Vaqueros get off to super start

WHITTIER — The Glendale Community College baseball team's coaching staff squeezed everything it could out of its players on Friday afternoon.

It worked to perfection for the sixth-seeded Vaqueros, who successfully executed on three squeeze bunts en route to a 9-2 win against fifth-seeded Palomar in an opening-round game of the California Community College Athletic Assn. Super Regional at Rio Hondo College.

"It's playoff baseball, so now you expose other teams with one of our strengths," GCC Coach Chris Cicuto said. "[Third base Coach] Alex Kocol knows our personnel so well and we work on bunting every single day."

Glendale (26-14) will next meet top-seeded Rio Hondo, which defeated 15th-seeded San Diego Southwestern, 11-4, in a winner's bracket game at 11 a.m. today at the same venue.

Glendale, which won the Western State Conference South Division before eliminating Cypress in the Southern California Regionals, got a complete game from Nick Woodward (6-1) on the hill.

The right-hander stymied the Comets (28-12), as he struck out four and yielded eight hits.

"We know that there are at least three and potentially five games to be played in this tournament," Woodward said. "We didn't have to use our bullpen. Our coaches are real big on mental toughness. I just wanted to keep us right there."

Glendale scored twice in the top of the fourth to take a 2-0 lead. Sean Spear hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Ellis Whitman for a 1-0 lead before John Schwer drove in Erik Suarez with a single.

The Comets, who won the Pacific Coast Conference, knotted the game at 2 in the bottom of the fifth, but the Vaqueros went back to work and scored three runs in the sixth.

Whitman and Suarez opened with consecutive singles against Palomar starting pitcher Julian Esquibel (7-4). Esquibel was relieved by Jarrod Casterjon, who threw a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance a base each. After Sako Chapjian was intentionally walked to load the bases, a groundout by Spear made it 3-2.

Schwer then dropped down a squeeze bunt that scored Suarez for a 4-2 lead. On the play, Casterjon threw the ball down the right-field line for an error, allowing Chapjian to score for a 5-2 lead.

"Squeeze bunts are a part of our offense," Schwer said. "We just rely on it and it doesn't matter where in the lineup.

"In the playoffs, you've got to be able to do things like that. It's about being committed to it and having confidence."

The play worked again for the Vaqueros in the seventh. Ryan Daniels opened with a double and moved to third on a single by Whitman, who finished with three hits. A squeeze bunt by Suarez scored Daniels to make it 6-2.

Another squeeze helped Glendale take a 7-2 lead in the eighth. Schwer opened with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch, before reaching third on a groundout. Josh Canales then brought Schwer home with a bunt. The Vaqueros added another run in the inning on a run-scoring single by Daniels.

The Vaqueros closed out the scoring in the ninth on a sac fly by Adam Ochart that plated Spear.

"We had a lot of good things happen, we got a good start from Woody, we have a rested bullpen for tomorrow and we executed when we needed to," Cicuto said. "Now, we just want to keep our momentum going."

Daniels and Suarez had two hits apiece.

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