Saddleback sophomore Kyle Candalla (No. 8) swings and watches his hit. The Gauchos are currently tied for second place in the Orange Empire Conference with their upcoming opponent, Cypress College. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)
The Saddleback College baseball team won two out of three games in central California last week, defeating Reedley College, College of the Sequoias and then falling to Bakersfield College. The three games came in the middle of the Gauchos’ Orange Empire Conference schedule, giving them a break of sorts from the tough competition that the conference teams bring to them.
Saddleback improved their already stellar record to 17-4 on the season, but with the loss to Bakersfield, the Gauchos saw a seven-game winning streak end.
Saddleback head coach Sommer McCartney believes the team benefits from long road trips and says that the team will have to get used to it because most playoff games require long travel.
“I like how we have to travel so much and stay in hotels and buses, because hopefully that gives them a little bit more experience and maybe a little tougher when we make the postseason,” McCartney said. “We’ve done that road trip for 20 something years. It’s just good to kind of get outta your own routine, you know.”
Saddleback College started out the week on Tuesday by toppling Reedley, 10-2. In the contest, the Gauchos trailed 1-0 until the fifth inning when they scored three runs to take a 3-1 lead. From that inning on, Saddleback scored seven more runs in the final four innings and only gave up one run to take the game by eight runs.
On Wednesday, the Gauchos put up another good performance, beating Sequoias, 9-2. Contrary to the Reedley game, Saddleback started out hot and never gave up the lead after taking it in the third inning. Freshman Adam Gordon led the offense for the Gauchos, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs, two doubles and a run scored.
In the final game of three-game road trip, Saddleback played Bakersfield and lost, 4-3. In the third inning of the game, Saddleback took a 3-2 lead thanks to sophomore Luke Jarvis’ RBI single, a throwing error by Bakersfield third baseman Luis Martinez and a bases loaded walk to Gordon.
Those would be the only runs the Gauchos would manage for the game and the pitching staff could not hold the lead, giving up a game-tying RBI single in the fifth inning and the eventual game-winning run in the eighth inning to give Bakersfield the win.
“We left a lot of guys on base, we made two big errors. We just didn’t play that well,” McCartney said. “Against a good team, Bakersfield, they played well against us, they pitched well and we just didn’t execute that day.”
Saddleback now moves back into their OEC schedule where they will play Cypress College in a three-game series. Cypress will get home field advantage in the short series. The games at Cypress will be at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and 12 p.m. on Saturday. The lone home game for the Gauchos will be at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Coming into the game, Saddleback and Cypress hold identical records in conference play, with both teams being 5-1. They also have the same overall record, 17-4, making this a big series for both teams.
“I think our pitching’s done a good job [and] hopefully we can play good defense, like we have been, against them and swing the bats like we are capable of swinging them,” McCartney said. “[Cypress flat out] swing the bat and they’re hitting over .300 as a team. They have some big arms as well. I think it’s a good matchup for us.”
The winner of the three-game series will be in sole possession of second place in the OEC standings with a chance at being in first place, depending on how Fullerton College does in their series with Orange Coast College.
Fullerton is 6-0 in conference play and they control their own destiny when comes to staying in first place. The Gauchos will end the season with a three-game series against Fullerton, in what could be a battle for the conference championship.
“They are so many games to be played and there’s teams that, maybe, got off to a slow start that are going to bounce back for sure,” McCartney said. “From here on out the next 15 games, they’re all huge. I don’t know if one’s any more important than the other, but we talk about how we have to really have attention to detail.”