Trying to recover from the 18-6 loss to Glendale Tuesday, the Monarchs looked like they had the game in the bag, but timely hitting by the Vaqueros extended their win streak to 20.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
The Monarchs’ five-run lead was not enough to keep the Western State Conference South champion Vaqueros from defeating the hosts 7-5 in a game for the ages that ended in extra innings.
With freshman pitcher Kyle Ayers allowing only one hit and no walks through 5.0 innings on the mound, No. 23 Valley College baseball (23-13, 9-8 WSC South) played it close with the top-ranked team in Southern California, No. 3 Glendale College (30-5, 17-0 WSC South). But after freshman pitcher Xavier Dubon gave up three walks and two runs to allow Glendale to even the score, the Monarchs could not overcome the Vaqueros in extra innings — allowing their foes to reach an unprecedented 20-game win streak.
“We had it,” said coach Dave Mallas after the game. “Kyle Ayers pitched his best game of the season. We brought in Dubon early, asked a lot of him today. He pitched well, just not well enough.”
Ayers faced trouble in the top of the first, allowing a double in the first at-bat of the game. But after a fielder’s choice moved the Vaqueros’ runner to third, the right-hander struck out the next hitter and forced a ground out to end the inning.
The scoreless first inning allowed the Monarchs to open the scoring on their own terms. In the second, freshman left fielder Josh Wood walked with one out and subsequently advanced to second on a wild pitch. Freshman right fielder Elvis Park hit a grounder to third, but an errant throw to first allowed Wood to come home, pushing Valley ahead 1-0.
Attempting to increase their lead in the third, freshmen infielders Tyler Olivas and Maddox Latta moved into scoring position on a wild throw after walks put them on base.
A sacrifice fly into left by freshman designated hitter Jackson Lapiner brought home Olivas. On the next pitch, Latta attempted to steal third, causing a wild throw from the Vaqueros’ catcher that went into left field. This allowed the infielder to come home and score the Monarchs’ third run.
Freshman third baseman Dorian Asher continued the rally and smashed the ball into the right field wall for a double, bringing up Wood. The left fielder blooped a single into short left field that bounced into foul territory, giving Asher ample time to come home and expand the Monarchs’ lead to four.
Latta added to the lead in the fifth, coming home on a sacrifice fly from Lapiner after reaching on a single and stealing two bases. But the deficit was not insurmountable for the Vaqueros.
“We both just have to come out and do our part,” said Asher about the pitchers and hitters. “We both have to pull from the same rope, and stay with each other and stay confident.”
Ayers kept Glendale at bay until the sixth, not allowing a hit after the first batter of the game reached on a double, but with two outs in the sixth, the future University of Houston Cougar’s rhythm quickly fell off the rails.
The right-hander quickly got two outs, but a subsequent walk and single cut the lead to four. Freshman outfielder Adrian Gonzalez then stepped up to the plate and buried a two-run home run over the right field wall as the Vaqueros turned the affair into a two-run ballgame.
Dubon relieved Ayers in the seventh and set down Glendale in order. But back-to-back walks in the eighth put runners on first and second with no outs.
Partially cleaning up the mess, Dubon threw a runner out at third on the following single, keeping runners on first and second. The reliever induced a flyout for the second out, but walked Gonzalez to load the bases. A hit into the right-field gap by Glendale infielder Hans Seo evened the score, but Dubon struck out the next hitter, setting up a down-to-the-wire finish between the first and second-place teams in the WSC South.
“Mentally, it’s tough,” said Dubon. “I was trying to stay in it, me and the catcher, that’s it. Just do my part. And that kind of pushed me through the seventh, and even though I had some walks, I tried to minimize [the damage], keeping them at five.
After neither team could break the tie in the bottom of the eighth or top of the ninth, the Monarchs found themselves in position for a walk-off victory.
Two quick outs in the ninth left it up to freshman catcher Miles Gravelle to give the Monarchs the push they needed or the game would go into extra innings.
The freshman hit the ball between second and third, but a diving play by the third baseman seemed to close the frame. However, the throw to first made the first baseman lean off the bag, allowing Gravelle to reach.
On the next at-bat, the catcher stole second, but dramatics would have to wait for later on as freshman pinch-hitter Jonathan Castaneda struck out swinging and pushed Valley into extra innings for the second time this season.
Glendale outfielder Brandon Nguyen hit a home run to lead off the tenth. Two outs later, Gonzalez doubled the Vaqueros’ lead with his second home run of the affair.
The Monarchs could not recover after blowing the 5-0 lead, losing in 1-2-3 fashion to end the back-and-forth thriller, 7-5. The loss made it the first time Valley had dropped the first two games in a conference series this season.
“It sucks to see,” said Ayers. “You always want to come out with a win. I tried to give my team a chance, and we were in there for a long time, it just didn’t fall our way.”
Valley will return to action on Saturday as they attempt to salvage the series with a 1 p.m. contest at Glendale.