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Moorpark shuts down Vaqueros 3-0 in first-place battle

Mitch Sancier went 3-4 to raise his average to .350. He has a six-game hit streak and he's batting .545 in that span (12-22). (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Mitch Sancier went 3-4 to raise his average to .350. He has a six-game hit streak and he's batting .545 in that span (12-22). (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Grant Nechak pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings on a windy Thursday at Pershing Park and Moorpark scored all the runs of the day in the second inning of a 3-0 baseball win over SBCC.

The Raiders (22-15, 10-7) moved into first place in the WSC North, a half-game ahead of the Vaqueros (18-18, 9-7). Hancock and Ventura are tied for third at 9-8, one game behind with three to play.

The Vaqueros have four games remaining and they'll get a chance to regain the top spot when they play at Moorpark on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

"A day like today with their pitcher, it's almost not fair to have a guy who pitches on one side of the plate with the wind howling in from left field," said Vaquero coach Jeff Walker. "From  our end, we only had one left-handed hitter in the lineup. Their guy was throwing soft ones and fastballs in.

"He's good and he probably got himself conference Pitcher of the Year today with that effort."

Nechak (6-2), a 6-4 sophomore right-hander who pitched for Santa Clara University last year, entered the game with the No. 2 ERA in the WSC North (2.86). He scattered 10 hits and kept the Vaqueros off the scoreboard despite the home team having two baserunners in each of the first four innings. John Cashman came on with two outs and a runner on first in the eighth. Shortstop Dominic Ruggiero dropped a high pop behind the mound and Jake Holton sprinted to third.

Cashman ended the 8th-inning threat by getting Elijah Hodges to ground to second. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his fourth save.

Ian Churchill turned in a solid seven innings for the Vaqueros. The freshman left-hander from San Marcos High gave up three runs (one earned) on just three hits with four strikeouts and one walk.

The Raiders got all three hits in the second inning. Paul Abate led off with a double that bounced off the first-base bag and over Holton's shoulder into right field. James Terrazas followed with an RBI single just inside the right-field line. Grant Bunker singled up the middle and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Shortstop Ryan Guardino couldn't handle a grounder by Michael Teobaldi and Terrazas came in to score. Jason Hyman followed with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Bunker with an unearned run.

Designated hitter Mitch Sancier went 3-for-4 for the Vaqueros and Reinhard Lautz was 2-4. SBCC outhit the Raiders 10-6 and left nine on base. John Jensen singled in the first, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.

The Vaqueros had two runners tagged out at home and another was erased at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. Guardino singled to lead off the third and advanced to third on two groundouts. When a pitch bounced in the dirt about 10 feet from the catcher. Guardino took off for home but he was out on a diving tag by the catcher, Teobaldi.

Holton singled to open the bottom of the fourth and went to second on a groundout. Sancier beat out a grounder to second for a hit and Holton tried to score from second but was cut down when the first baseman fired to Teobaldi for the third out.

"Live by the sword, die by the sword," said Walker. "An inch either way and both those guys are safe. They had to do everything right to beat us. They threw the right pitcher and made all the plays."

There was another weird bounce in the third when Patrick Caulfield drilled a ball at the pitcher and it richocheted right back to the catcher, who threw him out at first, 1-2-3 on the scorecard.

"That was a must-win for them and it was their day to win," Walker added. "We're still only a half-game back and we'll be playing both teams (one vs. Moorpark, two vs. Ventura) that we need to beat to win the conference.

"We were a couple pitches away and a couple balls going one way or the other. Ian competed really well today. They're not terribly offensive as you can see. It was a good matchup but maybe the wrong day for it with the wind blowing in from left field. You can't control the weather or the way a ball goes off the bat.

"We made an inning's worth of outs on the bases and then we hit into two big double plays that killed out momentum. They played flawless defense. We hit the ball well, we were just missing a quality at-bat or two."