The Saddleback baseball team won the best-of-three series against Golden West College with an 11-3 victory on Saturday in Huntington Beach. The Gauchos exploded for 16 hits to give Nick Hernandez his first win of the season.
Hernandez had been a hard-luck pitcher to this point during the season, pitching well but dropping a number of decisions due to a lack of run support. He had given up three-or-less runs in all but one start this season but entered Saturday's contest in search of his first win.
It all changed in Huntington Beach as the Saddleback bats woke up. The Gauchos scored in six of the nine innings, blowing the game open in the eighth inning when they struck for three runs to increase their lead to 9-2. Five different Saddleback players finished with two-or-more hits in the game, with Ryan Thibert, Zack Bowman and Filip Smola all collecting three apiece.
Meanwhile, Hernandez was busy cutting up the Rustler lineup. He finished with nine strikeouts through eighth innings while improving to 1-4 on the season. His first six outs were all strikeouts as Saddleback was busy jumping out to an early lead. Hernandez got into a mini-jam in the bottom half of the third inning after a pickoff attempt went south and allowed the Rustlers to tie the game at 2-2. He then finished the inning with his seventh strikeout of the game.
Saddleback took back the lead for good in the top half of the fifth inning when they collected three hits, two walks, a stolen base and a wild pitch. Willie Lajoie made Golden West pay with a single to drive in Zack Bowman with the go-ahead run. Later in the inning, Nick Lopez extended the lead with a single to drive in Reed Beverly for a 4-2 advantage.
Saddleback carried a 6-3 lead in to the top half of the eighth inning when opening up a big lead. The Gauchos had four hits in the inning. Filip Smola made the score 8-2 when he doubled home Beverly with two outs in the inning. Casey Downs then delivered an RBI single to put the game out of reach.
Saddleback improved to 15-12 overall and 5-7 in Orange Empire Conference play with the win. The Gauchos are tied with Golden West for fifth place in the OEC standings, one game back of Cypress, three games back of third place Santa Ana and four games behind co-leaders Orange Coast and Riverside.
Saddleback will have a three-game series with Santa Ana next week. The Gauchos will host games on Tuesday and Saturday while playing at Santa Ana on Thursday. The first pitch between the Gauchos and Dons is scheduled for 2:00 PM on Tuesday at Doug Fritz Field.