College Baseball: Vanguard loses valuable ground

COSTA MESA — The Vanguard University baseball team saved its best for last Saturday, but that still wasn't enough to avert a sweep by visiting Arizona Christian in a Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader.

The Lions (14-19, 7-13 in conference), who came in hoping for at least a split to help their battle to climb back into the upper half of the seven-team conference standings, scored four runs on five hits in the ninth inning of an 8-5 opening-game loss.

In Game 2, the hosts entered their seventh and final at-bat with just two hits, but strung together three singles to bring the potential tying run to the plate, before succumbing, 4-0.

"We showed a lot of heart and we keep grinding and keep trying to get it done, so you have to applaud [the players] for that," Vanguard Coach Rob Pegg said. "But it was an extremely disappointing day."

Things started promisingly enough for the Lions as Thomas Mobley led off Game 1 with a triple down the right-field line and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Ochart.

Vanguard starter Scott Simmons made that lead stand up through four innings. But the Firestorm (18-13, 11-13) scored four in the fifth on five hits, one of which was a line drive off second baseman Greg Younger's glove that could just as easily have been a double play.

Instead, Seth Neely's liner ricocheted into right-center field for a double that plated two runs. Trevor Santor followed with a two-run single and the Firestorm was on its way.

A three-run home run by Orrin Sears put the visitors up, 8-1, in the ninth inning.

But pinch-hitter Ian Sakry started a one-out Vanguard rally with a double.

Bryce Arroyo, who was three for four in the opener, singled, before Jack Daru drove in a run with a pinch-double and Francisco Torres followed with a two-run double to chase starter Mike Lachappelle.

Reliever Tanner Tripp hit the first batter he faced and, after a fielder's choice for the second out, Ochart singled in the final run, before Nikko Tountas struck out looking with two runners aboard.

"We made some defensive errors that cost us big," Pegg said of the first game."Simmons was rolling, then he got in a little bit of trouble. And when that ball went off [Younger's] glove at second base, that was tough. We make that play [on which runners had strayed far enough off the bag that Younger could have easily doubled one off, had he hauled in the liner that appeared to be about a foot outside his left shoulder, about head high] it changes the complexion of that game."

Ochart and Mobley had two hits apiece to join Arroyo as the offensive catalysts for Vanguard in the opener. But after the Lions' quick-strike run in the first, Lachapelle allowed only one runner to reach second base until the ninth, though the late rally pinned all five earned runs on him.

Mobley, who joined Arroyo as the only Lions to post three hits on the day, singled to open the second game as well. But this time, Arizona Christian, in its first season in the GSAC, turned a double play to deny the Lions any carry-over momentum. Vanguard had only one runner reach second base until the seventh, as Thompson allowed four hits without a walk in 6 1/3 innings.

"[Thompson] did a fantastic job," Pegg said. "He pounded the zone, worked real quickly and kept us from getting anything going until that last inning."

With one out, Ellis Whitman and Torres singled. After a pitching change and a foulout, Jordan Mould singled to load the bases, before Kevin Collinge induced Sakry to ground out to short to earn his third save.

Designated hitter Chris Russell went six for seven with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored to lead the Firestorm, for which Neely was five for eight with three RBIs.

Arizona Christian won the series that began with a 6-2 Vanguard win on Friday.

Vanguard, which has battled injury problems all season, still has 16 GSAC games left to try to make headway in the standings, in which they currently sit last.

Vanguard returns to action on Wednesday at Westmont.

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Golden State Athletic Conference

Game 2

Arizona Christian 4, Vanguard 0

Score By Inning

ACU 012 001 0 – 4 8 0

VU 000 000 0 – 0 5 2

Thompson, Collinge (7) and Sears; Thomson, Voetching (6) and N. Tountas. W – Thompson, 4-4. L – Thomson, 1-5. Sv – Collinge (3).

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Game 1

Arizona Christian 8, Vanguard 5

Score By Inning

ACU 000 040 013 – 8 13 0

VU 100 000 004 – 5 11 0

Lachappelle, Tripp (9) and Thys; Simmons, Perry (5) and Collins, Daru (8). W – Lachappelle, 4-4. L –

Simmons, 5-4. 2B – Neely (ACU) 2, Sakry (VU), Daru (VU), Torres (VU). 3B – Mobley (VU). HR – Sears ACU).

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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