COSTA MESA — A dramatic finish displaced the built-in beginning theme, but Vanguard University baseball coach Rob Pegg was certainly unwilling to quibble with his first day of competition at the helm of his alma mater.
Pegg's Lions rallied for four runs in their last at-bat of the seven-inning second game to defeat La Sierra, 5-4, and sweep the nonconference doubleheader on Monday at Vanguard.
After senior third baseman Jason Ochart walked with the bases loaded to drive in the tying run, senior Jordan Mould scored from third on a wild pitch to senior Ethan Harper to spark a boisterous celebration after a game in which the Lions were down to their final out and trailing, 4-1.
Senior Nikko Tountas began the winning rally with a one-out pinch double and, one out later, sophomore Taylor McKnight barely cleared the left-field fence with a two-run home run against La Sierra reliever Logan Duran. McKnight, a transfer from Santa Barbara City College, had not hit a home run since his senior year at Mater Dei High in 2009.
Senior center fielder Matt Avery and Mould chased Duran with consecutive singles, putting the tying run on third, before Golden Eagles' sophomore Michael Hinojos was shifted from third base to the mound. Hinojos, who had blown a sixth-inning lead in the seventh-inning to take the loss in the second game of a doubleheader against San Diego Christian on Saturday, walked junior right fielder John Schwer to load the bases. Ochart followed with a walk to knot the score and Hinojos bounced a pitch in front of the plate that caromed high off the backstop, allowing Mould to score standing up to complete the sweep.
Vanguard (2-0) posted a 4-1 victory in the first game, a nine-inning affair completed in half the time (80 minutes) as the second game.
"That can really set the tone for a team early in the season," Pegg, the Lions' team MVP an All-Golden State Athletic Conference catcher in 1997 who later spent seven seasons as an assistant coach in the program, said of the winning Game 2 rally. "I saw what I believed we had [coming into the season], and it showed up for us today."
Through the first six innings of the second game, Vanguard had produced just five hits.
Avery, who went four for seven in the two games and had driven in and scored a run in the opener, singled to lead off the fourth and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ochart.
The four-run outburst made a Game 2 winner out of senior Scott Simmons, who worked a scoreless seventh inning of relief in his first appearance of the season.
The rally also took Vanguard junior starting pitcher Richard Perry off the hook. Perry, a transfer from Citrus College making his debut for the Lions, gave up three earned runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Vanguard pitchers controlled Game 1, with senior Hawaii transfer Travis Tomsen no-hitting the Riverside-based Golden Eagles (0-4) through four innings. Tomsen, making his first start since his senior year in 2009 at Martin Luther King High in Riverside, allowed two hits, one earned run, walked two and fanned three in his five innings to earn the win. He threw just 64 pitches.
Senior right-hander Kevin Ponzo pitched four scoreless innings to earn the save. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out four.
Vanguard senior Adonis Tountis was three for nine in the two games with one run batted in.
Mould (two combined runs and one stolen base), senior Ellis Whitman and Collins had one hit in each game for the Lions, who are coming off a 23-21 season in which they lost their final three games.
La Sierra, 3-44-1 last season, has lost 11 straight dating back to the 2012 campaign.
"I was very pleased with the pitchers today," Pegg said. "Defensively, we were a little splotchy and, offensively, we took a few too many at-bats off. [The second game] is not how I'd hoped. I had hoped it would be more like the first game, with a little more separation. But any time you come from behind when your back is against the wall, its builds confidence. This was exciting."
One down note was a right (throwing) shoulder injury to Vanguard senior shortstop Bryce Arroyo in the second game. Arroyo, who sparkled defensively, left the Game 2 in the top of the fifth after diving to stop a ball to his right and throwing to first from his knees from the fringe of the outfield grass. Pegg said Arroyo's right shoulder popped out of join, then back in, as he hit the ground on his dive.
"[Arroyo] believes he should be all right, but he may need a week off," Pegg said of his cleanup hitter.
Vanguard plays back-to-back doubleheaders against Menlo College on Friday and Saturday.
Vanguard 5, La Sierra 4
LS 102 010 0 – 4 7 0
VU 000 100 4 – 5 9 2
Gregario, Duran (5), Hinojos (7) and Magness; Perry, Hopper (4), Simmons (7) and Collins. W – Simmons, 1-0. L – Hinojos, 0-2. 2B – Collins (VU), N. Tountas (VU). HR – McKnight (VU).
Vanguard 4, La Sierra 1
LS 000 010 000 – 1 4 1
VU 021 000 01x – 4 9 1
Makarow, Gonzalez (3), Williams (8) and Rael; Tomsen, Ponzo (6) and Collins. W – Tomsen, 1-0. L – Makarow, 0-1. Sv – Ponzo (1). 2B – Sakry (VU), Avery (VU), Magness (LS).