CBB: Bruce’s gem leads Vaqueros past East L.A.

Justin Bruce threw seven innings of shutout ball on Thursday and SBCC blanked East L.A. 5-0 in its final non-conference baseball tuneup at Pershing Park.

Bruce, Steven Ledesma and Kit Larson combined on an eight-hitter as the fourth-ranked Vaqueros (7-1) downed the No. 10 Huskies (1-6) for the second time in three days. SBCC improved to 5-0 at home, where they’ve outscored the opponents 35-11.

It was the second shutout of the year for Santa Barbara’s pitching staff, which is No. 4 in the state in strikeouts (60) and No. 6 in ERA (1.95).

“I felt really good, it was one of the few starts where I felt like I had my ‘A’ stuff and everything was working pretty well,” said Bruce, who improved to 2-0 by holding the Huskies to five singles with four strikeouts and one walk. “I got a different grip on my slider over the week and it made it easier to throw.”

Leadoff hitter Spencer Erdman went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and had one of his team’s season-high five stolen bases. His two-run double in the seventh extended the lead to 5-0.

Matt Gimenez went 2-3 with two runs scored and Brandon Evans and James Hill also had two hits each. Matt Henderson leads the Vaqueros in batting at .379, followed by Hill (.375), Evans (.367) and Connor McManigal (.357).

SBCC took a 1-0 lead in the third when Gimenez led off with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Noeh Martinez. Henderson delivered a two-out infield single that scored Gimenez.

The Vaqueros stretched it to 3-0 in the sixth. Erdman singled and Evans doubled down the left-field line to put runners on second and third with one out. Erdman scored on a sacrifice fly by McManigal and Evans came home when the shortstop’s throw on Hill’s grounder pulled the first baseman off the bag for an error.

“Justin was outstanding today,” said fourth-year coach Jeff Walker. “He’s our guy, he’s our workhorse. We threw three pitchers and they combined on a nine-inning shutout. The pitching and the defense got it done for us. It takes more than just the guy on the mound. We got some double plays and our outfield play, our infield play and our inside game contributed to that.”

Bruce’s only trouble came in the fifth when he walked Larson Anzaldo and gave up a bunt single to Shun Tsunoda. Javier Garcia tried to bunt home Anzaldo but Bruce cut him down at the plate to preserve the shutout.

Ledesma replaced Bruce to start the eighth and created a bases-loaded, no-out jam by giving up a single, a walk and a single to Sam Medina. He extricated himself by striking out Johnny Salgado looking, then getting a 4-6-3 double play.

“That was a Houdini Act by Ledesma,” said Walker. “He did a great job of getting out of the jam.”

Larson pitched the ninth and benefitted from a 6-4-3 double play after giving up a leadoff single. He got Tsunoda on a groundout to the shortstop Henderson to end the game.

“Going 7-1 in the preseason is better than 6-2 and not quite as good as 8-0,” Walked added. “Season 2 starts on Saturday and it’s a little different deal, we’re starting conference sooner and we have byes this year.”

The Vaqueros open their 24-game WSC North schedule on Saturday when they host Moorpark in a 1 p.m. contest.