CBB: Vaqueros denied first trip to state by OCC

SBCC’s best baseball season on record won’t include its first trip to the State Tournament.

Orange Coast broke open a 1-1 game with five runs in the sixth on Sunday and went on to beat SBCC 10-2 in the third and deciding game of their Southern California Sectional at Pershing Park.

The defending state champion Pirates (27-17) earn a return trip to the State Tournament in Fresno. Santa Barbara finishes a record-setting season at 33-11

The Vaqueros are 60-26 over the last two years, with two trips to the sectionals.

“The ball didn’t roll in our favor even though we hit balls hard the whole game,” said sophomore catcher James Hill, who tripled in the sixth and eighth innings. “That’s a well-coached team over there and they had their players in the right spots all game long. … It’s a weird game. We had the bases loaded and Connor (McManigal) hits the hardest ball of the entire day and it’s right at someone.”

McManigal’s stinging line drive went right into the glove of James McLellan, the first baseman, after a walk by Noeh Martinez, a single by Matt Gimenez, a fielder’s choice and a walk to Matt Henderson loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh and the Vaqueros trailing 6-1.

“It seems like they got all the bounces,” said fourth-year coach Jeff Walker, whose team was making its fifth straight playoff appearance. “Every ball they hit found some green and every ball we hit found a glove.”

The Pirates, the third-place team from the Orange Empire Conference, got on the board first when Jack Kruger doubled to lead off the second and scored on a single by McLellan. The Vaqueros tied it 1-1 in the fifth. Colby Taylor dove into first to beat out a bunt single, went to second on a single by Gimenez and advanced to third when the left fielder mishandled the ball. Spencer Erdman drove in Taylor with a sacrifice fly to right.

Erdman finished as the Vaqueros’ top hitter at .344 and he was No. 3 in the state with 27 stolen bases. Hill was a close second with a .338 average and a team-high 34 RBI.

Stephen Corona went the first five innings for the Pirates, holding the Vaqueros to one unearned run on four hits with three strikeouts. Scott Serigstad got his third save by pitching one-run ball for the final four innings, allowing four hits and fanning seven.

Lucas Jacobsen started for Santa Barbara and went 5.1 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

The Vaqueros had a chance to take the lead in the fifth. With Gimenez on third and two out, pinch-hitter Payton Milone hit a soft liner but shortstop Jeff Nellis made a leaping grab.

OCC sent 11 batters to the plate in the sixth and scored five runs on four hits with two walks and a hit batter. McLellan’s RBI single made it 2-1 and Stefan Panayiotou followed with an RBI double down the right-field line.

Nellis, McLellan, Panayiotou and Chaneng Varela all had three hits for the Pirates, who collected 17 hits. Nellis had two of his team’s four doubles.

“There’s a lot to be proud of with this group who’s been here for 2-plus years,” said Walker. “This was the best season in school history and we’ve set the bar a little higher with the best two-year playoff run in the history of the program.”

SBCC was one of three teams to make the Sectionals the last two years, along with Orange Coast and San Joaquin Delta in the North.

“That’s good company to be in as far as programs go but there’s still some work to do for the future,” Walker added. “Our culture has definitely changed. A few years ago, we were happy just to be in the playoffs and now, it’s kind of weird being disappointed after we went so far.

“It’s tough but it’s the nature of the game. Every team but one will end their season with a loss.”