After a slow start, Pierce College is trying to scramble back into the Western State Conference baseball race, and Tuesday the Brahmas took another step forward with a 10-7 victory at home over Valley.
Pierce (12-9, 10-6 in conference play) won for the seventh time in its last eight games and is in a third-place tie, a game behind Valley (13-11, 12-6), which trails Canyons by three.
Valley, which rallied in the late innings after trailing, 8-2, had won six in a row. It was the second loss for the Monarchs in two games against Pierce this season.
“We are playing better and getting a little confidence in ourselves,” Pierce Coach Bob Lofrano said. “This was a key game for us.”
The Brahmas, the defending conference champions, scored single runs in the first and third innings to offset a solo home run in the second by Valley designated hitter Jamie Zeichick.
Pierce added two runs in the fourth and four more in the sixth for a six-run cushion, 8-2. First baseman Jason Cohen provided one of the key blows in the sixth with a two-run double off the fence in center field.
But Valley bounced back with five runs in the seventh on five hits and an error to chase left-hander Adam West (2-2), who had been sharp until then and deserved a better fate.
"(West) got some big outs,” Lofrano said. “We didn’t help him out in the seventh.”
Valley catcher Anthony Paschia reached on a two-base throwing error by third baseman Louis Tapia to open the inning and Steve Knezevich beat out a slow grounder to short. Leadoff hitter Arnold Settles and second baseman Jason Stanley followed with RBI singles and Ozzie Areu walked to load the bases.
First baseman David Stevenson, who already had a bunt single and a triple in three at-bats, promptly doubled down the left-field line off reliever Chris Frith-Smith, with Areu stopping at third.
Then came the crucial play of the game.
Victor Seper slapped a hit to center field, driving in Areu, but Pierce turned a sparkling double play by cutting down Stevenson at the plate on a strong throw by center fielder Josh Smaler and Seper at second on a throw from catcher Adam Pearlman to shortstop Bryan Corey.
The play bailed out Frith-Smith, who pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning for his fourth save. The submarine right-hander held Valley to two hits over that span.
Pierce got its final runs in the eighth off Valley’s ace, right-hander Willie Rivera, who doubles as a starter and closer.
Stevenson knocked in two runs for a conference-leading 29 RBIs and the triple was his fifth, also best in the conference.