Vaquero win keeps pressure on league leaders

SBCC right-hander Brendon Shoemake turned in his best performance of the year on Thursday at Pershing Park, holding Oxnard to five hits in a 7-2 victory that vaulted the Vaqueros within a half-game of first place in the WSC North.

The Vaqueros (18-17, 11-8 WSC North) won their fourth straight game. Cuesta (11-8), which has led the conference all season, lost to Ventura 6-3 and fell into a second-place tie with SBCC. Moorpark, the leader at 11-7, had its game against Hancock postponed by a wet field and moved to Saturday.

Shoemake, a 6-4 freshman from La Canada High, allowed just one earned run with seven strikeouts and two walks. It was the first complete game of the year by any Vaquero hurler and it came at a perfect time with Santa Barbara playing its last two games on back-to-back days.

The Vaqueros finish the regular season on Friday with a 2:30 p.m. contest at Oxnard.

“My velo (velocity) wasn’t too high today,” Shoemake noted. “Actually it was good in the first through fourth innings. Then I just started hitting my spots.”

Shoemake (7-4) threw 122 pitches and got 12 flyball outs.

“That was a huge pick-me-up,” said Santa Barbara coach Jeff Walker. “That was Brendon’s best effort of the year. He played like a Warrior today.”

Sheldon Ekstrand was also strong for the Condors (15-20, 7-12), going seven innings and allowing six earned runs on eight hits.

Joey Gonzalez paced SBCC’s offense by going 3-4 with two runs.

The Vaqueros staged a five-run rally with two outs in the third. Eli Michaels started it with a single to right and Gonzalez followed with another hit to the left of the first baseman. After Joey Epperson walked to load the bases, Brandon Laubhan and Steven Reveles both drilled two-run singles.

Zach Zehner, who’s hitting .800 in his last three games (8-10), brought in Reveles with a single to right, boosting the lead to 5-0.

“It’s always a team effort,” said Shoemake. “I wouldn’t have been there without the defense behind me and the offense.”

Shoemake said he was tired in the seventh but “just kept making pitches.” Walker stated that it was a “no-brainer” to send Shoemake out for the ninth. The right-hander capped his first complete game with a 1-2-3 ninth on a groundout, strikeout and flyout.

Shoemake gave up a run on two doubles in the sixth, then escaped second-and-third situations in the sixth and eighth frames. Oxnard loaded the bases on a two-out walk in the eighth but Shoemake got a flyout to center field.

Reveles, who was 2-4, pulled off a rare trifecta this week as he was named Athlete of the Week by the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table and the Western State Conference as well as being the Player of the Week for all of Southern California.

The Vaqueros extended their lead to 7-1 in the fifth when Zehner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Pat Cavalier reached on an error, scoring Laubhan.

“Everything is clicking ever since we started doing this Japanese BP (batting practice) and seeing breaking balls,” said Laubhan. “We have a coach pitch and a pitching machine throwing breaking balls. Everyone’s waiting back, seeing the ball well and driving through the ball.

“I don’t know why it’s called Japanese BP — coach (Pat) Rose said it one day and it just stuck.”

The Vaqueros got just two hits in their last five innings against Ekstrand and Robert Diaz, who pitched the eighth.

When asked about the playoff possibilities, Walker said the Vaqueros have to stay focused.

“We just have to control the controllables,” he stated. “We need to concentrate on what’s in front of us.

“Whatever happens in the other two games, it’s going to be a dogfight to the end. We’re going to grind it out all the way.”

Oxnard ….… 010 001 000 — 2 5 2
SBCC ……… 005 020 00x — 7 8 2
Ekstrand, Diaz (8) and Griffith; Shoemake and Dinges. W–Shoemake 7-4. L–Ekstrand 4-5.
2B–O: Griffith, Reyes.
Records–Oxnard 15-20, 7-12 WSC North; SBCC 18-17, 11-8.