COSTA MESA — Long before the ninth inning rolled around, the Glendale Community College baseball team’s fate had been sealed.
Each crushing hit allowed set the Vaqueros a step backward. And enough had accumulated early to dismiss any notion of another comeback victory Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the California Community College Athletic Assn.'s Super Regional tournament.
But even as Glendale had time to ponder the inevitable, it did little to offset the emotion and dejected look on the Vaqueros as they trudged back to the dugout following a 16-1 rout, amid a backdrop of Orange Coast players charging the mound in celebration.
The loss closed the book on what Glendale Coach Chris Cicuto described as “a magical year” — one that saw the Vaqueros duck elimination three times over the weekend to come just one win away from reaching the state final four in Bakersfield.
“Our guys exceeded all expectations,” Cicuto said. “They played together as one unit and we grew up this year. You see them walking away crying. That’s not only teammates — that’s brothers, at this point.
“And for us to be one of eight teams still playing in the state of California, that’s definitely a successful situation right there.”
Fifth-seeded Glendale (30-12) bounced back in impressive fashion following an opening-round loss Friday to Mt. San Antonio. Three straight victories lifted the Vaqueros back into contention, including a 6-3 win early Sunday afternoon against top-seeded Orange Coast (36-5-1).
Fueled by the four runs it scored on four hits in the sixth inning, Glendale forced a decisive game against that same Pirates team.
By the time the grudge match got underway an hour later, however, the Vaqueros had run out of gas. They yielded 13 hits, including a grand slam, three-run homer and a two-run triple, countering that production with only three hits of their own. Chris Stroh's groundout scored Cameron Gardner in the seventh inning to trim the deficit, 11-1.
“Losing the way we did, we expected better out of ourselves,” said sophomore Ruben Padilla, who went three for three with two walks and a run scored in the first game Sunday. “I think that’s why it hurts this
much, because we knew we should be in the final four in state.
“But this weekend showed a lot of guys’ character. Coming out and beating some of these teams that people thought we should’ve lost to, it showed a lot about our guys.”
After falling behind two outs in the sixth inning of the first game Sunday, Glendale sent its next seven batters on base.
A walk kicked things off, with Stroh’s ensuing triple to right scoring Sergio Plascencia. Edgar Montes followed with a two-run homer to left-center. And then Adam Ochart whisked a hit past second base to score Padilla from second, giving the Vaqueros a 6-1 cushion.
Kirk Edson, who hurled three innings in relief Saturday in a 5-4 win over Cypress, pitched a complete game Sunday.
He allowed 11 hits, but only three runs. He struck out three and allowed only one walk as Glendale stranded seven in the win.
“We knew that were going to score runs and we knew were going to pitch well,” Edson said of that win. “We just had to focus on one pitch at a time, one out at a time.”
In the deciding game, the Vaqueros struggled to match the Pirates' productivity at the plate and on the mound.
Orange Coast took a 4-1 lead in the fourth after Bryan Garza tripled to drive in two runs. Then, after loading the bases on a walk and two hits, Cody Heaton crushed a grand slam to right for an 8-0 lead in the fifth.
The Pirates homered again in the sixth, with a three-run shot all but punching their ticket to Bakersfield.
“We played against the No. 1 team in the state, if not the nation,” Cicuto said. “For us to get one [against Orange Coast], it’s great. We thought we could get the second one, but it just didn’t work out that way. We just ran out of magic.
"It's been a magical year. Our guys have been very persistent, all the way to the last out. Regardless of the score, they were getting after it. Even in that painful score, our guys were going as hard as they possibly could and that says a lot about our kids. It's tough when you get to the fifth game — five games in three days — but I couldn't be more proud of our guys."