Saddleback eliminated from the playoffs in the first round after being upset by Riverside City College

Gauchos outfielder Andrew Wilson watches his hit go into the outfield. Saddleback won the first game Saturday, but were crushed in the second, ending their season. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

Gauchos outfielder Andrew Wilson watches his hit go into the outfield. Saddleback won the first game Saturday, but were crushed in the second, ending their season. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)

In a season where hopes were high for the Saddleback College baseball team to possibly win a championship, ended in utter disappointment Saturday as they were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by Riverside City College.

Saddleback and Riverside played two games Saturday to determine who would advance to the second round. Coming into the day, Saddleback had to win both games in order to move on.

The Gauchos did in fact win the first game of the afternoon in a classic contest. Although starting pitcher Dominque Key, the Orange Empire Conference pitcher of the year, only went three innings, Saddleback’s bats were hot and kept them in the game.

“I definitely was very amped up, I felt great today and that might have been a weakness. I might have been trying to go too hard, should’ve tooken it a little easier,” Key said.

Gauchos first baseman Ryan Fitzpatrick and shortstop Luke Jarvis were the heroes of the first contest. Fitzpatrick continued his hot streak of late, smacking a line drive, three-run home run in the first inning, his third bomb in consecutive games.

Jarvis hit a game-winning, two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to seal the victory for Saddleback and force a final game in the series.

“I kinda went for it on my first swing and came up short. Wasn’t trying to do too much and I guess it paid off,” Jarvis said.

After the first game, Gauchos head coach Sommer McCartney wanted his team to pitch better, but too keep their offensive prowess the same.

“We didn’t pitch very well, but we found a way to keep it alive, so hopefully we get a better pitching effort out of [Jackson Rees] in the second game,” said head coach Sommer McCartney. “If we can put in that offensive effort again … I like our chances, but we gotta get better pitching.”

The rubber game of the series was all Riverside. The Tigers got five runs in the first inning, which included a three-run home run from first baseman Ryan Mota. RCC chased Saddleback starter Rees out of the game in the first inning as well.

No Gauchos starting pitcher went further than 3.1 innings in any game of the series. McCartney was nearly speechless after the game when talking about the pitching performance and wondered what happened to a staff that was ranked No.1 in California.

“I’m just scratching my head. How do you lead the state in pitching and then pitch like that. It’s a hard pill to swallow. If you can’t pitch, you’re gonna get beat badly and that’s what we did,” McCartney said. “I don’t know what happened, but we just didn’t show up today. This whole weekend we didn’t pitch well.”

The rest of the game was the same as the first inning, with the Gauchos falling behind 12-3 by the end of the fourth inning and losing by a score of 14-4. Riverside shortstop Brody Weiss, the son of Colorado Rockies head coach Walt Weiss, was the star of the game, hitting two home runs and tallying four RBIs.

“We just didn’t play like we’ve been playing all year long, it’s unfortunate,” McCartney said. “Riverside played well, they swung the bat well, they competed and they did a good job and I’m happy for them.”

Saddleback finishes the season with a very successful 30-9 overall record, en route to their seventh conference title in school history and their first since 1998. After the game, most of the players were fighting back tears and some declined to comment. Jarvis echoed what the team meant to him.

“I love everybody on the team. I’ve been here three years and this is definitely the best team, in all aspects of the word, I’ve been on,” Jarvis said. “I’m sad that it’s over, but … I’ll miss the guys for sure.”

Key also gave a positive message about his team and said that they would definitely hang out off the field because they “got each others numbers.”

“I got love for all these guys, it’s gonna suck these next two weeks, coming back to school and not being able to see all 36 of them, Monday through Friday,” Key said.

Riverside will now move on to play Golden West College in another three-game series starting Friday.

“These guys were so much fun to be around, I mean to win the conference is a hurdle in itself … and to win 30 games, that’s a good accomplishment as well,” McCartney said.