GLENDALE — Glendale Community College baseball Coach Chris Cicuto handed pitcher Ryan Sherriff the ball for the Vaqueros' biggest game of the season so far on Tuesday at Bakersfield.
Thanks to a lights-out effort from the sophomore, Cicuto never had to take it back, as Sherriff hurled a four-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory to pull the Vaqueros even with L.A. Pierce College at the top of the Western State Conference Southern Division standings with just one game left in the regular season.
"Unbelievable," Cicuto said of Sherriff's effort, which was backed by a two-out, run-scoring double by Hoover High graduate Sako Chapjian. "He's grown up a lot over the last two months. He keeps on getting better with every outing .
"It's just a great time to hit your stride."
The Vaqueros (22-13, 12-8 in conference) can clinch one of the conference's two automatic playoff berths with another win over Bakersfield on Thursday. The standings remained tightly packed, however, with one of several possible scenarios being a five-way tie for first between Glendale, Pierce (20-15, 12-8), Citrus (17-18, 11-9), Bakersfield (20-15, 11-9) and College of the Canyons (19-15, 11-9), should the Vaqueros and Brahmas both lose and Canyons beats L.A. Valley on Thursday.
However, Cicuto said the Vaqueros are only focused on the task at hand — Thursday's 2:30 p.m. first pitch at Stengel Field.
"We're in control of our own destiny," he said. "We're going to enjoy tonight, we're going to come out with a great practice tomorrow and then worry about playing Bakersfield. We're in a good situation right now."
Sherriff struck out 12 and settled in after the first three innings, in which he was aided by timely defensive plays with runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the second inning, outfielder John Schwer made a catch on a liner toward the gap with two outs and a runner on second and in the bottom of the third, Ellis Whitman snared a line drive to first base with a runner on second.
"We just worked hard as a team," Sherriff said. "They played real good defense behind me and I couldn't really ask for more. I think my defense did it all."
Bakersfield starter Marcos Reyna nearly matched Sherriff zero for zero, surrendering a single run on two hits over eight innings and also striking out 12, while consistently hitting the low 90s with his fastball, according to Cicuto.
But Ryan Daniels' lead-off walk to open the sixth inning set the table for Chapjian, who had both of the Vaqueros' hits on the day.
Sherriff struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
"Honestly, I was just thinking about having the guys hit the ball, having my defense play," Sherriff said. "My job was just to win and get the outs and help out the team as much as I can."