Local talent helps secure programs fifth title

— FOLSOM, CA – For the fifth time in program history, the Riverside City College baseball has won the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State Championship. On Monday, May 30, when most were busy with Memorial Day BBQs, or paying tribute to the fallen military soldiers of our nation’s past, the RCC Tigers baseball team were busy putting together a championship run against] Folsom Lake College. When the dust settled on the day, RCC defeated the Falcons 10-8.

According to their website, it is the Tiger’s first title under the direction of Head Coach Rudy Arguelles and his coaching staff. Additionally, it is the team’s first title in 15 years after breaking a 14-year drought from the state championship tournament.

Riverside City College won the California Community College Athletic Association State Baseball Championship Monday, May 30, over Folsom College. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“It’s special and it doesn’t matter how many times you get here,” Arguelles told the media. “Each time it is going to be even more unique and special within its own. Being a champion is beyond words you can even describe. But the foundation to a championship team is always the same…it’s Riverside and this is what we are about.”

Arguelles and his staff, which is comprised of Associate Head Coach David Martinez and assistant coaches R.J. Ybarra, Hector Rabago and Josh Banuelos, led their team to a flawless 3-0 record in state championship play. Out of the gate the Tigers had to overcome a four-run deficit in game one of the tournament, where they came back to defeat host Folsom Lake, 11-9. That win was backed by a 14-8 trouncing over Ohlone Community College, setting them up to seal the deal with a second victory over Folsom Lake on championship Monday, 10-8.

“First off, I think the experience of being here before paying dividends,” said Arguelles. “Secondly, it doesn’t matter if it’s me and the title attached to my name. That is one thing that we preach is that there are zero egos. It’s every one of these guys on the staff and on this roster. That’s what it takes.”

On Monday, May 30, Rudy Arguelles, who is in his sixth year as head coach at Riverside City College, won the school’s first State title since 2007. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Freshman center fielder Julian “Rafa” Alvarez (a Yucaipa graduate) was named the State Championship Tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Despite an injury, Alvarez battled things out and went 5-for-10 with a double, RBI and three runs scored throughout the tournament. He also earned Orange Empire Conference (OEC) Second Team recognition this season.

“Rafa struggled throughout the playoffs, but he found ways to contribute as he has throughout the year,” said Arguelles. “When we got here, it started clicking.”

Riverside scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning after the Falcons snagged an early 3-0 led following two solo shots.

Matthew Bardowell launched a solo homerun to start the inning, backed by a sacrifice fly out from freshman second baseman Darius Price. Freshman catcher Daniel Briones capped the inning with a two out RBI double to plate freshman left fielder Casey Murray and freshman first baseman Daniel Garcia.

Later in the game, in a bout of déjà vu for Riverside, they found themselves down by two runs going into the bottom of the eighth inning in the final game. Freshman defensive replacement Ramsses Fierro led off the inning with a 10-pitch at bat and drew a crucial walk to spark the rally. He would quickly steal second base, then a walk to J. Alvarez would bring up freshman shortstop Sebastian Flores, who laced a two RBI double down the left field line. Fierro and Alvarez would both score on the play to tie the game up at seven apiece.

Bardowell would come back up to follow with an RBI single, and Adrian Arechiga added a pinch-hit two-run single to put the Tigers up for good. Hayden Coon, who came in to pitch the seventh inning, earned the win in 1 2/3 innings. Freshman closer Albert Roblez entered in the top of the ninth, but he got a swinging strike three to end the game and give RCC its fifth state title.

Riverside finishes the season on a winning note with an overall record of 36-12 and a conference record of 15-6. The Tigers won 19 of its final 21 games on the way to their first CCCAA state title since 2007. What makes this a more stunning feat is they were the only program in the Orange Empire Conference that did not play in 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions. RCC finished second in the conference behind Saddleback this season before beating Grossmont, Cypress, and Glendale in the CCCAA SoCal Regional playoffs.

As Arguelles has been preaching the entire year, his message has stayed the same. When asked what is next for the Tiger’s, he responded, “We ride the wave. Nothing changes other than we achieved the ultimate. Now, Riverside’s back.”

Players from the area that contributed this season to the State Title run include Casey Murray, a first-year utility player from Orange Vista; Rheego McIntosh, a first-year pitcher from Chaparral High School; Caleb Anderson, a first-year pitcher from Paloma Valley; and Isaiah Lopez, a first-year catcher from Great Oak, who red-shirted at Montana State, Billings last season.

With a handful of local players as well, Palomar also advanced to the State Championship tournament, but ultimately fell to host Folsom Lake in the loser’s bracket. Article contributions made by the Riverside City College Athletic Department.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.