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SRJC baseball squad sweeps opening playoff series

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The Bear Cubs did not waste any time in their first-round playoff matchup, as the Santa Rosa Junior College baseball team won the first two games of a best-of-three series by outscoring Modesto College a combined 8-3 Friday and Saturday at Cook Sypher Field in Santa Rosa.

The teams opened the series Friday afternoon, when the third-seeded Bear Cubs (33-9 overall, 18-6 Big 8) were able to get the 4-1 win over the 14th-seeded Pirates to start the California Community College Athletic Association’s NorCal Regional tournament.

SRJC won behind the arm of starting pitcher Shane O’Malley and the bat of right fielder Joe Bynum, who went 2 for 3 at the plate with an RBI.

“We just kept grinding out at-bats,” Santa Rosa head coach Ben Buechner said. “Their pitcher went the distance and went all eight against us. We just jumped to a lead and gave the ball to (Devin) Kirby and let him slam the door. It’s good to get Game 1 and put yourself in a nice spot.”

In the second game, which took place Saturday afternoon, the crucial moment came in the sixth inning.

The score was tied 2-2. SRJC was batting and the bases were loaded when third baseman Colin Prince hit a sacrifice fly to send in Bynum, giving the Bear Cubs a one-run lead — which was ultimately enough in what became a 4-2 victory.

Santa Rosa got its offense going early, scoring a run in the second inning and another in the third, both on sacrifice flies.

As for pitching, the Bear Cubs’ ace starter, Noah Rennard, had good command from his very first pitch.

“(Rennard) is gutsy, man. He has an unbelievable freaking mentality and he’s a go-getter,” Buechner said. “He knew how to get some outs and pass it on to the next guy. That’s all it is; get your outs and pass it on to the next guy.”

But in the bottom of the fourth inning, Rennard walked two consecutive batters to put runners on first and second. The Pirates’ Blane Abeyta dropped a soft hit into center field for a double that drove in the runners to tie the score at two.

In the top of the sixth, Modesto hit Bynum on the elbow with a pitch to advance him to first. With one out, the Bear Cubs’ Peter Raines hit a line drive in between first and second for a double, advancing Bynum to third.

The bases were loaded after the Pirates walked Aidan Morris, and with only one out, Colin Prince took advantage by hitting a sacrifice fly to give Santa Rosa the 3-2 lead.

Rennard forced two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh on a strikeout and a pop fly. But he then hit a Modesto player with a pitch and Buechner decided to pull him after 7⅔ innings, allowing five hits and two runs.

Jacob Marquez took over for Santa Rosa and walked a batter to load the bases with two outs. Marquez composed himself and got a fly-out to end the inning.

In the ninth inning, Modesto walked the Bear Cubs’ Taylor Cullen and Lawson Faria to put runners on first and second. With two outs, Bynum sent a ground ball hard over second base to drive Cullen home and gave the Bear Cubs a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom half.

Santa Rosa sent closer Kirby into the game to seal the win.

He had no trouble on the mound and forced a fly-out and struck out two.

The Bear Cubs move on to the second round of the playoffs against Los Medanos. Game 1 starts at 2 p.m. Friday in Santa Rosa.

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