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Riverside rallies for 3-2 win to end Vaqueros’ season

Jake Gagain celebrates with Chris Smutny after his sacrifice fly gave the Vaqueros a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Jake Gagain celebrates with Chris Smutny after his sacrifice fly gave the Vaqueros a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Riverside scored three unearned runs in the eighth inning on Tuesday en route to a 3-2 win over SBCC in a Southern Cal Regional wild-card baseball game at Pershing Park.

The 18th-seeded Tigers, the fifth-place team from the Orange Empire Conference, improved to 22-15 while the No. 15 Vaqueros end their year at 19-18.

Santa Barbara, the runner-up in the WSC North, took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Chris Smutny led off with a double to left and went to third on a single by Nicholas Allman. Jake Gagain delivered a sacrifice fly to center to score Smutny.

Sophomore right-hander Steven Ledesma was sharp for seven innings, giving up no runs on six hits with five strikeouts. Riverside starter Angel Delgado was equally effective, allowing one run on three hits in the first seven frames with three strikeouts and three walks.

With one out in the eighth, Casey Sheehan hit a grounder to third and Smutny threw high to first for an error. After a lineout to left field, Ryan Mota walked and Brody Weiss reached on an infield single to load the bases.

Ledesma hit Garrison Cole in the thigh to force in the tying run and then hit catcher Zach Grande in the foot to bring in pinch-runner Jack Bailey with the go-ahead run. Davis Messer replaced Ledesma and threw a wild pitch, allowing Weiss to score and make it 3-1, before striking out Dean Miller.

"Stevie gave us all he had," said fifth-year Vaquero coach Jeff Walker. "He's been our guy all year. He earned his spot in the game but just couldn't finish it. It's obviously disappointing right now but we had a good season overall.

"They're a good team, maybe the best 18 seed in the history of the playoffs."

Tuesday marked the second time this year that Riverside rallied to beat the Vaqueros. The Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit with four runs in the seventh and eighth to notch a 5-3 home win on March 23. The Tigers advance to a best-of-3 playoff series at No. 1 Saddleback this weekened.

SBCC was limited to three hits and seven baserunners in the first seven innings. The Vaqueros had first-and-second with one out in the seventh but Gagain was thrown out at third on a missed hit-and-run. Connor Clark looked at strike three to end the inning.

"It was kind of the story of our year, we lacked timely hitting and solid defense," said Walker. "We did a pretty good job of handing them the game in the eighth inning. We hit the ball well, then we ran ourselves out of a couple of innings. Riverside is a good team.

"We had some hard outs. It usually takes more than six hits to win a playoff game."

Andrew Cosgove went 2-3 for the Vaqueros and cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out RBI double to left. He drove in Gagain, who also doubled down the left-field line with one out. After Cosgrove went to third on a wild pitch, Morgan Lomax hit a grounder up the middle but Weiss pounced on the ball and threw to first to get the sliding Lomax for the final out.

"It's a bummer but if you look at the positives, we started out pretty rough (0-5) and turned ourselves into a playoff team, I was pretty proud of that," said Cosgrove, a sophomore catcher from Kirkland, Wash. "I thought we battled against a good team and just came up a little short.

"In the ninth inning, I was looking for a fastball and he threw me a slider and I happened to get out in front of it and put it down the line."

Cosgrove was impressed by the pitching of Ledesma.

"He had a great day and a great season overall. He's going to be a little bit bummed like all of us but I thought he was pretty dominant."