BAKERSFIELD — From just about dusk until far past dawn, the Glendale Community College baseball team battled to stave off elimination and continue its captivating run toward state glory.
But as night fell upon Bakersfield College on Saturday, so too did the final curtain on the greatest season in the history of the Glendale college baseball program.
Plagued once more by defensive miscues and a familiar adversary, the Vaqueros were eliminated from the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Championships in a 7-3 loss to San Joaquin Delta.
"You get good people and players into a program and you can do some special things," said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto. "It was a great season.
"The magic wasn't there today."
The Vaqueros (29-16) won their first Western State Conference title since 2002 before advancing past the regional and super regional round of the CCCAA postseason and ultimately becoming the last Southern California team alive at state after GCC eliminated Santa Ana in the first game of the day, 13-6.
"I'm just so proud of these guys," Cicuto said. "Only one team wins the last game… There's a lot of teams sitting at home that would love to be where we are."
Delta (33-12) lost its first game of the day, a 3-2 nailbiter against defending champion Ohlone, but was able to rebound. It did so in much the same fashion as it beat Glendale in the teams' tournament opener on Friday when the Mustangs won, 21-9, thanks in large part to eight Glendale errors. While not a mirror image to Friday's game, Saturday night's contest saw the Vaqueros once again hindered by fielding woes.
"It was a tough loss," said Delta Coach Reed Peters of the 3-2 Ohlone setback. "It was just one of those things where you gotta regroup.
"You keep putting good at-bats together and make them make plays and they're gonna kick a few."
The Vaqueros committed four errors and allowed three unearned runs, as the defense did no favors for an offense stymied by Delta right-hander Kyle Hassna, who threw a complete game, allowing six hits, four walks and two earned runs.
"That's what we needed," Peters said. "He pitched his rear off."
Glendale standout center fielder Sean Spear had three of the Vaqueros' hits and ignited a last-gasp rally in the eighth when he tripled home Sako Chapjian and scored himself on an error on the play to cut the score to its final tally.
"A lot of teams would've rolled over," said Cicuto, whose team pulled off dramatic comebacks in the regional and super regional rounds. "These guys, I knew they wouldn't roll over."
It was an ominous start for the Vaqs, as all nine Mustangs came to the plate during a four-run top of the first inning.
Glendale starter Thomas Korn was in trouble from the onset, walking the leadoff batter and then allowing four consecutive one-out singles. A fourth hit in the stanza drove in the fourth run.
GCC had a chance to cut into the lead in the second when Spear singled with one away and Myles Neimeyer followed with a two-out single. But Matt McCallister struck out looking on an 11-pitch at-bat that ended with a controversial call. In the fourth, the Vaqueros finally broke through when Spear was singled in by John Schwer to make it 4-1.
No hits, three Korn walks and another error led to two more Delta runs in the fifth to bring the score to 6-1.
Korn finished the day having allowed six runs in five innings on five hits and four walks.
"He gave us everything he had," Cicuto said.
The Mustangs added another run in the eighth, once again without the benefit of a hit, as they finished the game with 10 hits, all singles, and six walks.
In the first game, the Vaqueros were buoyed by the left arm of starter Ryan Sherriff. Sherriff held Santa Ana scoreless over the first seven innings en route to a 13-6 Glendale victory.
"Sherriff did a great job," said second baseman Ryan Daniels, who contributed to a stellar Vaqueros offensive with three hits and four runs batted in. "That's just what he does all the time, he's the man. Seven scoreless is just another day for him."
Sherriff tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing four runs — all in the eighth inning — five hits, walked four and struck out six.
Joining Daniels in the first-game hit parade, catcher Neimeyer had four hits, three RBI and two runs. Ellis Whitman also had a pair of hits and two runs, Schwer had two hits, two runs and an RBI, Chapjian had a pair of runs and an RBI and Chris Stroh had two runs, two RBI and two stolen bases.
Much like they did in GCC's 21-9 loss on Friday to Delta, errors played a big role in the Vaqueros' game, only it was at the expense of the eliminated Santa Ana (30-14), which committed five errors.
The miscues played a part in a quick GCC start, as it took a 1-0 lead in the first, added two in the second and then exploded for four in the third, keyed by a two-run double from Daniels. A six-run fifth essentially put the game out of reach.
"We couldn't go out like that," said Daniels of getting eliminated after two games. "We tried to just forget about [Friday], it worked.
"We kept scoring and scoring."