Baseball looking for answers

By Glen Willett / Staff Writer

Eye on the ball (Brittney Rye / Staff Photographer )

By Glen Willett / Staff Writer

After upsetting the top team in the Orange Empire Conference, the Santa Ana College Dons, the Riverside City College baseball team looked to be on the rise.

Since that April 7 win however the Tigers (20-15, 12-8 Orange Empire Conference) have struggled with consistency, losing four out of seven games, including two in excruciating fashion.

On April 9, RCC was able to carry over the momentum of its win over Santa Ana, crushing Cypress College by a score of 12-4 in Cypress.

Pedro Cota (3-1) continued his strong return from injury by collecting his third win of the season. The Tigers unleashed a balanced offensive attack that saw nine different players drive in runs.

While most of the student body was off enjoying their spring break, the Tigers hosted Cypress on April 12.

Exacting some revenge for its loss three days prior, Cypress won 7-5. The game was ugly on both sides, with 10 total errors and five batters being hit by pitch during the nine inning contest.

With the game tied at five in the top of the seventh inning, Chargers right fielder Manuel Alonso drove a ball into center field, scoring two. Cypress held the Tigers scoreless for the rest of the game and emerged victorious.

 On April 14, Fullerton College visited RCC and proceeded to beat the Tigers 16-15 in an unfathomable comeback victory.

The Tigers saw just about everything go their way for the first eight innings of baseball, compiling a 12-4 lead. All of that would change in the eighth inning however, as Fullerton would bring 18 batters to the plate and leave the top half of the inning with a 15-12 advantage.

RCC would answer in the bottom, scoring three runs and tying the game at 15.

The two teams were both scoreless from that point until Taylor McKnight was brought on to pinch hit for the Hornets in the top of the 10th inning and drove in the game, winning run with a sacrifice fly.

Tanner Clark (0-3) was the pitcher of record for RCC and was saddled with his second loss of the year.  Shortstop Nic Cuckovich led the Tigers’ offensive attack, going 2-4 and driving in three.

The next day, the Tigers traveled to Fullerton and, buoyed by starting pitcher Kyle McNutt’s first complete game of the year, beat the Hornets 7-1.

McNutt (2-0) allowed the one earned run and only five hits over nine innings pitched while striking out six. Cuckovich continued to swing a hot bat, again going 2-4 with three runs batted in.

Riverside’s next two games were both against non-conference foes and would see the Tigers try and get a better look at the whole of their roster.

Using a pitching by committee approach and a shuffled lineup, RCC was able to defeat College of the Desert on April 20 by a score of 6-0 at Evans Park.  

Riverside left fielder Frankie Torres was 2-3 with a double to his name, leading the Tiger attack.

The Tigers weren’t so fortunate in their next non-conference showdown against the East Los Angeles College Huskies on April 21 in Riverside.

 The Tigers looked good early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead through seven. Despite being held to the minimum amount of batters through seven, the Huskies rallied to tie the game at three in the top of the eighth.  

The Tigers would again allow the winning run cross the plate in the top of the tenth and were unable to respond, losing their second heartbreaker in a week.

On April 26, it was back to league play when the Tigers faced off against the Orange Coast College Pirates needing to win their next two games in order to secure a playoff game in Riverside.

New RCC president Cynthia Azari was on hand and threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.

RCC was able to take advantage of some sloppy fielding in the second inning and jump out to a 2-0 lead over the Pirates.

The Pirates answered in the third inning with three runs of their own.

The Pirates were able to score four more insurance runs en route to a 7-3 road victory, ensuring themselves a home playoff game and leaving the Riverside faithful in silence.

The Tigers will look to right the ship when they travel to Costa Mesa on April 28 to play the Pirates in the final game of the regular season for both teams.