GLENDALE — Angel Rodriguez felt some extra pressure coming into the Glendale Community College baseball team’s critical contest with College of the Canyons Thursday at Stengel Field.
The Vaqueros starting pitcher didn’t mind the extra meaning on the Western State Conference South Division game, tossing eight shutout innings to lead his team to a 6-1 win that broke a four-game losing streak and kept it in first place.
“Angel Rodriguez, that’s what happened,” GCC Coach Chris Cicuto said of his difference maker on the mound. “Angel’s effectiveness locating his fastball was his biggest ally as far as his pitching goes. … He could have thrown a BB threw a Cheerio with his command of the ball.”
Glendale college (18-9, 13-3 in conference) came into the day with a half-game lead in the division with the Cougars (16-12, 11-5) and Bakersfield (19-8, 11-4) nipping at its heels coming into Thursday.
While Cicuto stressed it was just another game with each being equally as important in a 24-game conference schedule, he had to admit Thursday’s win nice.
“Obviously, extending the lead on Canyons and hopefully staying one, maybe two in front of Bakersfield gives us a little more room to breath,” he said. “I thought we played an outstanding game and they’re a good ball club.”
Canyon had its 10-game conference winning streak — including an 11-5 win over the Vaqs on Tuesday — snapped.
Rodriguez was the perfect picture of composure. He struck out eight and allowed just six base runners on five hits and a walk in on the day.
“I feel like today was I can say a turnaround after a four-game losing streak,” said Rodriguez, who retired the side in order in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings. “It’s a good bounce-back, a good way to come back and move on from here and see what goes on.
“Luckily, I was able to pinpoint my fastball and had a chance to come back with a curveball, which gave me an advantage over the hitters.”
While Rodriguez’ performance all but assured a victory, Glendale’s offense also got back on track after uncharacteristically struggling in its losing streak, scoring just seven runs of the past four games.
The Vaqueros woke their bats up early with a four-hit, three-run first inning.
Glendale's offense got rolling immediately. Justin Jones led off the bottom of the first with a single to left. Mike McCallister then took Jones' place at first on a fielder's choice bunt. He took second on a wild pitch and stole third to set the table for Chris Whitmer, who brought him home with a single just past the second baseman.
“Last game against COC, we hit but they just hit it better,” said Whitmer, who drove in two runs on two singles. “We knew coming in today our hitters were on it and it was going to be a good game.”
Whitmer got the Vaqueros on the board, plating McCallister (two stolen bases, two runs), who took second on a wild pitch and stole third, with a bouncing single just past the second baseman and into right field.
Oscar Tinjaca scored Whitmer with a double down the first-base line and a perfectly executed safety squeeze bunt with two outs from Edgar Montes (two for three) to give GCC a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“It gave us the tempo, it gave us the confidence that we still have it, we can still swing it,” Whitmer said of the fast start at the plate. “We just kept that tempo going throughout the game.”
Whitmer increased the advantage to 4-0 in the second when he singled in Pepe Marquez, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and moved to second on a Jones single and then to third on a McCallister sacrifice bunt.
“Guys made adjustments today and that’s something we hadn’t done in the last week and a half,” Cicuto said. “They made adjustments pitch by pitch and inning by inning.”
Overall, the Vaqueros got their leadoff runner on in four of eight innings and scored in three of those frames. Glendale finished its scoring with two more runs in the seventh after a McCallister leadoff single, Tinjaca double, a College of the Canyons balk and an error.
The Cougars scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out Quincy Quintero double and Corey Sims run-scoring single.