Cold off the bench, two outs and facing an 0-2 count by way of back to back knee-buckling curve balls, pinch-hitter Dominic Baca had the odds stacked against him to drive in the winning run, just 90-feet away, in the bottom of the ninth.
But it was a fastball that caught a lot of the plate, sent up the middle of the diamond just under the center-fielder’s glove, that sent the Owls bench sprinting in Baca’s direction to celebrate the hard fought win.
The Citrus College Owls Baseball Team (5-4-1) claimed victory over the visiting San Bernardino Valley College Wolverines (5-6-1) 7-6. The one on the end of each respective record is a result from the last time these two teams met when they finished the game tied 5-5 due to darkness.
Before it was all said and done, the battle between these non-conference foes had five different lead changes.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Joseph Morreale took the hill for the Owls. He went five strong innings allowing only four hits and two earned runs in his no-decision outcome.
While Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jesus Gonzalez got the start for San Bernardino, Gonzalez struggled with control allowing five base on balls, two of which were bases loaded walks allowing two Owls to cross home in the fourth and eventually chased him from the game.
With the game tied 5-5 in the bottom half of the sixth inning, Owls shortstop Michael Carlos stepped to the plate looking to break the deadlock. On a 3-1 count, Carlos sent a towering shot toward left-center that cleared the massive fence to give the Owls the lead.
Not to be outdone, Wolverines second baseman Anthony Aguilar crushed a game-tying homer in the top half of the eighth off Owls’ ERA leader Davis Radcliffe.
Radcliffe (W, 3-0) went on to retire the Wolverines in the eighth after giving up the game-tying run. He struck out a total of four Wolverine batters in two and two-thirds innings pitched.
With one away in the bottom of the ninth, Citrus put two men on base with the game-winning run in scoring position. A wild pitch moved the runners up 90-feet. After a strikeout that put sac-fly possibilities to bed, Baca stepped up to the plate for a pinch-hitting appearance.
“Honestly, I love when the game is on the line and it’s up to me…it’s an adrenaline rush,” Baca said. “We’re a scrappy team…when we’re down, we fight. That’s just how we play ball.”
The game-winning RBI was Baca’s third of the young season and was celebrated by a mobbing between first and second base.
The Owls will visit Mt. San Jacinto on Thursday, Feb. 25 with only three games left before heading into conference play.