The Saddleback baseball team advanced to the regional finals with an 8-6 win over Palomar College on Saturday at Doug Fritz Field. The Gauchos will host Mt. San Antonio College next weekend with a berth in the state tournament on the line.
Saddleback got out of the gate quickly, grabbing a 5-0 lead through three innings in game two of the best-of-three series. The Gauchos took advantage of wildness from the Palomar pitching staff in scoring two runs in the opening inning. Mike Jarvis opened the game by getting hit by a pitch and then advanced to second base on a wild pitch from Palomar starter Russell Grant. With one out in the inning, Willie Lajoie was also hit by a pitch, giving Saddleback two base-runners without ever swinging the bat. Grant then proceeded to walk three straight Gauchos as Brett O'Toole, Spencer Heinsius and Chad Crosbie all earned free passes for a 2-0 lead.
The second inning had a similar feel as Palomar continued to melt down in the defensive end. With two outs and Landen Moran standing on third base, Brett Auerbach reached on an error from shortstop Ryan Harrel, allowing Moran to cross home plate for a 3-0 lead. Grant then walked Lajoie, again giving the Gauchos two runners on base. Saddleback again took advantage as O'Toole singled to left field to drive in Auerbach for a 4-0 lead.
Palomar then went to the bullpen in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Saddleback reopened the wound with three straight singles from Crosbie, Riley Kasper and Moran as the Gaucho lead increased to 5-0.
As quick as Saddleback darted out to a 5-0 lead, it disappeared even quicker when Palomar struck for five runs in the bottom half of the fourth inning to tie the game. Five of the first six batters for the Comets reached base off of Saddleback starter Daniel Harris, and Palomar would end up collecting five hits in the inning and tie the game after Nathan Soriano had a two-run single with two outs in the inning to even the score.
The game remained tied until the top of the seventh inning when Palomar went back into meltdown mode. The Gauchos took advantage of a pair of defensive miscues by the Comets on back-to-back plays with two outs in the inning. Saddleback capitalized when Lajoie delivered the go-ahead runs with a two-run single through the left side of the infield to score both Jordan Fitzgerald and Mike Jarvis for a 7-5 lead.
Saddleback again made Palomar pay for a miscue in the top half of the eighth inning. Chad Crosbie had a one-out triple to left-center field and later came around to score on an error from the Palomar shortstop for an 8-5 advantage.
Saddleback went to Bradley Spooner in the ninth inning after some sensational work from Chase Spinning in the middle innings. Spooner got himself into some trouble and surrendered one run, but eventually got out of a jam when Tristan King hit into a fielder's choice to end the game.
Saddleback received yeoman's work from the bullpen in the middle innings as Ellis Jensen and Spinning held the Comets scoreless for four innings. The duo allowed just two hits with Spinning picking up the win to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Saddleback (32-12) advances to the regional finals and will host Mt. San Antonio College in a three-game series, starting next Friday. The winner will earn a spot in the state tournament in Fresno on May 26-28. Game times have yet to be determined.
Mt. San Antonio (33-11) advanted to the regional finals by defeating Glendale College in two straight games (5-4, 8-5). The other regional final will have Orange Coast College (31-13) hosting El Camino College (28-17).