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Six-run eighth vaults Vaqueros past Moorpark, 8-3

Reinhard Lautz started SBCC's six-run rally with a walk in the eighth inning. He sprinted to third after a throwing error and scored the tiebreaking run when a throw caromed off his helmet. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Reinhard Lautz started SBCC's six-run rally with a walk in the eighth inning. He sprinted to third after a throwing error and scored the tiebreaking run when a throw caromed off his helmet. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

After scoring just two runs in the last 18 innings, SBCC was overdue for a breakout inning on Wednesday in a key baseball battle with first-place Moorpark at Pershing Park.

The Vaqueros snapped a 2-2 tie with six unearned runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Raiders 8-3. Santa Barbara (14-15, 5-4) ended a six-game losing streak and moved within a game of first place in the WSC North. Moorpark, ranked No. 16 in the state, fell to 18-11 and 6-3.

The six teams in the WSC North are all within three games of each other, near the midpoint of the 20-game conference schedule. Moorpark leads at 6-3 and SBCC and Ventura are tied for second at 5-4. Hancock is fourth at 5-5, followed by Cuesta (4-6) and Oxnard (3-6).

Catcher Zack Stockton went 2-3 with a two-run single in the eighth. Reinhard Lautz opened the inning by drawing a walk. Jake Holton hit a grounder to short and Dominic Ruggiero made a wild throw to second base.

Lautz took off for third and narrowly beat the throw. John Jensen was intentionally walked to load the bases and Mitch Sancier hit a hard grounder to third. Patrick Valdez tried to get Lautz at home but his throw caromed off Lautz' helmet and off the catcher's mitt, allowing Holton to score from second and make it 4-2.

"I was just going in trying to break up the double play," said Lautz, a sophomore outfielder from Agoura High who's hitting .328 with 23 RBIs. "It got away and my first instinct was to go to third if it got far enough away. We really needed something to happen. We've really been struggling the last six games and it felt like we needed a boost.

"When I was running for home, I saw the catcher setting up inside and I tried to run into his lane a little bit. Luckily it nicked me on the helmet and ricocheted off. We got the bounces today. This is a good way to get back on track and finish our season strong."

Nicholas Trifiletti delivered an RBI single to right and Stockton followed with his two-run single through the left side to stretch the lead to 7-2.

All of SBCC's eight runs were unearned, thanks to a passed ball and three Raider errors.

"The baseball gods rewarded us but we put ourselves in that situation with strong pitching from Ian Churchill, Joe Kinsky and Steven Elliott," said SBCC coach Jeff Walker. "The difference was we played good defense today.

"Last week, we were three batters or three pitches away from going 3-0 instead of 0-3. It's just one of those things."

Walker agreed that Lautz' hustling to third after the error was a key play in the eighth inning.

"We got an extra 90 because we were aggressive and we put pressure on the defense," he noted. "From time to time, we're going to look silly but we're going to be safe way more than we're going to be out."

Ryan Guardino, a freshman shortstop from San Marcos High, went 2-4 and drove in the final run with a single up the middle.

Churchill threw the first five innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Kinsky tossed two innings of one-hit ball and Elliott got the win by pitching a 1-2-3 eighth.

Left-hander Anthony Nardi pitched the first 5.1 innings for Moorpark, allowing two runs (none earned) on four hits. He struck out seven and walked three before leaving with a back injury on the second batter in the sixth. John Cini inherited a 2-1 count on Holton and he walked him with one out. Holton stole second, then went to third when the catcher threw the ball into center field. Mitch Sancier's RBI single off the third baseman tied the game at 2-2.

SBCC's offense has been potent at home, averaging 8.9 runs and batting .334 in 12 games.

The Vaqueros will play their third home game in three days on Thursday when Hancock comes to Pershing Park at 2:30 p.m.