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Vaqueros drop third straight in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel

Ian Churchill gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts in 6.0 innings. He surrendered his first earned run in nearly two months in the third inning. (File photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Ian Churchill gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts in 6.0 innings. He surrendered his first earned run in nearly two months in the third inning. (File photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

Zane Chittenden and Jacob Martinez combined on a six-hitter on Friday and Ventura got just enough from its offense to hold off SBCC 2-1 in a WSC North baseball game at Pershing Park.

"The baseball gods weren't smiling on us today," said Vaquero coach Jeff Walker. "Sometimes you hit the ball hard and they find the gloves. The other side doesn't hit it so hard and they find space. We're playing well enough to win, we're just not playing well enough to win."

The Vaqueros dropped their third game in four days and fell to 12-11 overall and 5-7 in the WSC North. Ventura (16-11, 8-4) won its fourth in a row and stayed tied for first with Cuesta.

Ventura took three of four from SBCC and Walker said that's just the second time one of his teams has lost a WSC series in eight years.

SBCC threw its two aces, Ian Churchill and Conner Roberts, and they combined for 12 strikeouts.

The Vaqueros took a 1-0 lead after just three batters when Addison Lueras was hit by a pitch, went to second on a groundout and scored on Benjamin Martz's single through the left side. Martz had two of the Vaqueros' six hits.

Ventura tied it in the third when TJ Foreman led off with a double, went to third on a groundout to short and scored on a single by AJ Medrano. That was the first earned run allowed by Churchill in 38 innings, dating back to Feb. 2.

The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Churchill walked the No. 9 hitter, Hunter Klingelhoffer and Foreman followed with a triple into the left-field corner.

Chittenden went five innings, giving up one run on two hits. Left-hander Jacob Martinez tossed the last four innings to earn his first save, holding the Vaqueros to four hits. SBCC flew out 16 times, including all three outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Phil Quartararo ripped a single off the top of the third baseman's glove with one out in the ninth but Mason Metcalfe and Logan Pollack both flew out to center field to end the game.

Churchill gave up two earned runs on six hits in six innings and his ERA went from 0.21 (best in the state) to 0.56 (No. 3 in the state).

"There was some unlucky stuff today, a couple bounces here and there and balls that went a few inches under the glove," said Churchill, a former San Marcos High standout who's going to Arizona in the fall. "Good on them, they put the bat on the ball.

"I knew I hadn't allowed an earned run in a long time and I was a little mad because I always want to throw up zeros. The only thing I can do is prepare for next week."

Roberts pitched the last three innings and struck out seven of the last nine batters.

"My fastball, change-up and slider were working today," said Roberts. "I had a shaky last start because I didn't attack with the fastball. That was my cue today … trying to attack and get ahead of hitters with fastballs."

Lueras, normally a second baseman, made his first start in left field. He reached base three times with a double in the eighth. Ventura loaded the bases in the sixth and Klingelhoffer hit a fly ball to left. Lueras made the catch, then fired a one-hopper to catcher Alonzo Rubalcaba to get Baylor Tovar for the double play.

"Ian and Conner pitched great today," said Walker. "We can't get the timely hitting and sometimes we can't get the timely defense. Their center fielder killed us the last two games."

Foreman, the leadoff hitter, went 2-5 with a double in the third and the game-winning RBI triple in the fourth.

The Vaqueros need to finish first or second in the WSC North to make the playoffs for the ninth straight year. They're currently tied for fourth, three games behind Ventura and Cuesta.

"We're three games out of first with eight to play," Walker continued. "We're still a good team, we're just not great yet. We've dealt with some obstacles this year but sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't."

The Vaqueros will travel to Hancock on Tuesday, then host the Bulldogs on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.