Vaqueros edged in regional playoff series opener

SBCC took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning of Saturday’s Southern Cal Regional baseball opener but Rio Hondo rallied for a 4-3 victory in Whittier.

It was the 29th straight win for the second-seeded Roadrunners (34-3) and snapped a six-game winning streak for the Vaqueros (20-18). Game 2 in the best-of-3 series is Sunday at 11 a.m. at Rio Hondo, followed by a third game if necessary.

“We had a lead in the sixth and they did a good job of battling back,” said SBCC coach Jeff Walker. “We were a little nervous and didn’t play our best. I thought they were nervous also.

“We only scored single runs in each inning and we need to do a better job of getting timely hits.”

Right-hander Andrew Morales limited the Vaqueros to three runs on seven hits in 6 innings to improve to 11-0. Vaquero starter Brendon Shoemake gave up four runs (two earned) on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Andrew Melchor pitched the ninth to earn his 12th save.

Pat Cavalier was 2-3 and Joey Epperson went 2-4 for Santa Barbara. Catcher Jared Dinges put the Vaqueros ahead 3-2 with a two-out double in the sixth. Brandon Laubhan and Mark Jebbia also RBIs.

“Tomorrow will be back in our favor,” said Walker. “We’ll be the (designated) home team for Game 2 and we love must-win games. Today was the first time it wasn’t a must-win situation in two weeks.

“We’ve got a great athlete on the mound in Rich McCaffrey and he’s been pitching great lately.”

McCaffrey hasn’t given up a run in his last 15 1/3 innings.

SBCC ….……… 001 101 000 — 3   7  3
Rio Hondo …… 011 020 00x — 4 11  4

Shoemake, Perez (6), Oshima (6), Foote (7), Turner (8) and Dinges; Morales, Casillas (7), Smigelski (8), Melchor (9) and Doyle. W–Morales 11-0. L–Shoemake 7-5. Save–Melchor 12.
2B–SB: Dinges. RH: Granados, Ibarra, Doyle.
Records–SBCC 20-18; RH 34-3.