Vaqueros ready for Regional Playoffs

The Southern Cal Regional baseball matchup between SBCC and Riverside comes down to the basics — the Vaqueros’ strong pitching against the Tigers’ solid hitting.

SBCC, the WSC North champion, was seeded No. 7 for the 16-team tourney and will host No. 10 Riverside (21-15), the third-place entry from the Orange Empire League. Game 1 will take place on Friday at 2 p.m. at Pershing Park. Game 2 is set for Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by a third game if necessary. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for seniors over 60, children 12-and-under and students with ID.

The Vaqueros (22-14) have won six straight and 11 of their last 13. Their pitching staff is ranked No. 6 in California with a 2.93 ERA and a state-leading 312 strikeouts. SBCC is led by the sophomore lefty duo of Chris Joyce (6-0, 1.54 ERA) and Kylin Turnbull (5-2, 2.47). Joyce struck out 16 in a game this year and was the unanimous choice as WSC North Pitcher of the Year. Joyce’s 97 strikeouts are No. 2 in the state and Turnbull is fourth with 92.

Riverside’s top starters are Pedro Cota (3-1, 3.41 ERA) and Chris Neff (1-3, 3.67). Santa Barbara is 22-8 when scoring three or more runs and 0-6 when scoring two or less. They’re also 21-5 with holding opponents to five or less. Riverside is 1-12 when scoring five or less.

“Those numbers speak volumes in terms of what we have tried to accomplish,” said Ryan Thompson, who was named WSC North Coach of the Year in his first season. “Pitch and play defense and you will find yourself in ball games with an opportunity to win. “The keys to this series will be playing sound defense, winning the freebie war (walks/stolen bases/errors) and giving yourself a chance to score late in the game.”

The Vaqueros top hitters are Cody Giordano (.344 avg.), Joey Epperson (.317, 23 RBIs) and Daniel Howell (6 homers, 20 RBIs). SBCC averages 5.0 runs a game while Riverside scores 7.4. The Vaqueros are 11-0 when hitting a home run. The Tigers are led by a trio of sophomores — first baseman Billy Nottingham (.340), second baseman David Kiriakos (.328) and Chad Erickson (3 HRs, 31 RBIs).