GLENDALE — For the first time in a longtime, the Glendale Community College baseball team does not find itself at the top of the conference standings at this point in the season.
However, despite having to play catch-up, the Vaqueros don’t want to look at the big picture and what they need to accomplish during the final five weeks of the season. Instead, Glendale college is taking a more myopic view of its situation and that means looking no farther than its next opponent.
That latest opponent Thursday was West L.A. College, a team at the bottom of the Western State Conference South standings. The Vaqueros received a solid early pitching performance from David Lira and a fine effort at the plate from Brent Sakurai to turn back the visiting Wildcats in a 10-3 victory at Stengel Field.
The Vaqueros (12-10, 7-4 in conference), who won their third straight game, came into the day in third place in conference behind league-leading Mission College and second-place College of the Canyons.
“We don’t really worry about what we have to go to get back to the top of the conference, we just try and control what we can control as far as that’s concerned,” said Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team has won three straight conference championships. “We just want to come out here and play good baseball and hopefully come away with a win.
“I wanna say it’s been probably three years since we haven’t been in first place at this time, but that’s fine with us. We just have to take care of it and we can’t control what the other teams in front of us are doing. But getting this win is huge. Every win is huge for us right now.”
The Vaqueros made the most of 10 hits to score their 10 runs. They were also able to take advantage of West L.A. (3-19, 2-9) pitching walking eight batters and hitting three more.
Two of those walks came from Sakurai, a freshman who started at shortstop. Sakurai was two for four with a double, one run scored, four runs batted in and two stolen bases.
Lira also did his part for Glendale, breezing through the first four innings. During that span, the left-hander faced just one batter over the minimum, allowed two hits, no runs and struck out four.
The Vaqueros kept the Wildcats in check early with two defensive gems. In the first inning with a West L.A. runner on third base with one out, Anthony Spears lofted a flyball to center field. Vaqueros sophomore Jay Sheeley backpedaled on the ball, caught it and fired a laser to the plate, throwing out the West L.A. runner by a step.
After walking a batter in the second inning, Lira erased him on a fine pickoff move.
“I think David Lira picked off four guys in his last start,” Cicuto said. “He just has a great move and teams have to watch out for him.”
With Lira rolling, the Vaqueros offense gave him plenty of support. With two outs in the first inning, Sheeley reached base on a two-base outfield error and freshman right fielder Raul Camas followed with a walk. Both scored on consecutive run-scoring singles by sophomore catcher Cam Silva and freshman third baseman Nick Padilla.
The Vaqueros batted around in the fourth inning, tacking on four runs to take a 6-0 advantage. With one out and the bases loaded, Padilla scored on a wild pitch. With the bases still juiced, Sakurai worked the count to 2-2 and then roped a bases-clearing double into left-center field that scored three.
“I was just looking for something to hit and trying to help my team any way I can,” said Sakurai, who batted leadoff. “I think he threw me a fastball and I just went with it.”
The Wildcats were able to cut the lead to 6-3 in the fifth inning with three runs when Lira began to falter. The starter gave up only one hit and one walk in the frame, but was chased when he hit his third batter of the inning.
Glendale college added to its lead with a single run in the fifth when Sakurai walked with the bases loaded, scoring freshman first baseman Harly Faye, who singled.
The Vaqueros tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning on a solo home run to left field by Shelley and an RBI single by Faye, who plated Camas, who had singled.
The scoring was completed in the seventh inning when Sakurai walked, stole second and third and scored on an error by the West L.A. pitcher.
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.