Glendale Community College baseball strengthens first-place grip

GLENDALE — Well aware it was coming into a game with a fairly evenly-matched opponent, the Glendale Community College baseball team put an all-around game together Tuesday night.

With just a handful of games left in the regular season, the Vaqueros, who are ranked third by the California Community College Baseball Coaches Assn., hosted No. 5 Bakersfield – a team they'd split a pair of games with – in a crucial Western State Conference South Division game at Stengel Field.

GCC was backed by another solid outing from starting pitcher Angel Rodriguez, quality defense and enough offense for a 5-1 win.

“The pitchers did their jobs, the defense did it and we did everything right,” said the Vaqueros' Justin Jones, who was three for five with two runs batted in and a stolen base. “It was a team win, that's what it was.”

It kept Glendale (22-9, 16-3 in conference), which came in with a half-game lead, ahead of the second-place Renegades (24-9, 16-5) in conference with a trip to Bakersfield coming up Thursday at 6 p.m.

“It was a very big game and it relieves a little bit of stress, but every game is important,” said Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team had six hits in the win. “We're one step closer to getting one of our goals this year and we're back at practice tomorrow. We'll enjoy it tonight and we'll get to the next.”

Rodriguez picked up the win after six strong innings on the mound. He gave up four hits, two walks, a run and struck out five on the day, and was backed by three innings of scoreless relief. Crescenta Valley High graduate Jason Kim pitched an inning of one-hit ball for GCC, while St. Francis High graduate Tei Vanderford closed the door with two innings in which he struck out four and allowed just a hit.

“It came down to the pitching, once again Angel Rodriguez has been one of the top pitchers in our program,” Cicuto said. “[Catcher Chris] Whitmer did an unbelievable job behind the plate, I thought he really controlled the game.

“Having Tei Vanderford out of the bullpen is a great luxury, great luxury. … This pitching staff has been, knock on wood, extremely competitive.”

The Vaqueros held a two-run lead when Bakersfield first got on the board in the top of the sixth inning. Kyle Nixon led off the frame with a double to center field and with two outs Justin Martinez drove him in with a single to left field, as a hook slide just got Nixon in at home safely on a bang-bang play.

The Vaqueros got it back and more in the bottom half with a trio of doubles from Julian Jarrard, Sergio Plasencia and Jones, which helped push their lead to 5-1.

“We just kept on battling out there, that's what we do,” said Jones, whose double was good for two runs that inning, of his team's response to Bakersfield getting on the board in the sixth. “We don't worry about the score, really, just try and get a big lead.”

Defensively, Glendale committed just one error and turned two doubles plays with one coming from Jones, who ran down a line drive in the left-center field gap in the seventh inning in what Cicuto said was the finest catch he's seen in his 12 years at GCC. It led to a double play, as Bakersfield's runner assumed it was out of reach, going to score him and go for at least a double.

Edgar Montes opened the scoring for GCC with a one-out, solo homer to left field in the second inning. The Vaqueros went the small-ball route for their second run in the bottom of the fourth. Montes drew a leadoff walk, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Plasencia with two strikes. Eddie Munoz, who got a spot start at shortstop with Pepe Marquez out sick, then scored Montes with a perfectly-executed suicide-squeeze bunt.

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