GLENDALE — Time and time again this season, the Glendale Community College baseball team weaved their way through adversity to grind out win after win.
Facing elimination in the California Community College Athletic Assn. Southern California Regional against Santa Barbara City College on Saturday, Glendale put up a flurry of runs in the first game of the day to force a deciding third contest in the three-game series..
Backed by solid pitching from reliever Dexter Wilkerson and key hits from third baseman Hans Seo, No. 4 Glendale came out victorious in the deciding game, 4-3, and won the series, 2-1, against No. 13 Santa Barbara to advance to its second straight Super Regionals against No. 7 San Diego Mesa (28-13-1). Glendale will host San Diego Mesa in a best-of-three series that starts at 2 p.m. Thursday at Stengel.
“I thought we hit them tough the first game and we didn’t get too many timely hits, but we’re a really good offense,” Glendale interim coach Alex Kocol said. “What we talked about [Friday] was that we’re going to be ourselves and we’re always going to be ourselves. I think that’s what we are, offensively. I think we’re an explosive team.
“Second game [of the series] I think we had some tired arms. I made some bad calls in the second game. We were just maybe a little too aggressive in some key spots, but, man, we made pitches down the stretch, so those guys bailed us. They carried us.”
In the deciding third game, Seo gave Western State Conference East Division champion Glendale (28-15) a one-out run-scoring triple and then scored on a single from first baseman Casey Slattery to set up a 2-0 lead at the bottom of the first.
Santa Barbara, the Western State Conference North co-champion, tied it at 2 at the top of the second on a one-out RBI-triple and a sacrifice bunt.
In the bottom of the second, second baseman Lucas Sakay scored on a passed ball to give Glendale a 3-2 lead before Seo knocked a two-out RBI-double to score Trent MacKinney to restore his team’s two-run lead.
“Just swinging early in the count — I think that’s when I’ve had the most success,” said Seo, who finished the series-clinching game with a triple, a double, one run scored and two runners batted in. “When I get behind, that’s when you rack up those Ks and you don’t want that.”
After Burroughs grad and Glendale starting pitcher Kyle Nicol struck out five batters and surrendered two runs on two hits in the opening two innings, Wilkerson came on in relief for seven innings and gave up one run on four hits.
Wilkerson, who’s 11-2 on the season, walked three and fanned 11, with his final strikeout closing the series.
“Honestly, after the first batter [at the bottom of the ninth], I kind of blacked out,” Wilkerson said. “I just knew I was out there for my team. I knew there was nothing else to do except do my job and they played the defense behind me. [Michael] Choi caught a hell of a game. Absolutely magical, man.
“We’re a bunch of dogs. When we go out there, no one’s taking the game away from us. We knew it was the playoffs. It’s time to step up and that’s exactly what we did.”
Santa Barbara (24-15) scored its final run at the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly and left four runners on base, two at third base, in the final five innings.
In the series-tying game two, Glendale starting pitcher Kevin Holcomb nearly went the distance, as his team put up four multi-run innings to force game three against Santa Barbara with a 16-2 win.
“Kevin’s been begging to start, begging to start and I think we’ve been really diligent and patient with him,” Kocol said. “He’s worked so hard. The knock on him was that he didn’t throw strikes, but those guys came in taking pitches and obviously you saw the result and he just wiped those guys out.
“It’s great for him; great for Dexter and just for the sophomore class. Brandon Lewis as well with that home run in the first game.”
Holcomb went 8 1/3 innings and struck out eight, walked one and allowed two runs on seven hits. Edgardo Montanez closed out the final 2/3 of an inning with a strikeout.
“It just comes out from preparation every day,” Holcomb said. “You have to be ready for what’s handed to you. We had our backs against the walls. The offense came out swinging. They put up some good numbers in the first and then they just ran away with it. They gave me plenty to work with and I just kept them to two. That was good.”
Glendale’s bats came alive and it scored three runs in the first and eighth innings, drove in two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies in the sixth and had six runs at the top of the ninth.
Glendale recorded three home runs in first game of the day, starting with Seo’s solo shot in the second inning to make it 4-0.
Glendale catcher Michael Choi knocked out a two-run dinger in the fifth to set up a 6-2 lead and left fielder and St. Francis grad Brandon Lewis’ had a three-run homer in the ninth.
Seo scored five runs, drove in three and registered three hits that included the home run and a two-out double.
“We had key at-bats,” Seo said. “No selfish at-bats — just moving the guys along, getting the next guy in the box and I think we just did a good job executing.”
Choi also drove in three runs on three hits that included a home run and a double and Lewis recorded five RBI with a single and a home run.
Christian Muro, Tom Tabak, Slattery and Sakay and each drove in run in the second game.
“When we recruit guys, we tell them that they’re going to be playing in big games and state championships,” Kocol said. “I think these are guys that are looking for those moments. I think they’re really good in those spots. All the quitters are gone, so what’s left here are men.”