Vaqueros stumble in state opener

BAKERSFIELD — At the onset of what would become a storybook season for the Glendale Community College baseball team, Coach Chris Cicuto admits not many, likely him included, predicted his Vaqueros would find their way to a first-ever state championships series.

But the Vaqueros made a memorable run, characterized by stellar pitching, versatile offense and dependable fielding, to end up in Bakersfield College on Friday afternoon in the opening game of the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Championships.

And at the onset of Friday's play, if Cicuto had been told his Vaqueros would put up nine runs against San Joaquin Delta College, he would've liked his chances and then some.

"Nine runs, against this team, you'd think you'd at least be in the game, if not winning handily," he said.

Instead, the nine-run output for Glendale was merely a footnote when all was said and done, as eight errors told the majority of a devastating story for the Vaqueros, who stumbled to a disastrous 21-9 loss to the Mustangs, putting them a defeat away from elimination in the double-elimination series.

Glendale will face Santa Ana College, which lost to Ohlone College, 8-0, at 10 a.m. today in an elimination game, with Delta and Ohlone playing at 2 p.m. The loser of the 2 p.m. game will play the winner of the morning game roughly 45 minutes after the second game.

Glendale will clearly have to rebound if it's to continue its season past the 10 a.m. game.

"We haven't been playing that way, I don't know what happened," said GCC sophomore captain Erik Suarez. "It was embarrassing."

Glendale (28-15) allowed eight unearned runs to a Delta squad (32-11) that hardly needed help offensively, as it produced 16 hits. For the most part, though, the game, which was just 10 minutes shy of four hours, got ugly from the beginning, with the teams putting up some somber numbers that included 11 total errors, 13 total pitchers and 12 total walks.

"It was a very sloppy game, obviously," said Delta Coach Reed Peters. "We got a win, that's what we wanted out of it."

In a marathon of game full of gaudy numbers and rather unattractive play, it might well have been what did not happen in the top of the very first inning that set off an unforgiving chain of events for Glendale.

Vaqueros second baseman Ryan Daniels led off the game with a line-drive single and Ellis Whitman reached on a two-base error to follow, which put runners on second and third with no outs. After a Suarez strikeout, Sako Chapjian lined a dying shot into the infield that was charged by the Delta second baseman. Chapjian reached first on what was ruled an error and the bases were loaded with one out.

Sean Spear then came up and, on the first pitch he saw, sliced a hard shot down the third-base line. Third baseman Stephen Patterson of Delta stepped on the bag and then fired to first to just nip Spear for an inning-ending and rally-killing double play.

"It was very huge to get out of the inning with no runs," Peters said. "I would've been happy to get out with one or two runs. We got a break and we took advantage of it."

Added Suarez: "That could've been a really big game-changer. [If we score] the momentum would've started with us."

Cicuto also added that from his vantage point, he thought Patterson missed stepping on the third-base bag before throwing to first.

"The guy was off the bag," Cicuto said. "That sets the tone for the whole game."

And it was an ominous tone at that, with the Vaqueros allowing two runs in the bottom of the third, beginning a sequence in which the Mustangs scored every inning thereafter, with a five-run fourth bringing Delta's lead to 7-0.

"I think there was a snowball effect," said Vaqueros first baseman Ellis Whitman. "They just seemed to add on."

A pair of errors and a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third led to a 2-0 Delta lead before the GCC wheels came off in the fourth, as the Vaqueros committed four errors in the stanza and allowed the lead to balloon to 7-0.

GCC finally landed a counter in the top of the fifth, plating two runs when Josh Canales scored on a Daniels sacrifice fly and Chris Stroh came around on a Whitman single. The Glendale retort began a never-ending sequence in which the Vaqueros would score in four of the last five innings, but every output was answered by a Mustangs rebuttal.

"They're a very competitive team," Peters said. "You gotta give them credit, down by as many runs as they were, they just kept coming back, pounding the ball."

Whitman had two of his team's nine hits, including a picturesque two-run home run that he pulled over the left-field fence on a lined shot to cut the lead to 13-7. Whitman finished with three RBIs, while Spear had two on his home run to right-center in the ninth.

Chapjian also had a pair of runs and Nick Bozeman had a pair of RBIs and was robbed of an extra-base hit on a magnificent catch by Mustangs center fielder Jeff McKenzie, who leaped to make a catch up against the fence, falling against the fence and the ivy that covers it in the seventh.

Delta had five players with multi-hit games, led by Erik Kozel's four-for-six day in which he drove in four runs and scored two.

Cicuto said he will start lefty Ryan Sherriff today. And, despite using seven pitchers, said he still has plenty left in his bullpen.

"We have all our bullpen guys," he said.

Added Peters: "You don't want to burn your better guys. I don't think we saw their better guys."

In the early stages, GCC starter Nick Woodward looked solid, but it was clear that the errors took their toll, as he even made one, tossing a bunt into foul territory beyond third. Woodward finished with 3 2/3 innings pitched, giving up seven hits and seven runs — just one earned.

"He came out ready. He pitched his pitches, he got his groundballs. We just didn't play defense for him," said Suarez, GCC's catcher. "We just couldn't play defense, that's why we lost."

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