Magic still left in Vaqueros bats

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Chris Cictuo looked for a walk-off suicide squeeze bunt to win the game for his Glendale Community College baseball team Saturday.

Instead, the Vaqueros got a game-ending grand slam from Julian Jarrard in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 5-3 victory over San Diego Mesa in the first game of the best-of-three first-round series of the Southern California Regional Saturday at Stengel Field.

"His first one came at a great time," said Cicuto of Jarrard's first home run of the season, which silenced teammates who had been poking fun at him for being the only Vaquero in the starting lineup without a bomb. "The guys have been riding him a little bit and I think he showed he was due and just waiting for the right time."

Glendale Community College (26-10) will look to advance to the Southern California Super Regionals, as it needs to win one game against the Olympians (20-16) today. Play starts at Stengel at 11 a.m. with a second game, if GCC loses, taking place afterward.

Jarrard's slam delivered the Vaqueros a victory in a game that was headed for a loss after they spoiled a number of opportunities to take a lead, as the team piled on 12 hits in the game but was 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position through the first nine innings.

"I guess the jokes have stopped for now," said Jarrard, the No. 9 hitter, who went two for three in the game. "Our team always finds a way to battle back and put ourselves in a position to win, and luckily I was a part of it this time."

Cory Popham kept Glendale in striking distance through the offensive struggles, as the starting pitcher surrendered just one run on three hits, a walk and a hit batter and struck out seven through 8 2/3 innings.

GCC's first opportunity to take a lead and end the game came in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied at 1.

Sergio Plasencia (three for five) and Chris Stroh got on base to start the inning for the Vaqueros via a single and walk, respectively. GCC soon had runners at the corners, as Plasencia tagged up to third on a deep fly to center field from Edgar Montes.

The golden opportunity was squandered when a suicide-squeeze bunt was lined back to San Diego Mesa pitcher Brian Kaye, who doubled up Plasencia at third.

"Honestly, I have to say even for me I was kind of upset," said Stroh, a Crescenta Valley High graduate. "It made me think about what other possibilities are going to happen, like how we're going to get by tomorrow."

It only got worse from there, as the Olympians took a 3-1 lead in the top of the 10th on a double from Kevin Meriwether, which scored Patrick De La Garza and Justin Esquerra, who singled aboard to finish the day three for five with a run batted in.

"We were getting a little frustrated," Cicuto said. "I told the guys they can't get frustrated. It's pitch by pitch — that's the mantra we've been living by all year long. It just takes one spark."

Cicuto's club got three sparks in a row in the bottom of the 10th when the first two batters, Nick Bozeman (a Burroughs High graduate) and Matt McCallister, reached on a hit by pitch and walk, respectively.

Enrique Osuna, who hadn't played in two months, was brought into the game as a pinch hitter and responded, as he pushed a bunt down the third-base side, which Kaye fielded and threw to third, but Jose Marquez, who pinch ran for Bozeman, just slid in safely to load the bases with no outs.

It all set the table for Jarrard, who turned on an elevated 2-2 fastball and belted it over the left-field fence.

"Apparently, there's still some magic left in the tank we keep pulling from," Cicuto said. "The test for us is to not play too high and not play too low tomorrow and just kind of go about business with a little more confidence than we had earlier in the game."

Stroh, who finished two for four, delivered GCC's first run of the game with a line drive homer that just cleared the center-field fence to knot the score at 1 after San Diego Mesa got on the board in the top of the third when De La Garza singled with two outs and came around to score on an Esquerra double.

"That was a big point for us, we had nothing before that," said Stroh of his homer, as GCC had eight hits but was 0 for eight with runners in scoring position at that point. "Everyone was getting frustrated and just feeling down and out. It's one of those things, any momentum we get, we can just run with it.

"I think this is probably the best thing that could have happened to us. Having one of those super emotional victories just brings the team back together, loosens everything up and lets us go back to work tomorrow."

andrew.shortall@latimes.com

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