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State Community College Baseball Tournament : Rancho Santiago Defeats Merced, 9-4

Don Sneddon, Rancho Santiago College baseball coach, made a key move Friday morning to improve the Dons’ chances in the state community college tournament.

Sneddon gambled and didn’t start his 12-1 ace, Mike Schwabe. Instead, he started Mike Sanders, who has worked as the Dons’ third starter most of the season. The move worked.

Sanders allowed four runs in 7 innings, and Rancho Santiago defeated Merced, 9-4, on the campus field at Cal State Long Beach.

No. 4-seeded Rancho Santiago plays No. 1 San Mateo at 10 a.m. today at Blair Field in Long Beach. Schwabe will start.

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San Mateo advanced to the second round by defeating San Diego Mesa, 9-3, Friday.

There was another move that proved important for the Dons after starting left fielder Frank Appice became sick. He couldn’t stand up in the sixth inning and had to be taken out.

Freshman George Fausto was put in the lineup and, in his second at-bat, hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to give Rancho Santiago its 9-4 lead.

It was the first career home run for Fausto, who is from Santa Ana High School.

“I would like to say I knew he (Fausto) was ready and that he had the home run in him, but I had nothing to do with it,” Sneddon said. “I don’t know what got into us today. We just really hit the ball.”

The Dons (32-8) also got home runs from third baseman Dave Kirkpatrick, his third of the season, with the bases empty in the second, and from first baseman Ruben Gonzalez, who hit his 15th homer in the third with a man on.

The four-run third inning gave Rancho Santiago a 5-1 lead.

After giving up a run in the first, Sanders (4-0) retired 10 consecutive batters. In the fifth, Sanders gave up three runs, two scoring on a single by catcher Marvin Rogers.

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Sanders nursed a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning. With two out and two on, he was replaced by sophomore right-hander Wayne Gilles, who allowed no runs and one hit over the final 2 innings for his fourth save of the season.

With the save, Gilles, who is from Canyon High School, tied the Rancho Santiago single-season and career marks for saves. His total this season tied him with Ron Thurston (1979) and Greg Mathews (1982). Gilles’ career total of seven tied him with Mathews’ total, which was set in the 1981 and ’82 seasons.

“I felt good out there, and I’m ready to do it three more times in the next three days,” Gilles said.

Merced (24-13) was eliminated from the tournament later in the afternoon by a 15-3 loss to San Diego Mesa.

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“The plan is on schedule so far,” Sneddon said. “Now all we have to do is win three more games.”

The 37th state tournament continues through the weekend, with the championship game Monday at 10 a.m. at Blair Field.


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