By Austin Turner
Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Riverside City College baseball had a steep hill to climb against Saddleback College, who entered the matchup in first place in the Orange Empire Conference.
After an error allowed sophomore Shane Martinez to get on base, the Tigers rallied off four consecutive base hits, including an RBI triple from sophomore Erick Rayford. After another RBI from sophomore Diego Guerrero, freshman Junior Coleman took the plate with confidence.
“I was thinking about the team and how we needed the win,” Coleman said. “It’s just how bad you want it, that’s the way I saw it.”
Coleman hit a rocket over the right fielder’s head, driving in Guerrero and winning the game for the Tigers in walk-off fashion. He was then greeted by his teammates mobbing him on the basepaths celebrating a win against Saddleback, who had previously won 10 of their last 11 games.
“Junior Coleman is a young man who has tremendous passion and is really trying to grasp what it takes to succeed at this difficult game. Junior will have more opportunities and moments like that in his tenure,” said head coach Rudy Arguelles.
Coleman wasn’t the only star for RCC in this matchup. Starting pitcher Daniel Martinez was masterful, throwing eight innings with eight strikeouts. “Daniel’s performance was gritty and outstanding. He made quality pitches throughout the game and executed time and time again. He’s one of the best in the state when he can command his fastball and throw his off speed pitches at any time,” Arguelles said.
Martinez’s command was certainly sharp, as he flirted with a perfect game, not allowing a baserunner until the sixth inning, and gave up only two runs off of two hits.
Pitching in relief for the Tigers, sophomore Graham Kuck gave up two runs while grabbing the first two outs of the ninth inning, and freshman Michael Coppens got the win after getting the final out.
RCC struggled offensively for much of the game.
Saddleback’s sophomore starting pitcher, Tanner Brubaker went 8.2 innings with four strikeouts and only allowing one hit in the first six innings. However, RCC woke up in the later innings. They scored in the seventh inning to tie the game at two, and rallied from two down in the ninth to win 5-3.
“I have to give credit to our guys for continuing to compete and not caving in.” Arguelles said. “It’s tough for a pitcher to throw a complete game, and fortunately for us we were able to find some holes and cash in on our opportunities in that last inning. We never stop competing.”
It was a big win for the Tigers. They moved to 16-4, and are a game off of the conference lead. Though this game was headlined by superb play from two of the Tigers’ star players, they know the importance of their teammates. “It was just a team effort,” Junior Coleman said. “No one gave up in the ninth inning.”