Need a few extra baseballs? Take a walk down Atherton's Alejandra Avenue after the Menlo College baseball team has completed batting practice. You're likely to find the street that separates the Atherton campus and Cartan Field littered with them.
The Oaks, who are in the midst of one of the most successful seasons in program history, are hitting balls out of the park at a historic rate. In fact, the Oaks have hit more home runs as a team (68) than any other four-year institution in the country across every division. Sterling College in Kansas has hit 66 entering play this weekend.
The success with the long ball is led by the Oaks No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Lucas Erceg and Garrett Gemgnani. Erceg, a highly touted transfer from Cal currently ranks third in the NAIA with 15 home runs. Gemgnani, a senior who redefined his swing over the offseason after hitting just two home runs a season ago, is second the NAIA with 17 bombs.
Those 17 home runs are also good for the single-season home run crown at Menlo College. Add in Max Dutto, who recently smashed his 10th home run of the season to become the third Oak in double figures and the eight other team member who have hit one or more home run this season and you have the recipe for a powerful lineup.
Gemgnani, who is hitting .331, leads the GSAC in several offensive categories. In addition to his prolific home run numbers, the senior transfer leads the conference in slugging percentage (.765), on-base average (.500), runs scored (44), RBI (49) and walks (42).
"Garrett is a dynamic player who strengthens our team on both sides of the ball," Menlo coach Jack McKinley said. "He has the ability to hit for power, and has natural leadership qualities."
Erceg, hitting .309, is second in the GSAC with 55 hits and first with 111 total bases. Dutto's .450 slugging average is fifth in the conference and his 32 walks are exceeded only by Gemgnaani.
The long ball has helped Menlo overcome a team average of .269, eighth in the nine-team conference. The Oaks lead the GSAC in runs scored (286) and walks (207), are fourth in hits (377) and second in fielding percentage (.969).
It also helps that pitching ace Ashkon Kuhalua leads the conference with a 1.65 ERA and an .188 opponent batting average. Menlo is third in team pitching (3.71) and leads in strikeouts (299).