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Baseball

Five-Run Eighth Lifts SBCC Over Moorpark

SBCC put up a five-spot in the eighth inning on Thursday to rally past Moorpark 9-5 and extend its lead in the WSC North baseball race.

The Vaqueros (21-14, 11-5) are ranked No. 10 in Southern Cal and No. 20 in the state. They lead Cuesta (10-7) by 1½ games and Moorpark (9-7) by 2 with 4 games remaining.

Santa Barbara improved to 13-3 at home. The Vaqueros took a 3-0 lead in the first, a 4-2 advantage in the fifth on an RBI single by Reinhard Lautz, then fell behind 5-4 after the Raiders (17-19, 9-7) scored single runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

“Survive and advance,” said coach Jeff Walker, referring to the motto in the NCAA Basketball tournament. “It kind of worked out the way I was afraid of – getting ahead early, then their guy settled in and our guys got a little too comfortable. We haven’t played in almost a week so maybe we had to get punched in the face a little bit to get going.”

Kai Gomez tied the game at 4 on a leadoff homer in the seventh and AJ Herron (3-4, 2 RBIs) gave the visitors their first lead, 5-4, with an RBI double in the eighth.

Lautz went 2-4 with three RBIs and a stolen base for the Vaqueros while John Jensen was 2-5 with a double, two RBIs, two runs and a stolen base. Jensen, a freshman third baseman from Santa Barbara High, extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He’s batting .429 since the streak started on March 25 and .352 for the season.

Cleanup hitter Tyler Rosen went 2-4 with a pair of RBIs, raising his team-leading total to 27. The Vaqueros stole five bases and leadoff hitter Joseph Hamilton had two.

Jake Holton, the designated hitter, came on to pitch in the top of the eighth, trailing 5-4 with a runner on second and one out. He got leadoff hitter Grant Bunker (2 doubles) to look at strike three and got Gomez to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.

“I went in there, looked at the damage and tried to get my defense to pick me up,” said Holton. “Getting that guy looking on strike three on the first batter was huge for me. I threw 99 percent fastballs, I don’t think there was one off-speed today.”

The Vaqueros got a leadoff double by Wes Ghan-Gibson in the eighth, a fielder’s choice bunt where the pitcher threw to third but the third baseman wasn’t on the bag and a 10-foot swinging bunt by Blake Ogburn that loaded the bases.

Shane Hersh was hit by a pitch, forcing in Ghan-Gibson with the tying run. After a strikeout, Lautz hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Ogburn with the go-ahead run, giving the Vaqueros a 6-5 lead.

“We were confident in the bottom of the eighth,” said Lautz, a freshman right fielder from Agoura High who has a 10-game hitting streak and raised his average to .306. “Wes was leading off and he’s been great for us all year. We were just trying to get the next guy up and do our job. This is a great boost going into Saturday’s game.”

Jensen delivered an RBI single through the right side and Rosen drilled a line drive that knocked the base umpire to the ground on its way to center field. Hersh and Jensen scored on the play, boosting the lead to 9-5.

“That’s why we DH’d Holton today, because he was going to pitch on the back end,” said Walker. “He’s played a lot of first base and a lot at third. He’s competitive, he throws strikes and he wants to win.”

Thursday was just the third pitching appearance of the year for Holton, a 6-0 freshman from Los Gatos. He has a 0.00 ERA in three innings and got his first collegiate win on Thursday to go along with a save in his last outing.

Holton got two quick outs in the ninth on a strikeout and groundout, then walked Dean McMillan and gave up a single to Michael Radin. He induced Tate Briggs to fly out to right to end the game.

“That’s awesome to get my first college win,” said Holton. “I’m sitting on the bench as the DH and watching their hitters to see what they struggle with and what their strengths are. It was frustrating not to get the call on that 3-2 pitch in the ninth but you just have to come back and throw strikes and get the next guy.”

The Vaqueros have four games remaining in the regular season. They travel to Moorpark on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game, then host Oxnard on Monday in a rain makeup at 2:30 p.m.

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