Vaqueros claim second straight WSC crown

SBCC went to Oxnard on Friday in search of a victory to cap the regular season and a little help from its conference rivals

The Vaqueros got both, allowing them to claim their second straight WSC North baseball title. They’ll share the crown with Cuesta after beating Oxnard for the second straight day, 4-1.

It’s the first time in school history that the Vaqueros won back-to-back conference championships.

Santa Barbara finished with a flourish, winning the last five games with a whopping 49 runs (9.8 average). The Vaqueros (19-17) will share the conference title with Cuesta after both finished at 12-8. Moorpark (11-8) can make it a tri-championship by beating Hancock on Saturday.

Cuesta beat Ventura 10-8 on Friday and Hancock blanked Moorpark 3-0. Cuesta will be the No. 1 seed from the conference based on its RPI Rating and the Vaqueros will be No. 2 even if they tie Moorpark because they own the tiebreaker.

Left-hander Rich McCaffrey was masterful in the first seven innings on Friday, holding the Condors (15-21, 7-13) to no runs on four singles. He struck out eight and walked two.

“This is such a great moment,” said McCaffrey, a sophomore transfer from College of San Mateo. “In the middle of league, I was hoping we would scrape in. The playoffs looked pretty distant.

“We’ve been up-and-down all year but everything has come together in the last two weeks. I’m really proud of the team.”

It was the second great pitching performance in two days, coming on the heels of Brendon Shoemake’s five-hitter in a 7-2 triumph over Oxnard on Thursday.

“I didn’t have my best stuff today but I was really calm,” said McCaffrey. “I did some meditation on the way down here. I was just focused on taking it one pitch at a time.”

Steven Reveles went 3-4, raising his team-high average to .350. He scored the first run on a sacrifice fly by Mark Jebbia in the second. SBCC made it 2-0 in the third when Eli Michaels singled to right, took second on a sacrifice by Joey Gonzalez and scored on Brandon Laubhan’s two-out single through the right side.

The Vaqueros added two more with two outs in the fifth. Gonzalez was hit by a pitch, went to second on a passed ball and scored on Joey Epperson’s single to right. Epperson stole his 19th base in 23 tries (he’s 10th in the state) and scored on Reveles’ single to left-center.

Reveles, a freshman shortstop from Dos Pueblos High, leads the team in RBIs with 30. He’s hit safely in 9 of his last 10 games.

“Our guys battled through some adversity and we grinded out some tough games,” said first-year coach Jeff Walker. “We had our backs to the wall and we overcame. We did a great job of sticking with the process, living in the moment and we just took it game-to-game.

“The pitching by Shoemake (on Thursday) and Rich today were our two best performances of the year. Those are clutch performances at a clutch time. It was a good team effort today.”

McCaffrey got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth with a flyout to right and a groundout to second. Danny Nieves pitched the last two innings, surrendering a run on three hits in the ninth.

Nieves had runners at first and second with no outs and a 4-1 lead. He secured the title by getting a line-out to right, a strikeout and a groundout.

The So Cal Regional playoff pairings will be announced on Sunday and SBCC could play in a first-round game on Tuesday. Those two games will pit the 18th seed at No. 15 and No. 17 at 16 in a single-elimination battle.

The survivors move on to the Regional on May 5-6 in a best 2-of-3 series. Santa Barbara beat Riverside 2-1 in a Regional series last year and reached the Super Regional for the first time.


SBCC …….… 011 020 000 — 4 8 0
Oxnard …..… 000 000 001 — 1 7 1
McCaffrey, Nieves (8) and Dinges; Barroso, Navarro (7), Abbott (8), Kurz (8) and Griffith. W–McCaffrey 4-3. L–Barroso 3-3.
Records–SBCC 19-17, 12-8 WSC North; Oxnard 15-21, 7-13.