GLENDALE — Prior to his team's game against L.A. Mission on Tuesday, Glendale Community College baseball Coach Chris Cicuto expressed faith in starting pitcher Angel Rodriguez.
That's quite the vote of confidence considering the 2013 Western State Conference South title was on the line.
“Glad I was right,” Cicuto laughed, clearly enjoying Glendale's 4-1 victory against L.A. Mission at Stengel Field that gave the Vaqueros their third consecutive WSC South crown.
Glendale improved to 24-10 overall, but more importantly 18-4 in conference, two games ahead of second-place Bakersfield with two games remaining. The Vaqueros hold the tiebreaker against Bakersfield after beating them three out of four meetings this season.
Rodriguez pitched a gem, allowing one run on six hits and two walks for the complete-game victory. He struck out seven.
“He's gotten better and better and better with each and every pitch he's thrown in our program,” Cicuto said. “He came into the program hungry and he came here on a mission.”
Rodriguez admitted to some nerves before the game, but once he started pitching he settled down. The freshman from Chatsworth retired the first six batters he faced.
“Once the game progressed, that was out of my mind,” Rodriguez said of the game's importance. “I knew if I would have kept that in mind, it would have messed me up a little mentally.”
The Vaqueros got on the board with a three-run second inning. Edgar Montes walked and Pepe Marquez was hit by a pitch. Jay Sheeley drove home Montes with a single, and Justin Jones drove home Marquez with a hit. Sheeley scored during the Jones’ hit on a throw to second. The 3-0 lead would be more than enough for Rodriguez.
It was Sheeley's first game back since the center fielder broke his right (throwing) hand in practice two months ago.
“It's great,” Sheeley said of the conference title. “It's everything we've worked for. We've got a lot of work to do.
“I feel like the sky's the limit for this team. Just take it one day at a time.”
Jones finished with two singles and an RBI, and teammate Julian Jarrard knocked a double in the win.
L.A. Mission's Ryne Kahikina allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings. He walked three and struck out four.
Cicuto tipped his cap to Mission for not wanting to be the team that gave Glendale the title. On Saturday, the Eagles defeated Glendale, 14-6, at home.
Cicuto also credited his coaching staff for this year's success and noted how far the team has come this season.
“The biggest thing with this group of guy is that the maturity level has grown so much since they day we started in September,” Cicuto said. “They matured not only as baseball players, but as people.”