Chargers clinch title outright, Dons await play-in foe

It’s easy to see why first-year head coach Nate Mendoza got an icy cold bath out of the Gatorade bucket from his Dos Pueblos baseball team on Thursday afternoon.

The Chargers had a record of 3-8 heading into April, and now they’re Channel League champions. Robert Vickers drove in five runs and Bradley Tirador turned in another solid start as DP took down visiting Santa Barbara 11-5 to clinch the conference crown outright.

“Our goal this whole time was to win league. The second I got this job in late October it was my main goal,” said Mendoza. “When we were 3-8, us coaches looked at each other and said ‘Gosh, there’s so much talent out here,’ and thankfully we came together at the right time.”


Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara loss and San Marcos’ simultaneous win over Ventura down the coast set up a busy Friday afternoon at Santa Barbara’s Eddie Mathews Field.

The Royals will play the Cougars at noon, with the winner moving on to face the Dons later in the day. The winner of that contest will claim the third and final playoff spot out of the league.

“We’re glad to have the chance, because we didn’t do so hot in this game,” said Dons’ first baseman Trey Barrett. “We played fine in the later innings, so that’s how we want to start the game tomorrow.”

Besides Vickers’ solo homer on the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth, the Chargers did all their damage in the third and fourth innings, scoring five runs in each. Vickers cashed in Johnny Corazza and Steven Reveles on a one-out single to get the Chargers going, then scored along with Ryan Ventura on a double by Michael Spiritosanto.

The Chargers batted around in the fourth, with the first six batters reaching base safely. Kyle Richardson led off with a single and Corazza walked to lead things off, and Reveles scored both runners on a double down the left field line. Nate Hart followed with a single and Vickers promptly smacked a ground-rule double that scored the second two runs of the frame. He eventually scored on a sacrifice by Michael Spiritosanto, making it 10-0.

“Sometimes the ball looks like a beach ball,” said a smiling Vickers, who credited Mendoza with pushing the Chargers (15-11, 8-4) throughout the season.

The Dons (11-13, 5-7) stayed focused, however, with Barrett leading off the fifth with a ground-rule double to centerfield and Pepe Gil following with a single. Both Dons would come around to score before the inning ended on a rocket throw from Dane Limosnero in right field that nabbed Joey Gonzales at third.

Santa Barbara made it a game with three more in the sixth, but Vickers’ solo shot took away some of Santa Barbara’s steam and Ryan Ventura shut the door with a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Tirador went five innings on the start, allowing just four hits.

“It’s been fun. All our hard work paid off today,” said Tirador. “We finally picked it up in the second half of the season and got on a roll. Hopefully we can keep on rolling.”

The young Dons, meanwhile, were the beneficiaries of a three-way coin-flip which allows them to sit back and wait through Friday’s first game before taking on the winner.

Assistant coach Mike Cooney said the Dons were still trying to figure out who would get the start on the mound Friday. Sophomore ace Danny Zandona threw on Tuesday and Wednesday, and has just six regular-season innings left under CIF rules. Cooney said that Rob Crawford — who looked sharp in two innings of relief Thursday — is a possibility.


Santa Barbara…000 023 0 — 5 8 1

Dos Pueblos…005 501 X — 11 11 1

Dewell, Eaton (4), Crawford (5) and Fraker; Tirador, Ventura (6) and Richardson.

2B — SB: Barrett, Dewell. DP: Reveles, Spiritosanto. HR — Vickers (6th inn., solo).

Team records — SB 11-13, 5-7. DP 15-11, 8-4.