BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer email@example.com
MISSION VIEJO -- For one inning Saturday, Bakersfield College got the crucial two-out hits the Renegades had been looking for during their recent struggles.
But just as quickly, the offense went quiet.
Third-seeded Saddleback College took advantage, coming from behind to post a 7-4 win in the Southern California community college baseball playoffs at Saddleback. The win gives the Gauchos (27-11) a two-game sweep in the best-of-three series against BC (24-14), which lost its final six games to close out its season.
BC, which was outscored 40-19 in the season-ending six-game losing streak, collected five hits in the first inning against Saddleback freshman right-hander Tyler Brashears, who hadn't allowed an earned run in his last 35 innings prior to Saturday.
Kyle Nixon led off with a single and after two outs, Justin Martinez's RBI single to center scored Nixon, Cole Hallum's double to the center-field fence scored Martinez and Jordan Turner and Luc Pomales followed with RBI singles.
That turned out to be all of BC's scoring.
"It was definitely frustrating," said Martinez, BC's catcher who led the Renegades in home runs and RBIs. "It was all going good. Everyone was hitting the ball hard. It all fizzled from there."
"It lasted one inning, unfortunately," BC coach Tim Painton said. "We had five hits in the first inning to score four runs. We entered the ninth with six hits. So we had one hit from (between) the first to the ninth inning."
Saddleback, the designated visiting team even though the game was played on its home field, scored in the first inning on a one-out double by Josh Fuentes, a wind-blown pop fly that right fielder Jordan Turner called for but missed, and Brandon Cody's soft RBI single to left.
But the Gauchos showed their power in the third.
After BC starting pitcher Darion Nunn allowed inning-opening singles to Trevor Sealey and Jeff Butler, Nunn managed to catch Fuentes’ vicious line drive back to the mound.
But Cody, the state co-leader with eight regular-season home runs, tied the game 4-4 with a towering three-run homer that sailed far over the left-field fence.
Noah Graham, the next Gauchos’ hitter, hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to left-center, but the stiff breeze blowing out to left caught the ball and carried it over the fence for another homer, putting Saddleback ahead 5-4.
Before the back-to-back homers, Nunn had only allowed one home run in 59 innings all season.
“It changed the whole complexion of the game,” Painton said. “Give them some credit. They had some big, physical players in that lineup. They were able to get into two balls that inning and it gave them a one-run lead.”
In the third and fourth innings, BC’s Jordan Turner and Rolando Martinez each sent long fly balls to deep left-center that were pushed by the wind but caught near the fence by center fielder Sealey. But after that, neither team managed to drive the ball deep.
“Early in the game, we didn’t think that (5-4 lead) would hold up,” Painton said. “But for whatever reason, offensively, we didn’t drive in another run.”
Brashears (8-2) won his seventh straight decision. He was chased in the seventh inning when BC had its best scoring threat since the first.
A one-out throwing error by Gauchos third baseman Brian Romero on Nick Sakowski’s ground ball and walks to Nixon and Erik Williams loaded the bases.
“We were in the right part of the lineup — the bases loaded with our 3-4 hitters coming up,” Painton said, referring to Blayne Ontiveros and Justin Martinez. “We thought we’d produce something and unfortunately we didn’t.”
Ontiveros and Martinez both struck out against relief pitcher Chase Jones to end the inning.
In the ninth against Saddleback closer Anthony Shew, who hasn’t allowed an earned run all season, BC got infield singles from Rolando Martinez and Williams. But Ontiveros, representing the potential tying run at the plate, struck out on three pitches to end the game and BC’s season.
“I’m not faulting our players,” Painton said. “Believe me, they’ve come up big in many situations throughout the year.”
The season-ending losing streak was frustrating, Painton acknowledged. BC began the year 16-3.
“Baseball is a game of momentum and we lost momentum,” he said. “We had the same things continue to plague us through (Friday, referring to poor defense) and we didn’t put up enough runs the last six games.
“There’s no rhyme or reason for it. You get into a bad rhythm. For us, it continued over our last six games.”
Seven of BC’s nine hitters in Saturday’s batting order were freshmen. Freshman Joe Bresson, BC’s third pitcher who pitched only 51⁄3 innings in the regular season, tossed four shutout innings.
“We’ll appreciate the fact that they got on the field and got as many at-bats and innings as they did,” Painton said. “We got a lot of freshman kids who got quite a bit of experience this year. It’s a big jump from high school to our level and sometimes they took their lumps.
“I thought Joe Bresson was outstanding today, somebody who hasn’t thrown a lot of innings. He did an outstanding job and gave our players the opportunity to come back.”
Saddleback advances to one of two four-team super regionals next weekend.