A early first round playoff exit

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By Glen Willett / Staff Writer

A direct hit (Glen Willett / Staff Writer )

By Glen Willett / Staff Writer

Things started off well enough for the Riverside City College baseball team on the weekend of their first round playoff series against the Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros.

The Tigers made short work of their opponent in game one of a best of three series, winning the game by a score of 8-1 on May 6 in Santa Barbara.

By 6 p.m. on May 7 however, the Tigers were loading into their team bus, wondering what could have been after dropping both games that day and allowing 18 runs in the process.

Game two of the three game series kicked off at 11 a.m. in Santa Barbara under a thick cloud cover with temperatures in the mid-50s.

Kyle McNutt took to the hill for the Tigers and quickly found himself in trouble when he allowed SBCC leadoff man Robert Vickers to single down the left field line and then subsequently walk the next batter Cody Giordano.

The two players would be driven in by a deep line drive to left center field by first baseman Dan Howell and the bleeding wouldn’t stop there.

A rattled McNutt would hit the next batter, left fielder Joey Epperson, and then bobble a routine ground ball back to the mound by Colt McGlaughlin to once again put two runners on base.

A drive into left field was misplayed by Frankie Torres and both runners came around to score. By the end of the top of the first inning, the Tigers were already in a 4-0 hole.

McNutt would last just 1.1 innings for the Tigers, who would wind up using five different hurlers in the contest, none lasting longer than 2.2 innings.

The Tigers didn’t find themselves on the scoreboard until the top of the fourth inning, already trailing 6-0, when catcher Vinnie Ponce drove in shortstop Nic Cuckovich after his double earlier in the inning.

The Vaqueros answered right back however in the bottom of the fourth with a run of their own when designated hitter Pat Cavalier was allowed to score on a controversial balk call.

The Tigers never seriously threatened again and lost the game by a score of 9-3.

The Tigers batters were held in check by SBCC starter Chris Joyce who struck out 10 batters while walking only two.

The hard throwing lefthander Joyce has already been drafted twice by major league teams in his young career and flashed all the tools of a pro quality prospect in his handling of the RCC lineup.

Game three of the series would feature DJ Gunderson, who pitched the final three innings of game two in relief of Joyce, getting the start for the Vaqueros. The Tigers would send Matt Chabot to the hill as their starter.

Chabot wouldn’t last long however after a rough first inning saw him allow two runs, one earned, as well as walking two batters while hitting another. Chabot would give up three hits as well as a couple of runs in the top of the second when Coach Dennis Rogers came out of the dugout to make the change.

A visibly frustrated Chabot walked past Rogers before handing him the ball and wound up heading home before the game was even completed.

Gunderson was masterful for the Vaqueros, allowing only one run over eight innings pitched, guiding his team to a 9-1 series clinching victory. On the day Gunderson pitched 11 total innings while allowing only one run and striking out nine.

Though this baseball season is over for Riverside City College, there is plenty left in the cupboard for a successful 2012.

 Lineup regulars such as Ponce, Grady Espinosa and Cade Gotta are all freshman who showed flashes of their talent throughout the season. Gotta was even named to the All-Orange Empire Conference First Team for his efforts this year.

The real strength of this team next year will likely be its pitching staff however. Chris Neff, Matt Chabot, Pedro Cota, Kyle McNutt, Jordan Mejia, Tanner Clark and Travis Tomsen will all be competing for time again next year in to Tigers’ rotation.

As the team headed toward their bus after their defeat on May 7, the sun finally broke through the cloudy skies of Santa Barbara. A reminder that even though this season may not have turned out the way RCC would have hoped, there is still light at the end of this program’s future.

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