The 2022 Orange County Riptide ended the season with a 23-20-1 overall record, advancing to the California Collegiate League (CCL) Playoff Tournament and finishing in third place. 2022 marked the sixth season in the club’s seven-year existence of finishing with a winning record. Including games played against CCL Northern Division opponents, the Riptide’s regular season games vs. CCL South Division teams and playoffs, the Riptide finished the 2022 season with a 22-19 record against CCL franchises.
Although the Riptide did not win the 2022 CCL Championship, the 2022 season was a smashing success both on and off the field. Let’s take a look back at the 2022 summer for the Orange County Riptide:
Return to the Great Park
After hopscotching from Vanguard University to Concordia University to Fullerton College prior to the 2019 season, the OC Riptide has found a permanent home at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. Although the COVID-19 Global Pandemic caused the Riptide to cancel the 2020 summer season, the OC Riptide returned to the Orange County Great Park in 2021 and again in 2022. Much like in 2021, the Riptide treated their opening night fans to a win, a 4-0 victory over the Ventura County Pirates this season.
On the Field
The OC Riptide opened the season with two non-league games at home before diving right into CCL play on June 10th, hosting the Arroyo Seco Saints. In 2021, the Riptide took a road trip up to Alaska but in 2022, opted for a barnstorming road trip to play CCL Northern Division teams, the Sonoma Stompers and Walnut Creek Crawdads. The Riptide won three of those four games spanning from June 23rd to June 26th.
The Riptide experienced several streaks during the 2022 season. Three times the Riptide won four consecutive games from June 21 – 25, July 3 – 7 and again on July 23 – 29. Unfortunately, the Riptide did experience a four-game stretch of losing game consecutively from June 15 – 19.
OC Riptide fans that attended games at the OC Great Park were treated to more wins than losses in 2022. Of the 18 home dates in 2022, the Riptide home record stood at 9-8-1. With a planned increase in home dates in 2023, the OC Riptide hopes to keep that winning tradition alive next summer.
CCL Showcase Game
On July 20th, three OC Riptide players participated in the CCL Showcase Game presented by ABDG. The game was yet again played at the MLB Youth Academy on the campus of Compton College. Scouts from all 30 MLB franchises were in attendance.
Pitchers Noah Carabajal (UNLV) and Matthew Maloney (New Mexico State) were joined by Outfielder Terrence (T.C.) Simmons (UConn) at the Showcase Game. All three performed well in the game but it was Maloney who shined the brightest, taking home the Most Outstanding Pitcher Award. The South Division went on to win the game 2-0 over the North Division team.
Days prior to the CCL Showcase Game, the OC Riptide saw several current players and alumni players selected in the 2022 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In addition to the draft, a few Riptide players also signed professional contracts as undrafted free agents.
On Day Two of the MLB Draft, a trio of 2019 OC Riptide alumni were selected. The Washington Nationals chose Trey Lipscomb in the third round (84th overall) to head the Riptide alumni draft class. Lipscomb played primarily third base for the Tennessee Volunteers and was a member of the 2019 OC Riptide.
The next 2019 Riptide alumnus to get selected came in the eighth round when right-handed pitcher Wesley Scott was selected by the Kansas City Royals. Scott played for Walters State Community College in 2022 and was selected 235th overall.
A few draft slots later in the eighth round, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Dylan Rock 248th overall. Rock played Right Field primarily with the Riptide in 2019 and played primarily Left Field in 2022 for Texas A&M.
Day Three of the MLB Draft saw two more Riptide players go pro. Jordan Dissin, a Catcher/Designated Hitter on the 2022 Riptide squad was selected in the 12th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Dissin attended Saddleback College and was committed to attend UC San Diego but opted to turn pro after being drafted by his hometown team.
In the 17th round, Hayden Merda, a pitcher from Azusa Pacific University and member of last year’s 2021 Riptide squad, was selected by the New York Yankees.
With five players selected in the MLB Draft, two more Riptide players chose to forego their college eligibility and sign contracts as undrafted free agents. Marc “Bubba” Filia, signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Guardians. Filia played First Base and Outfield with the Riptide in 2022 and played for UC San Diego in the spring.
Shortstop Chase Valentine won the Junior College World Series in June with Central Arizona College and was committed to play for the Tennessee Volunteers in the fall. Valentine opted to sign as a free agent with the San Diego Padres and will bring his exceptional glove and defense to the Padres organization.
CCL All-League Team
After the completion of the CCL regular season, the league announced three OC Riptide players to the 2022 CCL All-League Team.
Outfielder Santino Panaro (UNLV) and Infielder Dominic Suoto (Cal) were joined by Pitcher Matthew Maloney (New Mexico State) to round out Orange County’s selections.
Maloney was named the CCL Most Outstanding Pitcher for his performances on the mound in both a starter and reliever role from June through July. Panaro led the league in stolen bases (16) and shared that honor with three other CCL players who also swiped 16 bags.
In addition to being named to the CCL All-League team, Suoto, Maloney and Panaro also led the Riptide in several statistical categories.
Maloney led the Riptide in strikeouts (55), wins (4) and ERA (0.25). Fellow Showcase pitcher Noah Carbajal also finished the season with a sub-0.50 ERA clocking in at 0.42.
On the mound, Evan Vasiliou (UC Irvine) was the workhorse of the bunch tossing over 40 innings in the summer of 2022. Daniel Naughton (Montana State University, Billings) was outstanding in relief, racking up five saves in 2022.
Offensively, the Riptide enjoyed much success at the plate and on the bases statistically. Suoto led the 2022 Riptide in batting (minimum of 50+ at-bats) with a .354 average and belted six doubles to lead the Riptide in that category. Panaro batted .333 for the summer and successfully stole 16 bases without getting caught or thrown out once. Shane Taylor (Utah Tech) had the most at-bats in 2022 (109) and scored 33 runs in 31 games. Taylor also led the 2022 Riptide with three home runs.
First No-Hitter in Riptide History
Also of note, the Riptide notched the first combined no hitter in franchise history on June 29th at San Luis Obispo. Noah Carabajal started the game and went five complete innings before handing the ball to Carson Case (Nevada-Reno). Case threw 1 2/3rd innings of no-hit baseball before Trevor Meisner (Utah Tech) recorded two outs. Daniel Naughton closed the game going the final 1 2/3rds innings to secure the 3-0 no-hitter.
The final out and celebration from the first no hitter in Riptide history. Huge shoutout to pitchers Noah Carabajal (@LBDirtbags) @CarsonCase4 (@NevadaBaseball) @trevmize9 (@UtahTech_BASE) and @DanielNaughto19 (@ZagBaseball) on the incredible feat.#OCRiptidefamily #CCLBaseball pic.twitter.com/hpNhfBvOWI
— OC Riptide Baseball (@ocriptide) June 30, 2022
Return to the Post-Season
After narrowly missing the post season in 2021, the Riptide returned to the CCL Playoff Tournament in 2022. Earning the No. 5 seed in the tournament, the Riptide advanced all the way to the semi-finals with an undermanned squad. (The 2022 Riptide team roster was decimated by players that left to go home early, the draft and free agency along with pitchers leaving due to innings limits and injuries.)
Despite only bringing 20 players (only nine pitchers) to San Luis Obispo, the Riptide finished third in the tournament. The CCL Tournament final was a match up of the top two seeded teams with the Healdsburg Prune Packers winning their second consecutive championship after winning it all in 2021.
Continuing the tradition of the Riptide players selecting the Team MVP, Pitcher of the Year and the Hustle & Spirit Award for that year’s team, the players took a poll to vote on those deserving of the awards. In a vote by their peers and teammates, the players honored:
Dominic Suoto & Santino Panaro – Co-MVPs
Matthew Maloney – Pitcher of the Year
Zach Thomas – Hustle and Spirit
The momentum built in 2021 led way to even greater community partnerships within Orange County in 2022. One of the biggest leaps forward included a partnership with Sanford Health of Irvine. All members of the Riptide gained access to the Sanford Health – Irvine facilities that included weight training, batting cages, bullpen facilities along with the science and analytics inherent with Sanford Health. College coaches along with strength and conditioning coaches from a player’s school could receive regular updates on their player’s health and wellness while playing baseball in Orange County.
To help expand the reach and public awareness of the Riptide, especially within Irvine, the Riptide partnered with the Irvine Auto Center. And estimated 3.5 million motorists drive past the Irvine Auto Center monthly and can see their electronic billboard that faces both the north and southbound lanes of the 5 Freeway. The Riptide had a rotation of two different signs, two in June and two different signs in July, which helped raise awareness of Riptide games played at the Great Park.
Constellation Brands, distributed through Harbor Distributing, donated cases of Modelo, Pacifico and Corona brand beer and seltzers offered in Crush’s Cantina for fans 21 and older. All three brands were a tremendous hit amongst the fans throughout the season
The number of promotional nights offered in 2022 doubled compared to 2021. A repeat from last summer included hosting two separate (one in June and the other in July) Great Park Neighborhoods Community Association events.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the OC Riptide understands the important of charitable giving. The Riptide teamed up with the Shepherd of the Hills Community Table, an extension of the Shepherd of the Hills Church, which helps feed the homeless. On Friday, July 8th, the Riptide joined forces with Team Michelle, an Orange County based Breast Cancer non-profit, to raffle off Dodgers/Angels tickets and $100 Lululemon gift card. The Riptide players and coaches wore special pink jerseys to honor Team Michelle and raise awareness for breast cancer research.
ACI Jet also hosted their employee appreciation night at the July 12th OC Riptide game. With locations at Orange County and San Luis Obispo, ACI Jet determines where they will host the following year’s employee night out based on the previous head-to-head records between the Riptide and the Blues.
On Tuesday, June 14th, the Troy High School JROTC presented the colors during a pre-game for Flag Day. On July 17th, the Riptide hosted “Bark in the Park’ where fans were encouraged to bring out their dogs to enjoy a day of baseball alongside their canine friends. The Irvine Animal Care Center was also present informing fans on adoption options for not just dogs but all pets.
During all 18 home games, the Riptide raffled off autographed jerseys, bats, and baseballs along with a family pass to the Irvine Park Railroad.
Engaging the Baseball Youth of Orange County
Youth baseball is the core to the OC Riptide’s continued success. Cultivating that relationship between local Orange County youth baseball leagues and teaching those players skills that carry forward to their own leagues is a high priority for the OC Riptide.
In 2022, The OC Riptide hosted eight youth baseball night’s where members could run out onto the field during pre-game introductions, stay for the national anthem, participate in mid-inning games, and have their names appear on the video board. In 2021, the Riptide hosted three little leagues and we are proud to say that the Trabuco Canyon Little League, Santa Margarita Little League and Seaview Little League all returned in 2022. They were joined by the Ladera Ranch Little League, South Mission Viejo Little League, Dana Point Youth Baseball, Lake Forest Little League and the Northwood Little League.
OC Riptide Youth Baseball Academy
Building on the successes of 2021, the OC Riptide hosted two Youth Baseball Skills Academy sessions. Youth baseball players from ages 7-12 learned skills in all areas of the game of baseball including hitting, fielding, base running and team play all from top-notch college baseball players playing for the Riptide.
The July camp was the most well attended of the two due to all school schedules across Orange County, kids were on summer vacation. In addition to receiving instruction from the players, OC Riptide Youth Baseball Academy participants ran out onto the field with the players during pre-game introductions prior to the June 19th and July 24th contests, coincidentally both played vs. the MLB Academy Barons.
Father’s Day Celebration
For the first time in recent memory, the OC Riptide played on Father’s Day. The Riptide held a special pre-game first pitch ceremony on June 19th with players’ fathers and host family fathers and grandfathers throwing a ceremonial first pitch to their respective players.
For those fathers too far to travel to be at the game, video messages from the dads to their sons appeared on the video board and were also shared on social media wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day.
Attendance numbers set a record in 2022 with over 5,000 fans attending the 18 home games at the Great Park. The largest crowd came on Friday, June 10th with the Riptide hosting just under 500 fans that night.
The Riptide would not have been able to manage that many fans had it not been for the hard work and dedication of the student intern staff. Expanding to over 40 interns in 2022, these dedicated students with a passion and desire to work professionally in sports entertainment, worked long hours to ensure the game day experience for fans in the stands, watching via the livestream on YouTube or via social media, had the best experience yet.
Increased Stadium Amenities
With increased fans comes the greater responsibilities to offer them more than the game on the field. Today’s sports fans desire food options and the OC Riptide delivered in 2022.
With a rotation of three Food Trucks on site at every game, fans could enjoy a hot meal and bring it into the game as they root on the Riptide. As mentioned, Crush’s Cantina, serving beer, wine and seltzers to those 21+, was a popular spot for those that wanted a bird’s eye view along with an adult beverage. In addition to those options, the Riptide also offered ice cream for sale for the first time along with pre-packaged snacks, sodas and bottled water.
Everything with the Riptide in 2022 increased. The win total from 2021 to 2022 increased, the number of fans in attendance increased, the number of stadium amenities increased along with more youth baseball leagues and more community engagement. Building on the momentum from 2021 and the recently completed 2022 season, the future is very bright for the Orange County Riptide Baseball Club.