The baseball adage says a walk is as good as a hit. Never was that more true than Saturday afternoon at Pirate Park where Ethan Balolong drew a walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to force in Conor Mormon for the game-winning run in VC's 6-5 victory over Taft College. That concluded a two-run ninth for the Pirates (23-14, 11-7), who earned their fourth walk-off win of the season. Noah Bullard pitched two scoreless innings at the end of the game to pick up the victory.
After giving up two runs in the top of the first inning, the Pirates came back with a pair of scores in the bottom half of the frame. Gabe Baldovino and AJ Medrano each drew one-out walks, and Junior Sandoval had a two-out single to drive in Baldovino. Baylor Tovar then reached base on an error that resulted in Medrano tying the game at 2-2.
The Cougars scored one run in the third before the Pirates answered with a score in the bottom of the inning. Baldovino singled, Medrano walked, and Zane Chittenden reached base on an error before Sandoval hit a sacrifice fly to know the score once again.
The Pirates took their first lead of the game in the fifth inning. Chittenden and Sandoval hit back-to-back singles, and moved forward 90 feet on a wild pitch. Tovar then grounded out to the first baseman for the RBI and a 4-3 Ventura advantage.
Taft plated a pair of runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead, setting up the ninth inning heroics for the Pirates.
Baldovino singled to open the final frame, and moved to second on Medrano's groundout. Chittenden walked, and was replaced at first base by pinch runner Mormon. Sandoval doubled scoring Baldovino to tie the score, and Tovar received an intentional walk to load the bases. Balolong came to bat and worked the count full before drawing the game-winning base on balls.
Sandoval led the offense with three hits, including the ninth-inning double, with three runs batted in. Baldovino had two hits and scored three runs.
Chittenden made the start on the hill, pitching three complete innings and giving up three runs. A host of relievers followed, including Sergio Linares, Jacob Martinez, Brent Dickey, Ryker Kennepohl, Jared Gray, Miles Minier and Bullard, as the Pirates stayed within reach to set up the comeback.
Ventura resumes Western State Conference North Division play on Tuesday April 23 at Allan Hancock College. VC is tied for first place with Cuesta and Santa Barbara, and all teams have two conference games remaining.