Santa Rosa Junior College baseball team falls to Los Medanos to end season

Despite some impressive pitching, the Bear Cubs lost a second game in its best-of-three playoff series Friday to end their season.|

Despite some impressive pitching, the Santa Rosa Junior College baseball squad lost a second game in its ?best-of-three playoff series Friday to end the Bear Cubs’ season.

SRJC fell 2-1 to Los Medanos College in the second-round series in Santa Rosa.

After sweeping 14th-seeded Modesto College in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association’s Northern Regional, the third-seeded Bear Cubs (33-11 overall, 18-6 Big 8) hoped to dominate again, but several defensive errors allowed the eighth-seeded Mustangs (28-17 overall, 16-5 Bay Valley) to steal Thursday’s Game 1, 10-5.

The Bear Cubs entered Friday’s game well aware that the season depended on their performance and turned to right-handed freshman pitcher Noah Rennard, who has a 2.20 ERA and leads the state with 111 strikeouts and 12 wins.

But Rennard looked uneasy to start the game and was throwing many of his pitches into the dirt and past catcher Ethan Payne in the first inning.

Rennard was warming up for the second inning when he pulled his hamstring and asked for the medical trainer. Santa Rosa decided to pull him from the game.

“I was thinking we still had (Devin) Kirby in the tank and I knew we had enough guys to get us through,” Buechner said.

The Bear Cubs decided to insert relief pitcher Jacob Marquez, who has thrown well in the playoffs and put up another impressive performance in Friday’s game - allowing only one run.

Ultimately, the game was decided in extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, the Mustangs’ Jesus Hernandez hit a walk-off single to send Neko Capsaliaris home for the 2-1 victory.

Earlier, in the top of the fourth, SRJC’s Jo Bynum reached first on a softly hit single that landed near second, then ?Colin Prince hit a line drive just out of reach of the shortstop’s glove for a double that moved Bynum to third.

PJ Raines followed with an RBI grounder to send Bynum home and give the Bear Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Marquez allowed a few Mustangs batters to reach base over the next couple of innings but was able to keep fighting back and preserve the 1-0 lead through six innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, Los Medanos’ Jake Guzman and Milan Mijanovic each had a single to put runners on first and second.

Santa Rosa pulled Marquez and inserted Kirby, the closer, to try and hold onto the lead.

But the Mustangs’ Justin Roper immediately hit a single to drive home Guzman and tie the score 1-1.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Mustangs’ Vince Lontz hit a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt with only one out. A controversial call then sent Capsaliaris to first when the umpire ruled Kirby hit him with a pitch that actually hit his bat.

But Kirby stepped up to force a ground-out and struck out the next batter to keep the score tied heading into the ninth

Kirby allowed a couple of Mustangs to reach base in the ninth but then struck out the last batter to send the game into extra innings.

The Bear Cubs, who struggled to hit the whole game, put up another scoreless inning in the 10th.

In Los Medanos’ half of the inning, Capsaliaris hit a single and reached second on a sacrifice bunt.

Then came the crucial Hernandez at-bat. He hit a line drive over third base, which Bynum scooped up and tried to throw to Payne at home. But the ball hit Capsaliaris in the back, allowing him to run in for the winning score.

“We had a great group of third-year guys, a great group of sophomores. I couldn’t ask for a better group of Santa Rosa JC men,” Buechner said after the game, reflecting on the season. “Our whole motto has been, ‘Show up better the next day. Show up and be better than the way you were the day before.’”

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