NORTHEAST GLENDALE — The Glendale Community College baseball team passed a test of character Saturday, overcoming an early three-run deficit to pull out a 4-3 victory against East Los Angeles at home. Most of the Vaqueros' wins have been blowouts so far this season, but they were able to come out on top in a nail biter in the third round of the Western State Conference Tournament.
"We haven't been in a lot of close games so far this year," Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto said. "We've come out early, gotten big leads and held big leads so far this year, but a dogfight like we had today really shows a lot of character."
The offense wasn't there for Glendale (6-1) right off the bat. The Vaqueros didn't get their first hit until the fifth inning and their first runs came in the seventh. It was better late than never though.
Scott Hong was the hero of the day, getting Glendale's biggest hit of the day — a two-out three-run home run to put his team up, 4-3, in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Hong watched two fastballs go by to start the at bat. Hong said he had Huskies pitcher Julian Garcia's fastball timed after that.
"He threw me a third fastball down the middle and you just see the ball and react," Hong said. "I got lucky and hit that ball pretty hard."
The game didn't start out in Glendale's favor. Joe Stephen, the Vaqueros' starting pitcher, struggled through his two innings of work, giving up four singles and three runs in the second inning to give East Los Angeles (3-3) an early 3-0 lead.
East Los Angeles starter Chris Reyes stifled Glendale's bats through the first six innings, mixing in plenty of off-speed pitches and working at a fast tempo.
"[Reyes] pitched the way that we think he should pitch," Huskies Coach James Hines said. "He did a good job and gave us six solid innings, but we couldn't finish it off for him."
The Vaqueros' bullpen — Thomas Korn, Gustavo Garcia and Michael Noteware — did their part, though, allowing just three hits over, the final five shutout innings.
"Living in the present, not the past has been a big thing for us," Cicuto said. "Our pitching staff really did an unbelievable job not getting wrapped up in the score or what the offense was doing, but going out there and doing their job and getting it done pitch by pitch."
Credit goes to the bullpen for keeping Glendale in the game and shifting momentum back to the Vaqueros, Hong said. He also lauded his teammates for giving him the chance to hit the go-ahead homer.
Ellis Whitman started the seventh inning with a lead-off double for Glendale. He got to third on a wild pitch and was brought in to score on a grounder from Erik Suarez. Josh Canales and Chris Stroh kept applying the pressure, each coaxing out walks to set up Hong with runners on first and second.
As soon as Hong hit the ball, he felt good about it. He broke one of baseball's golden rules and watched the ball soar just to be sure.
"I felt barrel when I hit the ball and when I saw the height on it and the left fielder running back I thought I had a pretty good shot at it," Hong said. "I watched it a little bit. You try to run it out, but it was just happening so fast."
Hines said he would rather his pitchers have forced Glendale to string three hits together to get the win.
"It came down to our reliever walking guys, putting them on and our next guy comes in and misses his spot," Hines said. "It's just about our pitchers being aggressive, attacking the zone and not allowing walks. The walks are always going to hurt us and that's what happened today."
Saturday's win was Glendale's third in as many days, going undefeated in the Western Conference Tournament. The loss dropped East Los Angeles' record to 2-1 in the tournament. The Vaqueros will look to go 4-0 in the tournament on Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Oxnard College at Stengel Field.