Baseball alive in playoff chase

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By Jeremy Fuerte / Staff Writer

Playoff Hunt (Allison Perez / Photo Editor)

By Jeremy Fuerte / Staff Writer

It’s go time for the Riverside City College Tigers baseball team as they fight to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

The Tigers had a national ranking in the preseason but are now tied for third place in the Orange Empire Conference with a record of 16-16 and a 9-8 conference record.

The Irvine Valley College Lasers scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth to come from behind and beat the Tigers with a 6-4 lead at the Evans Sports Complex on April 17.

The Tigers scored in the first three innings but failed to score a run for the rest of the game.

In the first inning, RCC center fielder Cade Gotta hit a single up the middle to be the first Tiger on base.

He rounded second base to third when first baseman Daniel Arellano hit a single through the hole at short stop.

After Arellano was caught attempting to steal second, right fielder Ryan Garvey hit a single through the right side to allow Gotta to score for a first inning score of 1-0.

In the second inning with one out, shortstop Jake Middleton reached first on an infield scoring error by the Lasers. Second baseman Elija Briseno hit a RBI triple driving in Middleton for a score. Briseno later scored off an infield out to finish the second inning with a 3-2 score.

In the third inning with one out, catcher Brad Burcroff hit a single to right field and advanced to second off of a fielding error by the Lasers.

Burcroff then advanced to third after designated hitter Set Walston grounded out to the second baseman. Left fielder Joe Ortuno then singled up the middle for an RBI, allowing Burcroff to score and closing the third inning with a score of 4-2.

The Tigers are now fighting for a playoff spot after the game on April 17 with four games left and have struggled the entire season with inconsistent playing..

“The biggest thing has been our inability to play consistent fundamental baseball,” associate head coach Andy Rojo said. “We are making mistakes that should not be made at this point in the season. We are our biggest enemies because of our inability to make plays.”

The inconsistent play has plagued both the offense and the defense this season.

“From the top, bottom, from the offense to the defense, our record is a reflection of how we are because of our inability to play consistent baseball,” Rojo said.

The Orange Coast Conference is one of the toughest community college conferences in the country.

“Orange Empire conference is the most competitive and toughest junior college conferences in the nation and our record isn’t indicative of the type of team we have,” Rojo said. “At any point, any team can beat anybody at any given day because the conference is one of the best in the nation.”

The Tigers’ record and their desire to make the playoffs have given them a sense of urgency heading into the last games of the season.

“Overall, we’re playing with a sense of urgency,” Rojo said. “We are in a position to fight for the playoffs this season, and it’s win time.”

The Tigers are playing to win the last of their four games, but if they finish their last four games with a record of 2-2, they have a realistic chance at clinching a spot in the playoffs. From there, they’ll play to win against any team they get matched against.

“We’ll take our chances of who we get matched up against at playoffs,” Rojo said.

The Tigers’ last game is on April 26 at 6 p.m. against Saddleback College at Saddleback. 

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