GLENDALE — David Lira had picked him off two times in prior innings.
However, that didn’t hinder Los Angeles Valley College’s leadoff hitter Scott Stetson’s confidence on the base paths with Lira on the mound in a tie ballgame during the eighth inning.
Unfortunately for host Glendale Community College, it would serve as the game-winning run in a 5-3 loss to the Monarchs on Tuesday afternoon at Stengel Field.
“He guessed right,” said Vaqueros Coach Chris Cicuto, who has the guided the program to the Western State Conference South Division championship the previous three years. “But a leadoff walk is going to result in a score 80% of the time.”
Lira’s pickoff move to first base resulted in a staggering four outs in the game, including all three outs in the fifth inning. The left-handed sophomore gave up eight hits, four walks and struck out five batters in 7 1/3 innings before being relieved by Chase Hoag after Valley’s Jake Bittan singled home the game-winner off Lira in his first start of the season.
“His stuff wasn’t great, but he competed enough,” Cicuto said. “He’s got one of the best pickoff moves in the state, obviously.”
“He figured him out,” said Monarchs Coach Dave Mallas of Stetson’s pair of steals. “We don’t want to take the aggression out and he’s a smart player. He did a great job, stealing second and third.”
The Monarchs (8-10, 2-5 in conference) were able to pick up an insurance run off Hoag in the ninth, sparked by another leadoff walk and a throwing error at second base that resulted in a runner on third base, setting up a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Robert Factora.
Glendale’s Nick Padilla and Harrison Hoff sprayed consecutive doubles in the second inning for the game’s first run. David Garcia followed Hoff with an infield single, but a double play ended the threat.
Lira allowed his first hit in the third inning, coming against Stetson, who was then picked off for the first of two occasions. However, Stetson’s single was the first of five consecutive at-bats over two innings for Valley that culminated in a hit, highlighted by a three-run double from Blake Barry to put the Monarchs on the scoreboard with a 3-1 advantage.
The Vaqueros (9-9, 4-3) answered with a run in the bottom half of the fourth inning on Hoff’s second run batted in, this time scoring Mark Strazzerri to cut Valley’s lead down to 3-2.
Lira settled down after the three-run fourth inning and kept Glendale within one run until the Vaqueros eventually knotted it in the sixth inning on Garcia’s bunt, plating Padilla who had reached on one of two errors committed by Valley College in the frame.
Monarchs’ starting pitcher Stewart Alexander didn’t allow another run on just two hits thereafter as he went after Glendale’s hitters and challenged them with first-pitch strikes. The Vaqueros answered the challenge and swung at the first pitch in eight of the 10 at-bats over the final three innings, but ultimately couldn’t muster a rally, despite a two-out double from Raul Camas.
“He was challenging us with fast balls,” said Cicuto, who received multi-hit games from Dylan Trimarchi, Garcia and Padilla. “We’d like to get into deeper counts where we’re more successful, but we don’t want to be passive. If we’re going to be swinging at first pitches, let’s not pop out.
“Their pitcher did a heck of a job against us. All day, we hit the ball hard right at guys, but that’s the game of baseball.”
“Best performance of the year and the first complete game we’ve received,” Mallas said of his sophomore pitcher, who graduated from Burroughs High School. “He pitched his tail off and at a time we really needed a win.”
Glendale will play a back-to-back with College of the Canyons on Thursday and Saturday.
“We just need to take it game by game now, and stay in it,” Cicuto said. “We’ll try to get the first one against COC to even the series and hopefully the second one as well. We’ll get a good practice in tomorrow and come back.”