Playoff Rally Win In Game 2 Last Highlight As Baseball Season Ends

Lancers first baseman Jake Trabbie beats the runner to the bag during Saturday's Regionals at Palomar. (photo by Michael Watkins, Athletics).
Lancers first baseman Jake Trabbie beats the runner to the bag during Saturday's Regionals at Palomar. (photo by Michael Watkins, Athletics).

The 12th-seeded Pasadena City College baseball team did all it could to rally and win game #2, 9-7, in its SoCal Regional Playoff series at #5 Palomar on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Lancers, they had to play the rubber game less than a half-hour later and without their top two All-South Coast Conference pitchers available.

Palomar then ended the Lancers season in the winner-to-take-all final, defeating PCC, 17-4, and taking the best-of-3 series, 2-1.

PCC's season closed at 28-15, the third most victories in a season in school history and the most since 1951 when that squad finished 30-5. The other was a 29-win team in 1949. Both were directed by Coach John C. Thurman, who was also head coach when the legendary Jackie Robinson played two seasons for Pasadena Junior College in 1937-38.

In the finale, shortstop Raider Tello and centerfielder Max Blessinger both slugged solo home runs while Collin Johnson set some sort of postseason record by recording a pinch hit in each of the three playoff games.

PCC's pitching staff had no answer in trying to contain the hitting of Comets first baseman Tanner Lappin, who batted 4-for-5, including a 3-run homer in the sixth inning. Lappin went 9-for-14 with a triple, two home runs and seven RBI in the series while leftfielder Quincy Scott also hurt the Lancers by batting 9-for-13 with four doubles and six RBI. 

Blessinger had tied the third game, 2-2, in the fifth inning with his fifth dinger of the season. But in the bottom of the fifth, Palomar responded with five runs and tacked on five more to put the game away in the sixth. Tello, who was 2-for-3 with a double and a hit-by-pitch, bombed his team-leading eighth HR in the seventh as sort of a last hurrah to his monster freshman season (Records Release, click here)

Reliever Nicolas Day started and did admirably with three innings, four hits and two runs allowed. Kyle Noell hurled 1.1 strong shutout innings to follow but the next four Lancers pitchers were knocked around by Palomar's potent state-batting leader lineup. 

In game 2 on Saturday morning, the Lancers dug a hole, trailing 7-1 on Scott's 2-RBI double in the top of the sixth inning (PCC played as the home team for this game as part of playoff rules in alternating first at-bats). But Pasadena put together one of its signature long rallies in the bottom of the frame. 

First baseman Jake Trabbie, Johnson and catcher Matt Rice all singled to lead off the sixth. After a RBI groundout by leftfielder Aryonis Harrison, Toshiki Kuriya pinch hit and hit a RBI single and was followed by another run-scoring single from second baseman Andrew Scannell.

With two outs, Tello singled in a run, Blessinger, who reached on a fielder's choice grounder, scored on a passed ball, and Jakob Guardado tied the game on a RBI basehit. Damien Ureta, who pinch ran earlier in the inning, then hit would proved to be the game-winning RBI single to give the Lancers an 8-7 lead. 

In the seventh inning, the Lancers added an insurance run as Harrison walked, stole second and then scored on an error on Scannell's grounder to second. All-SCC First Team reliever Benny Olguin started his first game since March 5, 2020 (pitching winner) but had his roughest appearance of the season, allowing six earned runs and six hits in 5.2 innings of work. But All-SCC Second Team starter Coleman Mitchell, who started in nine of his previous 10 appearances, relieved in the sixth and finished with 3.1 innings of 4-hit, 1 run ball for the relief victory. 

With one out in the top of the ninth, Scott singled but Mitchell shut the door and moved his record to 3-2 by getting Lappin and designated hitter Caden Szuba to fly out. 

Overall, Guardado batted 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI while Scannell and Rice each hit 2-for-4. 

In the opening game, 11-4 loss on Friday, Ryan Graves started and pitched reasonably well, giving up four runs in 5.1 innings (nine hits, no walks, and five Ks). Blessinger, Trabbie, leftfielder Kenny Kim (double), and rightfielder Josh Hernandez each collected two hits and Scannell hit a RBI triple. Trailing 2-0, PCC scored three runs in the top of the sixth to take a 3-2 lead. Singles by Trabbie, Kim and Hernandez were followed by a bases-loaded walk drawn by Harrison. Catcher Matthew Delgado hit a grounder to second that turned into a 2-run error (one RBI on the play) and gave the Lancers a brief lead.

Palomar came right back with three runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to pull away. Lappin, who was 4-for-4, and state batting leader Jack Sanders (.456) each hit home runs for the Comets in their 19-hit attack. 

In the 3-game series, Palomar limited PCC's top-hitting, 1-2 tandem of Blessinger and Tello to six hits in 26 at bats (.231) and three RBI. The top hitters in the series for the Lancers were Guardado (4-for-9, .444), Rice (3-for-8, .375), and Johnson, who was a perfect 3-for-3. The lefty-hitting Johnson, from Burbank Burroughs High, was the Manny Mota (look him up, readers) of PCC pinch hitters during the 2022 season going 6-for-10 with two walks, a double, and two RBI in that team role. 

Lancers head coach Pat McGee has turned the program into a perennial postseason squad. In his last four complete seasons in the dugout from 2017-2019 and 2022, PCC has a winning record of 102-65 for a .611 percentage. The Lancers posted 25 or more victories in three of those seasons (23 in 2018), and PCC made the SoCal Regional Playoffs in all four. This is after the program had not reached the playoffs previously for 45 years and had just one 20-win season between 1973 and 2016.

PCC tied for the most victories in their South Coast Conference history (going back to 1987) at 15 with the other one also a McGee-coached team in 2017. Two of McGee's teams were conference champions in 2017 and 2019. This season, the Lancers finished in fourth place in the South Coast, but won both of their series (2-games-to-1) v. SCC co-champions Mt. San Antonio and Long Beach City College. 


 Aryonis Harrison makes the diving catch here.