GLENDALE — Off to an unspectacular start against a backdrop of high expectations, Glendale Community College’s baseball team needed a win in the worst way.
After shaking off a sluggish start, the Vaqueros looked to have that needed win in hand with a three-run lead in the ninth.
But nothing came easy Saturday afternoon.
Visiting Victor Valley rallied to tie in the top of the ninth, but that only served to set the table for Oscar Tinjaca’s walk-off heroics.
With one out and the bases loaded, the sophomore first baseman lifted a single over a drawn-in defense to send Glendale to a 9-8 nonconference win over Victor Valley at Stengel Field.
“We needed it extremely bad,” said Tinjaca of the win that improved the Vaqueros to 2-3 on the young season. “It was ugly, but at the end of the day, a ‘W’ is a ‘W.’”
Tinjaca took an 0-1 offering and blooped it to left-center field, far enough so that the Victory Valley outfielders didn’t even attempt to track it down.
“I just needed to hit the ball over the outfielders’ heads,” said Tinjaca, who was two for five with a walk, a run, a stolen base and two runs batted in, “and I got a pitch I could do it with.”
Glendale entered the season with four preseason All-Americans following three straight Western State Conference championship runs. Though that would likely create expectations for success, as always, Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto is quick to dispel any looking ahead or looking back and concentrate only on what this particular team needs to do.
“There is no pressure as far as I’m concerned,” Cicuto said. “It’s a new year.”
As the new year has started out with some struggles, Cicuto believes there’s plenty of talent on the GCC roster, it just needs to mature mentally, as was evidenced in a game in which the Vaqueros committed five of a combined eight errors.
Three of those miscues came in the top of the first as Glendale fell behind, 2-0, on three errors, one hit and a walk. The lead swelled to 3-0 for Victory Valley (1-4) thanks to a three-hit second.
Glendale got across a run in its half of the second when outfielder Carlos Robles (two for three, walk, stolen base, RBI) singled in Nick Padilla (two for four, two RBI, run, hit by pitch).
Starter Keaton Leach looked to find some rhythm as he faced the minimum over the next two innings. But in the top of the fifth, Victor Valley tacked on another run after a leadoff walk, an infield single and an error on the single.
But GCC, which had left the bases loaded in the fourth, began to find its offense in the fifth.
It loaded the bases with no outs and Padilla came through again, notching an opposite-field single to right that plated Jay Sheeley and Tinjaca to cut the score to 4-3. After a Lino Lares groundout to shortstop scored Dylan Trimarchi it was all tied up.
Taking his cue and keeping the momentum, right-hander Nick Schur came on in relief and spun two scoreless innings for the Vaqueros.
“Nick Schur did a great job,” Cicuto said.
In between Schur’s two scoreless innings, it looked as though momentum had shifted for good, as David Garcia (three for five, two runs, walk) scored on a double steal to take the lead at 5-4. The Victor Valley throw from second was up the line, leading to Garcia barreling through the catcher for the score. After a brief delay, the game was resumed and Tinjaca scored on an error. Two batters later, the bases were loaded once more and Eddie Munoz (two for five, two RBI, stolen base) came up clutch for the Vaqs, plating two more runs on a single to left field for an 8-4 tally.
Things began to crumble in the ninth, though, as GCC held an 8-5 lead.
“We melted,” Tinjaca said.
Carl Daniels came on to close the game out, but walked the leadoff man before giving up a one-out single and hitting a batter to load the bases. He induced a popout for the second out, but then balked in a runner two pitches before a two-run single knotted the game.
“Honestly, I knew we were gonna have his back,” Tinjaca said.
And, indeed, the Vaqueros did, turning a blown save into a win for Daniels, as a leadoff bunt single by Jerry Ismerio was followed by a Garcia single past a drawn-in infield and another bunt single by Brent Sakurai that loaded the bases. An out later, Tinjaca came through.
“It was just one of those games where everything went wrong,” Tinjaca said, “but you find a way to win.”
Though Saturday was a step in the right direction, Cicuto believes there’s still plenty of steps to be taken.
“You want to keep learning with every experience, if you don’t it’s gonna be a long season,” the skipper said. “Physically, we have all the tools, it’s just mentally. There’s a lot of room for improvement.”