Riverside breaks open tight game, beats SBCC 8-1

Riverside broke open a 1-1 pitching duel with seven runs in the final two innings on Friday at Pershing Park to hand SBCC an 8-1 baseball setback in the opener of a best-of-3 Southern Cal Regional playoff series.

Game 2 starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a third game, if necessary.

Chris Neff and Jordan Mejia combined on a four-hitter for the 10th-seeded Tigers (22-15), who collected 11 hits off a trio of Vaquero pitchers.

The visitors took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Curtis Cassise in the fifth. Santa Barbara (22-15), the No. 7 seed, was held to one hit in the first five innings — a third-inning double by Cody Giordano.

The Vaqueros tied it in the sixth on Pat Cavalier’s opposite-field single to left. They loaded the bases with one out but were shut down on a force play at home and a strikeout by Mejia, who had entered the game three batters earlier.

“We lost that ball game by not scoring runs in the early innings,” said SBCC coach Ryan Thompson. “We had chances, we just didn’t execute. If we had gotten one or two runs across, it‘s a different feel for us.”

Sophomore left-hander Kylin Turnbull (5-3) pitched well enough to win for the Vaqueros, who had their five-game home winning streak snapped. Turnbull allowed one run on five hits in 7-plus innings. He struck out five and walked three.

Turnbull opened the eighth by walking leadoff hitter Grady Espinosa on four pitches. DJ Gunderson relieved him and gave up a two-run single to Frankie Torres that put the Tigers up 3-1. Gunderson, a submarine pitcher, allowed four runs on four hits in one inning of work.

With one out, runners on second and third and a drawn-in infield, Torres chopped a single over the glove of second baseman Andrew Smith to score Espinosa and Cade Gotta.

Torres, who had two hits and four RBIs, added a two-run homer in the ninth off Tim Alvarez.
Chris Neff started for Riverside and went 5 2/3 innings, holding the Vaqueros to one run on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Mejia (3 1/3 innings, no runs, 1 hit) got the win to improve to 2-3.
SBCC, which had scored 44 runs while winning five of its last six, was hurt by a pair of controversial calls.

With one out in the Vaquero seventh and Robert Vickers on second, Mejia attempted a pickoff and appeared to stride toward third base, which was unoccupied. Mejia ran at Vickers, then threw to Cassise, the third baseman, who tossed it to shortstop Nic Cuckovich for the out.

“The umpires just don’t know the rules, they think you can make a pick to an unoccupied base,” said Thompson. “That’s not legal. And their pitcher didn’t clear the rubber, which is also a balk.”

With the score tied at 1 and one out in the eighth, Riverside had runners on first and third. Gotta took off for second and SBCC catcher Tommy White alertly threw to third to try to catch Espinosa off base. The Vaqueros thought they had him but the umpire called him safe.

“The back pick at third is the one that killed us,” said Thompson. “The guy was out by about six or seven inches. If we get that out, we can keep our infield back and the next ground ball is 4-3 and we’re out of the inning tied 1-1.

“It’s hard to battle uphill battles and we weren’t able to overcome some adversity that wasn’t our choice. We just have to live with it.”

Riverside …… 000 010 052– 8 11 1
SBCC ….……. 000 001 000 — 1 4 1
Neff, Mejia (6) and Ponce; Turnbull, Gunderson (8), Alvarez (9) and White. W–Mejia 2-3. L–Turnbull 5-3.
2B–R: Cuckovich, Erickson. SB: Giordano. HR–R: Torres (2), 9th inn., one on.