NORTHEAST GLENDALE — After remaining a swing or two away from evening things up for most of the game and confident that the 7-1 final score doesn't quite tell the complete story of Friday afternoon's loss to Cypress College in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. regional playoffs, the members of the Glendale Community College baseball team are ready to close the book on an underwhelming postseason opener.
The Vaqueros could never get much going against Cypress College pitcher Tommy Nance during what remained a pitchers' duel for eight compelling innings before, to cap off the frustrating afternoon, they surrendered five runs in the top of the ninth inning to scuttle their own chances of an 11th-hour rally.
"The great thing about baseball is there's always tomorrow," said Glendale left fielder Sean Spear, who had four of the Vaqueros' nine hits and drove in the team's only run on the day with a sixth-inning home run.
Tomorrow arrives at 11 a.m. today, when the Vaqueros (23-14) host the Chargers (22-15) in the second game of the best-of-three series. They'll need to win that game to force a third game, which would begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first, in order to keep their hopes of reaching the Super Regional Tournaments.
"You've got to win two," Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto said. "Nobody said in which particular order."
Despite its offensive woes — leaving nine runners aboard and going 0 for six with runners in scoring position over the first eight innings — Glendale stayed within striking distance all afternoon and trailed, 2-1, after eight innings.
Ryan Sherriff pitched into the top of the ninth for Glendale, but only recorded one out and allowed base hits to four of the first five batters he faced. A base hit up the middle by Anthony Razo that rolled just under the glove of shortstop Josh Canales scored two runs and ended Sherriff's outing.
"I thought we had a double-play ball at the end of the game," Cicuto said. "We didn't make a couple of plays we probably could have or should have made."
The first batter reliever Joe Stephen faced, Bradley Hartong, singled to left field to load the bases and Max Price then cleared them with a double that skipped along the left-field foul line all the way to the corner of the outfield.
The Vaqueros had runners at first and second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth courtesy of Canales' one-out single and a fielding error that allowed Ryan Daniels to reach with two outs, but couldn't extend the rally.
"We didn't execute as well as we should have," Spear said. "I think that kind of killed us.
"We're going to learn from our mistakes today, we're going to go back to the drawing board and we're going to make it happen tomorrow. I have complete faith in our team that tomorrow we're going to take two from these guys."
Sherriff allowed just one hit over the first three innings, a clean two-out single to left by Price, but allowed a high chopper to short for a base hit by Arby Fields to start the fourth and a double into the left-field gap by Bryan Aanderud that scored Fields for a 1-0 lead. After being bunted over to third, Aanderud scored on a safety-squeeze play on which the Vaqueros ended up getting no outs because of a fielding error.
"We had a misread on a ball on the infield single and the next pitch the ball was kind of up a little bit and the guy hit it in the gap," Cicuto said. "They executed in good situations. We had runners in scoring position with two outs and we couldn't do a lot. Their guy made some pitches, we hit some balls right at guys and there you go."
Glendale had its share of chances over the ensuing innings to answer. Spear singled and John Schwer walked to start the bottom of the fourth, but neither could be advanced.
Ellis Whitman singled with one out in the fifth and was stranded and following Spear's no-doubter to right-center field that cut the deficit in half, Price, the shortstop, made a great play on a sinking line drive off the bat of Canales to end the sixth after Nick Bozeman had worked a two-out walk.
The Vaqueros had another chance to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth when Spear singled with two outs and later went to third on a botched pickoff attempt, but Nance (one earned run on nine hits with five strikeouts over nine innings) induced a ground ball to end the threat.
And, while the ninth inning ensured Sherriff's overall line wouldn't be as tidy as his counterpart's, the left-hander was able to battle through the first eight with two earned runs allowed on just four hits allowed with seven strikeouts
"He's great," Spear said of Sherriff. "He's really stepped up and been a guy for us on the mound and he's really gone above and beyond what was kind of expected of him.
"It was unfortunate today that he didn't have the defense behind him that he usually does, but the guy pitched his heart out."