CBB: SBCC stages miraculous comeback, beats first-place Oxnard in 10th

SBCC players rush the field to celebrate after James Hill hit a sacrifice fly to score Connor McManigal with the game-winning run in the 10th inning.

SBCC players rush the field to celebrate after James Hill hit a sacrifice fly to score Connor McManigal with the game-winning run in the 10th inning.

Trailing 9-2 in the bottom of the ninth, SBCC staged one of the biggest baseball rallies in school history on Wednesday to knock off top-ranked Oxnard 10-9 in 10 innings.

The Vaqueros scored seven runs on eight hits in the ninth, then loaded the bases with one out in the 10th on three walks (the last one intentional). Connor McManigal scored the winning run after James Hill went down on one knee to stroke a sacrifice fly to center field.

“I’ve never come back from such a big deficit for a walk-off win in extra innings,” said Hill, a freshman catcher from Monterey. “That was awesome, it was a great team effort.

“I was looking for a pitch that I could elevate. He ended up throwing me a breaking ball low. I kind of just golfed at it. I hit the driving range over the weekend, so I guess that prepared me a little bit.”

It was the second straight 10th-inning, walk-off win for the Vaqueros at home. SBCC, ranked No. 6 in Southern Cal, improved to 21-10 overall, 10-7 in the WSC North and 15-2 at Pershing Park.

Julian Ramon and Ryan Tinkham homered for Oxnard (22-7, 12-5), which dropped its third straight game but still leads the second-place Vaqueros by two games with three to play. The same teams will clash on Friday at Oxnard, starting at 2:30 p.m.

Tinkham’s solo homer leading off the sixth gave the visitors a 7-2 lead. Tyler Gilbert lasted just four innings for Santa Barbara, giving up six runs on seven hits.

Luke Eubank, one of the best pitchers in the state, limited the Vaqueros to two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings with nine strikeouts and three walks. He entered the game with a 9-0 record and a 0.49 ERA. He retired 10 in a row from the fourth to the seventh, striking out seven straight at one point.

McManigal went 2-4 with two walks, two runs, two RBIs and two stolen bases. The former Santa Barbara High star drove in the Vaqueros’ only runs in the first eight innings with a two-out, two-run single in the second that tied the game 2-2.

Matt Gimenez started the ninth-inning rally with a double down the left-field line. Brett Sesma followed with an RBI single and Brandon Evans singled to right. After a groundout, McManigal walked to load the bases. Chris Player got an RBI when reliever Patrick Herrera hit him with a pitch. Josh Kubiski replaced Herrera and James Brakka greeted him with a run-scoring fielder’s choice that made it 9-5 with two outs.

Hill delivered a run-scoring hit to right-center and Matt Henderson added an infield hit to bring home Brakka. Gimenez singled in Hill and Sesma followed with another single to right-center that scored Henderson and made it 9-9, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Evans followed with his second single of the ninth inning but left fielder Jake Mavropoulos threw out pinch-runner Cameron Jones at home for the final out.

“That’s the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Sesma, who was 3-4 on the day and had two RBI singles in the ninth, driving in the first run and the tying run. “I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball and get our players home.

“Their starter had our number a little bit. We were battling but once we got to their bullpen, things were a different. We started seeing the ball a lot better and were putting better swings on the ball.”

Kit Larson (4-1) went the last two innings for the win, giving up no hits and striking out three.

The Vaqueros are 21-2 when scoring three or more runs and 18-0 when out-hitting the opponent.

“I have been part of a rally like that as a player but never as a coach,” said SBCC coach Jeff Walker. “It’s a weird game. As I’ve said, baseball was invented by aliens.

“Luke Eubank is the best pitcher on the planet and we finally got him out in the eighth.”

Evans went 3-6 and Gimenez was 2-5 for the Vaqueros, who scored the winning run without a hit in the 10th.

“I told our guys on the bus back from Cuesta that we have four play-in games left,” said Walker. “Everything’s in front of us. The key will be if we can take this energy, excitement and toughness into Friday’s game or is it going to be something different?

“At times, we’ve looked like the best team in the state of California. Baseball is an unpredictable game and so are college athletes. If this doesn’t give them confidence about how good they are or how good they can be, I don’t know what it’s going to take.”