronger and just keep working at it. You can’t get satisfied with doing well, now you have to think what’s next.”

For incoming freshmen that plan to pitch for the Panthers next season, Araj said he looks forward to helping them be successful. He has advice ready to offer those players.

“Start off from day one like you’re going to win a state championship because it goes by so fast and every single day is so precious,” said Araj.

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