CBB: Bruce keeps SBCC season alive with a two-hit shutout

Justin Bruce won his second playoff game for SBCC.

Justin Bruce won his second playoff game for SBCC.

Justin Bruce came through for SBCC when the Vaqueros needed it the most.

With the team’s postseason on the line, the 6-1 sophomore right-hander from San Jose threw his second straight complete-game shutout in the playoffs on Saturday, holding Fullerton to two hits in a 3-0 triumph that evened the best-of-3 Super Regional baseball series at 1-1.

Game 3 is set for Sunday at noon at Pershing Park, where the Vaqueros are 18-4.

“I’ve been in quite a few big games since high school and you get used to it after a while,” said Bruce, who raised his record to 8-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.89. “The intensity rises and it’s way more fun.

“Seeing our hitters and defense come through helped me tremendously.”

The third-seeded Vaqueros are 22-0 when scoring first this season. They improved to 31-9 overall while No. 12 Fullerton fell to 24-16

SBCC, which was designated as the visiting team for Game 2, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth against Fullerton pitcher Kyle Lazcano, who had a perfect game going through four innings. With one out, James Brakka walked and Colby Taylor got the first hit with a single to right. Brakka took third and Taylor went to second on the throw.

Brakka scored on a wild pitch and Taylor went to third. After a strikeout, Matt Gimenez walked and intentionally strayed off first to draw a throw. When the first baseman threw to the shortstop, Taylor took off for home and used a clever slide to score the second run of the game.

“That’s one of our many first-and-third plays designed to manipulate the defense,” Taylor explained. “When I’m on third, I’m just reading ‘white’ out of the first baseman’s hand (when he throws it) and taking off. I slid outside the catcher (to avoid the tag) and then beat him back to the plate.”

On playing defense behind Bruce, Taylor said: “I love playing defense for Justin. He lights the fire for the defense and gets it going for the offense. His intensity really fuels us.”

Bruce took a no-hitter into the eighth. With one out, pinch hitter Shane Carrier broke it up by blooping a single into short right field. Laine Huffman got a clean single two batters later and Bruce got out of the jam by getting a flyout to right.

“That was an outstanding effort with our season on the line,” said head coach Jeff Walker. “Justin loves big games and he showed it today.”

Bruce retired 15 of the first 17 batters. The only blemishes were walks in the second and fifth to David Miranda. Second baseman Spencer Erdman started a 4-6-3 double play to end the fifth.

The Vaqueros added a run in the eighth on a single by Gimenez, two groundouts to second and an RBI single by Matt Henderson. Henderson’s hit deflected off the pitcher’s glove and led to a big collision with second baseman Laine Huffman flying over the top of shortstop Justin Row.
The Hornets only got two runners to second base.

Pitching coach Justin Aspegren was also impressed with Bruce.

“That was a phenomenal performance, particularly because we needed it so badly,” said Aspegren. “That’s five consecutive stellar performances by him in the playoffs over the last two years.”

And now the Vaqueros need one more big-game effort to secure their second straight trip to the Final Four in Southern California.