Looking to move into first place all alone in the Western State Conference's East Division, the Glendale Community College baseball team turned to one of its elite relief pitchers.
In came sophomore right-hander James Giambalvo to begin the fifth inning with the score tied looking to keep the Vaqueros in reach of the top spot.
Giambalvo met the challenge, as he allowed just one run on four hits and struck out four over five innings to help Glendale record a 9-5 victory against Citrus on Thursday at Stengel Field. Earlier Thursday, Glendale posted a 16-8 win against Citrus in a game that resumed after being suspended Tuesday because of rain.
"I wanted to go out there and get a lot of groundouts and my defense backed me up nicely," said Giambalvo, who replaced John Vergana. "This is such a huge series against Citrus because we're battling with them and I wanted to go out there and contribute.
"My coaches handed me the ball and I wanted to get the job done. They asked me if I could go out there in the ninth and I told them yes. I felt smooth. It's great to get these two wins."
Glendale (20-5, 6-1 in the division) won its sixth straight contest. The Vaqueros, who have won five Western State Conference South Division championships over the last six seasons, lead by a half a game over Canyons (5-1) and two over Citrus (12-11-1, 4-3). Glendale and Citrus will close out their three-game series at 1 p.m. Saturday at Citrus.
Citrus scored a run in the sixth against Giambalvo to take a 5-4 lead.
Glendale countered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 7-5.
Second baseman Bruno Teramoto had a run-scoring single to tie it at 5 and Glendale took advantage of an error by the second baseman on the play to take a 6-5 lead. Teramoto then stole home to extend the advantage to 7-5.
"We needed to take advantage in that situation and we were able to," said Teramoto, who finished with three runs batted in and scored twice. "I had two strikes, but I trusted myself that I could come through with a hit there.
"I got a fastball and just wanted to make contact by serving it out there."
The Vaqueros added two runs in the eighth to complete the scoring. Sergio Rey drove in Teramoto with a double and Rey scored on an error by the catcher.
"We were able to capitalize on a couple of their mistakes," Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto said. "I think our guys grew as a team today and we did a good job of getting two wins.
"James did a great job against a very good hitting team like that. He's matured immensely over the last year and a half here and he went five big innings. He's done it before, so we know we can count on him."
Citrus took a 1-0 lead in the second on a run-scoring single by Jesse Villalobos. Glendale tied it in its half on a sacrifice fly to left by Teramoto.
Citrus got two runs in the third to make it 3-1 and extended the lead to 4-1 in the fourth on a run-scoring triple by Marcos Campos.
The Vaqueros bounced back with three runs in the fourth. Mando Rodriguez had an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-2. Later in the inning, Teramoto and Rodriguez scored on an error by the shortstop with two outs.
The earlier game resumed Thursday after beginning Tuesday at Citrus. Glendale held an 11-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth before rain halted the contest.
Cristian Montes finished with three hits for the Vaqueros, who registered 18 hits. Teramoto drove in four runs, including a two-run home run in the fourth.
Charles Rich, firstname.lastname@example.org