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COMMUNITY COLLEGE BASEBALL REGIONAL PLAYOFFS : Rancho Santiago One Loss From Elimination

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rancho Santiago was in the situation of having to win consecutive double headers this season. But that was only in the Southwestern tournament.

Now the Dons will have to do it to stay alive in the Southern California Regional playoffs.

The Dons fell into that predicament by losing to Riverside, 10-4, Friday at Riverside in the double-elimination second round.

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Cerritos defeated San Diego Mesa, 5-4, in 10 innings in the other game.

Rancho Santiago (38-10) plays San Diego Mesa (27-16) at 10 a.m. today at the Riverside Sports Center.

If the Dons win, they will come back to Riverside to take on the loser of the 11 a.m. Riverside/Cerritos game.

If Rancho Santiago wins both games today, the Dons must win twice Sunday to reach the state tournament next weekend in Sacramento.

“It’s just another challenge,” Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon said. “This team has responded well all season.”

Friday, Riverside’s Ben Blomdahl (12-2) was the main cause of Rancho Santiago’s woes. Blomdahl, a sophomore right-hander, held the Dons to six hits and a run over eight innings and led, 5-1.

Riverside, the designated visitor, scored five runs in the top of the ninth before Rancho Santiago came back with three in the bottom of the inning. Blomdahl finished with a 10-hitter.

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Paul O’Hearn (10-1) allowed 11 hits and six runs in 8 1/3 innings to take the loss.

Each team scored in the third but Riverside took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Larry Stahlhoefer led off with his third home run and Matt McElreath followed with a triple off the right-field fence. He scored on a single by Curt Callicot.

Riverside (34-12) added two runs in the fifth. Randy Curtis doubled, was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Mike Alto. Alto later scored on a single by McElreath.

Riverside also made three big plays on defense to stop possible Rancho Santiago rallies.

Robin Lindsey bunted to start the sixth for the Dons, and Blomdahl threw wildly to first. Lindsey headed for second and continued toward third, but was thrown out by second baseman Callicot, who backed up the wild throw at first.

Raul Rodarte hit what looked like an RBI double to right in the seventh. But McElreath ran far toward the line and made a diving catch to end the inning.

Rodarte, the Orange Empire Conference’s most valuable player, singled in his other four at-bats.

Lindsey was robbed of at least a double in the eighth. With one out and Mark Wasikowski on first after a single, Lindsey drove one deep to center.

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Riverside’s Curtis raced back and reached up to catch the ball as he rammed the fence at the 385-foot sign.

“Blomdahl was the key,” Sneddon said. “He got the outs when he needed them. We missed some key plays and they made some big plays.”

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