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Bruce, O’Brien spark 9-3 win in Regional opener

Justin Bruce went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts. (Photo by Dave Loveton)
Justin Bruce went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts. (Photo by Dave Loveton)

The pitcher and catcher got it done for Santa Barbara City College on Friday in a Southern Cal Regional baseball opener at Pershing Park.

Justin Bruce, a first team All-WSC hurler, tossed seven solid innings and catcher Patrick O'Brien went 3-3 with two RBIs as No. 6 seed SBCC downed No. 11 San Bernardino Valley 9-3.

Game 2 of the best-of-3 series will start on Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by Game 3 if necessary.

Bruce (6-4) allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and three walks as the Vaqueros improved to 16-3 at home this year.

"In the beginning, none of my pitches were working very well until I got command of my fastball," said Bruce, a freshman right-hander from San Jose. "That helped me a lot because my off-speed was all over the place."

The Vaqueros (24-13) took a 2-0 lead in the first off Wolverine starter Nick Przybylek on RBI singles by Connor McManigal and O'Brien. They extended it to 3-0 in the third on a double by Brandon Evans, a groundout to short and a sacrifice fly by Brett Sesma.

O'Brien, James Brakka and Matthew Gimenez all singled in the fourth to make it 4-0.

Tyler Robles drove in two runs with a two-out double in the seven to pull San Bernardino (26-11) within a run at 4-3.

The Vaqueros loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh and scored two on a walk by Brett Sesma and an RBI single to left by O'Brien that chased the starting pitcher.

Brakka greeted lefty reliever Angus Miller with a run-scoring single to center that made it 7-3. McManigal and O'Brien scored the last two runs on the same play, thanks to throwing errors by the center fielder and third baseman.

O'Brien, who just signed to play at UCSB, reached base in all four plate appearances.

"We had a good practice yesterday and carried it over to today," said O'Brien. "We played like Vaqueros. That seventh inning was huge for us. They put on a run and we came back and attacked and put a crooked number on them. That was the biggest inning of the game.

"We're really deep, we have tons of guys who can do the job."
 Brakka went 2-4 with an RBI. Kit Larson pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, striking out two.

"Our goal for every game is to hold them scoreless until we score," said third-year coach Jeff Walker. "Tip your hat to their guy, he pulled a Houdini act a couple of times.

"We bounced back in the seventh. We put the ball in play and got rewarded. The big play was the sacrifice bunt."

With runners on first and second, Noeh Martinez tried to sacrifice and he popped a bunt to the left side that went for a hit. Sesma then drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-3.

"All the games are important but it's nice to go bed up tonight up 1-0, rather than having to chase two on Saturday."