Taft College Cougars Men's Baseball

About Taft College Baseball

Vince Maiocco begins his 11th season as the Cougars head baseball coach. Maiocco came to Taft College in 2001 and served as an assistant coach until 2004.  Before coming to Taft College; he coached at Gavilan College in 2001, Delano High School in 2000, and Porterville College in 1999. Maiocco spent the most of his coaching career at College of the Siskiyous from 1988-1998.

The Cougar baseball program has a rich history of developing players for the professional and 4-year collegiate level of baseball. The vast majority of Taft College's graduating sophomores have went on to play at the 4-year collegiate and professional level. It is the coaching staff's obligation to develop players to play at the 4-year collegiate or professional level.

The philosophy of Taft College Baseball is: "Take the academic aspect of college serious, maintain an image on and off the field that sheds a positive light on Taft College, and work hard while practicing and playing the game of baseball!"

Reedley's Six-Run Inning Spoils Cougar Baseball Finale
L 3-7

by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 28, 2014

 A six-run inning by Reedley College Friday upended what otherwise was a tight pitching duel and ruined Taft College’s season finale.

Each team had eight hits but the Tigers got five of theirs in the sixth inning, and that led to a 7-3 victory over the Cougars.

Other than the disastrous sixth Brandon Van Stone allowed just three hits.

His counterpart – McKay McNair – pitched a complete game to push his final record to 6-2.

It was a disappointing finish to a Cougar season that was a year of streaks.

After beginning the season 4-2 the Cougars sank into a 10-game losing streak, rebounded to win 10 of their next 12 but down the stretch lost six of eight – five of them Central Valley Conference affairs.

The Cougars finished 16-20 overall and 10-14 overall.  Reedley ended with even marks in the conference (12-12) and overall (18-18).

The season finale was tight until Reedley’s explosion in the sixth.

The Tigers broke on top with a run in the top of the second but the Cougars countered with two in the home half of the inning.

Chris Hopballe walked to lead things off and moved up when Loren Cutolo got aboard on an infield error.

Both moved up on Dayton Kurian’s sacrifice bunt.

Matt Moorehead bounced a single up the middle to get Hopballe home and Cutolo gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead when he slide home safely on Adrian Rodriguez’s squeeze bunt.

Van Stone and McNair took over.

From the third through fifth innings only three of 22 batters reached base – Reedley’s Nick Pate on a walk and TC’s Roman Testani and Rodriguez on singles.

Then came the sixth.

Van Stone induced a groundout before giving up back-to-back singles.  He struck out the next batter before back-to-back singles got two runs across.

It was a 3-2 game with the bases still loaded and two out.

Tiger leadoff hitter Josh Cantrell rifled a shot down the right field line that scored three runs.  He scored when the Cougars made an error after the throw came in from the outfield.

McNair allowed the Cougars to answer with just one more run – in the eighth when Scout Villanueva led off with a line drive double to right field, advanced to third on Hopballe’s fly ball to right field and scored on Cutolo’s sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez finished the day 3-for-3, including an RBI.

Van Stone finished the season 5-6.  He gave up five earned runs, struck out five and walked three.  Nick Risucci and Buddy Cooper each pitched a hitless inning.
McNair gave up an earned run, struck out six and walked one.

Final CVC standings: 1. Sequoias 20-4 (27-9 overall), 2. Merced 17-6 (21-14), 3. Fresno 16-7 (21-14), 4. Reedley 12-12 (18-18), 5. TAFT 10-14 (16-20), 6. Porterville 6-18 (8-27-1), 7. West Hills 2-22 (9-27).

Cougars Thump Fullerton 9-2

by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
April 21, 2014

FULLERTON – Taft College rode another one of Brandon Van Stone’s solid pitching performances and a four-run first inning to a 9-2 non-conference victory over Fullerton College here last Thursday.

Now the Cougars get ready to put a ribbon on the 2014 season with a pair of home Central Valley Conference tussles beginning with Tuesday's game with Merced and finishing up Friday with Reedley.  Both start at 2 p.m.

The Cougars have a chance to move into fourth place in the CVC.  Right now they are 10-12 and in fifth behind Reedley (10-11).

The Tigers host league-leading Sequoias (18-3) today and Merced (16-5) on Thursday and close out the season in Taft.

The Cougars swept their three-game conference series with Reedley last month.

In Thursday’s Fullerton game the Cougars avenged an 8-3 loss from the day before.

Van Stone scattered eight singles in his complete-game victory.  He allowed just one earned run, struck out five and did not walk a batter.

Second baseman Scout Villanueva paced the Cougars’ 12-hit attack by going 4-for-4, scoring twice and knocking in a run.  Two of his hits were doubles.

Roman Testani went 3-for-5 and also scored twice.

Michael Dagg drove in two runs with a single.

Chris Hopbballe, LorenCutolo, Dayton Kurian and Matt Moorehead collected the other Cougar hits.

Hopballe drove in a run with his hit, Kurian had an RBI with a squeeze bunt and Rodriguez a sacrifice fly.

The Cougars scored four times in the top of the first and single runs in the third, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth to improve their overall record to 16-18.  Fullerton is 20-14.

The only Hornet batter to have a good day against Van Stone was leadoff hitter Dakota Wix, who went 3-for-4 and scored both runs.

Defensively, the Cougars turned a pair of double plays, and the teams combined for seven errors – four of them by the Hornets.

Missed Opportunities Cost Taft as they Drop Final Game Against Sequoias
W 2 - 7
by Travis Tessandori
April 8, 2014

College of the Sequoias got to starting pitcher Brandon Van Stone early, but he settled in to give the Cougars a chance.

In the bottom of the 2nd inning Sequoias scratched across 3 runs, putting Taft in an early hole.
Scout Villanueva’s 2-run homerun in the top of the 4th gave them some life, drawing them back to 3-2.

Van Stone gave up an unearned run in the top of the 5th to make the game 4-2.

In the top of the 7th inning Taft rallied to load the bases with no outs after a Villanueva single, followed by a Loren Cutolo single, and an error on a sacrifice bunt.

Pinch hitter Branden Daniels laced a ball to the 3rd basemen, in which he tagged 3rd and threw home to get Villanueva for a huge double play.

Bryan Nunez then grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.

Sequoias capitalized on the momentum, as they scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th, including a 2-run homerun off of Van Stone to put the Cougars away.

Van Stone finished the game with 6 innings pitched and 5 runs allowed.

The Cougars got 2 hits from Roman Testani, Villanueva, and Nunez, but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars dropped the game, 7-2.

Taft picks back up on Thursday against West Hills in Coalinga, a team that they swept in their 3 game series last week.

Taft Sweeps Double Header to Draw Back to .005 on the Season
W 4 - 3
W 4 - 2

by Travis Tessandori
April 5, 2014

After a cancellation earlier in the season forced Taft to schedule a non-conference game against West Hills, Taft held a double-header at home.

The first game (a Conference game) was taken by Taft by a final score of 4-3.

Although West Hills got on the board first with 2 unearned runs in the top half of the 1st, Taft bounced back in the 2nd after 3 straight doubles by William Silcox, Loren Cutolo, and Matthew Moorehead gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

West Hills would tie the game up shortly after in the top of the 3rd, 3-3.

Taft got the dagger in the bottom of the 6th as Scout Villanueva doubled in Chris Hopballe to give the Cougars a 4-3 lead.

That was enough for starting pitcher Nicholas Risucci and closing pitcher Brandon Van Stone who picked up his 1st save of the year.

Buddy Cooper also pitched in the game, inserting in a tight spot in the 7th as Risucci left him with the bases loaded and 1 out, as Cooper pitched out of it not allowing a run.


In game 2 of the double header, the non-conference game, Taft would win 4-2.

Chris Hopballe got the start for the Cougars, his second of the year. He carved up and down the West Hills lineup, pitching 7 solid innings of 4-hit, 0 earned run baseball.

Taft put up the 1st run in the bottom of the 4th innings as Loren Cutolo singled in William Silcox.

They continued in the 6th inning as Cutolo hit a sacrifice fly and Matthew Moorehead doubled in William Silcox to make the score 3-0.

West Hills scored an unearned run in the top of the 7th on a sacrifice fly.

Taft got insurance from its starting pitcher, this time with the bat, as Chris Hopballe hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Michael Dagg to increase the lead to 4-1.

West Hills would get another run in the 8th, but it was not enough as Taft knocked them off 4-2.
Cutolo continued his hot hitting, going 3-6 with 3 RBI’s over the course of the day.

The win was the Cougar’s 10th in their last 12 games, putting them in a playoff hunt that a month ago seemed out of reach.

Taft is now 14-14 with 8 games remaining. They square off with the 1st place team in the CVC, College of the Sequoias, in Visalia Tuesday at 2 pm.

All-Around Team Effort Allows Taft to Take Game 1 of Series with West Hills
W 7 - 1
by Travis Tessandori
April 1, 2014

It started with starting pitcher Brandon Van Stone who has been lights out all year long.
Nothing changed Tuesday. Van Stone only allowed an unearned run in the 1st inning, and absolutely carved through the West Hills line-up after that. He threw a complete game, allowing no earned runs, 3 hits, and struck out 9 to get the win.

Offensively, 7 of the 9 Cougar starters recorded hits in route to 7 runs. It started in the bottom of the 1st when Dayton Kurian started the inning off with a single, followed up by a Roman Testani single, and again by a Chris Hopballe single that scored Kurian. Testani would score on Scout Villanueva’s RBI groundout, and Hopballe scored on a big 2-out single by Matt Moorehead making it 3-1 at the end of the 1st.

Taft continued the onslaught in the bottom of the 2nd as Travis Tessandori hit single up the middle with 2 outs that scored Adrian Rodriguez for a comfortable 4-1 lead.

The Cougars got another in the 6th on a double steal by Bryan Nunez and Travis Tessandori. Nunez successfully stole 3rd base, and Travis Tessandori got caught in a run down in between 1st and 2nd that gave Nunez enough time to score.

Another run was scored in the bottom of the 7th after Scout Villanueva led the inning off with a double. After Matt Moorehead was hit by a pitch, a wild pitch advanced pinch-runner Michael Dagg to 3rd base, he would score on an RBI groundout by Adrian Rodriguez. Moorehead was drove in by Loren Cutolo’s double to make the score 7-1.

A strong showing for the Cougars puts them right in the conversation for playoffs as they trail Fresno by only 4 games.

Taft squares off again against West Hills Thursday in Coalinga at 2 pm.

Cutolo's 3 Hits Lead Taft to Fifth Straight Win
W 4 - 1
by Travis Tessandori
March 27, 2014

The Cougars got 12 hits against Reedley College and another outstanding start from Kevin Little to take the 2nd game of the series.

Taft opened up the scoring in the bottom of the 2nd after Loren Cutolo’s 1st hit of the day drove in Chris Hopballe.

They continued the scoring in the bottom of the 3rd when Travis Tessandori started the inning with a double, and was drove in on a Roman Testani single.

Another run was scored in the bottom of the 4th, as Cutolo recorded his second hit and was cashed in on Bryan Nunez’s single to make the score 3-0.

Kevin Little worked out of a couple jams to keep the Tigers scoreless until the 6th inning when they scored an unearned run, making it 3-1.

Little’s day would end in the 8th with 2 outs, when Buddy Cooper relieved him and got a crucial out to keep the game there. Little finished with 7.2 innings pitched, no earned runs and surrendering 7 hits.

Taft recorded another run in the bottom of the 8th after Cutolo’s 3rd hit. He would later score on an error.

Nicholas Risucci entered the game in the 9th to record his 2nd save of the season.

Taft received 3 hits from Cutolo, and 2 hits from Roman Testani, Chris Hopballe, and Bryan Nunez.

A strong team effort gave Taft the 4-1 victory, their 5th straight.

The series will conclude Saturday when the Cougars travel to Reedley for game 3.

Taft Earns Sweep as They Take Final Game of Series
W 9 - 1
by Travis Tessandori
March 22, 2014

The Cougars took their 3rd straight game against Porterville College after a 1-run performance by Bryan Nunez, Nick Risucci, Gabriel Ayala, and Logan Mace.

The offense shined today, though, as Taft collected 9 runs on 12 hits. 8 starters collected hits for the Cougars, as they routed Porterville’s pitching staff and capitalized on 5 Pirate errors.

Taft jumped on Porterville early. In the bottom half of the second inning an error allowed Chris Hopballe to reach base, and he was eventually singled in by William Silcox. The rally was not done there, as Loren Cutolo hit an RBI groundball, was advanced to second on a single by Bryan Nunez, and driven in by a Travis Tessandori double. Nunez would be cashed in on an error by the 3rd basemen to make the score 4-0.

The Pirates then handed the Cougars runs, as the Cougars put up 4 unearned runs in the bottom of the 7th.

The Pirates picked up 1 run in the top of the 9th, but Logan Mace finished the game off with no more damage, at a final of 9-1.

For the Cougars Loren Cutolo, Adrian Rodriguez, Roman Testani, and William Silcox picked up multiple hits in the game.

Taft has now won 3 straight and 4 of their last 5, heading into a 3-game series against Reedley College in a battle for 4th place in the CVC on Tuesday. Taft currently sits 1 game back behind Reedley in the standings.

Taft Buries Porterville Late Behind VanStone's Gem
W 5 - 2
by Travis Tessandori
March 18, 2014

Taft, like usual, got a solid start from Brandon Van Stone that kept them in the game long enough for them to take a lead.

In the 2nd inning, Brandon Van Stone surrendered 2 unearned runs on errors by the Cougar defense.

The Cougars were shutout for the first 5 innings, until a string of hits in the 6th by Travis Tessandori, Roman Testani, and Chris Hopballe plated 3 runs and gave them a 3-2 lead.
Taft continued the charge in the bottom half of the 7th when Adrian Rodriguez led the inning off with a single. An executed sacrifice bunt by Loren Cutolo moved him to second, which was followed by an RBI double by shortstop Bryan Nunez and an RBI single by Travis Tessandori that plated Nunez, giving Taft a comfortable 5-2 lead.

Buddy Cooper replaced Van Stone in the 9th. He would retire the side in order to earn the save.
Van Stone finished the game with 8 innings pitched, surrendering 8 hits and only the 2 unearned runs even through 4 Cougar errors.

After the game Van Stone said, “Errors happen. It’s all about battling out there and keeping your cool. As one of the leaders of this team, I find it important to show the guys that I have their backs no matter what. They have my back, as well, and that’s why this team has been comfortable all year long, even through our struggles. It is fun and we are going to find ourselves in contention for a playoff spot because of things like that.”

Travis Tessandori, Roman Testani, Chris Hopballe, and Matt Moorehead all helped provide the offense as they all collected 2 hits each.

Taft travels to Porterville Thursday for game 2 of the series.

Late Rally Vaults Rams Over Cougars
L 3 - 6
by Travis Tessandori
March 8, 2014

The Cougars had a chance at taking the series in Fresno on Saturday after a 1-0 win on Thursday.
For the first 3 innings not a whole lot happened for either team as Brandon Van Stone and the Ram’s starter went back and forth with quick innings.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Rams got a rally going against Cougar’s ace Van Stone. After back to back singles and a walk, a weak groundout cashed in a run for the Rams, giving them a 1-0 advantage.

The Rams capitalized on the momentum and tacked on another run with an RBI single in the bottom of the 5th, building their lead to 2-0.

Fresno City continued the attack in the bottom of the 6th, loading the bases with no outs after back to back singles and an error by pitcher Brandon Van Stone. Van Stone masterfully worked out of the jam allowing no runs; getting an infield pop-up, a strikeout, and a fly out to keep the game at 2-0.

Taft took that momentum and ran with it in the top of the 7th. An error by the 3rd basemen started the Cougar rally. The error was followed up with a single by Will Silcox and a Matthew Moorehead sacrifice bunt to put runners at 2nd and 3rd base and 1 out. Another error by the 3rd basemen plated both of the runners and put Adrian Rodriguez on 2nd. Loren Cutolo doubled to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Van Stone worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the 7th, but ran into trouble in the 8th. After striking out the leadoff hitter, Van Stone surrendered 3 straight doubles to the Rams, 3 runs which would all score. Later in the innings, Kendal Daniels replaced Van Stone and balked in a run and gave up another on a safety squeeze. The Cougars end the game down 6-3.

Van Stone finished the game with 7.1 innings pitched, allowing 12 hits and 5 earned runs.

Offensively for the Cougars, no players recorded double digit hits, as 5 different players recorded their 5 hits.

Taft (5-13) is off next week before they hit the field again on Tuesday, March 18th versus Porterville.


Kevin Little Pitches Complete Game Shutout
W 1 - 0
by Travis Tessandori
March 6, 2014

As Taft could only record 3 hits in the first 7 innings, starting pitcher, Kevin Little took it into his own hands to snap the Cougar’s losing streak. Through 5 Cougar errors and 7 Fresno hits, Little continued to battle inning in and inning out to keep the Rams scoreless.

Taft would finally grab the reigns in the 8th inning, when role player Austin Betti led the inning off with a tough at-bat that led to a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Michael Dagg and an infield single by Bryan Nunez set the table for a first and third situation for Travis Tessandori.

Tessandori laid down a perfectly placed drag bunt that would plate Austin Betti from third and give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

Taft would load the bases but could get nothing across.

Little took the mound in the top of the 9th with a complete game in his reach.
After a groundout and a strikeout, Little allowed a single. The next hitter flew out and the game was over, 1-0.

Little finished with 9 innings pitched, 0 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

Only Bryan Nunez would collect multiple hits for Taft, finishing 2-3. Only 3 other Cougars recorded a hit.

With the win, Taft has improved to 5-12.

The Cougars try to take the series as they travel to Fresno to finish the week on Saturday at 1 pm.

Cougars Travel to Fresno for 1st of a 3 Game Series
L 2 - 3
by Travis Tessandori
March 4, 2014

Taft looked to get on the right track against Northern California power-house Fresno City on Tuesday.

The Cougars opened up the game by getting men into scoring position in the first 3 innings, but were unable to push across a run.

In the top of the 4th, after a Dayton Kurian single, Josh Roelofs singled down the right field line. The right fielder misplayed the ball and Kurian would score from first on the error. Roelofs was stranded at 3rd base and Taft held a 1-0 lead.

Starter Nick Risucci held Fresno City hitless until the 5th inning when the Rams strung together a couple of singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly to tack on their first run.

The Rams followed up in the bottom of the 6th with a leadoff triple that ended up scoring on an RBI single. Later in the inning another run was scored on an RBI single to increase Fresno’s lead to 3-1.

Taft would answer in the top of the 8th, when Kevin Rocha laced a 1-out single to left field. Roman Testani followed that up with a single of his own. Kevin Rocha was picked off at 2nd base before Chris Hopballe reached on an error by the 3rd basemen. Dayton Kurian delivered a huge 2-out single to tighten the gap, 3-2.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th inning tossed by Bryan Sanchez, Taft would get a 1-out single from shortstop Bryan Nunez. After a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Travis Tessandori grounded out to second to end the game and strand the tying run on 1st base.

Taft’s struggles again did not come from the pitching, as Risucci finished the game with 5.1 innings pitched, 3 earned runs, and only surrendered only 6 hits.

Buddy Cooper, Kendal Daniels, and Bryan Sanchez all pitched a shutout in relief.

The Cougars as a team collected 11 hits, 2 each from Kurian and Roelofs, but could only push across the 2 runs.

Taft tries to snap a 10 game skid on Thursday as Fresno City comes to Cougar Field at 2 pm.

Another 1-run Loss Drops Tafts' Record to 4-11
L 2 - 3
by Travis Tessandori
March 2, 2014

After starting out the season 4-2, Taft has dropped 9 straight games, including another 1-run loss Sunday vs College of the Sequoias.

The Cougars and Giants were rained out on Saturday, and squared off Sunday to make up the rain out.

With the extra day of rest, Brandon Van Stone took the mound for the second time of the COS series, providing the Cougars with another quality start. He completed 7 innings and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits.
Sequoias jumped on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead on an RBI single in the top of the 4th.

Taft answered right back in the bottom half of the inning, as sophomore left fielder Dayton Kurian came through with a clutch 2-out, 2 RBI single that scored Kevin Rocha and Chris Hopballe.

In the top of the 6th, Sequoias took the lead back after an RBI groundout and an RBI single.

The Cougars could not respond for the remainder of the game, even though they got the tying run to 2nd base in the bottom of the 9th.

Kevin Rocha answered the call at 2nd base, as he received his first start. He would finish the game 3-4 with a run scored.

Loren Cutolo also added 2 hits on the day.

Taft opens up a 3 game series vs Fresno City College in Fresno on Tuesday.

Kevin Little's Quality Start Goes Without a Win as Taft Loses 8th Straight
L 2 - 3
by Travis Tessandori
February 27, 2014

Starting pitcher Kevin Little surrendered 2 first inning runs to Sequoias, but settled in nicely and shut them down for the remaining 7 innings of his outing.

Taft couldn’t respond until the 5th inning when Roman Testani and Scout Villanueva each recorded RBI singles to tie the game at 2-2.

The game would remain that way until the bottom of the 8th, when Little surrendered a leadoff double and an RBI single to give Sequoias a 3-2 lead.

Buddy Cooper would enter the game for Little to retire the side.

Little finished with 7.2 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, and only 5 hits allowed.

Taft could not respond in the top of the 9th, dropping the game 3-2.

This loss marks Taft’s 6th 1-run loss this season.

Offensively, Roman Testani led the team, finishing 3-4 with an RBI.

The Cougars look to avoid their 9th straight loss as College of the Sequoias returns to Cougar Field on Saturday at 1 pm.

Taft Loses Series Opener vs College of the Sequoias
L 2 - 3
by Travis Tessandori
February 25, 2014

The Cougars dropped their 7th straight game, as yet another quality start by Brandon Van Stone went down the drain.

It looked as though Taft was going to snap the losing streak in the very 1st inning as the Cougars took a

3-0 lead on Chris Hopballe’s 3-run HR, his 2nd of the year.

Neither team would make any noise until the top of the 5th when Sequoias scratched across 2 runs to dig into Taft’s lead, 3-2.

The offenses were again silenced, until the 9th inning. Nicholas Risucci entered the game in place of Brandon Van Stone, who finished with 8 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, and 5 strikeouts.

Sequoias strung together 3 hits and a walk off of Risucci to muster up 2 runs and give them a 4-3

Taft would go 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th to end the game.

After 3 first inning hits by Kurian, Testani, and Hopballe only Travis Tessandori would collect a hit for the Cougars in the remainder of the game. He would finish the day 2-3.

The Cougars hit the field again Thursday as they square off with COS in Visalia at 2 pm.

Taft Drops Final Game of the Week to Merced
L 3 - 7
by Travis Tessandori
February 22, 2014

Not a lot clicked for the Cougars in the final game of the week as they tried to avoid a sweep by Merced.

Merced scored first in the bottom of the 3rd inning on a sacrifice fly and a Taft error, giving Merced a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the 6th, Taft got a clutch 2-out hit with runners on 2nd and 3rd from right fielder Matt Moorehead to knot the game up at 2-2.

The Blue Devils wasted no time taking the lead back, as they got a rally going off of relief pitcher Kendal Daniels in the bottom of the 6th. A single and a sacrifice fly would again give Merced a 2 run lead, at 4-2.

Merced would continue to tack on runs as they put up 2 in the bottom of the 7th and 1
in the bottom of the 8 to give them a 7-2 lead.

Taft would get one more on an RBI single by Travis Tessandori in the top of the 9th, but he would be stranded on 2nd to end the game, 7-3.

Tessandori was the only Cougar to tally multiple hits in the game, finishing 2-4.
Moorehead would finish the game 1-3 with 2 RBI.

Taft has now dropped 6 straight to bring their record to 4-8.

They look to right the ship when they open up a 3 game series with College of the Sequoias on Tuesday at Cougar Field 2 pm.

Cougars Drop Another Close Game to Merced
L 2 - 4
by Travis Tessandori
February 20, 2014

Another jaw-dropping start went to waste for Taft, as Kevin Little couldn’t receive enough run support or defensive help to capitalize on his 7 innings pitched and only 1 earned run.

Taft did open up the scoring in the 3rd inning after a string of hits by Travis Tessandori and Michael Dagg was capped off with a Roman Testani RBI single that scored Tessandori.

Merced answered right back with a run of their own in the 4th inning.

The Cougars would again take a lead in  the bottom of the 5th inning when Adrian Rodriguez singled in Tessandori with 2 outs.

Merced again answered with a run in the top of the 6th to tie it up at 2-2.

In the top of the 8th inning, Kendal Daniels took the mound. He surrendered back to back singles to start the inning off, and those were followed by a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to 2nd and 3rd.

While intentionally walking the next batter, Daniels threw a ball away that allowed the
Blue Devils to take a 3-2 lead. Following a walk, Merced executed a safety squeeze that would give them a 4-2 cushion.

Taft could not answer, and the score remained 4-2 until the end of the game.

Tessandori and Testani led the Cougars with 2 hits apiece.

Taft travels to Merced on Saturday, hoping to avoid the week sweep. Game time is 1 pm.


Taft College Drops Conference Opener at Merced
L 2 - 3
by Travis Tessandori
February 18, 2014

The Cougars received yet another dazzling start from starting pitching Brandon Van Stone, who gave up a first inning home run but settled in nicely, tossing 7 scoreless innings.

The Taft offense answered back in the 5th innings, when Loren Cutolo and Chris Hopballe executed a 1st and 3rd steal of home perfectly to manufacture a run with 2 outs.

Continuing the charge in the 6th inning, Scout Villanueva drove in Dayton Kurian on a sacrifice fly to put the Cougars ahead 2-1.

The game would remain that way until the bottom of the ninth when Merced led the inning off with a single and a sacrifice bunt to advance him to second. Kendal Daniels entered the game for

Van Stone at this point, finishing his day with 8.1 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, and 4 strikeouts. The runner would eventually score on a fielder’s choice with the Taft infield in to tie the game up at 2-2.

In the 10th and 11th, both teams put themselves in situations to win, but neither team could come through.

In the bottom of the 12th, Logan Mace surrendered an infield single and a walk to put runners on at 1st base and 2nd base with 1 out. Eric Evans entered in relief and got a double play ball to Scout Villanueva at second base. Villanueva tagged out the runner trying to advance to second and made an errant throw that would get by Chris Hopballe at 1st base to score the winning run for Merced. The final was 3-2.

Taft will host Merced on Thursday at Cougar Field at 2 pm.

Taft College Swept in 3 Game Series Against Monterey Peninsula College
L 1- 6 / L 10-11 / L 2-3
by Travis Tessandori
February 17, 2014

In game 1 for the Cougars, not much went right. After a Roman Testani home run in the 1st inning, Taft could not scratch across another run for the remainder of the game. Sophomore starting pitcher Brandon Van Stone could only complete 4 innings, surrendering 6 runs (2 earned), and gave up a home run.

Michael Dagg would finish 2-4 with 2 singles.

Taft dropped the first game 6-1.

Valentine’s Day would not be sweet to the Cougars, either.
In the first game of the Friday double header Taft jumped out to a 10 run lead in the second inning. Scout Villanueva and Josh Roelofs had big 2 out hits in the second inning, an inning where the Cougars saw 6 runners cross the plate.

Sophomore starting pitching Kevin Little and the bullpen could not hold the lead for the Cougars, and Monterey scratched and clawed their way back into the game, finding themselves down by only 1 run entering the 9th inning, 10-9.

Eric Evans came in to close the game out, but surrendered a walk and a hit to put the Lobos in position to win the game.

Center Fielder Travis Tessandori then gave up a 2-run walk-off double to cap off the Lobos comeback.

Roelofs finished 2-4 with 4 RBI’s.

The final score was 11-10.

Game 3 was a pitching duel from the first pitch as the Cougars sent freshman Nicholas Risucci to the mound.

Neither team would score until the 6th inning, as the Lobos scored 3 runs off of Risucci, who was throwing a 3 hit shutout to that point.

With no quit in them, Taft answered with 2 runs of their own in the top of the 7th on a Dayton Kurian sacrifice fly and a Roman Testani single.

The game remained 3-2 until the top of the 9th. Bryan Nunez led off with a walk, and would advance to second after a Kurian single. Testani was called out on a questionable call, leaving Taft with 2 outs. With runners at 2nd and 3rd, NorCal Player of the Week Chris Hopballe struck out to end the weekend.

Risucci finished the game with 6 innings pitched and only 3 earned runs on 6 hits.

Catcher Adrian Rodriguez was 2-3 from the plate.

Taft (4-5) enters conference by traveling to Merced College (2-7) on Tuesday.

Cougars Cap off Another Weekend Series Win After
Testani's Walk-off Sacrafice in the 12th Inning
W 6- 5
by Travis Tessandori
February 8, 2014

After a hard fought, back and forth battle, Taft College pulled it out against Barstow.
The Cougars jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, as Travis Tessandori came in to score on a wild pitch.

Barstow answered back with a HR in the top of the 2nd to tie it up at 1-1.

The Cougars answered right back in the bottom half of the inning when shortstop Bryan Nunez knocked Matt Moorhead in on a 2 out single.

Chris Hopballe then crushed a 2 run HR in the 3rd inning to put Taft up 4-1.

Barstow again answered with 2 runs of their own putting them just one run behind.

In Hopballe’s next at bat, he surprised the world with a drag bunt single. Matt Moorehead would end up driving him in with a sacrifice fly to right field, giving the Cougars a 5-3 advantage.
The resilient Barstow group tacked on 2 runs in the 7th inning to knot it up at 5-5.

With the efforts of Gabriel Ayala and Eric Evans out of the pen, it set up an opportunity for freshman Nicholas Risucci to take over the game on the mound in a tie ball game. Risucci entered the game in the 8th inning and tossed 5 innings of shutout baseball, including extra innings, to give the Cougars a chance to win it.

In the bottom of the 12th inning, Travis Tessandori legged out an infield single with 1 out and would advance to 3rd base on two passed balls. Josh Roelofs would then walk, setting up Roman Testani. Testani laid down a terrific sacrifice push bunt in which Tessandori would score on to win the game, 6-5.

  “We have a great group of unselfish guys here,” said Testani, “Every game we are up for each other, and it’s just a lot different than last year. If you aren’t the one getting your name called, it’s the next guys turn, and you’re still there for that guy. Everybody is buying in to what we are being taught in this program and it’s paying off. It’s a lot of fun, but we still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be.”

Risucci also struck out 5 and only allowed 2 hits to improve his record to 2-0.

Taft (4-2) travels to Monterey Peninsula College (1-2) for a 3 game stint next weekend.

Despite Little's Stellar Performance, Taft Fall's 0-1 to Siskiyous
L 0- 1
by Travis Tessandori
February 7, 2014

Kevin Little dazzled again, but fell short of a win due to a lack of offense.

A second inning run after a Siskiyous double, followed by a single and an error was all Siskiyous would need.

The game remained 1-0 for the rest of the game.

Little pitched 7.1 innings, allowed 0 earned runs on 5 hits, and struck out 8. He did earn the loss due to an unearned run, putting him at 0-1 on the year.

Offensively for the Cougars, there wasn’t much to cheer about. Only four players collected hits; Hopballe, Testani, and Kurian had 2, and Cutolo had 1.

Taft fell to 3-2, but hit the field again tomorrow as they welcome Barstow (1-3) to Cougar Field at 2 pm.

Taft College Routes College of the Siskiyous Behind Van Stone's Quality Start
W 10- 2
by Travis Tessandori
February 6, 2014

After early errors in the first inning led to a Siskiyous 1-0 lead, Taft College responded with 5 runs in the bottom half of the inning. Loren Cutolo hit a bases loaded single that plated Travis Tessandori and Roman Testani, followed up by a Siskiyous error that plated Cutolo and Matt Moorehead.

The onslaught continued as the Cougars tacked on 3 more runs in the second inning, highlighted by an RBI double by Chris Hopballe and an RBI single by Matt Moorehead.

Brandon Van Stone put it in cruise control after that. He finished with 7 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 4 hits allowed, and 5 strikeouts. “It’s pretty easy pitching with a comfortable lead like that. It’s also pretty fun watching our guys put up crooked numbers the way they are. What more could you ask for as a pitcher?” said Van Stone following the game.

Gabriel Ayala and Eric Evans relieved Van Stone, each tossing a perfect inning.

Travis Tessandori continued his hot hitting, going 3-4 with 3 runs and a HR. Dayton Kurian, Matt Moorehead, and Loren Cutolo also chimed in with 2 hits a piece.

Taft College faces College of the Siskiyous again tomorrow at 10 am.

Taft College opened the 2014 baseball season by winning 2 of 3 games
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
February 3, 2014

Taft College opened the 2014 baseball season by winning two of three games.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the Cougars lost starting second baseman Michael Hillcoat to a broken wrist.

Hillcoat, a freshman from Henderson, NV, had a base hit in each game of Friday’s doubleheader split with No. 5 Feather River, but was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat of Saturday’s 11-4 win over Imperial Valley.

Whether the injury keeps Hillcoat on the shelf for weeks or out for the entire season will be determined this week following a visit to an orthopedic specialist.

That was the only drawback to a pretty solid weekend for the


“It was, overall, a pretty productive weekend,” said head coach Vince Maiocco.

The Cougars got off to a slow start, squandering numerous scoring opportunities in a 7-0 loss to Feather River in the season opener before winning the second game 4-3.

It was 1-0 heading into the eighth inning when the wheels came off and the Eagles chased starter Brandon Van Stone with a six-run outburst.  All of them were unearned.

“Brandon pitched very well until then,” Maiocco said.

Even then, he gave up just three singles in the inning after an error and sacrifice opened the door for the Eagle rally.

Van Stone gave up just one earned run, struck out four and walked none.

In the second game, Feather River led 3-0 heading into the sixth when the Cougars tied it on Travis Tessandor’s leadoff single, Dayton Kurian’s RBI double, Roman Testani’s RBI single and a balk.

Testani banged a one-out single in the eighth, moved up on an errant pickoff throw and scored what proved to be the winning run on a hit by Chris Hopballe.

Nick Risucci pitched two shutout innings to preserve the win.  He had three strikeouts.

“Nick really slammed the door,” Maiocco said.

Kevin Little started, working six innings, giving up three runs on four hits, walking three and striking out six.
In Saturday’s game, the Cougars came alive offensively with 17 hits.

Starter Kendal Daniels gave up four runs – three earned – on eight hits in five innings, striking out three and walking none.

Gabriel Ayala, Logan Mace and Bryan Sanchez handcuffed Imperial Valley on just one hit over the last four innings.

Leadoff hitter Tessandori and Kurian each had five hits in the series, Testani four, Hopballe, Matt Moorehead, and Loren Cutolo three

“I thought we played great defense through the weekend,” Maiocco said.

He hopes the hitting, pitching and defense can pick up where they left off when the Cougars play another three-game series this weekend beginning Thursday.

TC will host College of the Siskiyous Thursday at 1 p.m. and Friday at 10:30 a.m. before capping off the series Saturday with a 2 p.m. game against Barstow.

“Those will be tough ball games,” Maiocco said.  “Both teams were really improved last year.”

Siskiyous, runner-up last year to Feather River in the Golden Valley Conference, is 2-1 while Barstow lost two of three to Irvine Valley to open the season.

Cougars Finish Weekend Series with win over Imperial Valley
W 11- 4
by Travis Tessandori
February 1, 2014

Taft College improved to 2-1 behind a solid start by freshman Kendal Daniels. He pitched 5 innings and allowed 3 earned runs. The bullpen also provided 4 innings of shutout baseball, with the combined efforts of Logan Mace, Gabriel Ayala, and Bryan Sanchez.

The offense was firing on all cylinders from the first pitch, as they jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 1st inning. They continued to tack on runs, scoring 7 by the end of the 3rd.

Travis Tessandori led the attack going 3-3, while Chris Hopballe, Dayton Kurian, Matt Moorehead and Loren Cutolo all chipped in with 2 hits each. The Cougars also had 6 doubles as a team, one coming from Scout Villanueva who also had 2 RBI’s.

Coach Maiocco was impressed with what he saw over the weekend, saying, “I thought we competed very well. A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel after losing the first game and then falling behind 3-0 in the second game against Feather River. Coming back and beating a legitimate state title contender the way we did spoke volumes about the character of this team.”

The Cougars will host College of the Siskiyous on Thursday/Friday and Barstow College on Saturday at Cougar Field.

Cougars madCougars Split with Powerhouse Feather River in Season Opener
L 0-7/W 4-3
by Travis Tessandori
January 31, 2014

Taft opened with 18 innings of baseball against 5th ranked Feather River.
Game 1 was a pitching duel until the 8th inning, as returning starting pitcher Brandon Van Stone tossed 7 brilliant innings of one run baseball. In the 8th inning, the Cougars made a few errors that led to 6 unearned Feather River runs. Van Stone left the game in the 8th, finishing with 7.1 innings pitched, only 6 hits allowed, and 1 earned run. He would take the loss putting him at 0-1.

Unable to get any offense going, Taft was blanked for the first game. Roman Testani provided most of the offensive spark, going 2-4 with a pair of doubles. 

Taft fell 0-7.

In Game 2, Feather River again took a lead off of returning starting pitcher Kevin Little. Little bounced back and settled in to give Taft 6 strong innings, striking out 6, and giving up 2 earned runs.

With Little battling to keep them in the game, the Cougars failed to push across a run for the first 5 innings. In the sixth, returning center fielder Travis Tessandori laid down a bunt single, followed up by a Dayton Kurian double that plated Tessandori to give the Cougars their first run of the day. Roman Testani followed suit with a single to right field that brought in Kurian.

Testani proceeded to steal second, and advance to third on a wild throw. He was then balked in to tie the game up at 3.

Buddy Cooper entered the game with a strong inning, going 1-2-3. (Cooper finished the day with 1.1 pitched and no earned runs.)

Freshman closer Nick Risucci entered the game in the 8th inning, and tossed a shutdown inning to keep the game tied 3-3.

In the bottom of the 8th, it was Roman Testani again involved in the mix to scratch across a run. Leading off with a single and advancing to second on an errant pick-off throw by the pitcher, Testani was shortly after banged in by Chris Hopballe, giving the Cougars a 4-3 lead.

That was all they needed as Risucci took the mound again and tossed a shutout 9th inning, giving him the win and moving him to 1-0.

Taft(1-1) faces off against Imperial Valley(0-2) tomorrow at 2 o’clock pm.

Taft College Baseball Coach, Vince Maiocco is looking for a better hitting team as the Cougars roll out their 2014 edition today
by Dennis McCall
Taft Midway Driller
January 31, 2014

Taft College baseball coach Vince Maiocco is looking for a better hitting team as the Cougars roll out their 2014 edition today.

TC is hosting Feather River in a doubleheader today.  The Eagles are ranked No. 5 in the pre-season California poll.

“They made it to the final four last year and have a better team this season, so we definitely have our work cut out for us,” Maiocco said.

Six of TC’s nine pre-conference tune-ups are at home.

After today’s acid test with one of the state’s best programs, the Cougars will host Imperial Valley College tomorrow at 2 p.m., then entertain College of the Siskiyous next Thursday (1 p.m.) and Friday (10 a.m.) before closing out the home stand with Barstow (2 p.m.) on Saturday the 8th.

“I think we’re going to be OK this year,” Maiocco said.  “We’ve been down the last couple of years but I think our hitting will be improved and we have decent overall team speed.”

He’s looking for more production from his hitters.  Last season the Cougars had just two hitters over .300 on a team that finished 11-24-1 overall and 8-16 in the tough Central Valley Conference.

In the pre-season northern California poll, Fresno is No. 1, Merced No. 8 and Sequoias No. 15.

First team all-conference pick Travis Tessandori (.324) is expected to set the tone for the Cougar hitters from his leadoff spot.  He had a .412 on-base percentage, stole 18 of 20 bases, earned the conference Golden Glove award with his .989 fielding average (just one error) and had 88 putouts.

Maiocco also expects more production from the 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup: sophomore Roman Testani and newcomers Chris Hopballe and Scout Villanueva.

“They can really swing it,” Maiocco said.

Hopballe is a redshirt transfer from Saddleback College and Villanueva played at Bakersfield College last season.

Maiocco also is looking at an improved defense, especially on the infield despite being young.

“We’re very young on the infield except at third base,” he said. “We’re very young up the middle.”

Sophomore Loren Cutolo and freshman Villanueva are solid at third base and newcomer Bryan Nunez has impressed at shortstop.

Villanueva has good power at the plate, also can work behind the plate and might fit into the designated hitter role.

Freshmen Michal Hillcoat and Michael Dagg are tussling for the starting job at second base.

“Hillcoat has the best offensive power and Nunez is smooth and fluid.  He makes everything look easy.”

The top four outfielders from last season are back “which gives us a lot of flexibility so we can rotate players in.”

Maiocco likes the depth he’ll have at the catcher position, led by sophomore Adrian Rodriguez.

“He caught just about every inning of every game last year, but we’re not going to wear him out this year because we have depth there now.”

Returning all-conference right-hander Brandon Van Stone anchors the pitching corps.

He has signed a letter of intent to pitch at Hawaii Pacific University next year.

Van Stone will lead the rotation that also returns Kevin Little.

“That’s a great place to start,” said Maiocco, who is still undecided on who will step into the third spot in the rotation.

“Kevin had a very solid freshman year for us,” he said.  “We’re expecting good things out of him this year.  We’re still looking for that third starter.”

Newcomer Kendal Daniels is a southpaw who could fill the bill.

“He throws strikes, changes speeds and has a very good curve ball,” Maocco said

Another newcomer with promise is slender Nick Risucci (6-foot-2, 150 pounds) who led Las Vegas-Bonanza High to the state finals last year and twice beat national powerhouse Bishop Gorman.

“He’s a side-armer whose pitches are very confusing to hitters,” Maiocco said.  “He uses both arm angles very successfully.  Ideally, we will use him as a closer, but he can throw the last two or three innings.

“I like his makeup, the way he competes.  We also could put him in the rotation as our No. 3 starter.  We’re expecting a good season from him.”

Assisting Maiocco with coaching duties are veterans Jeremy and Chris Wadel.  Michael Hayes, who played at TC a few years back, is a newcomer on the staff.

Cougars Prepare to Kick Off 2014 Season
by Travis Tessandori
January 30, 2014

After a long and forgetful 2013 season, Taft College baseball is getting ready to open up a brand new year this upcoming Friday and Saturday.

The Cougars kick off the year Friday by hosting a double header against 5th ranked Feather River and they also host Imperial Valley on Saturday.

When asking Head Coach Vince Maiocco what he thought of the talented 2014 team, he said, “I like the depth we have in the outfield and infield. This is the deepest position player team I’ve had since I have been at Taft College. To go along with that we have two front-line starters in Brandon Van Stone and Kevin Little. I expect good things from Nick Risucci, as well, who will be our closer.”

Putting last year behind them and learning from their downfalls has been a big focus through the fall and early spring.

With high hopes and excitement buzzing, the Cougars will try to open up this season on the right foot this weekend.

Taft College Baseball and Softball Teams Host Triple Play Dinner with Dave Dravecky as Guest Speaker
by Travis Tessandori
January 28, 2014

click here for photo gallery

The Taft College baseball and softball programs hosted the Triple Play Dinner and Auction on January 11th to help with fundraising for the upcoming season.
 The event was catered by Salty’s BBQ of Bakersfiled CA and dessert from Amanda’s Delightful Bites of Wasco CA.

There were a live auction and a silent auction featuring some great items, such as; an autographed Patrick Willis football, an autographed Orel Hershiser baseball, San Francisco Giants memorabilia, and many other jaw-dropping items.

The event also included a speech from former MLB pitcher and author, Dave Dravecky. Dravecky, who had a short but illustrious career, told the wonderful story of his trip to and out of the big leagues. After making it to the Major Leagues in 1982, Dravecky quickly made the All-Star team and also pitched brilliantly in two World Series games for the San Diego Padres in 1984. When traded to the Giants in 1987, Dravecky carried them to a National League West title but was struck with cancer in his throwing arm just a year later. In the NLCS, he pitched in two games and only allowed 1 run in 15 innings pitched.  Treatment allowed for an attempted comeback in 1989, only to fail and have Dravecky’s arm amputated bringing a hopeful career to a quick end.

Dravecky spoke to the men and woman Cougars privately before speaking to the whole crowd, a speech in which Head Baseball Coach Vince Maiocco said, “He had a great message of overcoming adversity. If you look at it from a baseball standpoint and in turn it can also correlate directly to life. His point of dreaming big, hit home with me, and if you don’t attain your dream then create another one. He touched on every facet of life, and somehow through all of the seriousness in his story he even managed to keep it humorous.”

The dinner all in all was a huge success, and both programs are very thankful for Dave Dravecky and his wife Jan’s presence, as well as, all of our sponsors and supporters.

Cougars Baseball Hosts First Halloween Game
by Travis Tessandori
October 31, 2013


After a long fall season where the Cougars have worked hard to prepare for the spring season, Coach Vince Maiocco gave his team a day to relax and let loose. On Halloween the Cougars took the field for their normal Thursday intra-squad game, but not in their normal practice gear. Running onto the field were the Cougars in their Halloween costumes; including Miley Cyrus, The Ninja Turtles, Woody and Buzz, and many more. When Coach Maiocco was asked why he held the fun-natured game, he replied, “The players requested this game several weeks ago. I told them if we had two good intra-squad games in a row that I would consider it. They did, so that is how this game came into fruition. It was such a good team-bonding event that we will make it an annual event.” As pointed out, the game was a major success and is something to look forward to for many Halloweens to come.


Head Coach: Vince Maiocco

Assistant Coaches: Jeremy Wedel, Chris Wedel, Michael Hayes

Athletic Trainer, Bruce Ferguson


Superintendent/President: Dr. Dena Maloney

Vice President of Student Services:  Darcy Bogle 

Athletic Director:  Kanoe Bandy 

Athletic Secretary: Jennifer Edmaiston