SANTA ANA — Good-bye hugs were exchanged in right field before a few tears and plenty of beads of sweat were wiped away by many of the members of the Glendale Community College baseball team.
It came shortly after the Vaqueros saw their season wrap up Saturday with a 4-3 defeat against El Camino Compton in an elimination contest of the Southern California Fullerton Super Regional at Santa Ana College.
“It’s a special group of guys,” said Glendale college Coach Chris Cicuto, whose team finished 27-13. “They grew up a lot from the second we’ve had them.”
The Vaqueros, who won the Western State Conference South Division championship for the third season in a row before sweeping Grossmont in the Southern California Regionals, absorbed a pair of one-run losses in the super regionals. Fifth-seeded Glendale opened with a 3-2 loss to fourth-seeded Palomar on Friday.
Looking for a quick bounce back, the Vaqueros looked to extend their season Saturday.
Things became extra difficult for the Vaqueros. Eighth-seeded El Camino Compton, which began the super regionals with an 8-0 loss to top-seeded Fullerton on Friday, took advantage of some shaky Glendale defense in the first inning to score three runs. The Vaqueros then had a tough time solving El Camino Compton starting pitcher Nick Sanchez, who went the distance in a 138-pitch outing.
Glendale appeared to have Sanchez, a right-hander, on the ropes in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the tying and winning runs on base, Sanchez got Jay Sheeley to fly to medium center field for the final out.
“[Sanchez] did an incredible job, he was tough,” said Cicuto, whose team left six runners on base after stranding 13 on Friday. “We hit some hard grounders against them right at people.”
The Tartars, who improved to 24-19, pushed across three runs in the first against Glendale starting pitcher Angel Rodriguez.
Chris Jacobs and Larry Barraza each reached base with bunt singles with no outs. David Terrazas then hit into what appeared would be a 4-6-3 double play. The Vaqueros got the force at second, but the relay to first by the shortstop sailed wide to allow and Jacobs to score to make it 1-0.
Josh Palmer and Lester Salcedo then followed with back-to-back run-scoring singles to extend the lead to 3-0.
“Some things happened in the first,” said Rodriguez, who yielded seven hits in six innings. “Those bunts got them going and put them in a comfort zone.
“After the first inning, we had a lot of great vibes to just keep going and attacking. I liked the way we battled back.”
The Tartars padded the lead to 4-0 in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Barraza that landed just inside the left-field line.
Sanchez handcuffed the Vaqueros, limiting them to two hits through the first six innings. Overall, he struck out five and scattered six hits.
The Vaqueros sliced the lead in half in the seventh. Julian Jarrad opened with a walk and reached second on a single by Edgar Montes. Both would eventually score on wild pitches.
In the ninth, Sanchez got the first two batters before encountering trouble. Montes then hit a double and scored on a single by Sergio Plasencia to trim the deficit to 4-3. Pinch-hitter Max Fecske then walked on a full-count pitch before Sheeley made the last out.
Montes, who finished with two hits and scored a pair of runs, said the Vaqueros couldn’t solve Sanchez one last time.
“We had him on the ropes, but just couldn’t get that breakthrough hit,” Montes said. “We knew it would be a grind coming back.
“We gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
Chris Whitmer had two hits for the Vaqueros, who also got one from Oscar Tinjaca.
The Vaqueros posted an 8-3 nonconference victory against the Tartars on March 1.