The Pasadena City College baseball team will try to hang on to first place in the South Coast Conference North Division as it enters a 3-game series against rival Mt. San Antonio. The Lancers (11-6) hold a one-half game lead over the Mounties (10-6) and a one game lead ahead of third place Chaffey (10-7).
Ranked No. 16 in the state and No. 6 in the last SoCal coaches ratings, the Lancers (19-9 overall) are trying to bounce back from losing last week's series against fourth-place East Los Angeles, 2-1, as the PCC offense was limited to just 19 hits combined over the three contests. In the rubber game, 6-3 loss on Saturday at Brookside Park's Jackie Robinson Memorial Field, ELAC winning pitcher Steven Villagran gave up just five hits and one earned run over eight innings while striking out five. Designated hitter Wyatt Coates was 2-for-4, but was robbed of a third hit when Huskies' rightfielder Ruben Hernandez alertly gunned in a throw to second that forced out Vic Zepeda at second base in the eighth inning.
The odd outfield fielder's choice was huge because PCC had runners on first and second with only one out at the time as it slowed down the team's rally. Reserve second baseman Andrew Scannell delivered a RBI single that cut the score to 6-3 but Villagran got the final out on a strikeout. ELAC closer Alex Castellanos faced the heart of PCC's order in the ninth but picked up the save with only a walk allowed. Cole Pilar doubled and scored PCC's first run in the sixth inning on sacrifice lineout to right by Edward Manzo but that only cut ELAC's lead to 5-1 at that point.
Matt Orozco was the best of the five pitchers PCC threw in the game as he hurled three innings, allowing no hits and no runs while hitting two batters and picking up four Ks. P.J. Goebel pitched a scoreless ninth in his first appearance of the season.
On the road, PCC rallied to beat the Huskies, 9-7, on April 4, coming back from 6-3 and 7-5 deficits. Pasadena went ahead with four runs in the sixth inning thanks to wildness by the Huskies' relievers. Marco Martinez was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded that sliced the lead to 7-6.
With two outs, Ryan Lewis and Zepeda each hit clutch RBI singles, then Martinez would cross the plate on a wild pitch for the cushion run. PCC took advantage of 12 free passes, nine on walks. Zepeda, Lewis and Manzo each had two RBI. Despite a rough start for PCC 5-1 ace Gordon Ingebritson (four innings, six hits, six runs, uncharacteristic high four walks, two hit batters, and five Ks), Lorenzo Llorens kept the team in it with five innings of 2-hit, one unearned run ball to pick up the victory in relief.
In the series opener on April 3 at Brookside, both teams stranded 13 runners on base, but it was a solid winning start by ELAC's Troy Maki (six innings, eight hits, one earned run, seven Ks) and 1-1/3 innings save by Castellanos that engineered the Huskies' 5-3 win. PCC had an okay start by Patrick Pena (6-2), who allowed six hits, three runs (two earned), and three hit batters over the first five innings, and better relief pitching by Frank Gonzalez (two innings, two unearned runs) and Benny Olguin (two no-hit innings, three Ks).
Defense hindered the Lancers in the form of two key errors. Lewis, at shortstop, booted a potential double play that led to a 2-RBI single by East LA's AJ Gama for the two unearned runs off Gonzalez in the sixth inning. The PCC offense was led by Gabriel Arellano and Zepeda, who each batted 2-for-3. Manzo just missed a 2-run, home run by a foot in the seventh inning as his laser drive hit the top of the centerfield fence and resulted in a double.
"East Los Angeles outplayed us this series, plain and simple," said PCC head coach Pat McGee. "We didn't hit in the clutch, especially some of our better hitters. But the pitchers have to take some responsibility too. We gave up 15 runs with two outs in the series and that hurt us. We have a chance to come back and play better this week against a good team in Mt. SAC."
McGee also was not thrilled with losing two games at PCC's home diamond, a place where the squad was 10-2 this year coming into the ELAC series. PCC will start the 3-game set v. the Mounties on Tuesday, April 9 in a 2:30 p.m. start at Mt. SAC.