In its two previous home games, the Barstow Community College baseball team has taken an early lead, only to let it slip away in later innings. The same happened on Saturday.
Antelope Valley came to town and fell behind in the very first frame, trailing for the next three. The visitors jumped on top in the fifth, seemingly put the game out of reach with a five-run seventh, then withstood a late push by the Vikings to come away with a 10-9 victory in Foothill Conference play.
There were positives to take from the loss, such as the fact that it was the Vikings' first error-free game. But head coach Mike Karpel is still waiting to see what he calls the four facets of baseball - offensive production, defense, pitching, and 'special teams' things like baserunning - all come together...particularly offense.
"We have some offensive issues. We're only hitting .244 as a team; we have a .360 on-base percentage, but that's due in part to being hit by 37 pitches, which probably leads the state," he said. "We're doing some things fundamentally wrong at the plate, we're really struggling to get that timely hit. And we didn't make good decisions once we got on base today."
The Vikings were in control through four. Marauders' pitcher Steven Tremlin got off to a rocky start, walking Gabriel Soto and Andres Ortiz and plunking Dylan Baumgarte, to load the bases with none out. After a strikeout, James Carraway was faced with the bags still juiced and one away, and responded by driving a pitch to right, for a two-RBI single. Ortiz scored on a passed ball, to give BCC a quick, 3-0, lead.
There was another run in the second, as Jayson Henderson led off by sending a shot up the middle, advancing on a ground out, and coming home on Baumgarte's single. Antelope got one back in the third, with the home team ahead, 4-1, after four.
Vikings starter Soto had his only rough inning in the fifth. After allowing only one run and scattering four hits through his first four frames of work, AVC touched him up for three fifth-inning runs, a two-RBI double by Ryan Herrick being the big shot. That tied the score at 4-all, but the Vikings took one last lead by scratching out a run in the bottom half, as Ortiz walked and scored on Heriberto Orozco's double to deep center.
Soto recovered to retire the side in order in the sixth, helping his own cause by running down a pop foul.
It was the seventh that put the Marauders on top for good. Ryan Marshall hit a two-RBI double, and Nolan Almodovar brought in a pair with a home run over the fence in right. A hit batter and Mikal Hunter's run-scoring single gave AVC another run in the eighth, and a 10-5 lead.
Almodovar's dinger was particularly bothersome to Karpel, as the previous batter was issued a two-out walk.
"There are two cardinal sins in pitching: giving up lead-off walks and walks with two outs," said the coach. "The home run wasn't what hurt, it was the walk before it. A solo homer turned into a two-run shot."
The Vikings had only six outs left, but were still able to throw a scare into their opponent,scoring three in the bottom of the eighth without benefit of a hit. Zachary Monticello walked and scored on Soto's sac fly, Henderson was hit by a pitch and scored on an error, while Joshua Gomez walked, stole second, and came home on a wild pitch. Suddenly, what looked like a solid Marauders win was a 10-8 game, with one inning to go.
The Vikings used five pitchers, the last of whom, Adam Thompson, kept his team in it by tossing a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Dominick Monteiro was plunked with one away and scored on an error, making it a one-run game. But AVC managed to hang on, getting the final out on a gunned-down basestealer.
Soto allowed four runs on nine hits, five of those coming in the fifth inning, walking one and striking out five. Every one of the Marauders' four pitchers gave up at least one run, but it wasn't quite enough for a Vikings win.
"Today we played good defense, but that's only one facet of the game," said Karpel. "We made no errors, which is encouraging, but we were still on the losing end of a one-run game."
The loss gives the Vikings records of 3-8 overall, 1-2 in the Foothill.
"I have to give us credit; we changed our approach at the plate, were more patient and got eight walks. But we still have some mechanical problems," said the coach. "We only had seven hits. We're still struggling, getting behind in key counts. We have to make good on all four facets of the game.
"It's frustrating to lose close games, but it's better than getting blown out. We have to hold those early leads. At this level, no one is going to fold for us. We have to play all nine innings.
"There's a lot of talent on this team, but seven of nine starters today were freshmen. With more experience, I expect us to improve."
The next home game for the Vikings is coming up Thursday, when BCC hosts Mt. San Jacinto for a 2 p.m. start.