SANTA CLARITA — Having turned a blowout into another nailbiter, Glendale Community College's baseball team appeared poised to pull off another seemingly improbable comeback against College of the Canyons.
Having emerged from an eight-run deficit with a one-run victory only two days prior, the Vaqueros were following a script that was almost exactly the same, but just as riveting.
Alas, with the tying run on first base in the top of the ninth inning, the Vaqueros came up a run short on another eight-run rally, as the Cougars held on for an 8-7 Western State Conference South Division win Thursday at College of the Canyons.
"Our guys play with a lot of passion for the game," said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team rallied from a 9-1 deficit on Tuesday for a 10-9 win and was down, 8-0, on Thursday. "[The Vaqueros] are at a spot where they obviously feel they can win any game. There's no quit in Glendale."
It was the second consecutive one-run game between Canyons (25-7, 12-5 in division), the No. 3 team in the latest California Community College Baseball Coaches Assn. Southern California poll, and fourth-ranked Glendale (24-8, 13-4).
Having fallen behind, 8-0, after a six-run third inning, Glendale scored a pair of runs in the top of the fifth before exploding for five in the eighth.
"Tuesday's game definitely helped out with that," said Vaqueros sophomore Chris Colarossi, who had three hits, a run, a run batted in and two stolen bases. "We knew we could easily come back against these guys.
"We've been a comeback team all year."
But the comeback fell short this time around.
With two outs, pinch-hitter Dylan Bahr singled to left field and was promptly replaced by pinch-hitter Grant Thompson. Thompson was thrown out on a close play at second to end the game.
"It's who we are," said Cicuto in reference to his team's long standing aggressiveness on the bases, which has aided mightily in winning four of the last five conference crowns, including last season. "We're not gonna be passive. We're gonna be aggressive at all times."
Despite the loss, Glendale still maintained a one-run division lead over COC and Bakersfield with the Vaqueros already primed for the rubber match with the Cougars on Saturday at Stengel Field.
"Saturday's gonna be a big game," Colarossi said. "Definitely, we're gonna come out fired up and ready to go."
It was COC that made an early impression on Tuesday and once again Thursday, though.
Both teams ended up scoring all their runs in two innings.
The Cougars drew first blood with a two-run home run from Jake Spurlin in the bottom of the second. It was the first of four home runs on the day for COC, which scored all of its runs on the longball. Darren Kriz, Roy Verdejo and Chris McCready all added round-trippers in the third to account for all the Cougars' runs and ended the day of Vaqueros starter Ryan Losman.
"COC, they're an extremely talented team," Cicuto said. "When you don't execute some pitches, they're a very good team, especially at this ballpark."
In direct contrast, Glendale couldn't get anything going in the way of extra-base hits.
While everything that the Cougars hit in the air seemingly went over the fence, the Vaqueros had 19 outs in the air. While COC scored all its runs directly off of homers, GCC didn't have a single extra-base hit.
"We were watching them hit those home runs, so I'm sure some of us were watching them and getting a little home run happy trying to hit them out," Colarossi said. "But later in the game, we started keeping the ball down and forcing them to make plays and we started scoring runs."
Glendale broke through in the fifth, when a pair of errors played a pivotal role in two runs scoring after Jared Akins (two hits, two RBI) singled home two unearned runs to cut the score to 8-2.
They were the only runs allowed by COC starter Chase Wheatcroft, who tossed 6 2/3 innings with five hits and two walks allowed, while striking out three for the win.
Following Losman's exit, Crescenta Valley product Joe Torres came on to record the final out of the pivotal third inning. Torres threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball to begin a phenomenal stretch of 5 1/3 innings of shutout pitching from the bullpen. Torres was followed by John Vergara (2 1/3 innings, three hits, three strikeouts), Max DeAmicis (2/3 inning, two strikeouts) and Marco Quintanar (one inning, one hit, one strikeout).
"Our bullpen was outstanding today," Cicuto said. "It's been outstanding all year."
Glendale also got to the COC bullpen in the seventh and finally began to put things together in the eighth.
Two more COC errors helped the cause started by a walk to Frank Garriola and a single from Liam Shibata. Brandon Soporito drove in Garriola with a sacrifice fly to make it 8-3 before Kamalu Neal singled with the bases loaded to cut the score to 8-4 when Shibata scored. Another single by Colarossi scored John Malott to cut it to 8-5. Then with two outs, Akins sent a dribbler up the middle, the ball was bobbled for a two-run error, allowing Ricky Perez and Neal to bring GCC all the way back to 8-7.
This time, though, the Vaqueros' dramatics concluded a run short.
Thus, Saturday's game will be a first-place showdown.
"I'm pumped for Saturday," Cicuto said. "We're all pumped."