A swing and a miss on a ball in the dirt, a wide throw to first, a great catch and a spin to tag the bag. With that the celebration began. The Ventura College baseball team ended a 13-year title drought Thursday by defeating Allan Hancock College 3-1 at Pirate Park, capturing a share of the Western State Conference North Division championship for the first time since 2006. Jackson Hickert pitched into the seventh inning, giving up one run while striking out six, while AJ Medrano, Gabe Baldovino and Junior Sandoval all knocked in a run to power the victory for the Pirates (25-14, 13-7).
Ventura shares the title with Santa Barbara, who defeated Moorpark on Thursday afternoon. Both teams will represent the Conference in the upcoming CCCAA Southern California Regional Playoffs with the Pirates taking the top-seed from the WSC North by virtue of winning the season series against the Vaqueros.
Ventura wasted little time in gaining the upper hand on the Bulldogs, scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Baldovino drew a one-out walk and stole second, before scoring on Zane Chittenden's two-out RBI double for the 1-0 VC advantage.
In the second, Medano led off with a double, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Sandoval followed with a one-out single to score Medrano and the Pirates led 2-0.
That's all the cushion Hickert needed as he masterfully navigated through the Hancock line-up. The sophomore scattered four hits over six-plus innings, striking out six while walking only two. He pitched out of a two-on, no-outs situation in the second inning, and induced a fly-ball third out with runners on the corners in the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Hancock loaded the bases with no outs, prompting a pitching change by second-year head coach Jimmy Walker. Ryker Kennepohl came in to draw a 4-6-3 double play that scored a Bulldog run, then Brent Dickey came in to force a line-out o the shortstop to end the threat.
The Pirates quickly turned the momentum from the top of the frame into an insurance run in the bottom half. Foreman led off the inning with a double, and came in to score on Baldovino's single.
Jeff Thoben took the hill in the top of the eighth inning, retiring the side while yielding just one single.
Noah Bullard came in to close the ninth for VC, and promptly retired the first two batters before giving up a full-count walk, bringing the game-tying run to the plate. Walker then chose to bring in his ace, Travis Weston, to finish the job.
Weston's 1-2 curve ball into the dirt drew a swing and a miss by the AHC batter. Riley Langerman's throw down the foul-side of first base sailed wide, and Sandoval stepped off the bag to corral the throw. He then spun around, tagging the base with his glove to end the game and begin the celebration.
Sandoval had two hits and an RBI while Foreman was 1-4 in the game with a walk and a run scored. Baldovino was 1-2 with two walks, a stolen base, a run scored and a run batted in and Medrano had a hit and scored a run. and Chittenden had a double with an RBI.
The Pirates hive little time to celebrate the championship, however, as they finish the regular season with a make-up game at Cerritos on Friday April 26. Ventura's playoff match-up is scheduled to be announced on Sunday April 28.