The SCC Champion Lancers (26-13) will seek to challenge a 50 year trophy drought after they swept Riverside Community College (29-13) 2-0 during the first round of a best of 3 playoff series as both teams clashed to produce two of the greatest playoff matches Brookside Park has seen in decades.
The first game shook PCC as RCC took the lead twice, first 6-1 in the top of the second inning and 8-4 in the top of the fourth inning.
Despite what seemed like a lost cause the Lancers went to score 5 runs in the bottom of the fourth making it 9-8, Pasadena. At the top of the fifth RCC brought in 2 runs making the score 10-9. In response, in the bottom of the fifth inning Lancers brought in 2 runs themselves bringing the contest to 11-10.
RCC never let the Lancers breathe as they scored a run in the top of the sixth inning. The scoring fest stopped with the score tied 11-11 leading into the ninth inning.
At the bottom of the ninth, Lancers saw first team designated single-season record hitter Jeremy Conant (3-6 this game) not only surpass Kenny Okamuro’s 1999 record of 65 hits by a whopping 126 hits, but also gave PCC a walk-off victory.
“I told myself it’s time. I’ve been in this situation before I’ve never gotten it, I’m due.” Conant said. “He threw me a curveball I could handle and I knew I was gonna score.”
The game saw Nick Garza help hurl the last six innings and saw an all-out offensive Lancer side where the likes of right fielder Shane Ogata (3-5 with 3 RBI’s), 3rd baseman Jose Jimenez (3-5 with 2 RBI’s), and 2nd baseman Andres Kim (2-5 with 3 runs), lead the attack.
“Honestly we tried not to look at the scoreboard so much. This game was the story of our season.” Kim added. “All throughout the season we’ve been down, we always find a way and once again we found a way.”
Game two between PCC and RCC was was more of a clash between pitchers. Lancer’s Race Gardner (6-4 record with 5 strikeouts this game) pitched a complete nine innings, battling to the end.
“It was a battle obviously it wasn’t the like the slug fest we had yesterday. We had to keep competing out. Thanks to our our defense. Everything was just tight, I wasn’t afraid of [the batters]…” Gardner explained. “I was actually pretty tired. Coaches asked me if I wanted the ninth I said ‘heck yeah.’ It was just a matter of thinking —wanting to be out there, wanting to compete. My team has done so much for me and I thought that was a way I could help them out.”
Unlike the previous free-flowing game, the score was tied 1-1 through nine innings until at the top of the ninth short stop Alex Briggs went up to bat and hit a single to left field.
“We tried to all stick with a 3-5 plan which is going the other way with [the RCC pitcher]. He was staying outside most of the day and came in once in awhile,” Briggs said. “I knew we were gonna have a lot of energy. Just like our game yesterday, we came in the last inning, really got fired up. So I knew we were coming in the same environment. I was looking forward to some runners on and get a couple runs.”
Catcher Jessie Garcia was up next up to bat as he prepared to advance Briggs into scoring position.
Garcia laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached first on an error by RCC’s pitcher. Centerfielder John Bicos (2-4 this game) continued the rally singling to left, giving the opportunity for runners to advance. Third baseman Jose Jimenez (2-4 with 2 RBI’s this game) reached first as RCC committed another defensive error, this time by the shortstop, allowing Briggs to score.
Coach McGee made exceptional choices in game one’s scoring bonanza and made another great call as he brought up outfielder Brett Wheat who sealed the deal for Pasadena, who went on to win 3-2.
“Same as yesterday I thought we needed to swing the bat and score some runs. They’re a really talented team, a very offensive group, and their pitcher did an outstanding job, but at the same time so did Race. He really answered the bell, which was huge because we were out pitching. So for him to give us that effort it’s a big deal,” Coach Pat McGee said. “We had a hitting approach, we had a plan, we had a way to attack the ball. Their guy did a good job for the most part keeping us at bay. We played tough, relentless, poised. Just really proud of the kids and how they keep battling. I sent Race back out there and he gave us just enough.”
McGee went on to say, “We’re gonna enjoy this until Monday when we come back to practice and celebrate it and be proud for the community and for the school, and what we’ve accomplished. It’s a great moment for our kids and they’ve yet to be satisfied so we’re excited for this opportunity.”
RCC pitcher Matt Acosta ( 6-4) was outdueled by Race Gardner (7 hitters), but gave PCC a tough battle batting a home run in the bottom of the ninth. Yet, unlike Riverside,the Lancers’ defense responded well to close the match.
Lancers will now play away and face conference rivals El Camino City College in an all out SCC showdown in round 2 of the playoffs May 12 and 13.