Tigers take a bite out of the Gauchos, pushing them to the brink of elimination

Gauchos first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick watches his home run in the sixth inning of Friday's game. The Gauchos have to win their next two games in order to keep their season alive. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Gauchos first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick watches his home run in the sixth inning of Friday’s game. The Gauchos have to win their next two games in order to keep their season alive. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s home run was not enough Friday, as the Saddleback College baseball team lost 5-3 to Riverside City College in the opening game of their three-game, first round, playoff series.

The Gauchos could not withstand an early barrage of runs from the Tigers in the first four innings and left two runners in scoring position in the ninth inning.

Saddleback starting pitcher John Sheaks did not have his best outing, walking five batters, giving up six hits and allowing five earned runs, all while only pitching 3.1 innings.

“It [wasn’t] my best, I guess I was just really amped up for the game, just trying to do too much and really flying open,” Sheaks said.

Riverside went up 1-0 in the first inning, putting pressure on the Gauchos right off the bat. Later, the Tigers got a home run from Garrison Cole that just cleared the left field fence, which put them up 4-0. They added another run in the fourth inning, giving them a 5-0 lead before the halfway point of the game.

“[Sheaks] was off today, I don’t know why, but when you walk that many guys and hit a couple … and any time you give up five runs to a good team it’s tough to comeback,” said Saddleback head coach Sommer McCartney.

Saddleback shortstop Luke Jarvis connects with a pitch in Friday's playoff game against Riverside City College.(Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Saddleback shortstop Luke Jarvis connects with a pitch in Friday’s playoff game against Riverside City College.(Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Saddleback finally got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning when catcher Dallas Dey hit a sacrifice fly that scored third baseman Brandon Heinrich.

In the sixth inning, the Gauchos seemed to gain some momentum after a throwing error by Tigers third baseman Anthony Ward, which caused designated hitter Jared Donahoe to reach second base.

Outfielder Andrew Wilson drove in Donahoe with a sacrifice fly and Fitzpatrick connected on a ball later in the inning, which traveled 400 plus feet, for a home run, moving Riverside’s lead to only two-runs and putting Saddleback within reach.

“I’ve just been aggressive, just kinda lettin’ it go and looking for a good pitch to drive,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Gauchos did not get a man on base until the bottom of the ninth, when Heinrich walked. Saddleback got runners to second and third base with one out in the inning, but were unable to get a run home and gave the first game of the series to the Tigers.

“We were a hit away from tying that ballgame and these guys are resilient. If any group we’ve ever had could come back and win two [games], these guys could do it,” McCartney said.

The Gauchos and Tigers play again today starting at 2 p.m. at Saddleback College. There is another game scheduled for 6 p.m. if Saddleback were to win the first contest. If Riverside wins either game, they when the series.

“This team never backs down, this is definitely the most resilient team I’ve ever been a part of and I have all the confidence in the world we’re gonna come back and win both games,” Fitzpatrick said.

Gauchos starting pitcher John Sheaks throws a pitch in Friday's contest. Sheaks only went 3.1 innings and allowed five earned runs. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Gauchos starting pitcher John Sheaks throws a pitch in Friday’s contest. Sheaks only went 3.1 innings and allowed five earned runs. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

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