Gauchos take over first in OEC with walk-off!

The Saddleback Gauchos rallied late to take first place alone in the Orange Empire Conference and extend their winning streak to six games in their victory over the Fullerton Hornets, 5-4, at Doug Fritz field on Tuesday night.

Saddleback struck first with a two out rally in the bottom of the first inning sparked by three consecutive singles by sophomore Mitchell Holland, sophomore Louie Payetta and an RBI single by freshman Casey Worden to give Saddleback the 1-0 lead. In the top of the third inning the Hornets tied it up on an RBI single by freshman Oliver Jackson, but Saddleback immediately answered with a rally of their own in the bottom half to take the lead back, 2-1, following a throwing error into the Gaucho dugout by the Hornets right fielder that allowed freshman Dylan Diaz to score safely.

This game was not without controversy. In the top of the fourth inning the Hornets formed a two out rally started by a walk, a hit batsman and a ground ball that took a hard hop causing a fielding error by Saddleback sophomore shortstop Casey Bennett to load the bases before what should have been the inning ending out on a low-hanging line drive to sophomore right fielder Brandon Cody who made a fantastic play on the ball. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, the ruling on the field was that Cody had trapped the ball and it was still live, allowing the bases to clear and the Hornets to take a 4-2 lead.

Photo by: Matt Corkill Sophomore Louie Payetta charges up the Saddleback dugout after his triple in the Gaucho victory against the Fullerton Hornets, 5-4, at Doug Fritz field Tuesday night.

Photo by: Matt Corkill
Sophomore Louie Payetta charges up the Saddleback dugout after his triple in the Gaucho victory against the Fullerton Hornets, 5-4, at Doug Fritz field Tuesday night.

For the final three innings the Saddleback dugout pulled together to climb back into the game with a run in both the seventh on a sophomore Slate Miller RBI ground out and in the eighth after a Payetta triple and an RBI single by freshman Hunter Cullen to tie it up behind a solid relief appearance by sophomore Coleman Huntley (4-1).

“I’m excited for our team ,our guys they work hard and they don’t quit,” head coach Sommer McCartney said. “They’ve been that way all season, they’re pretty gritty and I reminded them in the sixth and seventh inning to keep that grit and we found a way.”

Tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the ninth the Gaucho’s bench exploded with energy. Freshman Brett Barker pinch hit to lead the inning off with a sharply hit single to center field that was followed by Dylan Diaz’s sacrifice bunt that led to a throwing error by the Hornet reliever allowing Barker to advance to second and Diaz to reach safely. Freshman Luke Jarvis came in to pinch run for Barker and was able to advance to third on a botched pick off attempt before Slate Miller was walked to load the bases for Mitchell Holland with no outs. Holland came to the plate looking determined to bring Jarvis in and on a 1-0 count…

he took a past ball inside that allowed Jarvis to score the game winner, 5-4.

“It was a big win tonight against a really good team,” third baseman Louie Payetta, 19, social sciences major said following the victory. “The guys played extremely well tonight and it was huge for us, we’ve got to keep the same approach of staying humble and working hard looking forward.”

Saddleback (16-7, 8-3) continues their playoff push next against Golden West (11-15, 2-9) at Doug Fritz Field on Thursday with first pitch at 2 p.m.

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