BARSTOW • The Vikings are having a hard time handling the Eagles.
The way the baseball schedule is set up in the Foothill Conference this year, teams play each other in series' of three games, then don't face each other again during the season. In their last two games, Barstow Community College has gone up against Mt. San Jacinto and dropped both matches to the Eagles, the latest a 9-1 loss on Saturday.
It was a pitcher's duel through the early innings. The Vikings' Josh King and Eagles' Joe Fernandez each gave up a run through the first five innings, but otherwise hung zeroes on the board. King retired the side in order in the first, fourth and fifth frames, and faced just four batters in the second. Fernandez was just as effective, with the first, second and fifth innings being the only ones he didn't set the Vikings down 1-2-3.
"Their pitcher really spotted the ball well, he owned the inside of the plate and we couldn't make the adjustment," said BCC head coach Nate Lambdin. "We wanted to get to their bullpen; we feel their bullpen is suspect, and maybe they feel the same way."
With the way Fernandez was throwing, however, the 'pen wasn't necessary. The Vikings' only run came in the second. Jayson Henderson led off by reaching on an error, advanced on ground outs by Alex Pollard and Kris Soto, and scored on a Michael Martinez single. After that, Fernandez gave up only three singles the rest of the way, with none of the runners getting past first base.
"I'm disappointed with our performance today, I can't really pinpoint what went wrong," said Lambdin. "We knew they can swing the bat, and I'm not pleased with our offense."
The Eagles tied it up with a run in the second, then put it away with a five-run sixth.
"If you can avoid the big inning you'll be competitive, but it's been an absolute killer for us," said Lambdin.
The five runs came on only two hits, an RBI single by Glenn Nichols and a bases-loaded three-run double by Chet Brown. There was also an error, two hit batters, a passed ball and a walk.
Prior to that, King had been on cruise control. The pitcher got some help from his defense. The damage in the third was limited by two nice plays in the field, as second baseman Josh Gray came up with a tough, bouncing grounder and gunned down the runner at first, and rightfielder James Carraway made a running catch for the third out. In the fifth, shortstop Martinez made a nice grab in the hole and got the runner at first by a step.
The main problem was with the offense, which has been collecting hits in the double digits this season. On Saturday, the Vikings were held to just six hits, all singles.
"Josh did a good job, but we didn't back him up." said Lambdin. "We were always at-bat for such a short time, I think it got to him."
King pitched 5.2 innings, giving up six runs on three hits, walking two and striking out three. Santino Bejarano did well in relief, tossing the last two frames and facing the minimum six batters, allowing no runs or hits, and fanning one. An error put the first batter of the ninth on base, but he was erased on a 4-6-3 double play.
Apart from the Martinez RBI single, Carraway was the only Viking with a good day at the plate. The sophomore went 3-for-4, but was left at first base every time.
Although it wasn't an encouraging game, there's lots of season left. The loss leaves the Vikings still comfortably over .500, at 11-5, with plenty of time left to right the ship.
"It hurts, but we'll just have to bounce back," said coach Lambdin. "We have a real challenging week coming up, with four games. We'll really see what we're made of this week. We'll see just how competitive we are, or not. We'll see if we're the kind of team that can really compete, or not."
The Vikings are on the road for their final game at Mt. San Jacinto today, a make-up of Thursday's rainout. The rest of the week is against College of the Desert, on the road Tuesday and Saturday, and at home on Thursday.