By Joseph Baroud
The game of baseball, and its terminology, is often used as a metaphor for life. It is played after winter finally thaws, a symbol of hope springing eternal. A strikeout is a big personal failure. A home run is as good as it gets.
But the success of Pierson Loska, a new face on the CSUDH baseball team this season, suggests that baseball is also a metaphor for a really good meal.
For just as the main course is set up by the appetizer, soup or salad that comes before, Loska says that without his fellow Toros setting the table for him, he’d never get the opportunity to feast on opponent pitching.
Case in point: Loska’s monster game March 16, a 14-12 CSUDH victory over Sonoma State, in which he went 4 for 5 with two home runs and set a new Toro record for most RBIs in a game, with nine.
“That was a game of a lifetime,” Loska, who leads the team, and the California Collegiate Athletic Association with 14 home runs, said. “But, the guys at the top of the order, they basically set the table for me. The whole team had an unbelievable game and I just had the perfect opportunities to knock in some runs. All the credit is to them.”
In that game, Loska batted third, and the two players ahead of him, senior Kai Gomez and junior Jose Jimenez, combined for eight hits and seven runs, so it was truly a team effort. And while the team has been well under .500 for most of the seaso (14-24 through April 14), the offense isn’t the problem, as it’s in the top five of most offensive categories.
But Loska, a junior who transferred from Cypress College, has also been his one one-man wrecking crew at times. Of the team’s 22 home runs (counting non-conference games ) Loska has 14, nearly twice as many as anyone else in the conference, and he also leads the CCAA in RBIs (53), slugging percentage (.678) and is batting .329, third on the team.
Loska began playing baseball at age 3, Although he said he didn’t seriously entertain the thought of playing professionally until his freshman year at Fountain Valley High School, he has played the game since age 3, and had ample experience on travel teams and youth leagues. But he had a perspective that many young people don’t have: his uncle’s experience as a football player, who told Loska to never take things for granted and to live in the moment so you never have any regrets.
That advice became brutally appropriate last season. Loska knew that his route would begin at a community college before transferring to a four-year university to allow himself to mature both as a baseball player and a person. So, he enrolled at Cypress College, right next door to Fountain Valley. Last season, he was off to a phenomenal season through the first 31 games, hitting .323 with 27 RBI and five home runs. But while sliding into first base, he tore his UCL, a ligament in his elbow, and broke off a piece of his thumb, requiring him to have surgery on it. He couldn’t touch a baseball for five to six months.
“Couple thoughts that were in my head was if I’m ever going to be able to have the mobility as I had in my thumb before,” said Loska. “Luckily, I’m still working on it. It’s still getting back to me. That was my only
Loska rehabbed by crunching weights and lifting cups to get the mobility back and the blood rushing to his thumb again. CSUDH baseball coach Tyler Wright liked what he saw from Loska’s recovery process and how he performed at Cypress.
“I chose Dominguez Hills because they actually gave me an opportunity after my injury,” Loska said. “I was really down on myself, like, ‘how could you let this happen?’ Your chances of playing at a four year are probably slim to none now, but I’m thankful because Wright gave me the opportunity to play here.”
Loska is 6’0 and weighs 210 pounds, so he’s got some size but in baseball, strength isn’t nearly as important in hitting as timing. His offensive numbers are proof that his hand-eye coordination timing is excellent, but he apparently also has another kind of timing. Loska stepped into the third slot in the Toro lineup right as last year’s no. 3 hitter, Dalton Duarte was leaving it. Duarte, whose one year at CSUDH resulted in a conference-high 16 home runs last season, opted to transfer to Lewis-Clark State College in Washington.
But the Toros haven’t missed his power. Through the first 27 games, he slammed 11 home runs, averaging one every 9.7 at-bats. He is currently averaging one every 10.6 at bats, With seven games left, he needs two home runs to tie Duarte for fifth place in single-season history, and one RBI from joining the top-10.
(He’d have to on a blistering tear to crack the Toro season holder for dingers: John Alia’s 20 in 2009. But, he can hit in bunches. Along with his record-shattering day in March, Loska helped break a Toro five-game losing skid in early April, belting two homers and knocking in eight runs in a 17-2 rout of Cal State East Bay.
And to what does he credit his eye-popping numbers? He said it’s not that he’s approaching the game differently, or that Division 2 pitching is weaker than the community college level. He, once again, credits the players around him. Although baseball may seem to be a game of individual statistics and efforts, it takes a total team effort to succeed, both in winning games, as well as putting up numbers.
“I don’t want to take any of the credit because my teammates are the ones that actually put me in my position to help me succeed,” said Loska. “Couple of our guys like senior Kai Gomez, leadoff guy Aaron Greenfield, they usually flip flop[leading off] and Jose Jimenez, they all set the table for me. All the credit is due to them.”
Loska is going to take his chances at the major league draft in June. If he is drafted, it would be the 13th consecutive season that a Toro has been chosen in the MLB draft. He hopes to get drafted and have a long career but said that even if it happens, he will return to school to finish his degree in criminal justice and get a job in law enforcement.
“I’ve always seen police officers help civilians and from my personality, that’s the best fit for me,” said Loska. “I love helping people. I love doing