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Blackburn, Jensen power Vaqueros in 11-2 victory

Will Blackburn tossed seven innings of two-run ball in just his second college start. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Will Blackburn tossed seven innings of two-run ball in just his second college start. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

William Blackburn pitched seven strong innings and John Jensen went 3-5 with four RBIs on Saturday to power SBCC to an 11-2 baseball win over visiting Oxnard.

The Vaqueros led 6-2 after five innings, then broke it open with a five-run eighth, capped by Jensen's two-run single up the middle.

Santa Barbara is 18-17 overall and tied for first with Moorpark (9-6) in the WSC North. The Vaqueros have won two straight and four of the last five. Ventura (8-7) is one game back and Cuesta and Hancock (7-8) are two behind with five to play.

Oxnard (11-22, 5-9) is now 2-17 on the road.

Blackburn, a 6-3 freshman right-hander from Danville, Calif., was making just his second start of the season. He went 7.0 innings and allowed two runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and one walk to earn his first college win.

A week ago, Blackburn tossed five shutout innings and held Hancock to one hit in a 2-1 victory.

"I felt pretty good, I have a lot of trust in our defense and I try to execute one pitch at a time," said Blackburn. "We swung the bats well today. When we got the lead, I settled down and had a lot more confidence. It's huge to have a lead when you're pitching."

Oxnard took a 2-0 lead in the third on a two-run triple by Ramon Gomez. The Vaqueros answered with two runs in the third, fourth and fifth frames to go ahead 6-2. Jensen had a two-out, two-run single up the middle in the third. Nicholas Prainito added an RBI single in the fifth and Jake Holton scored on an infield error.

Prainito went 3-4 with two RBIs and Zack Stockton was 2-4 with two RBIs and three runs. Center fielder Patrick Caulfield was 2-4 and cut down a runner at home to end the seventh with a sizzling one-hop throw. Stockton caught the ball up the line and got Angel Mauricio with a swipe tag.

Holton went 2-5 with a pair of doubles, raising his average to .368. He's second in the WSC North in home runs (6) and RBIs (36), fifth in batting and leads the state with 10 saves.

After a slow start to the season (.258 average in his first 18 games), Jensen has gotten hot with a .353 average in his last 17 appearances. The reigning WSC North MVP went over the .300 mark for the first time on Saturday, going from .296 to .308 with his three-hit day.

Jensen extended his hitting streak to 10 games and he's batting .395 (15-38) since March 29.

"Will is definitely one of our guys now," said Jensen. "We gave him the opportunity to step up in our rotation and he's done that the last few games. He's been throwing strikes and getting his ground balls. He's a guy we can rely on now."

The Vaqueros have scored 26 runs the last two days. They went 3-1 this week (playing four games in five days) and scored 43 runs (10.8 avg.) while giving up 31.

"We had 21 hits yesterday at Ventura," Jensen noted. "We're having fun up there swinging the bats. We're doing a better job of executing our sac bunts and we're buying in as a team. We just have to keep working hard and we'll be good."

Holton and Prainito opened the eighth inning with doubles, chasing Oxnard starter Jackson Simonsgaard. Boston Hubbard walked on four pitches, then Stockton drove in Prainito with a single to left. Ryan Guardino walked to load the bases and Reinhard Lautz drew another walk to force in Hubbard.

Jensen followed with his second two-out, two-run single up the middle to make it 11-2. Joe Kinsky pitched the last two innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.

The Vaqueros committed five errors but three of those were on botched pick-off attempts at first base.

"Will has pitched great the last two Saturdays," said seventh-year Vaquero coach Jeff Walker.after notching his 160th win. "This was our fourth game of the week after our 15-13 Arena baseball win on Friday. Will was outstanding. He came out and threw strikes and let the defense play behind him. He got big when we needed him with guys on base.

"And our defense made some great plays when they tried to get aggressive on the bases."

The Vaqueros, seeking their second straight WSC North title, have five games left in the next two weeks. They'll host Moorpark in a first-place showdown on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.