Vaqs avoid elimination twice

COSTA MESA — Moments before taking the mound, David Lira thought about what needed to be accomplished.

The Glendale Community College baseball pitcher understood that he would be thrust into a pair of high-pressure situations — keeping his team alive in its quest for the program's first state championship while also having to shut down one of the most potent lineups in Southern California.

Consistently mixing up his pitches, Lira scattered four hits over seven innings to propel fifth-seeded Glendale college to a 9-2 win against fourth-seeded Mount San Antonio College on Saturday afternoon in an elimination game of the California Community College Athletic Assn. Super Regionals at Orange Coast Community College.

Earlier Saturday, the Vaqueros staved off elimination as Adam Ochart hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to spark them to a 5-4 win against eighth-seeded Cypress at Golden West College.

Glendale (29-11) will meet top-seeded host Orange Coast (35-4-1) in a Super Regional championship contest at 11 a.m. today. An if-necessary championship game would be played about 30 minutes later.

Lira, a left-hander, handcuffed Mt. SAC, which entered the tournament batting .284. What helped Lira (5-1) was he studied Mt. SAC's batters during Glendale's 7-2 opening-round loss to the Mounties on Friday.

"I had confidence pitching in an elimination game and I thought about different ways to shut them down because those guys can hit," said Lira, who struck out three. "I was paying attention to them [Friday] and I just had to be able to go out there and attack them.

"It's the toughest game I've ever pitched, but you have to love being in these situations and know you have what it takes to win."

Glendale right fielder Cameron Gardner also provided a spark with his bat and glove in the second game. Gardner reached base in all five plate appearances and made a spectacular catch down the line to quell a potential comeback by the Mounties.

The fleet-footed Gardner finished four for four and drove in a pair of runs with a triple to cap a five-run fifth.

Gardner helped get things started for the Vaqueros in the bottom of the first when he was hit on the left elbow by a pitch from Phil Gonzalez (6-4). Gardner then scored two batters later on a double by Chris Stroh, a Crescenta Valley High graduate, to make it 1-0. A sacrifice fly by Edgar Montes made it 2-0 in the first.

A run-scoring double by Julian Jarrard made it 3-0 in the second.

The Mounties, who earlier Saturday suffered a 5-0 defeat against Orange Coast after picking up a 7-2 win against Glendale on Friday, scored twice in the fourth on an error and RBI single by Derek Goodwin. With runners on first and second and one out, Lira induced Jeff Crowe to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Glendale raised its lead to 4-2 when an alert Matt McCallister scored from second on a wild pitch

In the fifth, the Vaqueros sent eight batters to the plate. Ruben Padilla gave the Vaqueros a 5-2 advantage with a run-scoring single. Robert DeSantiago then hit a two-run double to extend the lead to 7-2 before Gardner had a two-run triple to make it 9-2.

Gardner said he felt rejuvenated at the plate after struggling for nearly two weeks.

"My timing was on more than any other game," said Gardner, who also had singles in the second, fourth and eighth. "I had to settle down because we didn't want to go home.

"We are very grateful to be here."

Gardner performed well defensively in the seventh. With a runner on first and two outs, Gardner raced from right-center field over to the line to make a sliding catch on a ball hit by Robert Mier.

Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto said the Vaqueros found various ways to fend off elimination.

"All the hitters and pitchers in this tournament are good," Cicuto said. "It's all about the pitching and Lira came through.

"I was impressed with how they got refocused from the first game to the second game. That's not an easy thing to do.

"Now, we'll just come out and play against Orange Coast. We know that they are a good team."

Against Cypress, Glendale trailed, 4-1, entering the seventh. After Cypress scored three runs in the seventh, Glendale responded by loading the bases with no outs. Ochart, a Hoover graduate, then hit a grand slam to left on a 3-2 pitch to make it 5-4.

It marked the first grand slam for Ochart.

"I got an inside fast ball and I was looking to drive the ball," Ochart said. "I was on time with my swing."

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