For a team that represents a school with what seems to be an infinite number of stairs, it's only right to say that the Renegades took each and every step towards a championship in 2010.
It wasn't close to a perfect season by any means, however, the saying does go "It's not how you start, but how you finish."
What was looked at in the fall as a young, and maybe questionable pitching rotation and an experienced and dominant lineup with a young, second-year head coach, became an all-around dominant team once the spring came about.
We wanted to compare them to the 2009 squad that won a school-record 37 games and finished ranked third in the nation, but that wouldn't be fair. Instead, we just all stayed "even-keel" and let everything fall where they may. Besides... this is baseball. Anything is possible.
It was a year of firsts.
From Roberto Padilla's first, and only, double-digit win season as a Renegade, to Michael Ussery's move to first, to Ohlone's first season as defending Coast Conference Pacific Champions. It was even Curtis Boek's first career homer as a Renegade in his first career at-bat.
What wasn't a first is the Renegades winning swagger. But we wondered if they could match their performance in 2009. And without worry, the Renegades did what all of us in the baseball world knew they would do: Win. And win often. It didn't matter that they opened 2-1 on the road, because we knew they'd win at home. It didn't matter if they trailed by six in the ninth with two outs on the road in late February, because we knew somewhere deep inside, that someone in the lineup would hit a grand slam to give Ohlone the lead. And it happened. Whenever the chips seemed to be against them, they would somehow pull through. Even if it they had to extend the game to the next day.
And then it started.
Call it urgency, or call it getting hot at the right time, but Ohlone's 10-2 record in the month of April, including the nine-game win streak to end the season, might've been the sign that this was a team of destiny. It wasn't led by just a dominant left-handed 11-game winner in Padilla, or by a speedy outfielder in Steven Ramos that'll make anything happen in the blink of an eye. And it wasn't just the other twin in Zach Johnson making it happen. It was, in fact, a true Championship-caliber team.
This was a team that, minus a few mistakes here and there, could have won the Coast Conference Pacific title for a second straight season, but fell just short. However, looking back on all of it now, does that really matter? I mean, they did beat eventual conference champion Canada in April (let alone won the State title).
But once the postseason began, it just seemed right that the team that stayed "even-keel" with the cool, calm and collected attitude ended up winning the war. Proven resilient in the Regionals against Modesto and even tougher against rival Chabot in a Super Regional final that was just that. Super. Chabot may have ran their mouth and flaunted their arrogance. They may have led for most of the two Super Regional final games. But it would be the determination and the heart of a champion that would lead Ohlone to Fresno. It was a clutch bat by Zach Johnson and a warrior-like performance on the mound by Padilla that brought Ohlone to Fresno.
Then they traveled south to prove that they were, in fact, the best in the state of California. Ohlone forced the clock to strike 12 against the cinderella story that was El Camino. And the clock struck quick after six hitless innings for El Camino. Ohlone grounded a Rio Hondo team that tacked on runs against opponents like one tacks on Twitter updates.
But yet, they found themselves down against a familiar rival.
A 6-0 hole after the second inning to San Mateo was not how the Renegades wanted to begin the State Championship game. Or was it?
As they've done for nearly a good third of the regular season, Ohlone fought back when down.
What began as a four-run, third inning rally became a 1-2-3 inning on the mound for Ohlone's Matt Fontaine. As the Bulldogs tried to push away with a 7-5 lead, Ohlone yanked the leash to get even at seven.
And then, with almost no surprise at all, it happened.
As one brother drew a walk to load the bases the other hit the shot that would define Ohlone in 2010: Clutch.
Much like Ryan Walterhouse did at San Mateo in the ninth inning in late February, Jeff Johnson's grand slam would give Ohlone the go-ahead 11-7 lead.
Johnson's homer in the sixth could be mentioned up there with such home runs as Aaron Boone's ALCS Game 7 home run, or maybe Joe Carter's World Series game winner back in the early 90's.
Regardless where you place that shot in baseball history, it will always be rememebered as the shot that brought Ohlone College it's first ever State Championship.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, Ohlone College in Fremont is known for it's near inifinite amount of stairs.
In the case of Ohlone baseball, it took 47 steps, one at a time for them to become champions.