Santa Maria scored three times in the first inning and never relinquished the lead while defeating host Ukiah, 5-3, in the Babe Ruth Southwest Regional on Tuesday afternoon.
Under the double-elimination format, Ukiah must win its game at 1 p.m. today in order to stay alive. Ukiah opened Regional play with a 17-1 victory over South Reno on Monday.
The winner of the Regional will advance to the World Series, which begins Aug. 17 in Washington.
Ukiah scored once in the sixth and twice in the seventh. Mike Contreras’ double in the gap scored both runs in the final inning.
The host team had opportunities but couldn’t cash in. They had two hits in both the first and fourth innings.
Meanwhile, Santa Maria took advantage of its chances. In the first, the visitors scored on a passed ball, balk and an error.
Alex Felix was the winning pitcher. He went five innings and struck out six while allowing four hits. Randy Espinoza closed out the victory.
Devin Kirby took the loss. He pitched three innings and was touched up for five hits while striking out three. Preston Mello finished up and allowed three hits. Santa Maria banged out eight hits, one more than Ukiah.
Beau Barrington had two hits including a double for the home team. The other hits were by Contreras, Mello, Joe Brazil, Karter Koch and Morgan Edwards.
Santa Maria will play Mountain View in the Regional final on Saturday.