VALLEY GLEN — Trailing by one run in the ninth inning, the Glendale Community College baseball team had the rare fortune of seeing its first two batters of the inning safely reach base without putting a bat on the ball, or even take a swing.
Having each been hit by a pitch, David Garcia and Matt McCallister watched from the bases as the top of the lineup executed to bring them both home and turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Then in the bottom half, Vaqueros reliever Kirk Edson pitched a perfect frame to secure the 5-4 victory over host L.A. Valley College in a Western State Conference South contest Saturday afternoon.
The win marks the end of a solid week for first-place Glendale (17-6, 8-2) which also notched road wins against Mission and Citrus and is now riding a three-game winning streak.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto said after the tilt with the Monarchs, who fell to 6-4 in conference play. "They've been playing well lately. You need to minimize the mistakes in a game like this. We made them early. They made them late and couldn't recover."
The two hit batsmen, which ultimately allowed Cameron Gardner to rope a single into the outfield that brought McCallister home for the game-winning run, capped off an error-riddled game from both defenses but also stellar pitching that at times nullified potentially costly mistakes.
AJ Monarrez took the mound in the fifth inning for Glendale with the score tied at 2 and runners when Vaqueros starter John La couldn't continue due to a blister on his finger that Cicuto said was affecting his pitches for over two innings.
Monarrez gave up one run on a sacrifice fly that put the Monarchs up, 3-2, but still kept the game close as the Glendale offense struggled to string together hits.
"I went to AJ a little earlier than planned," Cicuto said. "Both AJ and KJ (Edson) are competitive pitchers and they pitched well for us today."
Edson relieved Monarrez with two outs and runners on first and second in the eighth inning with Valley up, 4-3. The freshman right-hander faced four batters and picked up the win.
L.A. Valley started David Armas and the sophomore didn't disappoint, giving up one earned run in eight solid innings.
"Their pitcher was outstanding," said Cicuto of the right-hander, who gave up five hits. "Armas has been pitching well lately and his record has reflected that."
Both La and Armas cruised for the first three innings until GCC struck first in the top of the fourth inning on a two-run double from Edgar Montes, scoring Gardner, who had also doubled, and Sergio Plasencia.
L.A. Valley answered in the bottom half, as a couple of Glendale errors set up a game-tying double off the bat of Casey Ryan.
The Monarchs scored the game's next two runs on sacrifice flies in the fifth and seventh innings. Glendale's offense didn't see a runner in scoring position after the two-run fourth inning until the eighth inning, where Plasencia picked up his second hit of the game on a leadoff single. Two batters later, Montes reached base safely and advanced Plasencia over after L.A. Valley's third baseman botched a potential double play.
With runners on first and second, Ruben Padilla attempted a bunt that was played well by the Monarchs defense, but a throwing error to first base allowed Plasencia to score, cutting the lead down to one run.
Plasencia returned the favor in the ninth inning, putting down a bunt that plated Garcia for the game-tying run, followed eventually by Gardner's clutch hit off L.A. Valley reliever Braxton Ravello-Diaz.
Plasencia, Montes and Gardner each picked up two hits.
"We didn't play well at the beginning, they didn't play well at the end," said Cicuto, whose squad will again face L.A. Valley Tuesday at Stengel Field. "We're fortunate to come out of it on top. Our hitters beared down. And it looked like their pitcher was wound a little too tight."