By Jeremy Fuerte / Staff Writer
By Jeremy Fuerte / Staff Writer
Riverside City College baseball won two of three games in the series against East Los Angeles College the weekend of May 5. With their two wins the Tigers advance to the four-team double-elimination Super Regional playoff rounds.
The Tigers won their first playoff game against East L.A., dropped their second, but came back to win the third with a commanding score of 8-0.
In the final game, Riverside scored one run in the second, two in the third and sixth innings and three in the eighth.
After getting only nine hits in the first two games, the Tigers offense exploded.
Led by catcher Jacob Rogers who broke the game open with a two-run double down the left field line, four players had two hits apiece. All together, the Tigers had 13 hits and zero errors.
Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Mejia went the distance in Game 3 throwing 118 pitches and 72 strikes. He allowed only two singles, had two walks, hit two batsmen and struck out seven to improve his record to 4-2 in his first complete game of the season.
Mejia did run into trouble in the eighth inning when East L.A. had the bases loaded after a pair of walks and a batter was hit allowing them to reach third base for the first and only time during the game.
The Tigers play their first game of the Super Regional on May 11 against the second- seeded team of the playoffs, Rio Hondo Community College.
The Tigers are confident they have what it takes to go on to state by the end of the weekend.
“Any team that’s in the playoffs should feel confident they can take it all,” Andy Rojo, the associate head coach, said before the playoffs. “I don’t know if they do but, we’ve had that history that has shown we can go all the way.”
Also in the Super Regional are the No 3-seeded Santa Ana College and the No. 11-seeded Cypress College. No. 1 seeded Orange Coast College will host the other Super Regional in Cost Mesa. Also in those playoffs are the No. 4-seeded Mt. San Antonio College, the No. 5 seed Glendale College and the No. 9 seed El Camino College.
The Tigers are on a three-game winning streak, which began with a win in their last game of the season to secure a spot in the playoffs.
After their 4-1 victory over Saddleback College on April 26, head coach Dennis Rogers received word that the Tigers were selected to take part in the playoffs.
Trailing 1-0 after four innings, the Tigers tied the game in the fifth as Grady Espinosa hit a double down the left field line and eventually scored off of an infield out hit. The Tigers then scored three out of four runs in the sixth inning to put the game away with Ricardo Rodriguez hitting a two-run home run.
The win pushed Riverside to an 18-18 overall record reaching the .500 mark which has been the traditional standard for teams from the Orange Empire Conference to be selected for the playoffs. The Tigers felt a sense of urgency as they prepared to play their last game of the regular season.
“We told the team we decided to wait till the last game and it pushed the envelope a little bit,” Rojo, said. “We told the players we controlled our own destiny… It was a little nerve wracking to be honest waiting to go to the last game but we knew that if we would have won one game in the last week we would have been in.”
The Tigers selected Blake Burrell to be their starting pitcher. He struck out four and walked one earning him a season record of 6-0, a conference record 4-0, and a spot on the all-conference team.
“We had our number one pitcher go in and we felt like he was going to give us the best effort and we were able to pull through it in the end,” Rojo said.
Rodriguez and outfielder Ryan Garvey were also selected to the all-conference team. The Tigers struggled to play consistently throughout the season never earning more than a four game winning streak.
Despite this, the eyes of the Tigers are now focused on playing their best baseball in the playoffs and their moral has picked up.
“It’s literally a fresh start,” Rojo said. “We tell our players who have been struggling through the year that it’s no big deal, no matter what your average is or era is, it doesn’t matter. Everybody is 0-0 come playoff and it’s really about mentality and executing the plays in the game… there’s a sense of excitement to see how far we can go.”
The Tigers first loss of the season came against East L.A., and fittingly, their first opponent in the playoffs is East L.A.
They are confident they have what it takes to secure the two wins needed to advance into the next stretch of the playoffs.
“Any team that’s in the playoffs should feel confident they can take it all,” Rojo said. “I don’t know if they do but, we’ve had that history that has shown we can go all the way. This is a real clichÃ© thing in sports but we have to take this one game at a time. Let’s take care of this Saturday, that’s where our focus is. Once we get to Sunday, let’s see what happens and let’s see after this weekend if we have been rewarded with another week of baseball.”