GLENDALE — With the members of the Glendale Community College baseball team contending for a spot in the Southern California Regionals, they turned to starting pitcher Ryan Sheriff for a quality performance to help keep them there Tuesday afternoon.
Sheriff didn't disappoint, as he went the distance and struck out a season-high 16 to spark visiting Glendale college to a 6-2 win against West L.A. College in a Western State Conference Southern Division contest.
The Vaqueros improved to 19-11, 10-7 in the division. They are tied for second place with Citrus, which picked up a 3-2 victory against Bakersfield on Tuesday. Glendale trails L.A. Pierce (11-6 in the division) by one game with the teams set to meet at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Stengel Field. Pierce suffered an 8-5 loss to College of the Canyons on Tuesday.
"For us, this was our biggest game of the year in being able to stay in second place," GCC Coach Chris Cicuto said. "Now, we control our own destiny. It's not often when you can play the first-place team when you are trailing them by one game."
The top two teams from the division automatically qualify for the playoffs with the possibility of teams getting at-large berths.
Sheriff, a right-hander, had extra incentive Tuesday — he pitched for West L.A. last season before transferring to Glendale.
"He pitched a great game," Cicuto said. "His fastball and changeup were unbelievable and he just kept them off-balance."
Glendale took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Matt McCallister scored on the front end of a double steal. West L.A. countered with two runs in the second to grab a 2-1 advantage.
A sacrifice fly by Nick Bozeman knotted the game at 2 in the third inning before Erik Suarez drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the sixth to make it 3-2.
The Vaqueros extended the lead to 4-2 in the seven when John Schwer drove in a run with a single.
Sean Spear hit his first collegiate home run — a two-run shot — in the ninth to complete the scoring. Spear, a Burroughs High graduate, paced the Vaqueros with three hits.
Bozeman and Hoover High graduate Sako Chapjian had two hits apiece for the Vaqueros, who finished with 10 hits.
Cicuto said it might be an important factor that the bullpen will be rested for Thursday's game.
"Sheriff saves us by going the distance," Cicuto said. "We want to get to the playoffs and see the best.
"We are excited to be where we are right now."